Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is Los Osos Ready To Go To Pot?

In a Dec 10, 2009 story in the Bay News, editor Neil Ferrell profiled Rich Donald. Mr. Donald is presently running an official 215/SB420-compliant medical marijuana cooperative. Called Cannafornia Health Services ( it is a home delivery service for people with medical marijuana prescriptions. They can log onto the site or call 1-888-926-8420 and once their paperwork/prescriptions are confirmed, they can order their medical marijuana in a variety of forms – smoked, vaporized, edible, etc. – and it will be delivered to their door.

Which is a far cry from having sick people having to drive to Santa Barbara to the dispensary there. But while a to-your-door delivery service is an improvement, an official Dispensary would be able to offer a far wider range of services, including nutritional help as well as other “wellness” therapies under one roof. Which is why Mr. Ferrell held a public information forum at Sea Pines Golf Resort on Saturday, Dec 12th, to sound out the possibility of opening a Medical Marijuana Dispensary somewhere in Los Osos.

And Why Los Osos? you may ask. Because various city fathers have closed the door on any dispensaries at this point, so the only remaining places would be communities “in the County.” Since the BOS has not yet taken an official vote on the matter, I emailed the Supervisors and asked the following question: “Presuming [Mr. Donald] jumps through the proper zoning, Planning, Coastal Commission, regulatory hoops, and etc. would you officially support and vote to allow a licensed medical marijuana dispensary to be opened either here in Los Osos or anywhere under your County jurisdiction?”

Only Supervisor Gibson replied: “I support the idea of compassionate use of marijuana. Whether or not I would support a particular project depends on a lot of details that I’d need to see analyzed.

My biggest concern is that a dispensary not act as a thinly disguised emporium for recreational use. That was the biggest issue for me on the proposal that we rejected in Templeton a while back – the operator clearly had some issues and security would have been a problem.

“There are obviously some legal issues, including whether dispensaries are legal at all under Prop 215 and subsequent legislation (not to mention the federal issues). The recent flurry of openings in the L.A. area is pushing these questions to court soon, and it may be best for us if we could see how they play out.

“So, in short, I think it would be possible to approve a dispensary, but the bar will be set very high.

“I think the real solution here is probably to legalize marijuana (either at the state, or preferably the federal level.) Then we could tax it and use some of the proceeds to treat those with addiction problems. This idea is gaining ground in some unusual places – the most conservative rural counties in the state, which are overwhelmed with illegal and semi-legal growing and distribution activity. The next could of years will be very interesting. . . . “

Gibson touches on one of the peculiarities that surrounds both marijuana and “medical” marijuana and it’s this: Given a choice between easing the suffering of sick and dying people and the possibility that some of these people might “get high” from the drug, and/or that some of the people using the dispensary might not really be “sick” but faking it with a prescription from a hack Doctor Feelgood, and/or some underage kids might game the system and get some quality “medical marijuana” rather than the street junk they’re buying now, City Fathers everywhere will always go with suffering. It’s a reverse of our old mantra that it’s better that ten guilty men go free rather than that one innocent man be wrongly hanged. In the case of medical marijuana, it’s better that sick, dying people be allowed to unnecessarily suffer, rather than one fake pothead gets his hands on a better class of drug than the street junk he’s now smoking and gets high.

All of which is the result of America’s streak of a weirdly puritanical and muddled insanity that runs through our DNA: Suffering is GOOD since we’re all Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God, so ingesting a substance that alleviates pain and suffering is BAD. And heaven help us if we even think about ingesting a substance “recreationally” that makes us feel good and giddy and silly and mildly addles our brains. That’s BAD since it’s a sign of moral lack and indicative of a person going down the slippery slope of sloth and sin and heading directly for the Devil’s Playground.

Except in the case of alcohol and tobacco and a variety of other brain-addling, addictive prescription drugs, in which case, Well, that’s O.K.

It does make for some pretty silly pretzel twisting in logic. For example, Pot Dispensaries are banned by City Fathers who declare that they will “attract crime,” yet nowhere have I heard City Fathers slapping a moratorium on pharmacies as crime magnets. And I have yet to see a gaggle of “criminals” hanging around outside The Medicine Shoppe here on Los Osos Valley Road. And Lord knows, The Medicine Shoppe is loaded with serious, serious “drugs.” (And, O irony, located right next door is The Smoke Shop, legally selling one of the most lethal drugs around. Don’t see any “criminals” hanging around the Smoke Shop, though.)

No, our approach to “drugs” is generally nuts and hypocritical and profoundly damaging. But we do dearly love our insanity. Which is why it will likely be a long, uphill battle to ensure that Our Elected Officials actually follow the law – Prop 215 – providing, of course, they can figure it out since it tangles with Federal Law and that law will likely remain unchanged so long as politicians can demagogue it for their own political advantage.

In California, things may get even more complicated since there’s a ballot measure coming up that would legalize marijuana. The special interests groups are gearing up for battle, “The Children” (you know, those poor dears who need saving – from pot, from the gays, from tax & spend Democrats) will be duly trotted out for the television ads, the alcohol industry’s war chest is undoubtedly growing by barrels full and from the polls, it will be a very close, fiercely fought issue.

In the meantime, an Op/Ed piece in the L.A. Times seemed to offer a pretty common sense approach: Until pot gets legalized (and taxed and regulated like liquor and tobacco), treat medical dispensaries like bars and liquor stores: Issue dispensary licenses (properly vetting the owners), site them under liquor sale/store-zoning laws, and check them regularly for violations. Done. Problem over.

Won’t happen, of course. Too sensible. We’re a Nation Stuck on Stupid. Of course, if pot is legalized, then California will be, like, Dude, a State Stuck on High Stupid. Not much improvement. Although sales of Cheeze Doodles will skyrocket.

Meantime, in this county at least, if you’re desperately ill and you and your doctor thinks you can benefit from medical marijuana, you might as well call Cannafornia (or the several other delivery dispensers) since I wouldn’t wait around for anything to change soon.

I mean, who knows whether or not the upcoming pot-legalization bill will pass and if it does, it’ll likely be appealed. And anyway, even if it does pass, the Feds can refuse to recognize it and/or will take forever to get around to changing their laws concerning medical marijuana. And even if Mr. Donald does go ahead with his plans, the County Sups can nitpick, delay or roadblock any decision until the moon turns blue with cold. All of which could take years and years and years and years, by which time you’ll be dead.

Which is how we Americans like it. Relief from suffering is for Godless Commie Pinko Anti-American Weenies. Real Americans stick to Jack Daniels, like God intended!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Your Sunday Recipe

1-3 dogs

1 leash and 1 brace lead

pocket full of poopy bags

warm coat

comfy shoes

Clip dogs to leads. Untangle dogs. Untangle own feet. Put on coat. Put leads down, go get house keys. Untangle dogs again. Get unbrella.

Walk briskly 30 - 35 minutes or until done. Enjoy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Your Christmas Poem

This Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) poem was recited by Patrick Ball (Irish Harpist) at a recent Coalesce Bookstore concert. I found a copy on that came with a few footnotes: the ancient folk belief is that oxen would kneel at midnight on Christmas Eve, that “barton” is a farmyard and “comb” is a valley.

I hope you all are having a lovely day. Watch the sun rise, walk the dog, call a friend, savor the warm sun, welcome all the green sprouts that have come with the winter rains. It’s all a miracle worth kneeling to every midnight of every day.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
by the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dumb Move, Part Duh

Ooooo, Noooo. Has this Jim Patterson/Sarah Christie dust-up gone off into the ditch? Or has the Tribune? Its headlines Dec 23: “Ex-Commissioner says she was betrayed.” Really? Betrayed? Then can someone tell me why the word “betrayed” in quotation marks of a proper direct quote by Christie is to be found nowhere in Bob Cuddy’s story? What Cuddy wrote is, “Former Planning Commissioner Sarah Christie says the man who appointed her, supervisor Jim Patterson, betrayed her in a ‘muscular act of political disloyalty’ and has created a rift in the North County environmental movement.” So, “muscular act of political disloyalty” appears inside quotation marks, but not the word “betrayed.”

So, did Christy use that word? Or did reporter Bob Cuddy?

I ask because the word “betrayed” is the language of lovers, the language of the deeply personal, a gender skewed, sexual harass-y word that carries with it the whiff of gender and power dimorphism. It’s the word used by the helpless weeping woman singing the blues: “I Gave Him The Best Years Of My Life And He Done Betrayed Me and Run Off With That Awful Woman From Trenton, New Jersey, Boo-Hoo, Twang-twang-twang.”

So, No, No, No, wrong word. In the game of muscular public power politics, a better choice would be, “He Done Double-Crossed Me, That Sneaky, Down Low No-Good Varmint!”

Over at the New Times, Colin Rigley interviewed Christy at her home and notes that “She has some collection of folksy music playing and occasionally jumps up to fiddle with the stereo or put in a new CD when the music stops. When she walks back, she sways her hips slightly in little dances and when she sits back down, she sometimes sings along for a word or two,” all apparently critical information the reader needs to know, especially the slightly dancing hips thing. Apparently that highly telling detail about swinging hips was included because it helps the reader to understand the larger philosophical ramifications of her work on the Planning Commission.

But while Rigley’s interview included swaying hips, the word “betrayal” didn’t appear once. Christie was quoted as saying, ‘As you know, I’m a former reporter, and in all the years I did that work, I developed the ability to remember words clearly because you don’t always have the ability to take notes. And I remember very clearly what he said to me, and what he said to me was this: ‘I am done with you, I am so done with you. I have been defending you since the day I appointed you, and I can’t defend you anymore because at this point I agree with the people who are criticizing you.’ And that is verbatim. And as I said last night, I don’t know what that means because I haven’t changed. I mean, I hope I have grown in the job, but in terms of my values and my priorities, I have been completely consistent, regardless of what side of the vote I was on . . . I have never ever voted against those values. I haven’t changed. Begs the question: Who’s changed? What’s changed?”

