Saturday, January 31, 2009

Win A Lifetime Supply of Diapers!

Answer the questions correctly and win a lifetime supply of diapers. So, the mother of the octuplet, who has been in the new recently, already has six kids, ages 7, 6, 5, 3 and 2- year-old twins. By what stretch of the imagination does a woman with six kids, each born about a year apart, qualify for medical treatment for “infertility” treatment?

No, No President Obama, Don’t Use That Term. It’s a Trap.

President Obama recently gave an interview to Al Arabiya television. That’s good. But as he continues the dialogue with the world and with America, please, I hope to God he stops using the word “War” when talking about the “War on terror.” Like I hope everybody stops using the word “war.” Bad word, bad phrase.

One of the first mistakes ex-President Bush made after 9/11 was to use the word “war” when discussing the terrorist attack against the twin towers. Bad word. The men who planned and carried out 9/11 were not warriors, were not members of an army from an enemy state. They were criminals. Murderous criminals. Members of a small international criminal conspiracy. Like the Mafia (and/or other organized crime outfits in different countries) they had a “philosophy” and secret rituals and blood oaths and fierce loyalty. But they were and are no “army” except in their own minds.

They are criminals an as such, after 9/11, with the whole world both watching and standing ready to help, Bush had the perfect opportunity to isolate and separate Al Qaeda from the rest of the muslim world, isolate it, separate it, hunt it down using international police methods and a few authorized limited military-type strikes against it’s criminal hide-outs and training camps.

Then, year after year, the hunt for terrorist criminals would continue, a challenge and a tactic, but not a “war,” not a crusade. Just international police work tracking down criminals that are a threat to all civilized countries, including Muslim countries.

All this while the world watched. No invasion of Iraq and the bankrupting of America for that folly. No Guantanamo gulags. No torture staining this nation’s honor.

Instead, Bush got swept up in semantics, and Americans mindlessly followed. Proving that using the wrong word can send you into a trap. The same one this administration may be stepping into as he contemplates America’s continued involvement in Afghanistan. And unless he changes his semantics, and hence his tactics, America will find out what the Russians and the British and all the other “empires” throughout history found out the hard way: Anyone who starts a “war” in Afghanistan looses. Just a matter of time.

Update On 8

Supporters of Prop. 8 went to federal court to ask that the list of people who donated more than $100 in the last two weeks before the campaign be kept secret. Judge said, No. So the names will be made public Monday, which is the regular filing date.

Now, can we hope that some people who opposed Prop 8 and who behaved very badly after the election will get a grip and mind their manners? For all else, the last “dump” of names will allow the public a chance to check to see that no money laundering was going on, that everything was on the up and up & etc. Which is what the law was designed to do.

Your Saturday Poem

Honey At The Table
By Mary Oliver, from “American Primitive”

It fills you with the soft
essence of vanished flowers, it becomes
a trickle sharp as a hair that you follow
from the honey pot over the table

and out the door and over the ground,
and all the while it thickens,

grows deeper and wilder, edged
with pine boughs and wet bounders,
pawprints of bobcat and bear, until

deep in the forest you
shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark,

you float into and swallow the dripping combs,
bits of the tree, crushed bees – a taste
composed of everything lost, in which everything
lost is found.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Les Miz From A New Perspective

From the Feature Story at Great take on Victor Hugo’s great book. Look out, here comes Jean Valjean with Inspector Javert of the RWQCB right behind him.

