Thursday, December 25, 2008

Deck the Halls, Fa-la-la, la-la, la-la

Ah, Christmas came early to the developers of the Margarita Ranch when the Three Amigos (Supervisors Ovitt, Lenthall and Achadjian) voted to approve the project. In Bob Cuddy’s report in the Tribune, no mention was made of thrown shoes, so this all-day hearing was likely quieter than the last, with no flying Nikes, Birkenstocks and Pumas clunking on the floor like lumpy raindrops.

Cuddy also notes that “representatives of the developer” . . . “were still submitting ‘a flurry of papers’ to the Board and county planning staff on Tuesday . . .” which meant that the Supervisors and staff wouldn’t have time to actually read the stuff before voting.

And, “During the afternoon hearing, [supervisor] Gibson painstakingly went over the proposal line by line, arguing that findings the board was about to ratify could not be legally sustained. He repeatedly asked Achadjian, Ovitt andLentahll to justify singing off on particular conclusions. . . . “ While “Achadjian, Ovitt and Lenthall declined to reply.”

Except for Ovitt saying “the board had to make a decision by Jan 9 to meet a state deadline,” only to have County Counsels say, Naw, there is no state deadline, (sorry Harry, can’t hide behind that claim) and that the decision to vote dump the whole issue onto the new board and let them wrestle with this monster was entirely the Board’s choice.

And so it went. I didn’t have to be in attendance to tell you that for me it was all déjà vu; The Done Deal, The Stone Faces, The Decline To States, The Made Up Stuff, the “We Have No Choice The State’s Making Us Do This” Lie, the bewildered audience asking for real answers and getting blank looks. All déjà vu.

Sigh. Santa Margarita has turned into Los Osos. Lawyers to follow. And like Los Osos, will the good taxpayers of the County (who are going to foot the bill for all this legal wrangling) discover too late that IF ONLY the Board had done this right – carry this over to the next board with time for staff and community and developers to hammer out all the last-minute, stuffed-in “flurry of paper” – that despite that delays, it would STILL turn out to be cheaper and faster than what will now transpire?

Ah, and will the developers of the project come to the same conclusion? If so, their victory yesterday was Pyrrhic, indeed. Merry Christmas.

God Bless Us Every One

The rain has missed us, except for a few splortles here and there. The early morning sky is blowsy and air is surprisingly warm. The wind is softly ringing the wind chimes on the porch. If you aurally squint, you can imagine they just might be church bells. All over town, small children are stirring, willing the clock to move forward so they can fly from their beds to see what Santa has brought them. It’s Magic Time.

No children in this house, but the dogs rose when I did only to look at me funny then go back to bed. Too early for them. When the sun comes up, it’ll likely be time for a trip to the dog park for their Christmas treat.

In no time, the day will be gone and friends and family will gather for what started out as a joke but which has now become a tradition in this house: Christmas Dinner ca. 1950, with what can only be called “regrettable food.” For any of you old enough to remember the 1950’s I need only say, “Green Bean Casserole,” and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. For those younger, 1950s “regrettable food” almost always involved a can of Campbell’s condensed soup poured over something else, usually something that just didn’t quite fit – i.e. green beans with cream of Mushroom soup over it – but also something that also didn’t slide off into absolute nausea. Not inedible, exactly, but . . . . Regrettable.

And if you are of a certain age and want to read something that will truly bring tears to your eyes, get a copy of James Lileks, “The Gallery of Regrettable Food,” (Crown Publishers, NY, 2001) complete with vintage color photographs from vintage home magazines and vintage cook books. Especially alarming are the ones involving chopped up vegetables imbedded in huge molds of brightly colored Jello.. Trust me on this. Tomato aspic is NOT a food you want to approach lightly. Nor “Creamed Brains on Toast,” or “Tongue with Carrots in Spinach Nests,” or the chapter, complete with photographs of the chefs and their creations, called: “Famous Chefs Forced To Use Marshmallows.” (The “Famous” chefs in question were hired by the Campfire Marshmallow Company which put out a little recipe booklet called “How Famous Chefs Use Campfire Marshmallows.” The recipes were designed to make marshmallows seem like a delicacy, in hopes that “people might regard these puffy delights as a sign of breeding and taste.” Notes the author, “The project was hampered by one small detail: when attempting to convince someone your product isn’t just for campfires, it would help to remove “Campfire” from its name.”)

So, it will be – as all days are – a Holy Day. Hope yours is the same.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Write up!

In yesterday's Tribune, Tad Weber, the managing editor, is asking folks to send in requests for Obama, what readers would like to see the President Elect accomplish in the next four years. You can email your suggestions to: or fax them to 781-7905 or snail mail them to The Tribune, PO Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406.

Here's my suggestion:

Right now the VA has the legal right to negotiate with drug companies to get better prices on drugs that are available to the vets they serve. In crafting the Medicare Part D drug program, as a huge favor to Big Pharma (in the back room with Billy Tauzin leading the charge), Medicare was forbidden by law from negotiating any price breaks (like the VA can). That could easily and quickly be changed. Because of the high volumne involved (with more Medicare Boomers coming along), the savings realized through such negotiations would still mean a healthy profit for the drug companies (and healthy competition among drug companies during the negotiations) and would also mean an immediate price drop for most people on the Part D program, thereby saving taxpayers and seniors a bundle.

What's your suggestion?


This morning at nine a.m. in the SLO BOS chambers, the suspense continues to climb. Will the BOS vote to delay the Santa Margarita Ranch project until for the new BOS to tangle with? Will the planning dept. somehow magically figure out a way to reconcile the major conflicts so the supervisors can vote and make everyone happy? Will more shoes be thrown? Lawsuits to follow? Stay tuned. This one will be an interesting Christmas present, all wrapped up for the good people of this county. A present that (depending on what happens) will last for a long, long, long, long time.

And Finally, Why Are These People Surprised?