There were lots of words in that interview but not once did the word “betray” appear.

But “I am done with you,” returns us deliciously to the realm of the language of love, as in, “Ah Married Yew And Now Yew Ran Off With That Guy From Trenton, New Jersey, So Ah Am Done With Yew, Lady Mine, Twang-twang-twang.”

A few pages over on the Opinion page, Jack McCurdy, former reporter for the L.A. Times and the California correspondent for the Chronicle of Higher Education, and bete noir to Morro Bay’s power plant expansion plans is holding forth, noting, “The planning commissioners do not bask in the political limelight, as do elected officials: Relatively few county residents witnessed Christie in action in that setting and therefore can’t really comprehend the severity of losing her. Those of us who have worked alongside her, been taught the art of activism by her and have witnessed her amazing capability and resulting accomplishment for the environment and the public interest, do understand.”

He further notes, “ . . . I believe strength is her greatest quality: strength stemming from her intellect, skills, and long experience in public affairs and environmental protection. She is always respectful and considerate of others in a straightforward manner. Her detractors have disparaged her as being abrasive because she cannot be bridled and/or simply because she’s a strong woman. And she is no doubt annoying to those who want their economic power to prevail, the very ones who targeted her.” . . . “Those interests know full well the Board of Supervisors can and sometimes has countermanded Planning Commission recommendations and actions. But they also know that when the supervisors override commission findings, they frequently are held accountable by well-informed government watchers, including New Times alone among the community media.”

And so forth. Yet nowhere in McCurdy’s piece does the word “betray” or “betrayed”. So, who used that word: Christie or Cuddy?

Meantime, here’s a piece of Sage Advice For The Clueless from Mother Calhoun To Avoid Dumb Moves in the future:

If you are an elected official and you appoint someone to a Commission or Board and they turn into a political (to you) liability, under no circumstances do you do what Patterson did – dump ‘em in the middle of the road for no discernable reason.

This county is constantly engaged in a soap opera neck and neck race between venality and stupidity and dumping demonstrably competent, highly knowledgeable Commissioners is a two-for-one losing bet all ‘round.

Instead, if your term will be up soon (and you’ll be running for office again) both of you will appear at a press conference standing on the steps outside the County government center. You will play the loving couple. Both of you will be smiling with such gleaming white teeth that the reporters will have to put on their sunglasses if they wish to avoid being blinded from the dazzle. You will announce that your Commissioner’s previously agreed-upon 4-year term of service will expire with your term and your Commissioner is anxious to move onto to other projects. You will express feelings of profound loss at losing so wonderful a Commissioner, praise his/her service in glowing terms usually reserved for saints and crowned heads of Europe, thank him/her profusely for his/her service, announce your upcoming election and if you have a new replacement in mind, announce your choice then. Your former Commissioner will then tell the world what a wonderful guy you are, how honored he/she was to serve the greater public good, and declare that his/her replacement will serve the public splendidly.

Sure, both of you will be lying through your teeth, but dead bodies in the street or knives flashing in the hot sun in front of a gaggle of reporters should NOT be part of the Official Public Kabuki Theatre Performance Piece you are required (if you’re smart) to engage in. And sure, the Public --wink-nudge—will read between the political lines and know what’s really going on and vote accordingly. But a properly timed and performed announcement will provide a plausible cover story for everyone that will avoid public humiliation, serious questions about cronyism or political opportunism or political pressure or your lack of sense. You will both save face, and the word “betray” will not need to appear in the headlines.

Even if it is only a word made up by the reporter or headline writer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dumb Move

Boy, was dumping Planning Commissioner Sarah Christie a really, really dumb move, or what? What was County Supervisor Patterson thinking?? Doesn’t he understand that really smart, tough, competent Planning Commissioners are like wolves? They keep the elk herd fit and strong and healthy by taking out the weak, flawed and foolish ones. Same thing with development and building projects. Dumb commissioners, lazy commissioners, incompetent commissioners, commissioners in the developers’ pockets always result in weak, bad, foolish developments that get slowed down or stopped by an outraged public or a semi-awake regulatory agency further down the line so un-wolfed, crappy projects ultimately end up getting delayed and cost way more than building wolf-smart ones in the first place. Or get built then end up a millstone around the community’s tax-paying neck.

So dumping Sarah was a really dumb move. Apparently Patterson doesn’t understand that Christie is only one vote on a five vote panel. He could have kept her incredible competence, knowledge and wolfish determination to make projects better, thereby soothing his “environmental/green build base,” while at the same time continuing to rake in the campaign dough from his corporate “Oh, sure, build like whatever” sponsors by telling them, sotto voce, “Aw, you know I can’t do a thing with Christie, -- wink-nudge – but don’t worry. You have the other Commissioners, so you’ll have the votes.”

Thank God Los Osos got the benefit of Sarah’s vulpine talents before she was unceremoniously dumped. Single-handedly she turned the Really, REALLY Hideous Sloppy County Version of the Los Osos Sewer Project into something far better by asking tough questions and demanding answers. The results were a project that the county SHOULD have proposed in the first place instead of the poorly thought out, Oh, Whatever mess they dragged before the Commissioners in the first place. Her competence and savvy were on display when, under close, hard questioning, county “staff” finally had to admit that, Uh, no, we hadn’t looked at that option, and uh, yeah, it will work, and yeah, it will return water to the basin better than our crappy, sloppy, poorly thought out project, uh, yeah, uh . . . .

Embarrassing. It was truly embarrassing and truly scary to witness that without Sarah’s big white long pointy teeth carefully tearing at the dead, poorly though-out Tonini project the county had dropped at her feet, I have no doubt that it would have been happily rubber stamped by the remaining Commissioners only to be delayed or denied by the Coastal Commission, which would be another expensive disaster for the community. And had it been approved by some all-too-common lack of oversight, we Los Ososians would have been saddled with a crappy, dysfunctional project, our water “sprayed” out of the basin, still stuck with the add-on costs and problems of getting the water back.

Except for Christie.

And now Patterson’s dumping her? No, No, No. We need MORE Sarah Christies on the Planning Commission. At least two, with sharp pointy teeth to harass and stress and test the elk. That way almost all projects will eventually get passed on 3-2 votes, but they’ll have been seriously vetted, which is a good thing. Even developers should support such sharp, tough wolfish Commissioners because they do developers a great service; If a project can be changed for the better, can survive a savage test of its various elements, then the developer knows that problems have been found early on and corrected before he gets to even tougher teeth on his backside further on down the line, when such tooth marks will be hideously expensive to repair. Or end up in a court of law at the last minute, when it gets really, reeeeellly expensive, being sued over some item that could and should have been spotted by the sharp, yellow-eyed Wolfish Ones on the PC.

Dump Christie? Feh. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

A friend of mine wrote a letter to New Times in which she said of author Colin Rigley’s Dec 17 story, that stated, “But Christies departure would signify much more than just the loss of a mid-level decision maker who is virtually a volunteer (planning commissioners make $150 per meeting): it would be a sign the county’s political infrastructure is vulnerable to pressure from private interests.”

“Is this new news that the county’s political infrastructure is vulnerable to pressure from private interests? Mr. Rigley, WAKE UP, private interests are running county government. it is a rare person, like Sarah Christie, who is able to stand up to the pressure of those private interests and give small voice to the lobbyist-less public, those wanting to judge success on more than short-term corporate profitability.

“Mr. Rigley, you would be shocked to know that in government (including this County) local, state and federal laws go unenforced for the benefit of private interests. County employees get harassed by Board members with the acquiescence of their Department Heads (sitting at the pleasure of the board) for the benefit of private interests.”

My friend should know the game well. She used to work for the county. And so it goes.

I thought Patterson was smarter than that. But I guess not. Clearly, he doesn’t “get it.” So now he doesn't “get” my support. And the county taxpayers will really start “getting it” too. Again.

San Luis Obispo County has a long record of eating alive and spitting out all the tough, competent, outstanding public game changers. Which is why we too often end up paying dearly for herds of tottering, spavined, sub-standard, very, very costly, crappy elk.

Well, they don’t call it S-L-O-W Town for nothing, I guess. Too bad for us.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

From "Say Uncle," poems by Kay Ryan

The Fourth Wise Man

The fourth wise man

disliked travel. If

you walk, there's the

gravel. If you ride,

there's the camel's attitude.

He far preferred

to be inside in solitude

to contemplate the star

that had been getting

so much larger

and more prolate lately --

stretching vertically

(like the sound of martyrs)

toward the poles

(or like the yawns of babies).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for December 17, 2009

‘Tween Time

Enough is as good as a feast
John Heywood (1497-1580)

It is a season out of joint. In the back yard, the great grape vine can’t make up its mind. Half of its vines are bare and settling in for a long winter’s nap while the other half are filled with deluded leaves reaching for the last rays of the sun. The eternally optimistic nasturtiums have put forth a burst of growth only to be bent hard by an unexpected early frost. It rains, but an inch down the sand is dry. We are in a damp drought and entering a warm cold unpredictable winter.

And in the season of the ancient solstice, wise and serious men and women are meeting in Denmark to discuss the destruction of the earth. They will make passionate speeches and pass fine resolutions and then return to their respective countries where too little will be done too late.