The Intestine of Leviathan: a philosophy of the sewer
By Dan Cole
The first and only time I have come across any kind of a philosophical treatment of the sewer was when I read Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. Initially, I read it with amusement, figuring that only in a book with such a title would one find this subject matter and that it was only there to prepare the reader for Jean Valjean's great escape.
Yet, in revisiting the story, I began to realize that Hugo is indeed offering to the reader a serious philosophy of the sewer. As a literary artist, Victor Hugo strings metaphor with metaphor to link the reader to a philosophical view of what the sewer means for civilization, as well as for the individual. Hugo uses Hobbes's metaphoric Leviathan as the proper name for the commonwealth and applies it to the city of Paris. Leviathan's intestine refers to the network of sewers inside the "gut" of the city. Although philosophy arises out of history, it abstracts from history a timeless/transcendent meaning and significance. We wish to unpack this abstraction and see what meaning and significance Victor Hugo sees in the sewer and whether it still speaks to us today.
The sewer is a mistake.This is Hugo's axiological claim of the sewer: It is a mistake. The fault lies in the disrupting effect the sewer has on the human and agricultural life cycle, in which excrement plays a vital part. To the urbanized reader, this will sound quite bizarre, because he has been preconditioned by a post-modern philosophy of the sewer. Being removed from the life of agriculture and having lost a natural instinct of crops, cattle and soil, the urban dweller thinks nothing of the sewer. It is out of sight and out of mind (until it backs up). To him it represents everything unclean and foul that is to be removed from his social environment through this conduit. This philosophy sees excrement as detritus (waste, trash) and readily identifies with Hugo's picturesque adjectives of "heaps of garbage," "tumbrels of mire" and "fetid streams of subterranean slime."
Hugo's philosophical perspective sees excrement as residuum (surplus, product). He is instructing us in what the Chinese have known for centuries: namely, that the most effective manure is that of man. It yields a hundred and twenty-fold in crops. He further claims that if all the human and animal manure were restored to the land instead of being thrown into the water, it would suffice to nourish the world. This is no small claim. The residuum nutrients, stercoraries, are the wealth of nations. In an eloquent stream of metaphors this wealth is expressed as "the flowering meadow; it is the green grass; it is marjoram and thyme and sage; it is game; it is cattle, it is the satisfied low of huge oxen at evening; it is perfumed hay; it is golden corn; it is bread on your table; it is warm blood in your veins; it is health; it is joy; it is life." This is the cycle of life. The nutrients of the furrowed soil arise in the crops, which feed the cattle as well as people. The nutrients of the soil transform into the nutrients of the blood, bringing life to the body. Stercoraries are eliminated from the body to return to the ground and feed the soil. The nutrition of the plains makes the nourishment of man.
The sewer breaks this life chain and starves the soil. The very substance of the people is carried away by the vomiting of sewers into rivers and from the rivers to lakes and oceans. This is not without a price. By the late 19th century, Hugo reported that France liquidated hundreds of millions into the Atlantic every year and that each hiccough of cloacae costs a thousand francs.
The sewer, economically speaking, makes the city a leaky basket. The amount of leakage is comparable to a quarter amount of governmental expenses. Hence, what could be the public fortune is found in the sewer. The net effect is an impoverishing of land, causing hunger, and the infecting of water, causing disease.
Hugo does offer an alternative to the sewer with a cost effectiveness that would double the splendor of Paris. He had in mind a double-functioning drainage system, already operative in the villages of England at that time that would bring pure water from the fields into the city and send back into the fields the residuum of the city (what he calls the rich water).
The history of the sewer reflects the history of men. Hugo further impugns the sewer by comparing it to the historic Gemoniae. In the Annals of Tacitus, this was a flight of stairs where executions took place. Death was by strangulation, and the bodies were flung down the stairs to rot, scavenged by dogs and eventually thrown into the River Tiber. So, also, the sewers of Paris reflect a terrible history of death. Pestilence was born there and despots died there. Again, a litany of metaphors depicts this history of death for the sewer. The sewer "has been a sepulcher; it has been an asylum. Crime, intelligence, social protest, liberty of conscience, thought, theft, all that human laws pursue or have pursued, have hidden in this hole."
The history of death passes through the sewer. That which is poured on the ground filters down into the open channels of the sewer. Hugo thinks of the blood of the St. Bartholomew massacre, public assassinations, political and religious butcheries and the washing of bloody hands.
These social historic catastrophes are also embraced by the philosophy of the sewer. The sewer not only disrupts the cycle of life but also reproduces the city and, with the mire, reproduces its customs. It recognizes everything "finding in what remains what has been, the good, the ill, the false, the true, the stain of blood in the palace, the blot of ink in the cavern, the drop of grease in the brothel ... orgies spewed out ... the trace of prostitution ..."
As pointed out earlier, to the urbanite the sewer represents everything unclean and foul, and we do not like to think upon these things, for it reflects a dark side to human history.
The sewer is the conscience of the city. Emerging from this history of the sewer, Hugo discloses his moral philosophy of the sewer. Ethically, the sewer is a cynic in that it is painstakingly indifferent and tells all. As the conscience is the judgment seat for truth telling, the sewer is no liar and hides no secrets. The sewer declares what the individual tries to hide. It possesses the real and definitive form of human habit behind false appearances. The sewer is a place of confessing the secrets thrown away in it.
Such diversity of habits and customs can be found in the sewer. There is a stump of a bottle revealing drunkenness or a handle of a basket revealing domestic life. Within merges the spittle, the vomit, the fetus. The sewer is more of a recollection of vices than anything else is. Cigarette butts reveal the addiction to tobacco. Grease laden waste lines indicate the culprit behind the social problem of obesity. Sexual liaisons utilize the sewer to dispense the evidence of condoms. The sewer is the disposal port for unwanted or expired drugs. Sanitary napkins disclose the monthly menses. Almost anything imaginable has been discarded into the sewer, anything we wish never to see again or to be found out. Yet plumbers know.
As a conscience, the sewer reveals the dismal side of human habits and social behavior, divulging all their hidden secrets. These again are things that we do not wish to think upon.
The proposal of restitution The entrails of Paris had accumulated to 247,828 yards (140 miles) and had become such a maze that no man could succeed in guiding himself through its channels, until the boldest of all men approached Napoleon. The bold endeavor of Pierre-Emmanuel Bruneseau revolutionized the sewer during a seven-year span. This was needed, since the sewer was rebelling in several inundations. Hugo relates the 1802 inundation, when the mire spread to cover the curbstones to a depth of 14 inches, and the Rue Saint Pierre was covered to a depth of three feet over 261 yards.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Bruneseau revolution had left the sewer "neat, cold, straight, correct and respectable." (You can now take tours in the Parisian sewers). However, the miasma of cloacae affected the respiration of the city. Some of us who are near sewage treatment plants are aware of this unwholesome respiration from the sewer.
Hugo returns to his former proposal: Water needs to be employed to purify the air, i.e., to wash the sewer. By washing the sewer, Hugo means, "the restitution of the mire to the land; return of the muck to the soil and the manure to the fields. There will result, from this simple act, to the whole social community, a diminution of misery and an augmentation of health."
Victor Hugo's philosophy of the sewer evidences a strong environmental awareness, even as early as the late 19th century. In contemporary parlance, we call this awareness sustainable sanitation. A 2001publication entitled Toward Sustainable Sanitation (International Association of Impact Assessment, claims that "the present approach to the disposal of human wastes - central collection and treatment of sewage - is unsustainable." The proposed answer is, once again, to restore the organic loop. However, the solution is much more difficult today than it would have been during the 19th century.
Even though underground sewers and treatment plants have reduced the pre-modern problems of pathogens and open-air sewage that caused the spread of sickness, restoring the sludge with such pathogens to agricultural soils may also restore the spread of disease. These pathogens are relatively short-lived, however, and eventually break down in the soils. The real problem is in the modern waste flows that have become "dirtier" than in centuries past.
This dirtier waste is the result of the industrial contaminants (toxic chemicals, heavy metals and pharmaceutical wastes) mixing with human waste, making recycling even more dangerous for agricultural fertilization. Because of this, today's system of sewers and treatment plants are inferior technologies for recycling human waste. One point of inferiority is the treatment plant's conversion of nitrogen to a gaseous form that is eliminated to the atmosphere. The elimination of nitrogen, the most important nutrient for plant growth, voids its potential use as recyclable fertilizer. Another point of the treatment plant's inferiority is that it is not designed for recycling, only for disposal. Hence, the EPA sludge standards are not high enough to entrust the sludge to our agricultural soils.
Herculean as these problems may be in a post-modern era seeking sanitation sustainability, strategies have been put forth to overcome. One strategy is to separate industrial waste from human waste altogether. This can be done by treating industrial waste at its source, before it enters the sanitary waste system. Another separation strategy is to treat domestic waste at its source. This can be accomplished by composting. SIRDO technology (Sistema Integral de reciclamiento de desechos orgánicos: Integrated System for Recycling Organic Wastes, is an alternative waste collector system to provide safe biofertilizer by utilizing solar heating and bacteria.
Still, before we can even begin to consider sustainable solutions for sanitation, a paradigm shift will have to occur to instill a new philosophy of the sewer. The political and engineering communities (including LEED requirements that focus on water reductions and recycling but categorize nothing for sludge recycling for agricultural use) will have to embrace a philosophical world and life view that includes the natural earth and its agricultural life cycle inclusive of the organic loop of stercoraries. Human waste will need to be seen as residuum rather than detritus.
This paradigm shift also will need to occur in our moral consciences, since the sewer reveals more of our vices than our virtues. Preceding sustainable sanitation, a reform of habits and a return to virtue is necessary. A sustainable sewer ought to reproduce a green city; its mire ought to reproduce the customs of sound and wholesome living. As we clean up our habits, so also the sewer must be cleaned up.
The reclamation of our declining levels of organic matter is what the timeless/transcendent significance of the sewer is speaking to us today. Our present history is requiring this philosophy of us. If sanitation is to be sustainable, we need to correct what is, in Hugo's estimation, our mistake.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Water, Water, Nowhere. Quick, Git Mah Shovel Ready

Sounds good to me. Los Osos should get in line with a tin cup in one hand and a shovel in another. We’ve still got a whole lot of low-flow change-outs left to do. They’re “shovel ready” right now, aren’t they?

CA485 Water Efficiency Projects Ready-to-go Across California to Create Jobs, Boost Clean Water SupplyAuthor: American RiversPublished on Jan 24, 2009 - 6:59:36 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. Jan. 23, 2009 - At least 485 water efficiency projects in California are ready to go and will create jobs and improve clean water supplies, according to a quick survey conducted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency.
The projects which provide a sample of water efficiency projects across the state include retrofitting plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems, upgrading water meters, and planting water-wise plants and other vegetation to decrease wasteful water use.American Rivers and the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) are calling for at least 20% of all drinking water infrastructure funding to be dedicated as grants for water efficiency capital projects to create jobs, boost the economy, and ensure adequate clean water supply for the future.
An economic analysis conducted by AWE estimates that total economic output per million dollars of investment in water efficiency programs is between $2.5 and $2.8 million. It estimates that a direct investment of $1 billion in water efficiency programs can boost U.S. employment by 15,000 to 22,000 jobs.
Water efficiency is far cheaper than building new dams and expanding reservoirs, up to 8500 times more cost-effective, at only $0.46 - $250 per 1000 gallons while new dam construction costs $4000 for the same amount of capacity.
"There is a hidden reservoir waiting to be tapped in California. Investing in these water efficiency projects will boost water supplies and create good jobs," said Betsy Otto, vice president of strategic partnerships at American Rivers.
"With California's severe water shortages adding to economic uncertainty across the state, the time for water efficiency investments is now."
"Water efficiency is the cheapest and smartest way to manage and stretch our existing water supplies for economic growth.
And nearly 20% of California's electricity is used to pump and treat water, so using water more efficiently also reduces greenhouse gases," said Mary Ann Dickinson, Executive Director at the Alliance for Water Efficiency.
The Alliance for Water Efficiency compiled a list of examples of water efficiency projects in 11 states, including 566 projects totaling more than $2.3 billion that are ready to go within six months.
Water efficiency means using water more wisely - by fixing leaks, replacing old appliances and fixtures, and taking other common sense steps in our homes, businesses and communities.
"Water efficiency isn't about telling people to shower just once a week, or to plant a cactus in their front yards," said Otto. "It's about improving our infrastructure to stop leaks, reduce the water we use for each task, protect healthy rivers, and create long-term benefits for our water supplies and communities."