There's been a lot of huffing and puffing in the media about how gazillions of dollars of bailout taxpayer money was shoveled out the door with no accountability, with banks now being asked, in an AP questionaire, "How'd ya spend the first gazillion?" and answering, "We don't have to tell you zip!" or "Dunno, we're not required to keep track of the money." And now everyone's all wrinkle-browed and concerned that this administration has F*&^%%^ed up ANOTHER fine mess, to which I can only ask, "What did you expect? Competence at this late date???? It's a duck! What were you thinking?"


Monday, December 22, 2008

O.M. G!

Well, out of the mouths of babes. this from the L.A. Times, Dec 20, 08 regarding to the CA. Attorney General, Jerry Brown, requesting the State Supreme Court dump Prop 8 as unconstitutional because it removes rights from citizens, again with no compelling state reason. The counter-brief, filed by the Protect Marriage coalition, argued that the justices ". . . should uphold the proposition . . ." because "The law 'commands judges -- as servants of the people -- to bow to the will of those whom they serve -- even if the substantitve result of what the people have wrought in constiution-amending is deemed unenlightened,' they argued."

Unenlightened. Too perfect. What this state and nation needs is more "unenlightenment." Yep, that's it, you betcha. Bring back witch burning, I say. Out with the science textbooks, dump Darwin! Let's start teaching Creationism in the schools. Can't get more unenlightened that that. And astrology, too, while we're at it. Instead of algebra, I say we need classes in determining how many angels can dance on the heads of pins. Yes, Yes, I know, that's all unenlightened, but We the People have a perfect right to our unenlightenment, and if that unenlightenment denies or removes equal civil rights from our fellow citizens, well, who cares!


Ochsnation Comment

Over at, Aaron's posted a commentary, "Los Osos, Fighting Mistruths, Hate with Hate."

And, finally, Happy Yalda!

Yep, Yalda, an ancient Zoroastrian winter solstice still celebrated each year in Iran, a celebration that goes back thousands of year, before Islam, before Chrianianity, before Rom, back when Iran was Persia and ruled the world. Accaording the the AP story (in the L.A. Times) It's a celebration whose theme involves "the struggle between the good spririt Ahura Mazda (!) and the evil Ahriman Yalda, marked on the winter solstice, recognizes the symbolic victory of light over darkness as daytime starts growing longer and nights become shorter."

Which, in this hemisphere, happened yesterday, Dec 21. So, toss a Yule log on the fire, serve up dried fruits and sweets for Yalda, go cast some wildflowers out before the Christmas rains and celebrate the return of the sun. Yeee, ha! Time for a little universal unenlightenment that crosses religions, crosses empires, crosses time itself and straight into our hard-wired connection to the powerful rhythms of our earthly home planet.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shoes! Shoes! My Kingdom For Some Shoes!

Had to work yesterday so missed the BOS meeting, but the picture on the front page of the Tribune was priceless. Shoes. Great piles of them. Shoes of Shame! Sandals of Silliness! Brogans of Bewilderment! All tossed at “The Three Amigos,” (Supervisors Ovitt,& Lenthall & Achadjian) who refuse to carry over the controversial Santa Margrita Ranch project until the new year, and hence until a new (likely) Board Majority is sworn in, thereby (likely) requiring the project to undergo extensive changes. Instead, the staff is charged with somehow reconciling these massive changes by Tuesday and bringing back something the Three Amigos can vote Yes on as they scamper out the door – with more shoes flying after them?

Well, it’s all apt, near as I can see. Lame Duck President Bush, the first recipient of the Flying Shoe of Shame, has been busy shoveling out all kinds of goodies to his cronies and changing laws right and left to benefit a few buddies and political interests – the old payback – as he gallops out the door – shoes flying after him, so why not SLOTown?

And IF the Planning Dept can show up Tuesday morning having reconciled the seemingly unreconcilable, well then, that will be a Christmas miracle of astounding proportions. And if not, then it’s my guess The Three Amigos will vote yes on this project. After all, ya gotta dance with them what brung ya .

Likely, lawsuits to follow.

No Fair!
Fascinating study testing the sense of “fairness” dogs feel. Found out that if you reward one dog for behavior both are doing, the unrewarded dog stopped playing. Since dogs are pack animals, descended from wolves who are keenly sensitive to pack hierarchy and rules and keenly sensitive to “unfair” treatment which can set up dissention in the pack that can spell doom to the pack as a whole, both critters are finely tuned to fair treatment.

And if dogs are aware of ‘fairness,” why not humans, you may ask?

Well, I give you Exhibit A: L.A. Times headline, “Jerry Brown urges court to overturn Prop 8.” The attorney General of the State of California has urged the State Supreme court to overturn Prop 8 because “Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification.” (That old compelling state concerns that even supporters of Prop 8 can’t seem to come up with.)

So, dogs are keenly aware of being treated differently (“He gets a Snausage, I get bubkis, what’s with that??”) so can we then assume humans are also keenly aware of being treated differently? (“He gets to get married and I get bubkis, what’s with that??”)

Well, we’ll see. Will the Supreme Court allow Prop 8 to stand, thereby stripping away the fundamental right to marry they had previously bestowed on gay couples with their original ruling ? Or stand by their original ruling and void out Prop 8? Or keep Prop 8 and end up with somehow having to rule whether Prop 8 then also strips away the nearly 18,000 same-sex marriages already legally performed and recognized, leaving California with a three-tiered system: Straight Marriage, SOME Same-Sex Marriages, and Sorry Bub, None for YOU non-marriag-s “civil unions?”

Stay tuned. Meantime, Kibble anyone?

More Goodbyes

The perils of having litter mates. First Bwana, now his sister, Ajabu. When their last brother Waseem, living up north, goes, that will be the end of M'tawi's Children.

Ironically, Ajabu was the one I was expecting to go first from the cancer on her jaw. But, true to the last, she chugged on her own stubborn little way in her own time to her own tune. When she stopped eating and drinking a few days ago, I thought I'd have to call it, but she suddenly and briefly popped up, incredibly frail but thirsty and hungry again for a few brief laps of broth. But it was her last hurrah. I kept her as comfortable as I could with medication and she went into a twilight sleep. Last night I piled her on the bed with the rest of the gang, all bundled up in a cuddler, told her what a wonderful little dog she was. Her breathing changed about 2 a.m. I dozed off for a brief while and when I awoke she was gone.