Too late because Mother Nature has already begun the process of killing her ancient children and fashioning new ones for the new world that is coming into being. It is a dance as old as time. The only difference here is that this time we humans were the tripwire. And it is not known if we will be among the disappeared. Or whether we will have the wit and will to avert the worst scenarios and bring our world back from the brink.

Given that humans are hard-wired with delusion as their default position and have great difficulty thinking past the length of their noses, the chances aren’t good. It will be a supreme irony if our epitaph turns out to be a petard.

I would despair of all of this, but despair is a sin of the ego. The world will be what it will be, not what I wish or want it to be. It is written nowhere that polar bears, tree frogs or glaciers must belong in the world any more than thunder lizards, wooly mammoths and dire wolves did. So, I can’t despair, but I can grieve.

And hope, of course. There’s always that in a season that’s turning from dark to light, a season of traditional renewal, of carbon-burning Yule logs, and wasteful Christmas lights bringing joy into the dark night.

And songs and wooden nutcrackers put out on the mantelpiece again, but this year they will share a place next to a large blousy, absurd rubber Henrietta Chicken dog toy, a gift from friends far away. And standing in the yard on Christmas Eve to muse under a star-studded sky, the silhouette of the limbless, dead pine tree out near the front street looms in the darkness like a dark sentinel. The stars are distant and indifferent. To them, we’re a dim, empty planet lost in a limitless cosmos; Nothing special, nothing precious, just one among billions.

But this one particular planet on this one particular day has friends and family and enduringly inedible fruitcake and undrinkable eggnog. And always, always the touch of my dogs’ cold noses on my hand to remind me again that time is passing. That joy is always an option. And that the leashes are ready and that the best Now of all the best possible Nows is a walk in the cold winter air on a frosty morning of a new day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Alt Holiday Din-Din Recipe

Tired of turkey? Here’s a splendid alternative for a festive din-din. I presume you can use canned salmon (pick out the bones) if fresh isn’t available. It won’t look quite so fancy, but should taste just fine. I've changed the recipe a bit for lower fat, etc. Also have been told that it tastes even better if allowed to sit and think about things for a day, so it can be made ahead and gently re-heated for the festive occasion. Which is a good thing during hectic holidays. My thanks to B.D-M. for her version of an old standby.


1/4 C Butter
2 C Sliced Leeks
1lb Sliced Mushrooms
1 Tbl Crushed Garlic (or more to taste)
46 oz Clam Juice or Fish Stock
4 Cups Canned Crushed Tomatoes in Puree or tomatoes smushed up and add tomato paste for color
½ C Chopped Fresh Parsley
2 t Dill, dry or fresh
1-2 bay leaves
& pepper to taste, plus try other seasoning, bit of curry perhaps?
4 C Salmon Cubed and Boned (approx. 3 lbs or can used canned if no fresh)
4 C whole milk or low-fat milk
¼ C Flour or cornstarch to thicken the brew a bit

Melt butter in a large pot. Add leeks, mushrooms & garlic. Saute approx. 5 minutes. Add fish stock, tomatoes, parsley, dill, salt, and pepper. Heat broth to almost boiling (pick out bay leaves) & add salmon. Cook salmon for approximately 3-5 minutes. Stir in milk, and gradually whisk in thickener (flour or cornstarch in a bit of water) . Reheat. Makes approx. 12 servings.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

By Ted Kooser from his book” Delights & Shadows.”

In The Hall of Bones

Here we store the reassembled
scaffolding, the split, bleached uprights,
the knobby corner locks and braces
that held up the mastodon’s
bag of wet leaves and the ivory
forklift of its head. Over there are
the planks upon which lay the turtle’s
diving bell, and the articulated
rack that kept the dromedary’s hump
from collapsing under the weight
of its perseverance. And here is
the basket that held the clip-clop
pulse of the miniature horse
as it dreamed of growing tall enough
to have lunch from a tree. And then
here’s man, all matchsticks, wooden spoons,
and tongue depressors wired together,
a rack supporting a leaky jug
of lust and worry. Of all the skeletons
assembled here, this is the only one
in which once throbbed a heart
made sad by brooding on its shadow.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oh, Dear God, Please, Pluueeezzze, Go Away! No, Wait . . .

Since I’m apparently the ONLY woman in America who HASN’T slept with Tiger Woods, I’m instructing my agent to get me an exclusive, fully-clothed photo-spread in Playboy, and book an evening with Larry King, wherein I can discuss how Tiger DIDN’T call me, so that fact alone makes me THE MOST EXCLUSIVE WOMAN IN AMERICA.

Then I’ll write a best-selling book, exposing all the times Tiger-Wiger DIDN’T text me, all cuddly-wuddly, and how that really makes me SPECIAL because I’m clearly the ONLY woman in America who ISN’T spilling all the intimate beans that didn’t go on between The Tiger Man and me. Plus, all those other women claim to have “loved” Tiger, which is why they’re tripping all over themselves to share their “love” with the rest of the world. Well, I say that simply makes them a dime a dozen, but not me. Nope. I didn’t “love” Tiger. No “love.” No phone call. Like I said, I’m special, exclusive, one in a trillion!

Then it’s off to Broadway for a musical version of “Don’t Kiss Me, Kate, I’m In A Sand Trap, Can You Hear Me Now?” a rousing song and dance show built around a huge cell phone – mine --- the ONLY cell phone in America that DIDN’T get a call from Tiger!

Then it’s off to the White House to get a Medal of Freedom and a swell dinner. Plus I’ll get to play with Bo. Heck, maybe get in a little golf with the Prez.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Age of Stupid, Part Duh

I know we’re instructed to never watch either sausage or laws being made, but it’s getting really hard to pay attention to Congress during its “health care reform” debate. I know that most of Congress is a wholly own subsidiary of the health insurance companies, but what’s so amazing is the level of stupidity and venality on display.

Even weirder is the so obvious contempt Congress has for The Public that elects them. It’s odd. The Public elects these people to go to Washington to do The Public’s business and when The Public says, we want a Public Option, Congress recoils in horror. Public? it spits out? PUBLIC? as if it were a filthy word. And, naturally, some scheme that is second-rate and bound to fail is labeled “Public Option” and dragged into view. Handled with rubber gloves and held noses. Eeeuuuu, public. Eeeeuuuu.

And, the most amazing part. The Public will reelect these people during the next election cycle. It’s like America has turned into a battered wife. Lied to, manipulated, beaten down, fed crumbs and garbage, pimped out to Congresses’ Corporate and Banking Buddies, all her earnings spent on weapons of useless destruction and gambled away on the stock market while her Congress husband gets the finest health care available and she has to make do with a trip to Walgreens in hope that the pharmacist is in.

Yet she loves her Daddy, keeps voting for him, because she’s convinced she doesn’t deserve anything better anyway. Amazing.

And truly scary, for if The Public is held in such contempt over the relatively small issue of delivering decent health care, you can imagine how little The Public will be of concern when it comes to climate change legislation that will literally mean life and death for them and the planet. The Public? The Planet? Ptah! King Coal and corporate profits are our clients.

And Speaking of Not Stupid

When I was a kid, my Mom bought my sister and me a bunch of Classic Comics. I suspect she was trying to undo the brain rot setting in from my reading Mad Magazine. They were cunningly drawn, a sort of illustrated Readers Digest type-precis of such works as “Silas Marner,” or “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Treasure Island,” and etc. The drawing was similar to the newspaper’s Prince Valiant and it was a pretty good way to introduce kids to the basic outline of the classics without scaring them to death. And, of course, to this day, there are “classics” that I only know because I read the Classic Comic (or saw a PBS production.) I know, my education is sadly lacking, but there’s so many books, so little time.

Anyway, in a review written by David Ulin in the L.A. Times book section Dec 6, 09 was a write- up of R. Sikoryak’s “Masterpiece Comics” (Drawn & Quarterly:66 pp., $19.95). So I googled it at Amazon and sure enough. Only this time, Sikoryak’s mixing up the classics with various DC comics, hence you get “The Crypt of Bronte,” as in Heathcliff and Kathy racing around on the moors while muddling Crypt tales with Wuthering Heights. Or, as the Times has it, “It takes a perverse kind of genius to reimagine the Man of Steel as existentialist antihero [Camus’ “The Stranger”], but that’s the power of Sikoryak’s work. A protégé of Art Spiegelman’s [“Maus] (with whom he worked for many years on the ‘commix’ magazine RAW,), he is an uncanny visual mimic, able to draw in a wide range of styles and to reinvent classic comics imagery.

“That’s the appeal of ‘Masterpiece Comics,” which juxtaposes classic literature and classic comics with result that are striking and surreal.

“In one extended sequence, Raskolnikov is portrayed as Batman – a paordy of both Dostoevesky’s ‘Crime and Punishment,’ and CD’s “Detective Comics” that manages to do justice to them both. In “Blond Eve,” Blondie and Dagwood are cast out of the Garden of Eden directly into suburbia; ‘Good ol’ Gregor Brown’ frames Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ as a series of Peanuts strips. Never once does Sikoryak slip off the tightrope that he’s walking between absurdity and grace. Best of all is “Inferno Joe,” in which Dante’s ‘Inferno’ plays out over 10 three-frame Bazooka Joe comics, complete with facsimile fortunes and ads.”

Well, what’s not to love about THAT? So, you can guess what’s going to be waiting to be unwrapped when my sister comes over Christmas Day. Bwa-hahah.

You Better Not Pout

At there’s a bunch of recipes for home-baked goodies that make good holiday gifts, so if you’re baking, that should be a good source of some easy and yummy recipes.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Age of Stupid

Few week ago, I got a postcard inviting me to one of several free screenings of the movie, “The Age of Stupid,” at the Palm. It's a futuristic story of the last man on earth going through the earth’s archives (clips from real events) and asking the audience how and why we missed the boat on global warming and hence did nothing to stop the destruction that followed. The last man on earth was played by British actor, Pete Postlewaite.