Uh, Oh, Prop 8 Gets Weirder. Is That Possible?

From Jim Sanders, McClatchy Newspapers, Sacramento: SACRAMENTO – “California’s attorney general and election watchdogs are fighting back against a federal lawsuit seeking to bar disclosure of late donors to the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Attorney General Jerry Brown, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, and the Fair Political Practices Commission jointly filed arguments this week opposing the suit by the proposition 8 campaign.. . . . .

The suit seeks a court order exempting Proposition 8 committees from indentifying people who donated shortly before or after the Nov 4 election. Previous contributors already have been named.

California’s Political Reform Act, approved by voters in 1974, requires disclosures of the name, occupation and employer of anyone contributing $100 or more to campaigns.

The suit challenges the constitutionality of the disclosure requirements, claiming donors to Proposition 8 have been ravaged by 3-mails, phone calls and postcards – even death threats. . . . .

Brown, Bowen and the FPPC counter that disclosure requirements assist the sate in detecting efforts to hide the identities of large donors and illegal spending of political funds for personal use.

“Political democracy demands open debate, including prompt disclosure of the identities of campaign donors,” Brown said in a written statement.
Victims of harassment should sue or file criminal charges – not strip election records to “carve out a special privilege of anonymity for themselves alone,” he said. . . .

And then for the oddest wrinkle. One of the attorney’s for Prop 8, James Bopp Jr.” claimed that the state has no compelling reason to disclose donations as low as $100.

Really? Wasn’t that why the disclosure law was put into place I the first place, to foster “transparency” and prevent “stealth” money from being funneled in late in the game or slid in via $100 increments so the only way to find out who was actually sending the check, someone (like a nosy reporter) would have to spend the time tracking each $100? And in doing so, might uncover the interesting fact that (amazing coincidence!!) every single member (or employee) of a particular church (or business) sent in checks for $100 so the church (business) itself can claim it had NO CLUE it’s parishioners(employees) were supporting anything so the “church” (”business”) doesn’t have to report any involvement since it wasn’t involved, No Sir! No Sir! And that it might be of interest especially in a close election, that a whole lot of money can legally come in past the pre-election deadline, sufficient money for last minute media buys that can change an election with no way of accounting for that money until after the election, when it’s too late to let the voters know just who may be behind the donations, except for later to check into that by tracking those $100 donations? You mean, THAT kind of “transparency?”

Notes Ross Johnson, FPPC chairman, that the suit was “out to destroy campaign finance disclosure by a death-of-a-thousand cuts. I don’t intend to let that happen on my watch.”

Well, now it’s in the hands of the Feds. This “exemption” which the news story reports, “If successful, the suit would apply only to Yes on 8 committees. Besides barring disclosure of late donors, it would ban the public from viewing names previously released.” Hmm, ONLY applies to Prop 8. My, isn’t that . . . . special?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Aw Dang, Too Late, Heh-heh, It’s Dat Old Stealth Basin Plan Update, Shhhhhh, Chugging Into Regulatory Law . . . Look Out Santa Margarita . . . Heh-heh

The Basin Plan amendment affecting existing and new onsite systems throughout Water Board region 3. [Yes, this is the stealth update that will turn areas of the North County, for example, into LOS OSOS! Bwahahahah. And note further down in the text, I’ve bolded some of the more interesting points-- the fact that the public has to search all over the place to get the pertinent info, which, of course, is too often SOP, and the point, isn’t it? Make public comment darned near impossible. Which is why the suggestion that the local RWQCB might post everything in once place makes sense and is exactly why it will never happen. More Bwahahahah. But the sample questions listed sure are interesting. Well, too late, too bad. Hee-heee]

Comments will only be accepted on the revisions to the amendment to the criteria adopted on May 9, 2008, and on the proposed Implementation Program.
The implementation plan criteria and waivers must have comments in by Jan 23. send to: <>
Go to or

You will have to search around to bring all of the information on this into one place. I suggest you request that the Central Coast post all related public letters and comments from 2008 and 2009 in one place, and send interested parties links to relevant docs, just as the SWRCB site does for public participation for proposed statewide regulations. This should include a link to the public comments submitted to date.
This issues within Resolution No. R3-2008-006 was handled separately from the onsite amendment adopted May 9, 2008 (agenda item 9) and forwarded to SWRCB and Office of Administrative Law for Final Adoption, June 2008 This is posted on the site, but the reports and documents on Item 10 are more difficult to locate. Resolution No. R3-2008-0005 Attachment A Attachment B Attachment C Attachment D
The notice states: If you have any questions regarding these documents or the proposed actions, you may call Sorrel Marks at 8051549-3695 or Burton Chadwick at 805-1542-4786.

Some concerns raised:
1. Will waivers be issued until the local agency has a acceptable onsite management program in place?
2. What triggers WDR's permits and monitoring programs? How will this be implemented? At what cost to the homeowner?
3. What triggers existing systems for upgrades to advanced treatment level?
4. What happens to existing lots that are under 1 acre, but permitted and operating properly? [Yoo, hoo, Cabrillo Estates, are you listening?]
5. How will the new "discharge prohibition zones be determined, noticed and enforcement applied? (Los Osos example)
5. Post for the public approximate cost for typical program enrollment cost ranges, and the unfunded mandate costs for the newly required programs to local agencies.
6. Post the typical cost for advanced systems---are these required for all new systems? (once quoted by staff as $40-60K) ?
7. Discuss and evaluate the impacts on the prohibition of second unit (granny suite split) on less than the proscribed 2 acres----
8. Reevaluate the need for this additional burden in the current economy to the agency and the homeowners--

Friday, January 23, 2009

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Tolosa Press, San Luis Obispo, CA for January 23, 09

Yes, Yes, Okay, I Resolve

I know, I know, time to make our New Year’s Resolutions. O.K., here goes:

I resolve not to text while driving. I also resolve not to read the newspaper while driving down the road either. I resolve not to snicker when I think that it’s now illegal, like somebody actually had to pass a law to stop people from peering down at a teeny-tiny little-bitty keyboard in order to find then pick out miniscule letters whilst hurtling down the road at 85 mph in order to tap out content-empty messages, like, “Hw R U? Im doon 85 dwn Hwy 101, Huh? Whazziitt? EeeeeaaaAAAHHHHKKK!”