More doggie Basenji blossoms for the garden. Perils of having littermates. I hate this. I hate this. I hate this. And I hope I'm done with dying for a while. It's certainly not the season for sad news. She was a good little dog and brought into the world the four "Hideous Georgia Babies," heh-heh, but that's another story for another time. Rest in Peace.

Your Saturday Poem
Year’s End
By Ted Kooser, from Sure Signs; new and selected poems

Now the seasons are closing their files
on each of us, the heavy drawers
full of certificates rolling back
into the tree trunks, a few old papers
flocking away. Someone we loved
has fallen from our thoughts,
making a little, glittering splash
like a bicycle pushed by a breeze.
Otherwise, not much has happened;
we fell in love again, finding
that one red feather on the wind.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay New, Tolosa Press, SLO CA for December 19, 08

Christmas Present

America can change. That is the true genius of this nation
President-elect Barak Obama

The tall nutcrackers have been removed from their dusty cartons to stand guard in the coming solstice night. The Christmas lights gleam in the darkness once again. But for me it’s a season out of sorts. Instead of chill nights and the crows muttering in the cold morning dark, it’s now heat waves and time for short sleeved tee shirts. The nasturtiums in the back yard have raced to put out huge mounds of bright green leaves and new flowers, paying no attention to a sudden cold snap that will unexpectedly arrive to play havoc with their unseasonable green rebellion. Such treacherous topsy-turvy weather is fair warning of the unstable future that is now ours .

For eight years, the dark turning of the year kept getting darker and grimmer as the war’s body count rose and the loss and destruction to this country from the incompetent bunglers and appalling klepocrats in federal office got worse and worse, and the nation fell deeper into a kind of paralyzed sleep while the ship of state headed for the rocks.

And now that the crash has come, amidst a transformative election surrounded by talk of “re-booting America,” and the sense that we’re witnessing a strange déjà vu re-run of the Kennedy era -- that other “generation of change” -- I feel not elation, but only a kind of weary dismay. I am still deeply puzzled as to why and how eight years of this administrative disaster was allowed to continue for so long, why there was such a total failure of all our critical governmental checks and balances, and how to account for the lassitude of a people so inattentive that they couldn’t even move to save their own skins before it was too late.

And since our national Pandora’s box has loosed so many ills into the world, we will be faced with our self-generated blow-back for years to come. But as the ancient legend reminds us, there in the bottom of the box lies hope as well. It is past time to release that sacred gift and pray that Obama was right when he spoke after the New Hampshire primary, “For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready or that we shouldn’t try or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can.”

Yes we can. That is a generational cry, as new as a child, as ancient as the hills, as regular and predictable as the turning of the world from the dark winter night of sleep and a passing away, to a new rising of the returning sun that will soon warm the earth once again. It is to be found in the legend of the Fisher King, the myths of the gods made human, come to make earth bright again. It is in all the archetype salvation stories of resurrections and reincarnations, the Great Wheel, Pluto and Persephone, even old Scrooge and his renewing epiphany, all pointing timelessly to the true fact of the world: Change, transformation, constant, fluid, fleeting, all is in flux and flow.

In the evening sky Jupiter, Venus and a crescent moon are all closely aligned in a rare fifty year event, an astonishingly bright celestial dance for winter. It isn’t a Christmas star, but perhaps it will do to lift our spirits and guide whatever wise men we have left. The young generation now moving into their own will not see that celestial gathering again until they are as old as I am now.

It will be a new world when the stars and moon come together again to dance in such perfect alignment, but much will still be the same. On a winter’s night, the candles will be lit, the old songs sung, the families will gather. And in the trees somewhere, there will be crows muttering in the dark, gossiping about one another and kraa-kakking a warning about that odd old lady standing at the end of her driveway in the early dawn, looking east for the rising sun.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Letter To The Supes

I sent the following to the Board of Supervisors. On Tuesday, they'll be voting on whether to delay certifying the Statement of Overriding Considerations (SOC )on the Santa Margarita Ranch development project or whether to lock it in as is forever.

I find it really interesting that this project, if the SOC is certified, will be described as "essential" for the "public good." Let's see, some really nice high end homes, a golf course, a dude ranch, and B&B, craft studios and galleries and shops are considered "essential?" Really? That's not a word that comes to mind. "Nice," maybe, but "essential?" No. To me "essential" is sewage treatment, clean water, safe bridges, roads, secure water sources, hospitals, schools, public parks, and such like. But golf courses? High end beautiful homes for those who can afford them? A dude ranch? Naw.

Well, Tuesday afternoon will tell.

Dear Sirs,

I would urge you to delay a final vote on the Santa Margarita Ranch project. Once some of the more serious, still contentious points are finally settled, the project will be nice but hardly “essential” for the “public good.” And that SOC that had better be right or else you run the risk of turning Santa Margarita into another Los Osos.

As you recall, the SOC for the Los Osos Wastewater Project (which was later rescinded as being false or incorrect or not accurately supported) contained at least one demonstrably false statement – there was no “strongly held community value” requiring a sewer plant be put in the middle of town. The Coastal Commission had a chance to set that right but, in the name of expediency, failed to do so – remember Chairman Potter and his “bait and switch” comment, which should have resulted in red flags being tossed down on that play immediately.

A delay at that point could have determined how correct that SOC really was, but the CC couldn’t be bothered. They just wanted the thing off their plate. The result was a disaster for this community and an expensive mess for the county.

Please don’t let Santa Margarita become the next Los Osos with a papered-over incorrect or incomplete SOC. There are serious issues to be still be finessed and resolved by the next Board. I would urge you to let the new Board weigh in with their concerns. After all, they’re the ones who will have to live with any problems for a long, long time. The Santa Margarita development is one of those things that is too important not to get right since there can be no do over if you get it wrong.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Your Sunday Poem, Dec 08

This amazing one by Bob Hicok from the Dec 8, 08 New Yorker. The New Yorker is one of the few publications left that prints poetry, one of the reasons I subscribe. God bless ‘em..