Excellent film, very well done. The screenings were sponsored by Sunpower, the company now working on the California Valley Solar Ranch project. That project will be a 250 megawatt photovoltaic array located on private property out in California Valley and when up and running will power about 90,000 homes. The project is chugging through the County Planning process and on its jumps through the various other environmental hoops.

I asked one of the representatives the question I was dying to ask and it’s this: Why doesn’t some outfit like Sunpower (at or by the way) start a program of Rent-A-Roof and put solar panels on every rooftop in SLO County. Reply: only about 30% of the homes here are positioned properly to take advantage of solar panels, i.e. a south facing roof. And, let’s say all 30% wanted to participate in some kind of Rent-A-Roof deal, get free power then the company would sell all the extra power back to the grid, doing so might well trigger the law that would find that 30% to be a “public utility.” And that would put the Rent-A-Roof Company in the clutches of the PUC which means a morass of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape and political game playing (It’s the PUC, fer God’s sake!) that could tie up such a project for YEARS, no matter that it was a project that was helping global warming efforts and removing 30% of SLO County homes from carbon based lighting.

In short, great idea but because of the way our laws are set up, impossible to pull off. Too many roadblocks in place and too many special interests wanting to keep those roadblocks in place, like PG&E for example, a company that doesn’t want to see solar anything unless THEY own it and get the profit from it.

Once again, in the age of stupid, money and profit takes precedence over the health and safety of the earth. Why am I not surprised. As the movie title aptly has it: The Age of Stupid. .

The battle for California Valley’s solar plans will be in the news sooner or later. The usual suspects will arrive at the meetings, NIMBYs disguised as “concerned citizens” to talk about pronghorn antelopes and such like. Hopefully, serious concerns like the need for water to run whatever solar array systems go out there will be looked at. As for the pronghorns, one thing that a lot of “concerned citizens” keep forgetting is this: Global warming will destroy various endangered habitats worse than any solar arrays will so the endangered whatevers are doomed one way or the other. The bigger question is: do nothing and lose it all anyway, or do something and lose half. Take your pick.

Well, stay tuned. With luck the international meetings in Denmark will bring forth something more than useless speeches and ignored promises. In addition to a carbon tax, I’d suggest massive government investments in R&D as well. There’s an array of very smart people toiling away in obscurity in their little privately funded start-up companies. That’s all well and good for normal times with inventors working on nice little profitable widgets, but this is literally World War Three Time, which means all the nations of the world need to get their governments on board vis a vis R&D investment since it literally is a matter of national security for everybody.

But that’s unlikely to happen, certainly in our country, since our Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of CorporateVille and CorporoateVille won’t do anything unless it can make a profit and that includes blocking solar, for example, until it can wring the last dollar out of some carbon based fuel source it owns, no matter that that last bit will be the tipping point of utter destruction. Not important. Corporate bottom line’s important, not the earth. Which is the problem in a nutshell.

And seeing what a hash our Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Health Insurance Companies i.e. Congress has made of health care reform, I won’t hold my breath on their helping to solving energy issues. That’ll likely have to be left to China or Europe or even India.

Thus do empires and countries rise and fall in the Age of Stupid.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My Sunday Letter To The Editor And Other Things

Ah, Gawd Love the Tribune.

Dear Sir:

Recently, Dave Edge, SLO County's former chief administrative officer, wrote an article for Public Management Magazine, 'splaining how he came to be un-hired. I'm betting that the average Tribune reader has never heard of and will never read a copy of that magazine and is totally oblivious that Edge wrote anything that appeared anywhere. And the only reason I knew about that is because the Tribune put the story on Edge's self-serving article on the front page of the paper with a big, ginormous headline followed by a story filled with quotes from the magazine article. So now everybody knows all about it, too.

The very next day, the Tribune sends Edge an editorial brickbat, and declares that "some occasions call for silence, and this is one," then asks him to slink off into the sunset rather than trumpeting his advice to former colleagues.

Does the opinion page editor not read her own paper or doesn't she understand anything about front page headlines and how trumpets work?

Mice. Must be Mice.

No sooner had Marley’s Tree been trimmed than Christmas elves put up a birdhouse. O.K, it was probably my neighbor. So life goes on. Even on dead trees.
Or doesn’t. I was out in the backyard last evening doing poop patrol and my flashlight caught what looked like one of Finn’s stuffy toys. Finn is incapable of leaving the back door without a stuffy toy in his mouth. Eventually he ends up hauling out every one of his toys and I have to start toy patrol to bang the sand out of them and bring them back in.
But this was no toy. It was a dead possum. A youngster, from its size, and dead as a doornail, his naturally disheveled possum fur was looking disreputable now, and sad and damp and cold and still. I presume the dogs must have caught him, though what in the world he was doing in a backyard full of dogs I can’t imagine. But fear and a quick bite certainly ended his confused, myopic wanderings. I took his body out to the front yard. The crows will make a meal of him.
And life goes on, even when it doesn’t.

Your Sunday Poem
by Kay Ryan from “Say Uncle.”

The Fabric of Life

It is very stretchy.
We know that, even if
many details remain
sketchy. It is complexly
woven. That much too
has pretty well been
proven. We are loath
to continue our lessons,
which consist of slaps
as sharp and dispersed
as bee stings from
a smashed nest,
when any strand snaps –
hurts working far past
the locus of rupture,
attacking threads
far beyond anything
we would have said

Friday, December 04, 2009

Marley's Tree

Calhoun's Can(n)ons for December 4, 2009

The huge tree was dead. Dead as a doornail. Let there be no doubt whatsoever about that. Pine pitch chancre had carried off its piney soul well over a year ago and the bugs and woodpeckers, acting as undertakers and chief mourners, had moved in for a daily feast, while the crows and an occasional hawk and a gaggle of little birds would roost in its bare branches. Yes, the tree was as dead as a doornail.

And therein lay the problem, for you see the tree was on no-man’s land between my neighbor’s house and mine. But it wasn’t my tree or my neighbor’s tree. And Lord knows how it came to be there. Soaring fifty feet out of no-man’s land these last 25 years, it towered over the roadside, its denuded branches hovering over our respective electrical drop lines.

In common parlance, it was a street tree, on county right-of-way, the county’s tree. And since it was a street tree and now a dead street tree that would, sooner or later, topple over in the winter winds to fall on a passing car or block the road or tip onto the high power lines that run across the street, I did what any citizen would do. I called the County.

Not our problem, the County said. You’re responsible for anything from your property line to the middle of the street. Really? Then I’m going to close off that section and plant rutabagas and petunias, I said. Nope. Can’t do that. That’s County property. Really? Then a dangerous dead tree is on YOUR property. You need to come out and cut this thing down before it falls on somebody. Nope. Can’t do that. That’s your problem.

A call to Pacific Gas & Electricity resulted in their contracted tree-trimmers showing up to simply lop off a tiny section of the top the huge tree that they guessed might hit the top of the high-power transmission lines across the street should the tree topple over. No more. No less. What about the drop lines? I asked. If the tree goes down, you’ll have hot wires in the street, maybe even burn a house down. Not our problem, they replied.

So my neighbor called a tree trimmer who showed up with cherry-picker and crew and he was to simply trim the branches so the tree could still stand as a bird cafeteria and a perch. When the guy in charge yelled up to the kid in the bucket, Hey, you don’t start trimming at the top. Do that and the limbs will crash down breaking other limbs. You start at the bottom and work up, I thought, Uh-oh, a newbie’s in the bucket in the branches over the hot-drop lines. Not good. And no sooner was that thought out of my brain when a small limb flew down, hit the line, BOING-GONNGGG, whipping the power pole across the street back and forth. More not good.

Hey, hollered the man in charge to the newbie in the bucket, Hey, you’ll have to cut and drop the limbs in sections. But it was too late. There, in the middle of the drop line, yards away from where the branch hit, was a bit of wire sticking straight up that hadn’t been there before. I went into the dark, now-powerless house to call PG&E.

Like magic two trucks appeared. And when the trimmers finished in the early dark of the now cold evening, the PG&E guys fired up their fierce work lights. Moving with the studied calm of people who regularly work with lethal wires under often adverse conditions, they removed and then replaced the broken drop line.

In the morning light, it was clear to me that to the crows, who are totally new-phobic, that stumpy-branched thing standing there was NOT a tree and they would have nothing to do with it until they had a chance to study it all for a while. And within a day, one brave outlier was perched on top. Soon the other crows will re-discover that the branch stubs are a nice place to rest and keep an eye on the neighborhood. The bugs will return for lunch and with them the woodpeckers. Then all the other little birds.

And if, after seven or eight years, after all the bugs and birds are fed and this sentinel falls down and blocks a good portion of the county dirt road that runs in front of my house, I’ll just plant rutabagas and petunias in the lee of its huge trunk. And if the County calls to complain about this giant log in the middle of their road, I’ll simply say: Not my problem.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I'm Ready For My Closeup, Mr. DeMille

Yesterday’s Tribune reports that Dan DeVaul may take his story to Good Morning America and/or Larry King Live. That’s the perfect place for a perfectly crafted David & Goliath story of The Little Guy Helping Others While The Evil Government Breaks His Knees With A Baseball Bat. Even better, this story includes going to jail and getting bailed out by a juror, who also may end up on GMA.