I resolve not to go on a diet. Research shows that everybody resolves to lose weight in the New Year. Research also shows that New Year’s diets don’t work. Yes, I know, we Americans are overweight, no doubt about that. Even Oprah Winfrey has gone public to announce that she’s been “abusing herself with food,” has had it with yo-yo dieting, and has finally given up trying to achieve some unrealistic goal weight. I guess she finally found out that our bodies seem to have unique individual “set points” and one potato chip at a time they figure out a way to get back to where they want to be. So now she’s going to eat sensibly, exercise sensibly, with the goal of having a healthy body.

True, she won’t look like the fashion models and media stars on the front of magazines, airbrushed of all flaws, including a few pounds here and there – oh, wait, wasn’t that Oprah on the front of her own “O Magazine” airbrushed of all flaws and extra pounds? Well, maybe her New Year’s weight resolution will also include appearing on her own magazine with a few realistic wrinkles and bulges. If all fashion and fan mags did the same, maybe the country would finally understand that fashion models, Playboy pinups, and movie stars are all phony. First, those folks are freaks – one in a million in talent and looks, not even close to “normal” on a Bell Curve. Add in the incredible skill of the make-up artists, lighting experts, photographers and re-touchers, and what we see on the page and in the theatre is all fantasy. In real life, real human bodies come in all shapes and sizes and instead of obsessing on looking like survivors of a great famine, we’d all do ourselves a big favor if we just stopped stuffing ourselves and our kids full of sugar and fat. Coke and a smile? Coke and a case of diabetes is more like it. Better to buy a pair of walking shoes instead of a Big Mac.

I resolve to stop rolling my eyes and making growly noises when watching the news on TV. Somehow, I must try to understand that Walking While Stupid seems to be the normal, natural condition of human beings. That human history seems to be one long, endless loop of people repeatedly doing the same dumb things over and over again, then acting surprised when they get hurt or killed. The older I get the more real life keeps resembling “Jackass, The Movie,” wherein really stupid juvenile adults, who don’t seem to know any better, do predictably stupid things with predictably disastrous results, then get up and dust off their trousers and scraped elbows and say, “Ow-Ow-Ow,” while the audience laughs and laughs.

Unfortunately, in real life, really stupid people doing really stupid, disastrous things don’t get up. Ever. And nobody looking at them laying there pale and broken on the ground laughs and laughs. Instead, they cry and cry and cry. Then call the coffin-maker.

This always makes me angry and sad, which is why I roll my eyes and make growly noises. I must stop that. But if I stop growling and start crying – which surely is the only appropriate reaction to such dumb awfulness, isn’t it? -- then I shall never be able to stop weeping. And that’s a heck of a way to start a new year.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yes, but Does It Violate The Geneva Convention?

This from the Jan 21 L.A. Times, a story by DeeDee Correll: Judge Paul Sacco, a municipal judge in Fort Lupton, Colorado, has started sentencing kids who play their boom boxes or car stereos too loud to one hour sitting in a courtroom Friday night listening to . . . well, here’s Ms. Correll:

“The guiding principle in Municipal Judge Paul Sacco’s courtroom is an eye for an eye. Or rather, an ear for an ear.

So when teenagers land in front of him for blasting their car stereos or otherwise disburbing the peace in this small northern Colorado city, Sacco informs them that they will spend a Friday evening in his courtroom listening to music – of his choosing.

No, they can’t pay a fine instead, he tells them. So, he adds with a snicker, ever heard of Barry Manilow? .

For the last decade, Sacco, 55, has administered a brand of justice somewhere between “cruel” and “unusual.”

Young people in Fort Lupton know that if they’re caught, they’re in for a night tht could begin with the “Barney” theme song, move on to an opera selection and end with Boy George’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.” . . . .

Sacco’s answer to that last question is: Yes, he does.” . . . .

The program’s recidivism rate is less than 5%; once subjected to a night in City Hall, the offenders rarely return. Interestingly, the offense rate also seems to have plummeted recently. “ . . . . “The latest crop of offender said they won’t let themselves get caught again. ‘If you see a cop car, turn your volume down,’ said Gehrig, a convenience store clerk.

It could’ve been worse, he point out, with ABBA or 1980s hair metal.

“A little Manilow here and there,” he confided, ‘isn’t too terrible.”

Left Hand, Right Hand

Reverend Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church and vocal supporter of California’s Proposition 8, which removed the right to marry from gay Californians, thereby sticking them back into a kind of second class citizenship category (I do, I do, but not you), offered up the invocation at the inauguration and prayed, “Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.”

Except for gay Californians, of course.

After which, Obama’s speech included this clarion call, “The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history, to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that we are all equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

Except for gay Californians, of course.

The L.A. Times Jan 21 editorial caught the oddness of this separation between speech and action. “Obama is caught up in semantics, apparently believing that gays and lesbians should be allowed to engage in civil unions with all the rights of marriage, as long as they aren’t called marriages. That’s an evasion that was rightly rejected in May by the California Supreme Court when it overturned a previous ban on same-sex marriage, because such semantic distinctions tend to cast doubt on a union’s legitimacy.

“At the time of Obama’s birth in 1956, some states could not have allowed his interracial parents to marry. He, of all people, should know better.”

So should Pastor Warren. Unfortunately, there is too often a disconnect between religious/personal belief and actual, real-time, on the ground civil reality. Pastor Warren cannot pray for God to help him to remember “justice for all,” then publicly support removing civil rights from a certain group of citizens. And Obama cannot remind us of a “God-given” promise that “all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness,” . . . . except for gay people.

The clunk you hear with this kind of rhetoric is the sound dissonance makes when “semantic generalities” hit real-time lives. Both of these very public figures should know better, indeed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Where’s Waldo?
The following email from Mark Low was sent to Mark Hutchison in response to the public comment on the DEIR for the Los Osos Sewer Project. The nitrogen reduction attachment tables seemed to indicate various sites showing Nitrate as N (mgl) ranging from 2ish to 7.12. The attachments mentioned should be on Mark's link or on the county's DEIR comment section. Posted with permission.

In support of your wastewater treatment solution efforts to locate and secure consistently efficient, economical and energy efficient technology that is reliable and simple to operate we offer the following:
Attached for your review and consideration are Comments to the San Luis Obispo Draft EIR, exhibits in support of our energy saving and capital cost reduction treatment technology and a generic proposal for a 1MGD ECOfluid USBF Membrane Bioreactor Title 22 Water Reclamation Facility,
A close review of our treatment technology will reveal many advantages over the other treatment technologies your study process included.
These advantages include, but are not limited to, reduced footprint, reduced energy consumption, no odor, reduced sludge production, reduced capital and O&M costs.
The cost range is $6,900,000.00 for a Micro Screen option and $7,400,000.00 for the Membrane option, both include a 30% design, engineering and contingency.
The one factor that significantly contributes to operating simplicity and reduces operating and maintenance needs and costs, is the all gravity process flow. Pumped once from the equalization tank into the bioreactors, the entire flow through the process (biology, filtration and UV disinfection) is by gravity. Gravity and hydraulic action are forces of nature and is energy which is free of charge.
Of course any size (GPD) facility for any strength influent can be designed upon request.
The attached Nitrogen Reduction Memorandum should be of particular interest to those interested in solving Nitrogen loading problems. President, Karel Galland P.E. and I are available to discuss in detail the generic proposal and how a site specific proposal can quickly and economically be developed for your project, at no charge, as a professional courtesy.
A technology which provides a 50%+ reduction in energy usage coupled with a 70% reduction in capital cost is very smart, no matter how you pay fit it.
We hope to see it included in your study review process, including the DEIR Comment Review for “substantial” environmental issues for the DEIR located here:
Time and money are precious, so we won’t waste any and know that you will want to give us your best consideration so we look forward to hearing from you soon.
My very best regards,
Mark Low
602.740.7975 voice
480.464.0405 facsimile
P.O. Box 1355 Mesa, Arizona 85211
Spero Meliora "I aspire to greater things"

Busy Busy Busy?