As I Was Saying

Long, thin clouds as if the sky were smoking
I tell it to stop or share, it doesn’t stop or share,
this is what happens to my requests; they rise.
When I was a kid, a neighbor man
had a few and tied a cherry bomb to a pigeon,
it flew furiously until kaboom. Feathers
and bits of what made the pigeon go
landed on the Smitkey twins playing hopscotch,
they looked up, I looked at them looking up,
two of everything the same, as if their parents
knew the odds of needing a spare. My wife
wants to fly in a hot air balloon. I say to her,
I’ll wait here with the turtles. I try to save them
from getting squished when they cross the road.
They don’t know it’s a road or what a road
is for, getting away is what a road is for,
then coming back, then wondering why you came back
is what a road is for. My wife’s people
are Ukranian, beets are important to them.
I tried to arm-wrestle her father once, he said,
Why would I do that: if I beat your arm,
the rest of you will want revenge.
I never looked at it what way. Forty-two years now
I’ve tried to look at it that way. The other day,
some kids knocked a ball through our window,
one of them asked for it back, I said, Sure,
if you give me the bat. He did, then asked
for the bat, I said, If you give me the ball,
he started to hand it over when I saw understanding
bloom in his face. That never happened for me:
understanding blooming in my face. Not the way
I wanted it to. So I’ll die and someone
will have to deal with what’s left, the body,
the shoes, the socks. The last person on Earth
will just be dead: not buried or mourned
or missed. As with kites, I cut the string
when they’re way up, because who’d want to come back.
So somewhere are all these kites, as somewhere
are all the picture frames from the camps,
and the bows from hair, and the hair itself
I saw once in a museum, some of it, in a room
all its own, as if one day the heads
would come back and think, That’s where I put you,
as I do with keys when I find them in my hand.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh, Bruce, Bruce, We Gotta Talk – Prop 8, Some More

In his December 11 Bay News Op-Ed [ --click on The Bay News, go to page 7) to my previous Prop 8 column, Los Osos resident Bruce Curtis takes a stab at defending Prop 8 but – dang – still misses the mark.

He focuses primarily on the angry protests and pickets and angry letters and acts of vandalism done by anti-8 protesters after the election, which is certainly a valid point of discussion. Some of the No on 8ers’ actions against some of the churches that supported Prop 8 and their angry vandalism and threats were deplorable. Declaring them to be “terrorist” acts, however, ramps rhetoric past reality. Curtis notes, in his bulleted list of various alleged acts committed by protesters throughout the country, “At a Saddleback Church, angry hate-8 protestors wave swastikas at parishioners,” which called to mind something similar: “religious” protesters showing up at a gay soldier’s funeral carrying “God Hates Fags” signs. The young man was killed in Iraq, but no matter. Was that as distasteful and cruel and stupid as showing up at a church carrying swastikas? You betcha. But “terror?” Hardly.

Mr. Curtis also conflates being gay with “pederasty, polygamy and incest,” and being alcoholic, and or suffering from a “dysfunctional” “disease,” which, I suspect, is a truer indication of his real feelings, but coming right out and saying that would likely bring on charges that he’s an ignorant bigot. But that rhetorical conflation and slide into the ridiculous (“If we allow gay marriage, those people will want to marry their dog and they’ll then make it legal to start having sex with donkeys and the Republic will slide into the sea.”), is always a sure sign to me that the writer has simply stopped thinking.

Ditto to the oft-repeated phrase about “cramming [hot-button-issue-du jour] down our throats.” (Cramming down throats?? Oh, Sigmund Freud, where are you now that we need you?) That’s where we really do need to ask, “O.K. please explain EXACTLY how, for example, two gay people getting married somewhere in our state crams anything down your throat. Will that couple leave the ceremony and arrive at your house and barge in and say, Move aside, we’re gonna spend our honeymoon in your bedroom? Does that couple show up to have wedded-bliss sex on your front lawn? Whaaat?”

Unlikely. However, is it possible that what’s really behind Mr. Curtis’ fear of “cramming” is that, as a person who equates gay people with “disease,” perhaps what’s at work here is the fact that Mr. Curtis really doesn’t want gay folks to have any kind of “legitimate” public presence in “decent” society. Imagine, for example, the wedding page of your local paper. If gays can marry, will Mr. Curtis see smiling gay couples all gussied up for their wedding photos right next to straight people all gussied up for their wedding photos, right there in the local paper – ‘Smith-Jones Nuptials’, and there’s Tom Smith in his tux standing next to Fred Jones? And when that happens, does Mr. Curtis really fear having to ‘splain to his children (presuming he has any) what the word “nuptials” means and why both men and women and men and men and women and women are all gussied up and on this page?

Or does Mr. Curtis really fear having to go to a social gathering and be faced with Tom introducing himself and introducing Fred as “my spouse?” Or maybe Mr. Curtis really can’t abide the thought that on television there’s some celebrity being interviewed and right there in public the celebrity turns and says, “My [same sex] partner and I are getting married next week?” Or the very real fear that when he goes out in public, he’ll be forced to watch same-sex couples openly displaying acts of affection – kissing, holding hands, etc. – right there in public, in broad daylight, just like straight people do all the time, and when they go overboard, passersby usually roll their eyes and yell, “Get a motel!!”

Or having taught his children that “God Hates Gays,” his daughter comes home from school one day and says, “My teacher, Mr. McGuillicutty, is gay and he’s a really nice man. I like Mr. McGuillicutty. Daddy, can you tell me why God hates Mr. McGuillicutty?” And Mr. Curtis will have to roll his eyes and mutter under his breath, “Dang! If only those people had stayed in their diseased closets and out of our schools and businesses and public office and remained down in “that part of town” only to show up in police-blotter photos in the paper along with other criminals, I wouldn’t have to ‘splain all this to my kids. Dang! Dang! Dang!”

Or, worse yet, Mr. Curtis’ son comes home one day and says, “Dad, I’m gay.” Oh, GAWWWWDDDDD!