Lights! Camera! Fifteen minutes of fame! Of course, I’m betting that a lot of the details of this story will get conveniently lost. It’s likely no mention will be made of DeVaul’s charging rent to the homeless and recovering folks who stay at Sunny Acres. Nor will it likely be mentioned that he’s been out of county code compliance for years and years and years and had he wished to, he could have set up Sunny Acres in such a way so as to come into compliance but instead chose the old passive aggressive playbook: Up Yours AND The Horse You Rode In On.

While the county waffled and wiggled and under then over reacted and so came up as The Perfect Villain, which will play well on TV – a little divertissement for the national audience; small town saints, rubes and their misguided Barney Fife code enforcers.

Locally, Mr. Kyle Wiens of Atascadero wrote to the editor and suggested that since DeVaul needs $400,000 to bring Sunny Acres up to code, that he had just mailed in a check for $4,000 towards that end, and encouraged other business owners and the public to do the same. Excellent idea. If the whole community chipped in, a functioning, properly run homeless shelter/rehab facility could be set up there.

However, before I contributed a dime, I would have to be sure that Mr. DeVaul wasn’t involved with the project in any meaningful way because I suspect, from past behavior, that Mr. DeVaul loves monkey wrenching the County far more than he loves the down and out.

Meanwhile . . .

on the same Trib page (hint, hint, wink-nudge) is a story about a South County coalition that’s been “recently honored with a resolution by the Board of Supervisors, [and] is now officially an incorporated, nonprofit organization and will soon have a Web site,” all of which is aimed at creating a homeless service center in the South County. The group will begin fund-raising and eventually hope to find a site for a shelter and people’s kitchen type operation. The hint-hint, wink-nudge story makes clear that there are people out there working on the homeless issue but who are doing it the “right way.” Not as much fun, I’m sure, but I’m betting they’ll have a better chance of getting the money and facilities they need in the long run. And, who knows, if they’re successful, maybe they too can go on GMA and Larry King’s program.

Psssst, Listen Up!

Oh, you just knew it was gonna happen. Tiger Woods bangs up his car and himself in the wee hours of the morning and the next thing you know it’s Bimbo Eruption Time with a lady coming out of the woodwork waving emails and voice messages and photos claiming her little bit of Fame as Wood’s girlfriend/truelove/soulmate/ticket-to-Hollywood.

Memo to Famous People; If you have any kind of relationship with anybody anywhere anytime, even some vague distant relationship like serving on the same board as a “terrorist,” some guy you sat a few chairs down from during the once a quarter meetings, or some such, at some point you can be guaranteed that these folks will be dredged up to use as a political weapon or pop up themselves at an opportune time – like uninvited sari-wearing blond trophy wives at a White House dinner – to claim their bit of limelight.

Not only will all your personal, intimate doings that you actually did be paraded before an addicted public desperately needing it’s next fix of Gossip Juice by an equally addicted Cable News system, but all your personal, intimate doings that never happened with people you never met in your life will also be tossed into the mix by some total stranger just making stuff up in order to grab a bit of that fame flash.

So, be prepared and understand that what sounded sweet, lovely, and sincere when being urgently whispered into an ear by candlelight will always translate into appalling embarrassment in the cold light of an e-mail font or hissing out of an answering machine on playback on Larry King Live!

In the Good Old Days, illicit dalliers kept their yaps shut since infamy and ignominy would be heaped on their heads, not the heads of their famous co-dalliers. Nowadays, we have run out of paper bags to put over our heads and since there is absolutely no shame in bad behavior bean-spilling (“Look ! Look! Why, it’s sooooo ME!”), what used to be private has now become a valuable commodity for public sale to the highest bidder, or a tool or weapon to be used for self-promotion or to gain power. So if you’re famous in any way, it’s only a matter of time before you will be either hoist on your own petard or used falsely and cruelly and/or your life will become a joke. And if the laughter is based on fact, that’ll be bad enough. But understand also that even flat out lies will take on a complete life of their own and become part of your biography as well.

That’s the norm in a culture that has no sense of decency and, well, just no sense at all: A nation stuck on stupid.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

It's a beautiful day, which I hope you all are enjoying very thoroughly. Great day to take your dog for a walk or just remember ghost dogs at the dog park on a long-ago winter's morning. Poem by Billy Collins, one of my favorite poets, from his new book "Ballistics"


So much gloom and doubt in our poetry--

flowers wilting on the table,

the self regarding itself in a watery mirror.

Dead leaves cover the ground,

the wind moans in the chimney,

and the tendrils of the yew tree inch toward the coffin.

I wonder what the ancient Chinese poets

would make of all this,

these shadows and empty cupboards?

Today, with the sun blazing in the trees,

my thoughts turn to the great

tenth-century celebrator of experience,

Wa-Hoo, whose delight in the smallest things

could hardly be restrained,

and to his joyous counterpart in the western provinces,


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh, Dear God, Please, PLLLUUUUEEEZE, Just Go Away!

In a sane world, in a world not addicted to fame and Facebook and Twitter and Eight Is Waaay Too Much, and phony kids in phony balloons, in a world that had even a modicum of shame or manners or decorum, the twits who crashed the White House state dinner – the Salahi’s – would end up with paper bags over their heads, escorted to and booted out the Dreaded Door of Ignominy.

But not here in 21st Century America. Here, now, it’s all about ME! The Salahi’s are scheduled to be on Larry King, may even be picked for Bravo’s “Housewife” reality series, best described as a series about ME! ME! It’s All About ME! that is watched by people who have devalued their lives to the point that they spend time watching shows about other nobodies who somehow think they now have “value” because they’re on a TV show about nobodies deluded into thinking they’re somebodies since they’re on TV being watched by nobodies wishing they could be somebody like the nobodies on TV. It’s the perfect funhouse mirror of ultimate devaluation and emptiness.

Except, of course, for the money. The REAL value in American Society. The money, pots of which can be made from these faux-reality programs. Jackpot dough. And since the NY Times reports the Salahi’s wine business was in financial trouble it’s possible that one reason for their gate-crashing stunt was to get that Bravo contract and thereby get all that nice money to save their troubled business. That and the faux fame, of course--the photo of (non Indian) Ms. Salahi decked out in her red sari clutching President Obama’s hand in both of hers. Ah, the faux intimacy of it all! With said sari begging the question: Would Ms. Salahi have crashed a state dinner for the Dutch Ambassador wearing a dirndl skirt and wooden shoes while carrying a large gouda cheese?

Well, why not. No sense follows no shame and if it’s all about the money and the fleeting fame, anything goes. And rewarding bad behavior begets even more bad behavior.

But, Dear God, what the world really needs now isn’t more bad behavior, but more paper bags to pop over heads. And that will only happen when a sufficient number of grown ups are willing to say: Enough already.

I know. When pigs fly.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Your Thanksgiving Poem

This from Ted Kooser's book, "Sure Signs; New and selected poems" I hope you are all having a lovely day.

In The Corners of Fields

Something is calling to me

from the corners of fields,

where the leftover fence wire

suns its loose coils, and stones

thrown out of the furrow

sleep in warm litters;

where the gray faces

of old No Hunting signs

mutter into the wind,

and dry horse tanks

spout fountains of sunflowers;

where a moth

flutters in from the pasture,

harried by sparrows,

and alights on a post,

so sure of its life

that it peacefully opens its wings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Start Yer Engines. No, Wait, Stop Yer Engines. No, Wait . . . Oh Nevermind

The BOS held a re-hearing of the Los Osos Hideous Sewer Project to re-fiddle with the language in condition #97 to change the language a bit concerning water use, re-use, and return to basin issues that were raised by the Coastal Commission’s own appeal, said appeal being the only one being revisited. County Council McNulty didn’t think that this hearing would cause a problem with all the other appellants whose issues were not re-visited at this re-hearing – just the Coastal Commission’s concerns – and so he felt that the CC would, maybe, sorta wing it during their appeals hearings and try to accommodate all the other appeals. Or maybe the other appellants would have to re-submit their appeals or only submit another appeal based on the result of this one issue on top of their original appeal, or maybe . . . oh, who knows? Since this BOS hearing is outside the usual procedures, I guess everybody is winging it with the hope that nobody will take umbrage and call their attorney.

After public comment, staff told the BOS that the Coastal Commission staff was happy with the language proposed (the old CYA) and he felt that the Coastal Commission Board would be happy as well and might well withdraw their appeal. With no BOS Board member discussion, the revision passed 5 – 0.

In addition to public comment, John Diodoti noted that the County has secured a $16 million Federal grant and a $64 million 40-year loan, which will help with the cost a bit. Further, there’s a new blog on funding issues being set up at (Let’s hope some of the nastier “anonymous” people who comment on this and other blogs, don’t show up on John’s blog. Eeeuuuuuu.)

Some public comment notes:

Alon Perlman suggested that it would be prudent for the county to stop pretending that the ISJ process is some kind of far-away vague proceeding that can be dealt with later, and start getting specific in identifying areas where the returning water will be going. That is, it’s better to get more specific now and plan for water return rather than leave it all vaguely up to a judge somewhere, sometime.

And both Linde Owen and Julie Tacker reminded the Board – again – of the time and money (taxpayer money) wasted by the whole focus on Tonini spray fields. That Supervisor Gibson’s previous comments on how closely the county has been working with the Coastal Commission was clearly at odds with reality since the CC fired off a letter of concern early-on about “spraying” water outside the basin. So, if the county had been in close contact with the CC, somebody somewhere would have said, “Psssst, don’t waste any time and money on spray fields; they’ll never fly.” Doncha think?