The following came over the transom. Especially curious is the last paragraph. Huh?

After reading this, will some folks out here in Sewerville start to get the idea that Sticky Thumbs are now back on the scale in the form of a new mantra? Instead of Better Faster Cheaper, will we now starting seeing the phrase “Shovel Ready” used as a new buzz word that will distract people so they won’t see The Process being short-circuited, and instead we’ll start seeing floated the false idea that there will only be ONE federal infrastructure disbursement and if we don’t qualify for that one, (say 90 days?) we’ll totally lose out so we have to HURRY HURRY HURRY, short-cut directly into the old Tri-W project, get Watson Montgomery Harza and the original contractors paid off and penciled in and fast tracked, start digging gravity pipes into the ground immediately, no need for a community survey of “choice,” i.e. Want STEP? Or Gravity?, no need for price evaluations, (STEP costs $___ while Gravity costs $___), No, No, No Time! gotta get this Shovel Ready project into the ground right now or we’ll all die in the streets like dawgs! (Oh, look, it’s the Regional Water Quality Control Board threatening (via the front page of their handmaiden, the Tribune) we’ll get FINES!FINES!FINES! CDO’s for Everyone In Town! if we don’t skip some of these unnecessary steps in The Process and fast-fast-fast start
shovel readying NOW!!).

Sticky thumbs? Rustling in the done-deals back rooms? Deja vu? Hmmmmmm??? Well, of course. It’s Sewertown, Jake. Sewertown.

Wow! What a country. The past year has proven to be as much of a financial roller coaster ride for the nation as the sewer saga has been for Los Osos! However, in the midst of the emotional, political, and economic upsets, new hope for opportunities could be within our grasp once again.
As 2009 dawns we have new leadership at our CSD who bring fresh thoughts and resolve to bring the District's bankruptcy to an end. In addition a leadership change at the County Board of Supervisors has new opportunities to help our community find significant funding for a waste water project. And of course a new administration is about to be installed in Washington just as the need for major investment in infrastructure has taken center stage.

Since 2005 Taxpayers Watch has been dedicated to speaking for the interests of Los Osos taxpayers. TW strategy has been to hold accountable those who are responsible for bankrupting the community. While that strategy has succeeded to a great extent and is likely to end in the return of as much as $2 million to the District treasury in 2009, it is time for each of us to take an active role to voice taxpayer interest in capitalizing on the opportunity the next Federal Stimulus Package is likely to bring our way.

As many of you are aware Congress is wrestling with specifics of how to funnel money, as part of the economic stimulus package, to the states. In fact, President Elect Obama has asked Congress to have a proposal on his desk on January 21, the first day after his inauguration!

As you will read in "The News" below, the idea behind the hundreds of billions of dollars that may be included in the stimulus package is to perk up the national economy by funding "shovel ready" projects that will employ companies and workers performing necessary public works infrastructure projects. The catch is, shovel ready means projects that could start construction (or perhaps restart construction) within 90 days.

TW is asking each of you to contact our County Supervisors, US Congress Members, and US Senators TODAY reminding then that Los Osos does have a wastewater project that could be under construction in 90 days. Ask them to consider funding a restart of the former project.

Dooo Dooo Doo Doo Dee Doo Dooo, Stealth Update Back In Town

Remember a few months back when the RWQCB was holding stealth “public hearings” for updating the septic system onsite rules (Shhhhh, we gotta run this puppy through as fast as possible so please don’t alert the citizens of North County, for example, that when this thing gets rushed through, they’ll become, ta-DA! – the next Los Osos!.) Well, the deadline for commenting is fast approaching. Speak now or forever be out of luck. As for Mark’s comment, “I know there has been a great deal of information recently regarding onsite wastewater systems . . . . “ Really? The Stealth Basin Plan Updates were snuck by without a blink. I’m betting various agencies (not- to mention the general rural public living with septics – clueless) out there are still staring like deer into the headlights, having not yet figured out what they’re in for when these “updates” get run through and turned into enforceable regulations. Bwa-hahahah. Poor dears.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I know there has been a great deal of information recently regarding onsite wastewater systems; such as updating the Basin Plan criteria, proposed AB 885 regulations, and draft Implementation Program. Therefore, I just wanted to send this reminder so that the draft Staff Report that I sent in mid December doesn't get overlooked. The public notice is posted on the "Announcements" section of our website at and includes links to the staff report and relate documents, alternately the documents are attached to this message. Comments and recommendations on the proposed action are due by January 23, 2009, and the public hearing is scheduled for March 20, 2009. Please give me a call if you have questions on this topic.Sincerely, Sorrel Marks805/549-3695


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Where’s OUR Cerny When We Need him?

The following is just too funny to not post here. It’s a L.A. Times editorial from 1-16-09.

EU or eeww?

It’s difficult to stop laughing long enough to seriously examine Czech artist David Cerny’s latest stunt – an installation commissioned by the Czech Republic to celebrate its assumption of the presidency of the European Union. What the Czechs got instead of the glorious depiction of European harmony they expected is a work that ferociously stereotypes the member countries: Poland is represented by Catholic monks posed as the Marines at Iwo Jima, but they are raising the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement. Luxembourg is a lump of gold with a “for sale” sign, Germany is a series of highways (resembling a swastika), and all of France is on strike. Romania is one big Dracula theme park.

The poor Czechs. Their turn at leading the EU already has provoked deep skepticism, and Cerny’s 9-ton diss – hanging at the entrance to the European Council building in Brussels – doesn’t help. But what did they expect? After all, this is the same artist who crafted a piece that invites viewers to climb a ladder between the legs of a giant nude, stick their heads into its buttocks and watch a video of two Czech politicians feeding each other unidentifiable glop while Queen’s “We Are The Champions” plays.

Why did he do it? Cerny says he wanted to see if Europe could laugh at itself. The Bulgarians are not amused. They’ve called the Czech ambassador to Sofia to explain this offense to their national dignity: Bulgaria is portrayed as a series of squat toilets.

We’d like to think we could laugh at a portrait of the United States a la Cerny. Though that might depend on how close it hewed to the truth.

Your Saturday Poem

Acting Like A Tree, by Jonathan Aaron

When I got to the party and saw everybody
walking around in Christmas costumes,
I remembered I was suppose to be wearing one, too.
Bending slightly, I held out my hands
and waved them a little, wiggling my fingers.
I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips, making
a tree face, and started slowly hopping on one foot,
then the other, the way I imagine trees do
in the forest when they’re not being watched.
Maybe people would take me for a hemlock,
or a tamarack. A little girl disguised as an elf
looked at me skeptically. Oh, come on!
her expression said. You call that acting like a tree?
Behind her I could see a guy in a reindeer suit
sitting down at the piano. As he hit the opening
chords of “Joy to the World” I closed my eyes
and tried again. This time I could feel the wind
struggling to lift my boughs, which were heavy
with snow. I was clinging to a mountain crag
and could see over the tops of other trees a few late-
afternoon clouds and the thin red ribbon of a river.
I smelled more snow in the air. A gust or two whispered
around my neck and face, but by now
all I could hear was the meditative creaking
of this neighbor or that – and a moment later, farther off,
the faint but eager call of a wolf.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Last Call

Congratulations are in order to Michael Axelrod and all the folks who made Project Amend, an eight-bed live-in facility for detox and alcohol and drug treatment. As reported in the Trib by AnnMarie Cornejo, the small house off Broad Street (sorta near Staples) originally opened as a sober living facility. Thanks to a lot of work by clients living there and community volunteers, and hard work by director Axelrod and support by local legislators, the facility is now officially licensed for full live-in treatment.