Well, if that’s the problem, I understand. I come from a generation where everything I mentioned above was applied to all things racial and interracial. Integration was something that was “being crammed down throats,” protesters were out in the street calling American citizens to account, and the rallying cry of most of the nation was, “If you allow them into our schools, next thing you know, they’ll want to marry your sister!” and the nation was shocked – SHOCKED! – when Harry Belefonte planted a peck on the cheek of a white singer (can’t remember now who she was) on TV and the show was blacked-out in the south for fear of it starting riots and lynchings and such like.

Same fear, same hatred, same bigotry, same struggle to achieve not only equal legal civil rights with white America, but legitimacy in the larger white public society. All of this is déjà vu, including the coded marker words, the false conflations, the slippery-slope imagery, and the same declarations that Mr. Curtis uses at the end of his piece: “The ‘tolerance’ crowd is now cramming their values down our throats, violently. But they won’t prevail because we believe in marriage and we outnumber Prop 8 opponents. We’ve defended marriage and we’ll vigorously defend Prop 8 in the courts, as is our right. . . . That democratic power is what people like Calhoun fear most.” (?? Like a lot of Mr. Curtis’ statements, that’s a howler.)

Segregation now, segregation forever!

Yep. Until the Supreme Court (and the National Guard) and a whole lot of incredibly brave people changed that world by reminding us of our founding principles – equal justice under law for all citizens.

And that’s the issue that Mr. Curtis doesn’t address. So, please Mr. Curtis, another Op/Ed piece and this time, please explain, as a supporter of Prop 8, EXACTLY what compelling (civil) state interests are served by forbidding and/or removing the right of gay people to “marry?”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best Friends Bites

From the 12-10-08 L.A. Times: “Pet shop moving out after puppy mill protests,” by Carla Hall, Times staff writer ( . . . “For 15 years, Pet Love has been a fixture in the busy Beverly Center mall, its brightly lighted interior showcasing furry puppies for sale behind glass-walled kennels.

“But for the last six months, the sixth-floor pet store has been targeted by the Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal rescue and welfare organization that is waging a campaign to get Los Angeles pet shops to stop selling animals born in what the group calls inhumane puppy mills.”

Alas the story fails to note the critical point in this puppy mill-pet store cycle – the AKC (American Kennel Club) “purebred” “papers” that are put on these dogs that make the buyer think these are indeed “purebred” dogs from reputable breeders and kennels because, after all, the prestigious AKC wouldn’t put “papers” on spavined wrecks bred out of filthy puppy mills in the Midwest, now would they? Ah, yes, indeed they do, and that “paper” acts as the engine that drives the puppy mill trade by putting false value on those mill dogs.

But, the volunteers from Best Friends did manage to inform the puppy buying public at that high-end mall just what it was they were buying. One example given was a Jack Russell terrier puppy on sale for $999.99. That’s another dirty little secret (aided and abetted by that AKC “paper.”) You can get a really healthy, good tempered, well bred dog from a reputable breeder, for about half that price. Or, in this case, pay twice as much for a spavined, genetic wreck that likely isn’t really “purebred,” puppy mills being notoriously sloppy in keeping a male and a bunch of breeding females together into large cages, or lumping litters from different dogs together before trucking the tiny pups out the door, paying no attention to just who mummy and daddy are. This bundling and dumping also makes the AKC “papers” that go with those puppies (those who survive the trip) fraudulent, something the AKC is well aware of but often do nothing about when they investigate and discover the typical puppy-mill mess -- as was noted in a 20/20 and ABC World News Tonight report a few years ago; they do not purge the AKC registry (for which they receive tax exemption) if the number of fraudulent dogs is really large, thereby defeating the whole supposed reason for maintaining that registry. (Still get that nice tax exemption, though. Sweet.)

So, good on Best Friends for their efforts to educate the puppy buying public. And good on Carla Hall for this report. And too bad that the Humane Society of the United States didn’t help the Best Friends campaign. The Director of the HSUS knows well of the AKC “paper” issue, but refuses to even mention the connection – likely for fear offending a powerful, politically well-connected organization that spends a lot of money creating an image that simply can’t stand close scrutiny. Which is a real shame since a national campaign by both Best Friends and HSUS to educate the puppy buying public on that AKC “paper” connection would go a long way to reducing the mill trade. After all, who in their right mind would pay $999.99 for a puppy correctly advertised as “from a Missouri puppy mill, “AKC paper” not verifiable and likely to be fraudulent?” Right.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy “Day Without a Gay” Day

A grassroots group has planned to make today a “Day Without a Gay” day, taking the idea from a satirical (sort of) movie a few years ago, “A Day Without a Mexican,” to point up the fact that Gays are actually a vital part of our community. So the idea (like the missing “Mexicans”) is to have gay people stay home, no work, no shopping, zip, a boycott, as it were, of society. The organizers are “asking gay rights supporters to avoid going to work by ‘calling in gay’ and spending the day volunteering with in the [grass roots ] movement instead, as organizers get ready for the next move in this particular civil rights movement – depending on what the Calif. Supreme Court does on the Measure 8 issue.

Also, interestingly, in New Jersey, reports the L.A. Times (heading into bankruptcy) “A commission has concluded that legislators should allow gay couples to marry, setting up what could be a spirited debate over whether the sate should be the first to allow gay marriage by passing a law, rather than by court mandate.” . . . . “The commission found that the rights afforded to those in civil unions were not always well understood, and that allowing gay couples to marry would alleviate the problem.”

Last night on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who believes that being gay is a “lifestyle choice” was asked by host Jon Stewart when he “chose” to be a heterosexual. Huckabee, like so many people who claim that sexual orientation is a “choice” skated past the question. Didn’t answer it. Which always speaks volumes to me, since people who believe that gay people “choose” to be gay never believe that they “chose” to be straight, which means that they must think that gay people somehow aren’t just as human as they are, but must operate on an entirely different system. After all, if you didn't "chose" to be straight, why didn't the same thing happen to another person who also didn't "chose" to be gay?

Of course, if you believe that you are somehow different from your fellow citizens, that allows you to believe that others are, well The Other, and as everyone knows, The Other can then be relegated to a less than human status. You know, there’s Us and then there's . . . . THEM . . . eeeuuuuuuu.

