Thursday, April 30, 2009

Here Come Da Judge, Now Shut Up & Sit Down & Go Away Thank You

"When Did the Microphone Go Dead," at

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Well, we all knew it would come to this. And we knew it would be awful, but few had any idea just how hideous it would be.

No, not the Swine Flu. Yesterday, in Iowa (It had to be the God-fearing American heartland, now didn’t it?) same-sex couples lined up to get married.

The beautiful blue Iowa sky didn’t fall. All over the state farmers were revving up their John Deers, fixing to be ready for the spring plowing. In Normal Rockwell farmhouses, and huge agri-business factory farms, it was business as usual. The swine rooting around in their pens, those with no flu, were rooting happily, totally unaware that the world had just ended, while chickens scratched in farmyards as they’ve scratched for hundreds of years.

There were no riots in the streets, no sturdy Salt Of The Earth Iowans lined up outside county courthouses with pitchforks and fire brands to call down the wrath of the Almighty as gay Iowans trooped inside to get their marriage licenses. In short, the republic didn’t fall, the state didn’t dissolve in a rage of fire and brimstone. In fact, nobody gave a foodle.

Yes, indeed, it was the end of the world, alright.


While everyone’s running around in a swivet over the latest Crisis du Jour – the Swine Flu outbreak – here’s a modest proposal: If we want to avoid these cross-transmissions of mutating viruses from animal to human, we need to stop living with, raising, factory farming and eating pigs. Ditto chickens, ducks and other domestic fowl, which would eliminate one of the biggest vectors for avian flu.

I know all this cross mutating is a kind of delicious karmic justice at work: we eat the animals, they kill us with cross-species pandemic mutated viruses. But, if we want to eliminate a HUGE, living, mutating virus stew-pot, that’s the way to go. I mean, who’s heard of a lethal pandemic of mutating . . .Walnut Flu? (Salmonella from mishandling of food products is another story).

Plus, by reducing cow consumption per capita to the more realitic and healthier smaller amounts the body may actually need versus the GINORMOUS amounts we Americans regularly shovel down our gullets (Quarter Pounders for lunch! for Din-Din! for Snacks!) we could eliminate a HUGE amount of greenhouse gas (flatulent cows), thereby solving another enormous danger threatening our planet.

And for those pork lovers who just can’t live without their bacon, heck, here’s the beauty part. Americans love their guns as much as they love their bacon. So, get the pigs out of their hideously cruel, disease-ridden, factory-farmed concentration camps and back into the woods where they were originally meant to be. In a short time, they’ll return to their tough, feral ways, then all the gun-loving, shoot-‘em up Americans can strap on their bandoliers, grab their assault rifles and go out in the woods and bring home the bacon. Two guilty pleasures with one shot!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Planning commission Thursday, April 30

If you have any public comment on the Sewer Project and upcoming PC meeting, you can make it at addresses below. Comment now or forever hold your peace. Also listed are some notes sent to me in an email of some of the comments and concerns expressed by the Commissioners at the close of their April 23 meeting that they might be considering or addressing at Thursday’s meeting. The notes aren’t complete, just a general idea. If you have any other issues, you can email them to the PC.

pc email the hearing and the online comments are here: eir link are the topics the PC said they would discuss in order, this Thursday:
1. secondary vs. tertiary
2. gravity or step or vacuum or a combo
3. technology of pipes
4. plant location and type
5. disposal, spray fields, leach fields, etc
6. storage options, size, type, design
7. conservation of water
8. mitigation for bio and ag
9. fed legislation, los osos grants
10. catch all category
These are the topics individual commissioners brought up - - these are rough notes that I took, name first, topics to be discussed next week listed second - add to it if you think i missed something......

white: spray fields - are there other alts
white: possible alts not mentioned - threshold not met
white: re the coastal commission letter - re a combo of 4 alts and that this current option is not acceptable to them
wyatt - further analysis of tertiary treatment and how if changes the project in many ways
wyatt - ag nitrates reuse option
christianson - wants more info and evaluation of ponds and tertiary treatment
christianson - liquefaction - at tonini and broderson
christianson - recreation
christianson - ag -urban reuse of water - options and more info
christianson - wind conditions and their influence on spray field days of use
christianson - more info on direct injection wells - major issues, what about orange cnty
christianson - effluent, influent, pipe installation and type -wants more info on this
christianson - sludge - septage issue -more analysis required
christianson - dumping station at treatment plant = wants more info
christianson - broderson as mitigation - previous and present history, usfws letter recvd today
christianson - broderson, max soil infiltration rate why 180g/d/sqft - to 3.1 g/d/sq ft why such reduction?
christianson - water conservation measures re lawson's letter p33-4 re states 20% reduction
christianson - archaeological resources not mentioned and why - which impact trumps which - is it bio, ag, archaeo, what?
christianson - methane gas questions what about sealed system - she is confused wants more info
christianson - trucks to landfill? sludge disposal
christianson wyatt - piping, hybrid system, pressure vacuum,?? wants more info
wyatt - sea rise, pump stations pumping by the bay?? wants more info
wyatt - midtown site, vs out of town?
wyatt - biolac vs ponds - what choices do we have now that we are going tertiary pros cons
mehlschem - ag land impacts are ceqa class 1 - at tonini but not other sites, why have class 1 impact when you don't have to?
mehlschem - his overriding concern and what he hear today was, why spray fields - we want the water back in los osos - why spray
mehlschem - what about gorby - want to see a plan and study of gorby and creek compartment for disposal into lower aquifer
Christie - short list but no step steg, why its in the fed
Christie - what is role of pc - is the cart leading the horse, did the bos just preempt our role?
Christie - procedurally question to staff -is step on or off?
Christie - on field trip of sites, she asked for a refresher on deep wells at broderson
Christie - vertical leach fields at broderson or other sites been considered?
Christie - gordon hensley called her up and asked why did bos approve the last cdp if mid town is not viable
Christie - can we consider leach fields in the right of way?
Christie - what is the rcd interest for partnering - want more details from staff
Christie - Q for rwqcb - county can treat whole community per 2710
Christie - Q for rwqcb - more info on green growers agreement
Christie - Q for rwqcb - is there any economic value to using tertiary reclaimed water, do these resources have an economic benefit as well as an ecological benefit that might offset cost to citizens
Christie - Q for rwqcb - ask darla inglis of your staff to tell us more about low impact development stuff
Christie - Q for dept env health - new condition for sanitary seals on the wells - more info please
Christie - Q on sea water intrusion - can it be reversed or not, she has read both, what is the reality of this?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Your Sunday Poem
From Ted Kooser's collected poems, "Delights & Shadows