Ron Crawford of Sewerwatch Checks In

Did I say, somebody somewhere would have, could have, should have, actually did toss down warning flags before all that nice money was blown on Tonini? Well, Ron Crawford, of certainly has something to say about that in a comment on my blog that’s simply too funny not to repeat here. On that particular thread, some folks were whining about what a pest former CSD Director, Julie Tacker is, to which Ron noted:

[quoting a previous poster] "Yes she's droned on before the BOS; I've seen them reach for their airsickness bags."

See? There's the problem.

Because she was 100-percent right on the groundwater/basin issue, instead of reaching for their airsickness bags, the Board should have just listened to her, and stopped wasting all of that money studying a DOA location -- the Tonini site.

My favorite part about this situation, is how Gibson limited her time to speak because he said the same people were saying the same thing over and over again.

Well, yeah, Bruce... Julie WAS saying the same thing over and over again. She was saying that the Tonini site wasn't going to work because it didn't return groundwater to the basin, then, after Bruce's Board threw a bunch of money at the Tonini site, it didn't work, just like Julie told them over and over and over again, while they were wasting time and money on the Tonini site.

When she had three minutes to speak, she said it like this, "The Tonini site is infeasible because it doesn't return groundwater to the basin."

Then, Bruce started whining, and cut her time down to two minutes, so she had to say it like this:"TheToninisiteisinfeasiblebecauseitdoesn'treturngroundwatertothebasin. Out!"

And they still didn't listen to her.

Last week, I e-mailed Paavo asking him for a "ballpark figure" on how much money his department wast... errrrrrrrr... spent on studying the Tonini site.

Of course, he never replied.

So, next week, I'll be doing a public records request for that information, and then (here's the cool part) in my public records request, I'm also going to ask for the cost of fulfilling my public records request, that I was forced to do just because Paavo won't answer my one, excellent question:

"How much money was spent (read: wasted) by the SLO County Public Works Department studying the Tonini site as the preferred location in 2008 - 09?"

9:45 AM, November 21, 2009

Pretty funny. Pretty expensive, but pretty funny. But there’s the key to why so much of this project kept and keeps turning into a train wreck: False branding and framing.

Once you frame or brand something, people stop seeing complex reality and instead, see the “brand.” More often than not, branding is an advertising technique used to create a false image that can then be used to manipulate people into buying something. In politics, “framing an issue” serves the same purpose – set up a false or cherry-picked “reality” in order to shape (frame) a complex issue in order to manipulate the voter.

That happened to Los Osos early on. It was very cleverly branded as a town with “raw sewage running down the streets,” a town of scofflaws who “don’t care about the environment,” a town filled with “Anti-Sewer Obstructionists” who needed to be “fined out of existence.” Anyone who objected in any way with any proposed project, even people who were trying hard to create a BETTER SEWER PROJECT, were immediately called Anti-Sewer Obstructionists and thus branded, they could be dismissed as . . . one of those. And, of course, if you’re “one of those,” you don’t need to be listened to. Even if you’re 100% right and are telling everyone as loudly as you can, Stop. Bridge Out. Cliff ahead.

Or as Ron would put it: Stopbridgeoutcliffahead!

That’s the problem with branding. Besides being dishonest, it blinds people to a complex reality on the ground and always, always wastes tons of money. Tons. And too often turns into a train wreck, as well.

Saint DeVaul Makes The L.A. Times

The Tribune’s front page picture by Joe Johnston of Dan DeVaul being cuffed (and headed for jail after refusing in court to comply with the probation requirements) and the story by Nick Wilson made the L.A. Times.

Noted the Tribune, “In explaining his reasons for sentencing De Vaul, [Judge] Trice said that De Vaul has ‘good intentions’ but that his argument was confusing the ‘social issues with legal issues.’”

“ ‘De Vaul has not been a good steward of the beautiful property he has,” Trice said, adding that DeVaul has consistently ignored county inspectors and ‘such conduct can only be viewed as irresponsible and arrogant.’”

And, in case you thought this case couldn’t get any weirder, an updated Tribune story informs us that one of the jurors in the case, Mary Partin, paid De Vaul’s $500 bail so he only got to spend one night in the pokey. Which is kind of nice: Martyrdom on the cheap. And of course, De Vaul’s attorney is appealing the case to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Ventura, so it remains to be seen what will transpire.

The Nov 24th Tribune story had a side bar listing “what’s next” including County inspectors allowing DeVaul to comply with the code once he’s out of jail and if he doesn’t, they’ll clean the place up and send him the bill. Then if he refuses to pay that bill, those charges will appear on his taxes.

Missing from that sidebar is this worst case scenario: De Vaul property goes into tax default, is sold at auction, bought by a big developer, the “homeless people” evicted, property is annexed to the city, high-end “ranchettes” and condos, maybe a lovely little high-end shopping center (nice sales taxes to the city) are built, with some open space mitigation to make it all look nice.

Hey, don’t wrinkle your brow. That’s how it’s done. It’s called Progress.

As for De Vaul, the County and this whole mess? My only response at this point is I want to spank everyone involved in this ridiculous fiasco. It is an instructive case, however, a perfect illustration of: Do you want to be right or do you want to get something useful done, like helping the people you claim you want to help?

Take your pick.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Your Sunday Recipes

Just in time for Thanksgiving, too. This salad/side dish goes perfectly with all the other holiday eats and is a nice variation on an old stand by. Plus you can really play around with it, adding jicama for even more crunch, or lots more walnuts to turn it into a main lunch meal, for example. Or toss in left over turkey chunks. It’s the curry that changes this old, boring familiar into something very different and just full of possibilities. I tried it without the endive or romaine or radishes and it was just fine. You can have fun playing with this one.

Speaking of which, what goes astonishingly well with this curried salad, believe it or not, is a dab of home made cranberry sauce on each forkful. Fresh cranberries are in the market now. They freeze well for more sauce later. Below is a recipe with a new wrinkle. Hope you’ll all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Recipes from the L.A. Times and Parade.

Waldorf salad with curried mayonnaise dressing.

½ - 2/3 cup mayonnaise, to taste (can also try plain yogurt if you’re not into mayo)
¾ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp powdered ginger
1 tbl plus 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, to taste
1 crisp, sweet apple, such as Fuji
½ c or more walnut halves
1 c sliced celery, sliced on the diagonal
½ small fennel bulb, finely diced
1/3 c golden raisins
1 Belgian endive, outer broken leaves removed, and thinly sliced crosswise
4 romaine lettuce leaves from the hearts, thinly sliced crosswise
¼ c. celery leaves from the heart, coarsely chopped
4 radishes, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tbl chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
¼ tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbl minced fresh chives.

Mix together mayo, curry powder, ginger and lemon juice, core and peel apple (or leave skin on for color ) and dice into medium small chunks. Add all the other ingredients and toss with the mayo and spices. Garnish with chives.

Cranberry Sauce

2 bags (12 oz each) fresh cranberries
1 cup orange juice
1 cup apricot jam
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp ginger
1/3 lb dried apricots, finely diced (or could try golden raisins)

Stir all the ingredients together in a large, heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the berries pop and the sauce starts to thicken – it will thicken much more as it cools – about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature, cover and chill.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stop Yer Engines Fer Now And Call A Lawyer. I Fear A Train Further Down The Track

Here's an update to the previous posting's press release. What always makes “the law” so interesting is how it’s always looking in the rear view mirror after the train wreck. For example, this hearing on Tuesday before the BOS to hear, discuss and re-consider and possibly act on the Coastal Commission's appeal – but nobody else’s appeal – is decidedly odd to me, since its been cherry picked and makes clear that while the BOS pretends that it treats all appellants equally, it’s plain that some are created MORE equal than others. That is, the Coastal Commission’s appeal is getting a very special hearing of its own. Everyone else is chopped liver. And that’s o.k. with the court. And later, if and when it can be shown that “real harm” has been done to some appellant by this move, the court can then dismiss the case as “too late.” A perfect Catch-22, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The danger here in making some appellants more equal than others is that it may tick some appellants off so they’ll sue which can then delay things and create an ever bigger mess further down the line. And if Mr. Edwards is correct and . . . the Coastal Commission is . . . unclear? Uhhnnnhhh, does all this sound hideously familiar? Well, stay tuned.

November 20, 2009

The request by Los Osos developer Jeff Edwards for a Temporary Restraining Order was denied by Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney, wherein Edwards asked the Court to postpone the County Board of Supervisors hearing on the Los Osos Wastewater Project set for Tuesday, November 24, 2009 . In the early morning exparte hearing, Edwards was unable to convince the court that the outcome of the Tuesday hearing would irreparably harm him at this time.
Edwards waived his right to a December 3, 2009 hearing to further consider the main issue. Unfortunately the central question of proper procedure being employed by the County for changes to the wastewater project wasn’t heard. Among other issues, an unintended consequence of the County’s Tuesday hearing may render his pending Coastal Commission appeal moot. Edwards who has 25 years experience in Coastal land use issues cautioned, “This is uncharted water and even Coastal Commission staff is unclear as to what will happen as a result of the intended Board action on Tuesday to the 23 appeals.”

Jeff Edwards can be reached via cell phone, 805-235-0873

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Start Yer Engines Some More

If you’re a Los Ososian, you got the post card noting that there will be a BOS hearing, Tuesday, Nov 24, at 9 a..m. to “consider a request by the County of San Luis Obispo to modify, supersede, or replace conditions of approval imposed on the previously issued Development Plan/Coastal Development Permit DRC200800103 (Los Osos Wastewater Project) pursuant to Coast Zone Land Use Ordinance . . . .”