Stewart also had a couple of telling observations: Choosing one’s religion is truly a matter of “choice,” not choosing ones’ sexual orientation, and that history will show that opposing gay marriage will turn out to be as shameful a position as opposition to integration, interracial marriage, equal pay for equal work, even votes for women – all now considered shameful and embarrassing episodes along our bumpy march towards equality and justice for all Americans.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Your Sunday Poem

by Ted Kooser from "Sure Signs, new and selected poems," available at your local bookstore.

There's a click like a piece of chalk
tappng a blackboard, and the furnace
starts thinking: Now, just where was I?
It's always the same stale thought
turned over and over: Got to
get something to eat. Nothing else
ever enters its mind. After all,
it's a very old furnace,
and all of its friends have moved on.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Oh, Pastor Nash, We Gotta Talk More About Prop 8

In the Dec 4 Bay News, [] Randy Nash, Pastor of the Los Osos Christian Fellowship, had an Op/Ed piece in response to my previous Column on Proposition 8. I had high hopes, as a supporter of Prop 8, he would answer the one critical question – What is the compelling state reason for denying gays the right to marry – but he didn’t He came close with his statement, “Finally, exit polls tell us that one out of seven that voted ‘Yes” said they had no religious affiliation. Might I suggest they just used common sense that said something like, ‘If gay couples need more tax or medical benefits then let’s give it to them. But we do not need to call their relationships a marriage. That has been reserved solely for heterosexual couples in every society throughout history and for good reason.”

O.K. “for good reason.” So, what is it? Or should I say, “what are they .” Please let us have those “good reasons.” As I noted in my previous post on this, it can’t be for reasons of “the children,” since gay couples have kids, just like straight folks. Can’t be about “sex,” or “certain kinds of sex” since straight and gay folks have been doing the same things with their naughty parts and there’s nothing now in the “marriage” laws that define what “married” people can or can’t do with their dirty parts, gay or straight. So, what are these “good reasons” Pastor Nash refers to?

Surely, the supporters of Prop. 8 should be able to tell me exactly what the compelling state reasons are for denying “marriage” rights to gay people?

As for Pastor Nash, may I suggest that perhaps one reason he feels that certain rights should be reserved for certain people but not for others can be found in his statement “ . . . true civil rights . . . have nothing to do with one’s behavior, but everything to do with one’s immutable or unchangeable characteristics such as being born black. . . . but many homosexuals have left the homosexual lifestyle. . . . Gays would be hard-pressed to prove they were born gay.”

Ah, in a previous posting, I’ve tossed that issue out there too. “Being” versus “doing.” So here’s another question for Pastor Nash. Was he born straight or at some point in his life did he “choose” to be straight? I sure as heck have no memory of “choosing” to be straight. Sitting there on the jungle gym in the school playground, about age 4 or 5, I sure wasn’t thinking, “Hmmmm, there’s little Suzy Jones and little Dick Castenon. I wonder which one I’ll fall madly in love with.” Nope. Zhazam! It was suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, true love, mad passion and little Dick Castenon won that race right out of the box. Movie star Jimmy Stewart, also. Choice? Naw. I yam what I yam. So I am always puzzled by people who believe that I somehow made that choice. And if I didn’t “choose” to be straight, why would I presume that others “chose” to be gay? Makes no sense to me.

So, I’ll ask again. Pastor Nash, do you recall how and when you “chose” your sexual orientation? Anybody else reading this blog entry, feel free to chime in on the comment section. I really would like to know how someone “chooses” to be straight or gay.

Also, I would have to ask Pastor Nash whether he’s ever heard of the notion that human sexuality, like all things human (and natural) runs along a continuum – with people scattered along the line from 100% straight to 100% gay with some people scattered in the middle who can go either way. (If Pastor Nash believes sexual orientation is a “choice,” then he also needs to ‘splain the issue of gender mix ups, where people from earliest age genuinely feel they’ve been born in the wrong body (not to mention the issue of hermaphroditism, which often calls for an arbitrary surgical choice at birth that may not match the brain’s gender orientation that emerges much later, often causing much tragedy.) We know from fetal development studies that the brain is bathed in hormones during different phases of development and that can have a profound effect on that brain’s development. And we further know that the female and male brain operate differently due to those hormonal baths, both prenatal and after birth. So, I would have to challenge Pastor Nash’s claim that gender perception and/or brain development is a “choice.”)

But here we are again, with my question unanswered: What compelling state reasons are there that prevent gay citizens from having equal “marriage” rights and responsibilities with straight citizens? Until the supporters of Measure 8 can ‘splain that, we’ll be stuck with the same answer the Supreme Court gave: There is no compelling state reason.

Prop 8 is a case of the religious belief of certain religious institutions being imposed on the entire population who may or may not hold those particular beliefs (remember, a lot of gay folks were “married” in a church or synagogue of their choice so you can’t say, well, those were just a bunch of atheists – they weren’t, their union was blessed by the religious institutions of their choice, exactly as our founding fathers foresaw. ) And Prop 8 is an excellent example of the tyranny of the majority over the rights of a minority for no compelling state reason other than a (certain) religious or personal antipathy – exactly as our founding fathers foresaw as well, and tried to prevent in our Constitution.

Wheeee, And Who Says Christians Are A Persecuted Minority In Danger Of Being Wiped Out, Boo Hoo!

The various braying “Culture Warriors” on the right are fond of portraying “Christians” as some threatened “minority,” facing extinction at the hands of the godless mob. It’s a nice conceit, but waaaayyyy off the mark. A superb book, “The Churching of America,” points out that the reason religions in America are so vital is precisely because the founding fathers separated them from the state. “Privitized” churches were vital, living things that required congregants’ constant attention and money and care – care for both church buildings which required pots of money from members who actually DID care about their church since they were coughing up pots of dough to keep it going – and care for church doctrine since a “privatized” church was “owned,” not by some king or state somewhere, but owned by the members. In short, separating church from state ensured a variety of religions and sects all vital, alive, growing, changing, breaking off, re-forming – a constant broth of reformation of belief.