Which is a good thing since SLO has been lacking in a local live-in treatment facility. (If memory serves, French Hospital used to have that kind of program but that went away with the wind years ago.) So now SLOtown has Mr. DeVaul at one end of town and Mr. Axelrod at the other trying to help people ready to get and stay clean and sober. Hooray for them. If any of you have any extra sheets, blankets, pillows, dishes (?) toiletries, towels, chairs (?), etc. that would help make the little Amends house more liveable, do give Mr. Axelrod a call. [Oops, forgot to give the phone #. It's 782-9600]

Next up, let’s see if we can finally fix our appalling medical systems so that drug and alcohol treatment is covered by Medicare and Medicaid and whatever medical coverage we come up with as a nation. (I noticed in the Yellow Pages, listings for several live-in detox/treatment centers do NOT take Medicare/Medicaid and/or insurance plans – cash an carry only, thank you – which means if you’re old and/or poor, good luck to you. Which is an interesting national problem that extends way past addictions problems: ignore treatment early on since it’s expensive then pay waaaaaaaayyyyyyy more later when a really, really sick addict/drunk totters into the E.R. for help. Not to mention the wasted “human capital” during the time inbetween.)

So, good on Mr. Alexrod and his Amends House.

In Memorium

The memorial service for Dr. Ruehr was lovely. The essence of Dr. Ruehr’s life and impact on his students and community were summed up by the minister in a quote: “You can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed.” Wise advice for all of us wondering How, then, shall we live?

Hats off to Bill Morem

In a Jan 10 column, Tribune columnist, Bill Morem, wrote a column in response to a reader who wrote to express puzzlement by a lot of words Bill had used in one of his columns. (Full disclosure: Bill was editor of the local section of the Sun Bulletin centuries ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and was the one who asked me to write a column for the paper, even came up with the name, complete with clever parenthesis.)

Bill loves words and has a great time using them, which leaves some of his readers “flummoxed.” To which I can only say, Hooray Bill! Being flummoxed by words when you’re reading is a good thing. It’s why God invented the dictionary and various Dictionaries of . . . Foreign Words and Phrases, Eponyms, Word Origins, etc. And most especially why God invented the Internet & Google! It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to type in a clump of words and up pops info. Oh, and did I forget, Wikipedia? So, write on, Bill. Obscurer the better. Make your readers stretch those little grey cells a bit. Good for ‘em.

Yes, it’s the Department of Duh

AP headline: “Healthcare too costly for unemployed, study says.”

Somebody needed to do a “study” to figure that out? Here’s all anyone needed to know to understand how health care works in this country: “The Law in its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” (Anatole France)

Lose our job? Quitcher bellaching, you’ve got COBRA coverage. Only here’s what Families USA, an advocacy group found: “At present, paying for COBRA boders on unrealistic for most people who lose their jobs. The cost cuts too deeply into their government-paid jobless benefits. ‘This very important right is not meaningful in reality,” said Ron Pollack, the group’s executive director.” And that “. . . workers [in at least 9 states] would have to spend more than 40% of their unemployment insurance on COBRA premiums for individual coverage.”

So, rent, food, medical coverage: take your pick. Yep, the American Way!

Oh, Promises, Promises

I found President Bush’s last press conference genuinely strange, but a perfect example of the depth of his cluelessness. Interestingly, I suspect Bush is a perfect example of the mind set of a great many people in this country – angry, defensive, jingoistic, semi-literate, zenophobic, ahistoric, unreflective, incapable of complex insight or complicated dot-connecting , historically ignorant, short and long term memory challenged, intellectually lazy, addicted to cant and meaningless mantras, and the perfect example of the Peter Principle at work: a man promoted to his level of incompetence.

Bush would have been just a swell guy as a small town Texas mayor. Have a beer with him, play a few rounds of golf, do a little towel snapping in the locker room, heh-heh. Do deals with his business cronies, fleece the sucker taxpayers, you know, traditional crony small town politics. But President during profoundly historic events? No. He was simply the wrong guy in the wrong job and the result has been a disaster.

On the other hand, the American people got exactly what they wanted and deserved. If huge numbers of us are jingoistic, angry, defensive, zenphobic, ahistoric, semi-literate, historically ignorant, & etc, then Bush was indeed The People’s Choice. Twice. He’s going to give a farewell address to the nation, so there’s one more gape-mouthed weirdness we have to sit through, unless we all throw shoes at the TV or change channels.

Let’s hope The New Guy understands his role (one of his roles) is to be Educator In Chief. That’s been one of the key things missing from so many recent presidents, but that was one of the good things Obama’s (and Hillary’s) year-long campaign(s) did: ‘splain, ‘splain, ‘splain again, point out the obvious, ‘splain how it can be fixed, engage, invite, educate . . .in short, lead.

Let’s hope.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Saturday Poem

For all the ones we’ve lost or lost too soon. Life is short, fragile and gone. We are in the grave a long, long time. Right now, go buy a book of poems, find a nice corner of the world to read them in. Pet your dog. Hug your kids. Dance a little dance, hum a tune. Watch the clouds while the sun is warm and the air sweet.

The Woodpecker Pecks But The Hole Does Not Appear
By Charles Wright

It’s hard to imagine how unremembered we all become,
How quickly all that we’ve done
Is unremembered and unforgiven,
how quickly
Bog lilies and yellow clover flashlight our footfalls,
How quickly and finally the landscape subsumes us,
And everything that we are becomes what we are not.

This is not new, the orange finch
And the yellow-and-dun-finch
picking the dry clay politely,
The grasses asleep in their green slips
Before the noon can rouse them,
The sweet oblivion of the everyday
like a warm waistcoat
Over the cold and endless body of memory.

Cloud-scarce Montana morning.
July, with its blue cheeks puffed out like a putto on an ancient map,
Huffing the wind down from the northwest corner of things,
Tweets on the evergreen stumps,
swallows treading the air,
The ravens hawking from tree to tree, not you, not you,
Is all that the world allows, and all one could wish for.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Lost Osos, Cont.

There will be services for the late Dr. Thomas Ruehr this Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 2:00 pm at the First Presbyterian Church at 981 Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo, Ca.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lost Osos

I have received several emails informing me of the sudden loss of Dr. Tom Ruehr, who died suddenly in his home last night. Dr. Ruehr, a soil scientist at Cal Poly, was involved in the Hideous Sewer Wars for many years. He was an honorable man. And his loss to the environmental community will be huge. My deepest condolences go out to his family at this terrible time.

We shall find peace. We shall hear angels. We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds. -- Anton Chekov

Bees, Bees, Beautiful Bees

Last summer I wrote a column wondering where all the bees had gone. There it was, high summer, with a garden filled with nasturtiums and lavender and other assorted flowers, and almost no bees.

A few days ago I noticed, here in the dead of winter, there were bees sipping from the hummingbird feeder, something I can’t remember seeing before. At first I thought, Woa, poor things must be starving with no flowers in sight. Then I went out to hang some clothes up and in the early morning quiet heard humming. A lot of humming. Looking waaaayyy overhead into the huge eucalyptus trees I spied bees. Lots of bees. Busy bees. All humming loudly amidst the fuzzy white eucalypt flowers.