Naturally, being the Hideous Sewer Project, this hearing is a bit strange because there are a whole passel of “appeals” before the Coastal Commission, but the BOS is only going to be hearing this one appeal in order to maybe modify the County project to comply with what’s in the CC’s appeal of this project BEFORE officially coming before the CC, while the other appellants have to wait for the actual CC meeting? Sorta like one student getting a do-over of his test paper (complete with answer sheet) before turning it in, while the other students have to wait and take whatever grade the Proctor gives them later?

Which is still kinda odd since the CC Board acts as judge and jury in any project appeal, yet they’ve filed an appeal of their own, which is like a judge getting down off the bench during a trial, going into the witness box to testify against one of the defendants, then going back up on the bench to continue “judging.” Fair and balanced? Uh???

And if the County’s Nov 24 appeal hearing results in “delays” in this project, can everyone now start referring to the County as “an Ultra Opposition Anti-Sewer Obstructionist?”

And now we have the following Press Release. Let the Games begin. Stay tuned and see you all Tuesday morning for some more Waltz Me Around Again Willy.

Press Release:

Land use planner, real estate developer and 25 year supporter of a wastewater project in Los Osos, Jeff Edwards, has filed a request for a temporary restraining order against the County Board of Supervisors. Edwards is asking the Court to level the playing field with regard to the 23 appeals levied against the controversial wastewater project at the state level. In an unprecedented procedural move, the County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a hearing for November 24, 2006 to selectively rehear their approval of the wastewater project on September 29, 2009 . It appears the Board of Supervisors feels changes to an approval condition will obviate the pending appeals before the Coastal Commission.

Edwards said, “The County can’t make up the rules as they go along.” “In my 25 years of experience with Coastal land use policies and procedures I’ve never seen this, it hasn’t been done before.” Edwards is asking the Court to require a new hearing of the controversial project in its entirety if the County wants to make changes as required by existing regulations. Rehearing the 14 appeals from the Planning Commission decision on August 13, 2009, or to hold no hearing at all, “Let the process play out”, he said.

The 23 appeals include those by Coastal Commissioners, Los Osos citizens, out of the area property owners, and multiple environmental groups raising objections including the County’s self imposed condition on the project that defers groundwater management to the future. Condition 97 as written would also allow the County to dispose of treated wastewater outside the Los Osos Groundwater Basin .

The County’s intention at the November 24, 2009 hearing is to modify only one condition. If the Board of Supervisors wants to change the project or condition, they should consider the whole project. Certainly, no applicant other than the County could do what the Board of Supervisors intends to do.


Jeff Edwards can be reached for comment via cell phone, 805-235-0873

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Now THAT's A Good Use Of The Internet

Story yesterday in the L.A. Times indicating that somebody has figured out an excellent and serious use of the internet: Dr. Susan Love has started a website called Army of Women ( ) which is trying to set up a million women who have signed on to be accessible to researchers doing work on breast cancer. Since finding and screening volunteers for any research project eats up a huge chunk of the research budget, anything that can streamline the process and quickly and cheaply draw in volunteers will mean more money left for actual research.

The idea is simple: Women (and men; breast cancer hits them too) can sign up and they will get emails from time to time from researchers outlining their particular projects and if a volunteer is interested, they contact the researcher and go from there, i.e. start the fine-screening process. The projects can be as simple as being part of a long-term longitudinal tracking study (i.e. update a health questionaire once a year) to actually participating in drug testing trials and anything inbetween. Your level of participation is entirely up to you.

Dr. Love is hoping to end up with as wide a selection of volunteers as possible. Plus, making volunteers available to researches can only make research projects easier to get going.

If that's something you would be interested in, click on the links and get more info. There's also Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation at and the Sister Study: .

Monday, November 16, 2009


It’s déjà vu all over again only this time in Malibu. Yep, that’s how it’s done, folks. Los Osos was the test case. Now it’s Malibu. Welcome to Chinatown, Boys, Welcome to Chinatown.

The best comments from the L.A.
Times story concerned the “science” studies being ignored because they missed the comment deadline (???) (Bwa-hahahah) and the comment from one of the Board members about “raw sewage running down the streets,” which seems to be a mantra with Regional Water Quality Board members who are apparently clueless as to how septics actually operate even though they’re charged with overseeing septics. (Yes, it’s the old raw sewage running down the streets ploy. More Bwa-hahahah) Ah, poor Malibu. Say prayers.

If you have lived in Los Osos for at least the past five years, the following account may echo with a darkly familiar ring: “Hundreds attended Thursday’s 10-hour hearing, which included passionate testimonies for or against the septic ban from environmental group leaders, surfers, Los Angeles County officials, local developers and wastewater experts, among others." This from a Nov. 11 Malibu Times article under the headline: “Water board bans septics in Malibu.” According to the article, the RWQCB’s Malibu prohibition means “an end to future permitting of septic systems in the commercial areas as well as the residential areas...” Malibuites will soon discover more than they ever wanted to know about Los Osos, as the posh, pastoral city by the sea takes sides. Sure, it’s a different town, but the same story line. It’s called “The Sewer Scam!”

To Read More, Click Here:


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

Your Sunday Poem

When I was a kid growing up in the desert, Mockingbirds were everywhere, blasting me out of bed at 3 a.m. on a spring morning. When I lived in L.A., Mockers would show up to nest in the giant Camillia bush and blow us out of bed at 3 a.m. on a spring morning. In Los Osos? Can’t recall ever hearing one. Too far north of their regular territory?? Too bad. I miss them.

This by poet Laureate, Kay Ryan from “Say Uncle.”


Nothing whole
is so bold,
we sense. Nothing
not cracked is
so exact and
of a piece. He’s
the dismembered
emperor of parts,
the king of patch,
the master of
pastiche, who so
hashes other birds’
laments, so minces
their capriccios, that
the dazzle of dispatch
displaces the originals.
As though brio
really does beat feeling,
the way two aces
beat three hearts
when it’s cards
you’re dealing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Restoring the Cosmos

Calhoun’s Cannons for November 13, 09

Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.
Alice Walker

You’re welcome. Don’t mention it. It’s hard work I know, but somebody’s got to do it. And I this time I’m the one. Restoring the Cosmos, that is.

You see, years ago, after some grievously sad times, I developed the Calhoun’s Cosmological Conceit that went something like this: Don’t take life too seriously because God has a wicked sense of humor. Just when you think things are going smoothly, He’ll look around and see you humming along, minding your business, tooling down the road quite happily, thank you very much, and He will start raining down all sorts of bad stuff on you until, crushed down to your knees, you will cry out to Heaven, “Enough already! I absolutely can’t take any more!” at which point He will snicker and then break your hot water heater. When that happens, you know He’s done with you for a while and your life will return to normal.

Then you call the plumber.

And thus it was when my semi-new leach field went kerflooey for no known reason, puzzling even Al at Al’s septic pumping (Head scratching. Dunno. Haven’t seen anything to explain this in 30 years!), so we had to dig up part of the front yard to put in another one. Then I got rear-ended, with my little red X-Box Scion, The Tall Dog Car getting shmushed and laid up in the shop for several weeks, all bent-grilled and broken.

Before Al started in with the back hoe, I raced around with clippers and shovel and dug up as many plants as I could and stuffed them into pots, then left them clustered on the front walkway looking damp and pathetic. Luckily my yard is thickly planted with sturdy natives and hardy salvias, plants that are not only drought tolerant, but able to withstand the most extraordinary abuse. Hit ‘em with a stick, prune them severely, yank them out by their roots and stuff them back into the ground and in most cases they’ll look sickly for a day or two and then just carry on. Tough plants for tough times in tough places.

When Al finished his work, I gazed at the torn up empty section of dirt and with a sigh started replacing the retaining wall’s termite-riddled boards, laid the drip lines down again, and started stuffing the plants back into the ground. By noon I was half-finished, but it was getting too hot to continue. So, dirty and tired, I wandered into the garage with shovel and garden cart only to find a pool of water seeping out from under . . . the hot water heater.

I would like to report that I heard the heavenly Heh-heh, but I was laughing too hard to hear anything. A sign! A sign! God was finished with me for a while.

The next day I got a call that my little X-Box car was ready to go home.

Thus was order to the cosmos restored! You’re welcome. Glad to help.

And just in time for Thanksgiving, too, an annual holiday in which we give thanks for our harvest and bounty, a day set aside to count our blessings, spend time with friends and family, then eat too much and watch football on TV.

In my house, in my world, thanks giving arrives every moment of every day, even for the smallest things, because in Calhoun’s Cosmology, I have learned from experience that we live in a world filled with 30 year-old hot water heaters and being run by a dangerously serio-comic God with a wicked, wicked sense of humor. It’s a risky mix.

True, daily thanks giving will not stop the whirlwind, but it’s a good habit to get into anyway. So pass the cranberries. They’re delicious. Thank you, thank you very much.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dump That Lawn & Grab Yer Rutabagas!

The Sunday Tribune reports that the Paso Robles city council has okayed a demonstration “ food forest,” as organizers call it, to teach people how to convert grass yards into other vegetation types that require less water. They also plan to each people how to grow their own food.”

Right now, a plot of land in front of Paso Robles Centennial Park Community Center will be turned into a “food forest.” And instead of just settling for a community garden where people living in apartments or condos without any land available where they live, could “rent” in order to garden, the plans of the Transition Towns Paso Robles Food Group are far broader than that.

With mandatory water conservation likely to become a way of life (Paso’s water, like so many California cities, is in overdraft and unless the climate changes to “all wet” it’ll likely stay in overdraft from now on,) the City Council at least recognizes that lawns may be likely to become a thing of the past.

Which makes a lot of sense since urban lawns were always a middle-class affectation of the unhorsed and unbooted trying to ape their aristo betters who could demonstrate their wealth, in part, by building massive homes on acres and acres of servant-tended “lawns.”