So, Culture Warriors, stop your phony boo-hooing. I give you Prime Example I: The Episcopal Church, a certain number of members who couldn’t stand the fact that the main church ordained a gay bishop five years ago. So for five years, certain American congregations stewed about this and finally broke away to hook up with more conservative groups, putting themselves under the authority of bishops from Africa and South America. Their quarrel is doctrinaire – no gays need apply, they wanted to head back to a more literal, older, conservative dogma. (The quarrel now will center on Who Owns The Church Property and Building, not Who Owns the Liturgy and Dogma.)

While I’m sure a lot of Episcopalians are distressed by this, I say, Hooray! This amoeba-like splitting off indicates to me a religion that’s alive and well and congregants who care enough about their beliefs to form and reform. That sort of thing never happens with “dead” state-sponsored official zzzzzzzzz snore religions.

Which our wise founding fathers understood very well indeed.

Yes, Yes, back to the Sewer Wars

Correction/Clarification in the Dec 4 BayNews: In the previous week’s story about the “new estimated costs for the Los Osos sewer stated by comparison that the previous CSD project had contracted costs of $116 million. The reference was to the bids that were awarded for construction of the project. Had we added in costs for land acquisition, permitting and environmental review, as well as legal costs and others, it would have been closer to $150 million.” (The county’s latest guestimate of $165 million is actually a mash-up of both gravity and STEP, sort of combined and averaged, so the real cost of either system remains unknown at this point.)

And, Yes, It’s Ron Crawford, Having Waaaay Too Much Fun, Again

“Stupid is as Stupid Does,” over at Ron is quoting Jeff Young, Chairperson of the RWQCB who said, during the 4/28/06 hearing, “Folks, I know that there’s a lot of history here. No one on the Board is stupid about that.”

Right. Well, Mr. Young, Mr. Packard, Mr. Ron thinks it’s Pop Quiz Time!

And, Finally, Ah, God Bless Donna Handy!

Remember when Prez Bush started pushing through this executive order that would allow doctors, nurses, pharmacists, any “medical” personnel to refuse treatment or medications of any kind to patients if that medicine or treatment violated their religious or ethical beliefs? The whole effort was – in reality -- aimed at women’s reproductive rights, abortion, morning after pills, birth control & such like.

Well, here’s Donna Handy of Santa Barbara in her Dec 6, 08 letter to the Times.

“When it comes to women’s reproductive health issues, everybody has a conscience and moral rules: President Bush, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, Catholic bishops, the Pope, the Taliban and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. But when it comes to a prescription for Viagra or Cialis, anything goes.

I would just love to find one pharmacist in the U.S. who would refuse to fill a prescription for Viagra or Cialis for a single guy.”

Friday, December 05, 2008

Calhoun’s Cannon, For The Bay New, Tolosa Press, SLO, CA for Dec 5, 2008

Bwana Nusu Hadithi

In the whelping box, during the dark, bloody process of birth, the pup’s new mother mistook his tiny tail for an umbilical cord and nipped it off, leaving only an upright stump. It wasn’t until I took the puppies in for a vet check that I knew something was wrong. “Where’s his tail?” she asked. Which is how he came by his name: Bwana Nusu Hadithi – Master Half Tale—a play on the Swahili word “hadithi,” since he did have a story to tell when asked why he, of all the other Basenjis, was missing that signature tight curled tail with its distinctive white tip.

On the other hand, his terrier-like upright, sprightly wagging stub suited his personality perfectly. A handsome clone of his beautiful uncle, Rafiki, whom he loved with an unseemly idol worshiping ardor, he had a sweet nature that can best be explained by what one duck said to another duck: “Don’t worry. If it doesn’t rain, we’ll walk.”

That tail also earned double-takes and annoyed queries from AKC judges when I showed him at several dog shows. After an endless stream of letters, it was finally determined that since the Basenji Club of America didn’t list a missing tail as a disqualification, the AKC would (eye-rolling, reluctant) have to allow me to show him. No frowning judge took Bwana seriously, but then knowing what I know about the AKC’s registration “papers” fraud, which is the driving engine of the puppy mill trade, I never took them seriously either.

Bwana earned a few meaningless blue ribbons and thought it was all a hoot. For him, the world was a gentle oyster full of pearls for the little dog with half a tail. And his life was long and healthy for all of his 14-plus years. Until luck and time ran out.

Even now I’m not sure just what happened. Perhaps he was caught in one of our rapidly arriving, unseasonable hot spells and while out in the back yard soaking up the warm sun on his old bones, didn’t realize the heat was rising dangerously and, age-befuddled, he didn’t come in out of the sun in time. When I got home, I realized something was seriously wrong and the battle to re-hydrate him started. He seemed to recover for a while, but eventually his old body just wasn’t up to the climb.

Once again it was time to make the terrible call. Once again, time for the last bit of refused food and water, the last tummy rub. When I carried him out of the car at the vet’s office, we stood for the last time to gaze out over the Chorro Valley. Bwana gazed placidly at the scene, turning his head to look with rheumy eyes at the sun drenched fields and hills, and sniff the scents coming in on the wind to his twitching nostrils. I held him tightly and watched him for a long, long time. It was one last look for me.

But not for Bwana. For dogs, there are no “last things.” For him, that soft view of the fields was only one more nice moment among many, and then it was on to the next moment. But we humans are not so lucky. Even in beginnings, we know the endings -- the last cry is there in the first cry of a puppy in the dark of a whelping box. That terrible, sharp sorrow is the awful penalty we pay for memory.

Bwana’s ashes mingle now with is brother, Kifani, in “Kifani’s Corner” of the yard, and will soon be part of the beautiful grapevine now climbing up the newly installed trellis. Their sister, battling cancer, will likely soon join them both; more blossoms in my dog-blossom garden. The younger dogs think my sadness is silly. For them there are only splendid moments of Now as they blissfully revel in their doggy lives, enjoying each moment as if it would never end. There are no lasts for them, even though age and time and endings are chasing us all.