Hooray. Now let’s hope they’ll stick around until summer.

Bye, Bye John Schempf.

Los Osos’ generan manager, John Schempf, is heading out of town as quick as he feet can take him, heading for South Berwick, Maine to a new job. Is that cry I hear as he heads out the door something like, “Sweeeeetttt Jeeeeesusssss, lemmme outta heeeeeerrree!”

The Tribune reports that the LOCSD board is now looking for another general manager, a job that will pay $115,000. Spoke with someone yesterday who expressed concern that nobody would want the job, considering all the problems besetting poor Los Osos, but I had to remind the speaker that we’re in the middle of a Quasi-Great-Depression, which means there’ll likely be about 50,000 highly experienced recently downsized general managers from both government and private industry lined up outside the door in no time.

Hooray. Now let’s hope they’ll stick around until summer.

(later note: Got an email from CSD Board Member, Joe Sparks noting that the GM job "will not necessarily pay $115,000 ." and that "Mr. Schempf was receiving $122,000 plus all the benies at the time he resigned." Well, we'll see who shows up to apply and what the final salary will be, plus bennies, and still hope that whoever shows up will stick around until summer.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

E-Waste Drive, SLOHS, Jan 10 & 11

The following email was sent by a friend. Great opportunity to clean house for the new year.

Are you replacing your old TV with a new HDTV this holiday season? Do you need to dispose of the old one, or of any other e-waste cluttering up your garage? Just in time, San Luis Obispo High School Tech Club is having an e-waste recycling drive on Saturday January 10 and Sunday January 11 from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM. Just bring your electronics to the parking lot by the football field at SLOHS. We will happily unload it for you. This is totally FREE for you.E-waste is our electronic waste, televisions, computers, radios, copiers, the things we generate with our modern lives. If dumped in a landfill, the lead and other heavy metals will leach out into our environment as the e-waste decomposes. It is important to recycle your e-waste with a reputable company. Even better, every item you drop off for recycling helps out the Tech Club and the robotics team. So get out those old items that you don't want to pay to have picked up, and the other electronics they don't take in the trash, and bring them by on the 10th or 11th.ELECTRONIC ITEMS ACCEPTEDTelevisions - Monitors - Computers - Computer ComponentsFax Machines - Printers - Copiers - Toner Cartridges (but just send those to Tech Club....)Wire - Video Game Consoles - Laptops - CamerasCamcorders - Internet devices - Keyboards - MiceMP3 Players - VCR’s & DVD’s - Cell Phones - Telephone EquipmentRecycling these electronic items keeps their lead and other toxic parts out of our landfills and water tables. And remember, this is FREE. There is no fee to you to bring anything.I have attached a flyer that you can print and post or pass on to others who might be interested.PLEASE NOTE: Electronic items that belong to the school district MAY NOT be recycled unless they have been properly surplused. Properly surplused computers may not be recycled unless their hard drives have been wiped. Please see your site tech coordinator for details. Thank you,Jan FetchoSan Luis Obispo High School

Yes, Back to the Sewer Wars

Ah, it was a nice break over the holiday, even though some commentors kept at it amidst the mistletoe and holly. Sigh. This from the Insurance Law Bulletin, California Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters (CAIIA). As a side note, I love the use of the phrase “a group of disgruntled residents” under the section labeled FACTS, was used to refer to people supporting the recall, while the word “a group of disgruntled residents” was NOT used to describe “a group called Taxpayers Watch.” Hahahah. Hmmm, wonder where CAIIA got their “facts” from? Well, far as I know, this case is still being discussed by attorneys looking for a settlement, or it’s in limbo while the Insurance Company appeals the ruling (?) or . . . . ? And so, like all things Sewerish, stay tuned.

California Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters
Insurance Law Bulletin
Submitted by Smith & Feeley, LLP, Irvine, CA
Insurer Has Duty to Defend Insureds Against Taxpayer Suit Seeking Both Injunctive Relief and “Damages”
The United States District Court, applying California law, has ruled that a liability insurer had a duty to defend its insureds against a taxpayer lawsuit suit which sought both injunctive relief and monetary “damages.” (The Los Osos Community Services Dist. v. American Alternative Ins. Corp. (C.D. Cal. 2008) — F.Supp.2d —, 2008 WL 4885680)
The Los Osos Community Services District (“District”) is a public entity which undertook plans to build a wastewater treatment facility in Los Osos, California. A number of people who lived in the area tried to stop construction of the treatment facility by placing a measure called “Measure B” on the ballot. In response, the District sued and obtained a court order declaring the measure illegal and barring it from the ballot.
Thereafter, a group of disgruntled residents succeeded in recalling three of the District’s Board members. The “new Board” then immediately took steps to stop the construction of the treatment facility. Among other things, the new Board dismissed the lawsuit brought to stop Measure B, which by then had reached the state appellate court. In addition, the new Board allegedly used $600,000 in state money to enter into a settlement with Measure B’s proponents, who were allied with the three new members of the Board.
In response, a group called Taxpayers Watch and two individual taxpayers (collectively “Taxpayers Watch plaintiffs”) sued the District and several Board members, alleging that the settlement was “a sham settlement with the Board’s cronies” and that ultimately District taxpayers “will be responsible for repaying those monies to the state of California.” The Taxpayers Watch plaintiffs sought relief under California Code of Civil Procedure section 526a, which provides that “[a]n action to obtain a judgment, restraining and preventing any illegal expenditure of, waste of, or injury to, the estate, funds, or other property of a county, town, [or] city … may be maintained against any officer thereof ... by a citizen resident therein … who is assessed for and is liable to pay… a tax therein.” The Taxpayers Watch plaintiffs also sought “a judgment requiring and mandating that … the District’s individual Board members be held personally liable to repay the monies wasted as a result of their thoughtless and wasteful decisions, including return of the $600,000 paid to Measure B proponents in a collusive settlement.”

The District filed for bankruptcy protection. However, the District’s individual Board members tendered the defense of the lawsuit to the District’s liability insurer, American Alternative Insurance Company (“AAIC”). The AAIC policy provided that the insurer would indemnify an insured against “damages because of ... ‘wrongful acts’,” and that the insurer would defend an insured against any suit seeking covered damages. AAIC denied the tender, on the ground that the Taxpayers Watch plaintiffs were not seeking monetary “damages” against the Board members.
Following the denial of coverage, the Board members filed a bad faith action against AAIC, alleging that AAIC had wrongfully refused to defend the Board members in the underlying action brought by the Taxpayers Watch plaintiffs. The Board members then moved for partial summary that AAIC had a duty to defend them in the underlying action.
The United States District Court, applying California law, held that AAIC did have a duty to defend the Board members in the underlying action brought by the Taxpayer Watch plaintiffs. The district court acknowledged that the Taxpayer Watch plaintiffs had sued the Board members under CCP section 526a, and that the text of section 526a only allows for injunctive relief—not monetary damages. However, the district court noted that despite the text of the statute, California state courts “have extended section 526a to allow taxpayers to obtain an order requiring officials to repay wasted funds to the public entity” and “have characterized this remedy as one for ‘damages.’” Under the circumstances, the Taxpayers Watch plaintiffs were seeking “damages” from the Board members, sufficient to trigger AAIC’s duty to defend. It did not matter that any damages recovered from the Board members would ultimately go back into the District’s coffers, as opposed to the Taxpayers Watch plaintiffs themselves.
The AAIC policy did not define the term “damages.” As such, the district court applied the case law definition of “damages” i.e., “‘compensation,’ in ‘money,’ ‘recovered’ by a party for ‘loss’ or ‘detriment’ it has suffered through the acts of another.”
Note that when a third-party claimant sues an insured under a statutory scheme that only allows for injunctive relief and does not allow for “damages,” the insurer may not have a duty to defend. (See, e.g., Cutler-Orosi Unified School District v. Tulare County School Districts Liability/ Property Self-Ins. Authority (1994) 31 Cal.App.4th 617, 629630.) Here, however, the Taxpayer Watch plaintiffs sued the Board members under a statute that has been interpreted to allow for both injunctive relief and “damages,” thus triggering AAIC’s duty to defend.