In a water thrifty world, lawns may come to be seen as a wasteful public display of conspicuous consumption that will be ridiculed as arriviste tacky, an occasion for much risible finger pointing among neighbors. Indeed, lawns may become some sort of shameful secret sin, a little patch of grass hidden behind tall fences, drooled over and guarded from prying eyes like a collection of vintage pornography. Or, maybe lawns will become a horticultural obsession like that found among orchid growers – a passionate hobby with people spending hours laboring over their pampered patch, with prized cuttings, seeds and rhizomes collected and traded among afficionados--- “Psst, I’ll trade you one Bermuda plug for two Buffalo Grass clumps.” Maybe we’ll even see Grass Lawn Open House tours as a fund-raising event, with donors in long lines trooping from one secret lawn garden to another to gape and marvel. “My God, I haven’t seen a dichondra lawn for 50 years. Didn’t know they grew those any more!”)

Well, good for Paso Robles. I hope my fellow Los Ososians will follow their lead. Dump the lawn, plant natives and some turnips. Last year amongst the salvias and rock roses in the front yard, I stuck in a couple of salvaged rhubarb roots and darned if they didn’t grow and darned if I didn’t get a bunch of rhubarb all summer long so darned if I’m gonna plant a few more roots of the stuff come winter. True, I suspect that rhubarb is an acquired taste, (from a few people who have wrinkled their nose and run their tongue out and make ack-ack noises when I mentioned the word) but what the heck, I love the stuff so I’ll follow Paso’s lead and think seriously about what other foods will grow in a water-thrifty garden.

Please, Pluuuueeeese, Go Away

Sunday’s Tribune also had a long follow-up story on the Edge/Wilcox mess. The Tribune got access to a huge stack of Edge-Wilcox-Hossli (the county’s human resources director, Deb Hossli) interoffice emails before all of them ended up flying under a bus of their own making. I think the Tribune was trying to make sense of what happened with this mess. And their conclusion was that a system of checks and balances was removed the day the BOS changed the way the CAOs were set up, put one at-will guy in charge, then removed some key civil service procedures and protections and then acted surprised that this train went off a cliff. And ironically since the Supervisors thought that by putting the CAO directly under their control they’d avoid some of the problems of a more layered approach, without understanding that “politics” is always present, that even Civil Service Commissioners are not above “politics” and if staff understands that a CAO is the “darling” of a majority of the BOS (more “politics”), it could be career suicide for an employee to bring problems to their attention. Hence, things can fester quietly until the explosion, thereby defeating the notion that more direct control will result in quicker response time, faster problem-solving efforts, etc, all of which had been viewed as stymied or slowed by the clumsy Civil Service procedures of yore.

So, lessons? Well, one thing was clear to me when the Civil Service rules were removed and Edge jammed his own pick (Hossli) into a newly created slot, that those rules actually can avert problems: “by requiring open and competitive recruitment, tenure and discharge for cause, the civil service system is intended to protect employees from adverse actions during political power changes and is also intended to prevent favoritism.”

While you may get speedier results with an at-will CAO, having that same CAO operating an at-will system for departments and staff serving under him is asking for trouble. Fish rots from the head down, as the old saying goes. A “good” CAO under such a system can create an outstanding staff than can change direction (and department heads and re-staff) quickly, as needed. A “bad” CAO under such a system can result in a dysfunctional bunch of cronies working under a spoils system, all toadying up to each other and the boss in order to keep their jobs, with all indirect staff members having to keep mum for fear and favor.

Not good. Costly train wreck ahead. As the county taxpayers have found out.

Ah, Good, One Less Thing To Worry About!

The House has delivered a much-chewed up “health bill,” to the Senate where it will likely die because a tiny handful of Senators are a totally owned subsidiary of the insurance industry (Lieberman) or are so ego-wrapped that they serve only to further their own political interests, not the People’s Business (Lieberman). So, I’m pretty sure that the whole effort will end up DOA.

If, by some miracle, some chewed up form of “health care reform” does survive, it will come in a form which will still have Americans continuing to get crap health care and expensive crap health care coverage, all while still paying more for it (than most “civilized countries”) and they’ll still end up with worse medical outcomes (than other "civilized countries") and still have millions of uninsured, or underinsured and these folks will continue to die by the thousands for lack of decent health care/coverage. And through all of this, I’m betting the voters will STILL be unable to connect the dots.

In a way, it’s funny, this Lemming-like blindness, this clinging to “death panel” lies and other politically dishonest horse pucky. And all through this amazing sturm und drang, we have witnessed the bizarre spectacle of usually thrifty, bargain-hunting, excess-spending adverse Americans now ferociously insisting on sticking with a jerry-rigged, out-of-date system that costs more because it MUST guarantee fat profits for insurance companies and big pharma, and doing all this while begging for “health care reform” and “lower insurance costs.”

Phooey. Americans don’t want health care reform or even health insurance reform or even lower costs. If they did, they’d elect officials who would deliver just that. Instead, they’re still stuck in the same old, I’m all right, Jack, mode, so long as Bad Stuff happens to The Other Guy, not them, while they’re still all oblivious that they’re always a hair’s breath away from being . . . The Other Guy.

So, until they can connect those few dots, it’s futile to get concerned about “Health Care Reform.” Complete waste of time.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

This fiercely unblinking poem is by Ellen Bryant Voigt, from her new book: Messenger: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2006


The neck lodged under a stick,
the stick under her foot,
she held the full white breast
with both hands, yanked up and
and the head was delivered of the
Brain stuck like a lens; the profile
fringed with red feathers.
Deposed, abstracted,
the head lay on the ground like a
But the rest, released into the
language and direction wrung
from it,
flapped the insufficient wings
and staggered forward, convulsed,
instinctive –
I thought it was sobbing to see it
hump the dust,
pulsing out those muddy juices,
as if something deep in the
in the sack of soft nuggets,
drove it toward the amputated
Even then, watching it litter the
with snowy refusals, I knew it was
that held life, gave life
and not the head with its hard
contemplative eye.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Say A Prayer for You and Me and You and You and That'll Be $756.00, Please

Ah, now some sort of medical reform bill (or whatever this thing is that’s wandering around the halls of Congress is calling itself,) is now ready for Loopholes, Logrolling and Pork Larding.

The first special little “addition” to pop up in the LA Times, a story by Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger reporting from Washington, is this: “Backed by some of the most powerful members of the Senate, a little-noticed provision in the healthcare overhaul bill would require insurers to consider covering Christian Science prayer treatments as medical expenses.

“The provision was inserted by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) with the support of Democratic Sens. John F. Kerry and the late Edward M. Kennedy, both of Massachusetts, home to the headquarters of the Church of Christ, Scientist.

“The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments – which substitute for or supplement medical treatments – on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against ‘religious and spiritual healthcare.’

It would have a minor effect on the overall cost of the bill – Christian Science is a small church, and the prayer treatments can cost as little as $20 a day. But it has nevertheless stirred an intense controversy over the constitutional separation of church and state, and the possibility that other churches might seek reimbursements for so-called spiritual healing.”

The story further noted that “Kerry’s spokeswoman, Whitney Smith, disputed that insurers would be forced to cover prayers. Instead, she said, ‘the amendment would prevent insurers from discriminating against benefits that qualified as spiritual care if the care is recognized by the IRS as a legitimate medical expense. Plans are free to impose standards on spiritual and medical care as long as both are treated equally. It does not mandate that plans provide spiritual care.”

So, now the IRS will get between you and your doctor and Prayer Person? Orrin Hatch, a Republican Sarah Palin fanboy is supporting this? Talk about the original Death Panels. It doesn’t get more lethal than the IRS.

And of course, this amendment has riled scientists and other doctors. “Dr Norman Frost, a pediatrician and medical ethicist at the University of Wisconsin, said the measure went against the goal of reducing healthcare costs by improving evidence-based medical practices. ‘They want a special exception for people who use unproved treatments , and they also want to get paid for it,’ he said. ‘They want people who use prayer to have it just automatically accepted as a legitimate therapy.’”

Yes, indeed, now it starts. Bring on the baster, the larding needle. What makes this amendment so strange – besides it’s blatantly, obviously lobbying for a tiny home-state (MA) religious sect (1,700 0 1,800 congregations world wide) is that there are lots of treatments that do, indeed work, that are unlikely to be covered by any insurance. Unless United Reiki Practitioners, Inc, or a National Acupuncture Union of America show up in the halls of congress with sacks of money.

Under our present system of “healthcare,” hypnosis, biofeedback, Sensory Experiencing Treatment, Acupuncture, Reiki, massage, certified nutritionists, physical therapists, and other therapies get short shrift or no shrift at all from insurers. Yet they do indeed work for many, many people, and are often cheaper than “traditional” treatments. And it’s only recently that chiropractic has been covered for certain procedures.

Yet the “why” and “how” these therapies work is little understood since there’s not been enough research into just what’s going on when the body-mind connection is challenged and enlisted in the healing process. Even now, researchers don’t quite know how placebos work, but they do work, often astonishingly well. So, we know very little at this point and too often our default position is to go with expensive, often dangerous “western medicine” when far simpler, far cheaper methods would do the trick.

In short, our “healthcare” system is sick in ways that have nothing to do with insurance companies, though it is made sicker by our method of paying very well for very poor outcomes. Until we take a serious look at our overall health – nutrition, diet, exercise, dental health, wellness/education efforts, preventative treatments and tests to catch and treat disease early, we’ll still stand mired in a very, very sick expensive system embedded in a very sick society that’s growing poorer by the day.

That’s a recipe that requires . . . prayer. Lots of it.