They’re right, of course. It is Bwana’s final message, too. Right here, right now, the sun is warm, the lavender’s scent is sharp and sweet. And this sacred moment in this sacred Now will be followed by another and another, each as beautiful and as endless as heaven.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Prop 8’ers, We Still Gotta Talk

Interesting letter in yesterday’s Tribune by Alexis Murrel of Los Osos (Yes! Another Bearish Folk):

“Henry Giacomantonio says in his Nov 29[Tribune] letter that ‘marriage is and always has been a religious institution.’ While this statement is certainly debatable, let’s just assume for the time being that he’s right. In that case ‘married’ couples should receive no legal recognition. If it’s solely a religious institution, then it shouldn’t involve legal privileges regarding finances, parenting, immigration or inheritance. And there certainly shouldn’t be any tax breaks.

“If it’s a religious institution, the Constitution mandates that it cannot have anything to do with the government.

“You can keep your word ‘marriage’ – if you give back all of the civil benefits you’ve been taking advantage of for centuries. You can’t have your wedding cake and eat it too.”

Heh-heh. Nice ending. That Alexis is right can be seen in the words the preacher speaks at the end of the wedding ceremony (at least the minister did at my wedding): “By the power vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you . . . .” and etc. Seems clear that what we’re looking at here is a STATE, CIVIL ceremony. And no church or synagogue can “marry” anybody legally without that state piece of paper – the “marriage” license. And as such, the state (civil, secular) needs to ‘splain how denying certain groups of citizens the same rights as others is warranted.

Also still in the mix, an AP piece by Jesse Washington called, “Is Gay the New Black.” “Gay is the new black, say the protest signs and magazine covers, casting the gay marriage battle as the last frontier of equal rights for all.

“Gay marriage is not a civil right, opponents counter, insisting that minority status comes from who you are rather than what you do.”

Ah, now that’s a discussion worth having. What you are versus what you do. When you put aside Biblical teaching, I suspect what’s at the heart of the fear and dislike many straight people really feel towards gay people involves what gay people do with their naughty parts. Gone missing, of course, is that straight people do exactly the same things with their naughty parts too. So, what’s the difference? I mean, C’mon, there’s only so much one can possibly do with the set of naughty parts each sex is given, no matter how creative you are or how combine the possibilities, even if you toss in gourmet vegetables, a loofa AND Bill O’Reilly!

So declaring someone is a second class citizen based on what he or she does with his or her naughty parts doesn’t make much sense since straight people are busy doing the same things with their naughty parts. (And whatever do we do about bisexuals? They can get married even though they're "doing" same sex naughty stuff, just like gay people? That's somehow OK? If so, then there goes the "doing/being" notion.)

So, what are we basing this second class citizenship on? Can’t be “the children” since gay people have both natural children and adopted children, just like straight people. It can’t be “religious” because the “marriage” laws are secular and civil. Heck, even the “license” comes from the state. Without it, a church is powerless to “marry” anyone and have it mean anything. (Churches can’t “divorce” anyone either. That’s also a civil matter.) And it can’t be what straight people do with their naughty parts because there’s nothing in the law that says, you can get married ONLY if you engage in “proper” male/female procreative sex in the missionary position during fertile times of the month; all other sexual practices will result in the Divorce Police breaking into your bedroom and dragging you to Divorce Court.

So if straights and gays are all DOING the same sorts of things or variants thereof, then are we basing this second class citizenship on . . . BEING? And since “being” isn’t a “choice,” then that does open up a can of worms, now doesn’t it? Are we now to have second class citizenship for a certain group of people because of WHAT they are, not what they do? And if Prop 8 has set up a new class, then doesn’t the State have a responsibility to ‘splain the compelling interest to the state in maintaining this second class status?

Otherwise, we have taken a huge step backward, since the whole thrust of our Constitution – in its groping search for a more perfect union – has been to guarantee equal treatment under law of all citizens.

Note To Young Students Away From Home For The First Time and Partying Hearty

Alcohol ingested in large quantities over a short period of time can poison you and you can die. It’s clear that this fact is an amazingly well kept secret since every year we get news reports of alcohol poisoning deaths on campus, just as regular as clockwork. Apparently, many young students appear to be impervious to this well-known fact. I’m beginning to suspect it’s some sort of Darwinian mechanism at work. Getting out of childhood and young adulthood alive and in one piece is looking more and more like a lethal Tontine – smarts and luck ensure a certain percent of the most hardy and clever make it through. Mother Nature is never pretty. Neither is a parent’s grief over the death of a child. That is beyond measure.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Monday Idea

David Lazarus, columnist for the L.A. Times Business section (email: had a great column yesterday. "Fuming over cigarette butt litter." Seems that cigarette butts are the most common form of liiter, they're not really biodegradable (the cellulose lasts for years and are loaded with various toxins than can affect animals that ingest them) and world-wide account for 135 millon tons of butts littering the landscape. (Anyone whose volunteered for beach clean-up day can attest to that.)

So, Lazarus interviewed Thomas Novotny, professor of epidemology at UC San Francisco, who had a modest proposal. One, "Stop selling filtered cigarettes. The product can be altered to eliminate this form of pollution." Novotny argues that filters on cigarettes don't do diddly to make cigarettes safer. In fact, they do the opposite by making the smoke seem "smoother," which can encourage more smoking rather than more coughing.

To which Lazarus adds another bright idea: "Charge smokers an extra dollar per pack as a deposit fee. If the smoker brings back 20 butts to any Caliofnria cigarette retailer, he gets his dollar returned. If not, well, maybe someone else will do it.

"I've seen enough street people going through garbage cans in search of recyclable materials to think that there'd probably be more than a few folk willing to pick up butts from the ground to score a few bucks in deposit fees."

Heck, think how much could be earned during beach clean up days, money that could go into the pocket of the volunteer organizations out there making the world sparkley clean!

Concludes, Lazarus, "Surely there's at least one lawmaker in Sacramento who realizes we don't want our state buried in cigarette butts. If you warite the bill, I"ll band the drum. Deal?"

Hey, works for me!