CAIIA Newsletter
CAIIA Office P.O. Box 168
Burbank, CA 91503-0168
Web site - http:\\
Tel: (818) 953-9200
Fax: (818) 953-9316
Editor: Sterrett Harper
Harper Claims Service, Inc.
Tel: (818) 953-9200
Permission to reprint is always extended, with appropriate credit to CAIIA Newsletter

Uh, Oh, Sign of The Times?

Went downtown SLO yesterday to the “underground” Downtowner Center Cinema to see “Doubt.” (wonderful acting, muddled, “shaggy-dog, You Woke me Up To Tell Me That? pointless plotlines (maybe it worked better as a stage play?). Anyway, I had noticed that the Tribune didn’t have the usual movie times listing for the Downtown Center, so I asked the young man at the window. Oh, sez he, “Corporate” decided it wasn’t worth the cost and decided not to run their ads in the Tribune. You can go fire up the computer and go on line or run through the Rolodex and call the number and sit through a long tape recording to get the list of films and show times. I asked if they were advertising in any other papers and was told, Yes, we’re still listing in New Times.

A central downtown movie theatre no longer lists its films and times in the County newspaper of record? If you live in Arroyo Grande, you can get film times for the A.G. Regal, or live in North County for the Paso Park, and Jim Dee’s SLO Palm is still listed. But not the SLOTOWN Freemont, Mission or DowntownCenter.

Is it just me or is that weird?

Eeeeezzzzzeee Listening

Friend gave me a listen to a (to me) unknown singer, Johnny Hartman. With a voice even more liquid than Nat King Cole or Billy Eckstine, Hartman is described in the liner notes as “one of the very best of a strong lot of big-voiced crooners who were the sine qua non of the big bebop band.” As indicated in the liner notes of one of his CDs, Hartman’s career and fame likely got derailed by the 1950’s white culture/music industry that felt that placed a kind of quota on handsome black lead singers. Too dangerous to have too many around, thank you, and Cole and Eckstine had taken all the allotted “black” crooner slots, sorry, go away. The result is that, except for knowledgeable fans, the name Hartman failed to become a household word. Teamed up with John Coltrane in the CD “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman,” you’ll hear just what a loss to popular music that has been. Woooo.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

It looks like a beautiful day. Go walk the dog. Go to the pound and get a dog, then walk it. Get a cat. Walk the cat. Chase the cat back into the house and put a leash on it then try again to walk it. Put a gerbil in a little plastic exercize ball and roll it down the street. Don't do this while walking the cat. Or the dog. No, leave the goldfish bowl on the table. Mr. Fish doesn't like fresh air.

From Richard Wilbur's "New and Collected Poems,"


Kick at the rock, Sam Johnson, break your bones.
but cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones.


We milk the cow of the world, and as we do
We whisper in her ear, "You are not true."

Saturday, January 03, 2009


The Can(n)on posted yesterday was supposed to run as usual in the regular The Bay News, but the Jan 2 edition was a surprise Year-Ed Round-Up special edition so the regular features have been bumped to the January 9th issue. The Can(n)on will run then.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Tolosa Press, SLO, CA, for January 2,2009

End with farce, open with promise

Instead of the Lord of Misrule being driven out of the Great Hall with a hail of rotten potatoes flying after him, we got our final farcical ending in the form of a TV clip of an Iraqi journalist hurling his shoes at President Bush during a Baghdad press conference, part of Bush’s photo-op stealth “farewell visit” to Iraq. The shoes, a profoundly powerful insult in Iraq, came with a cri du coeur: “This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

The President noted that the shoes were a size ten and said, “So what if a guy threw his shoe at me,” a trivialization that was perfect in its obliviousness, an attitude of stunning indifference that can be summed up in two words he uttered to an interviewer who finally got him to admit that, contrary to what he’d said during the falsified run up to war, Al Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq and hence a reason to invade; they arrived after we got there. Replied Bush, “So what?”

“So what,” and a hurled shoe, the perfect boffo comic ending – the palace lies in ruins, the countryside has been laid waste, the kingly coffers are bankrupt, but . . . So What?

Well, it is the perfect slogan to define this obliviously catastrophic era. But amidst the gloom, it’s possible that there may be many silver linings on the way for one simple reason: Big change seems to be impossible without big catastrophe because human beings run on the philosophy of “I’m All Right, Jack.” When enough people can no longer say that, then real change can come.

Take for example, what passes for our national medical health system. For years, a sufficient number of people were “all right.” They had health coverage as part of their work benefits, and any attempt to get some kind of national health insurance program was always killed in the crib by the combined forces of insurance companies, the AMA and other major players. But as our economic system changed, as jobs were outsourced and businesses raced to the bottom on wages and lower-to-non-existent benefits, more and more people found themselves NOT “all right.” Add in millions of lost jobs and suddenly a whole lot of people finally understand the real meaning of the words, “prior existing conditions,” as they join the ranks of the uninsured and uninsurable. And doctors, strangled by a morass of insurance forms and restrictions are now urging the public “do something” about reforming health care, while employers have finally realized that they’re now left holding the bag on medical costs, thereby reducing their global competitiveness.

In short’s it’s been the perfect storm of not all-rightness. But storms can finally force needed repairs to the roof and there’s nothing like a flood to make clear that what you needed all along is a big levee, all of which are expensive repairs and preventive projects, but the disastrous alternative can now be seen more clearly. Dark cloud, possible silver lining.

And with millions of jobs gone, and millions of people suddenly no longer “all right,” what better time to switch gears and jobs and thereby move the economy to serious “green” mode which will finally change the way we live in the world? Making changes to help slow and/or adapt to the effects of global warming will cost a lot now. But it will cost a whole lot more later.

And such change can come very quickly. For example, the fast run up in gas prices actually saw huge numbers of people making changes in their lives that had real potential to shift our car-buying and driving habits. If we finally understand that “cheap gas” is a very expensive delusion, are we now ready to cap and tax old “carbon based energy” to finally reflect its real costs?

If so, then perhaps we’re finally ready to reboot all our paradigms: How we live, where we live, how we get around, how we grow and manage our food, how we organize our communities, what kind of social safety nets we want, how we want to care for one another and how we will move in and with the rest of the world.

We now know what “So what?” got us. Maybe in the new year, it’s time for, “What now?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Your New Year's Day Poem

New Year's Day by Ted Kooser, from Sure Signs, new and selected poems.

Each thing in the clean morning light
is a promise. I start the day
by building a feeding place for the birds,
stacking up castaway crates in the snow.
How they come! Sparrows and blue jays
dropping like leaves from the elms,
which though burned with disease
still promise some sort of a spring,
their branches lined with hard buds
like birds perching, or the seeds of birds,
still more birds to come.