Screech Owl

All night each reedy whinny
from a bird no bigger than a heart
flies out of a tall black pine
and, in a breath, is taken away
by the stars. Yet, with small hope
from the center of darkness
it calls out again and again.

A Stitch in Time . . .
And if you're footloose this Sunday, get over to the Madonna Convention Center, the one behind the motel, for the GINORMOUS, AMAZING quilt show, from 9 - 4. It's about $7 at the door and worth every penny to see the extraordinary work the quilters do. Eye goggling, mind bogglint. It'll part your hair!

Friday, April 24, 2009

KapBLUMP, UMP, UMP. . . .

Uh-oh, methinks it’s the sound of Dan Blackburn dropping more shoes on the floor over at titled “Los Osos Sewer Project Tainted by “Expired” Crime.”

He’s posted more information that started with former CDS Director, Lisa Schicker’s letter of complaint given to the BOS concerning issues with Montgomery Watson Harza, a company that was short-listed on the new sewer project. Dan’s story expands to include alleged illegality when former CSD’s District Manager, Bruce Buell’s was told by then-former interim district manger Paavo Orgren to “backdate” the CSD’s contract with Montgomery Watson Harza. Continues the story, “Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Brown, in a response to citizen complaints, acknowledged in 2006 that “falsification of a public record by a public employee is a felony,” and that a criminal act relating to the backdating apparently had occurred. But Brown declined further investigation by determining that a three-year statute of limitation had expired.”

The story notes that Supervisor Frank Meacham is asking for further information and a ruling from the county counsel.

Here’s Mother Calhoun’s take on what the outcome of all this will be: 1.) “C’mon Jake, it’s Chinatown. 2.) Something is illegal ONLY if a District Attorney somewhere declares it to be illegal and decides to prosecute. If he/she declines to prosecute, for whatever reason, it’s not a “crime.” Plus, if you commit a “crime” and hide it until the clock runs out, then whatever you did also isn’t a crime and everyone can pretend it didn’t happen.

What’s weird about the MWH contract backdating is this: If a contract has been illegally backdated, is the contract still valid, or is it considered a fraudulent contract and so is void? And if a company knows a contract is or has been or knows is about to be backdated and ignores that falsity, is that the kind of company that should be on the favored short-list for a humongous County project? Maybe the county counsel will tell us.

Planning Commission Starts To Work

On Thursday morning, the County Planning Commission started the long process of weighing in on the Hideous Sewer Project. Chairperson Sarah Christie runs a tight ship and organized the presentation and public comment into coherent blocks in order to encourage various citizens and groups to keep their comments focused so that their comments and concerns can remain clear to the Commissioners. Good idea, since this project is so complex and the community and others involved groups did their homework and had plenty of thoughtful questions and concerns. The Commission will meet again Thursday, April 30 to continue the process.

Some highlights that the Commission may be looking at further :

1. Clearly, everyone is pushing towards tertiary treatment. Think that’ll be a done deal.

2. However, since the original project didn’t include tertiary, this clear new direction raised some key questions: a) why throw tertiary treated water away on trans-evaporative spray fields when tertiary water has a lot more uses available than simply being “disposed of.” b) if ag use and urban reuse are planned, don’t need to meet the RWQCB’s nitrate levels by expensive removal processes, since nitrogen is a valuable resource for ag exchange or reuse on urban parks, golf-courses, which could both save money and could result in a different treatment method, i.e. ponds versus energy intensive BioLAC & etc.

3. If spay fields aren’t now necessary or prudent or the only solution for “disposal,” then may not need to use all the Tonini property, could locate the treatment plant on Giacomezzi, run pipes to smaller spray fields, and/or holding ponds, or be ready for ag exchange, even on parts of the Tonini land, thereby increasing ag use rather than decreasing ag use, thereby reducing necessity for mitigation costs & etc.

4. Clearly expressed majority of folks don’t want to dump water out of the basin. The rep for Golden State Water asked that ALL the water be re-imported back to the basin and made available to the water purveyors, but how that would work wasn’t explained. Sell it? Give it to them so they can resell to the taxpayers who paid to clean it up for reuse in the first place? Put it . . . where?

5. Look again at the Gorby Property and the alleged Creek Basin Alluvial area that supposedly can cache water underground for recharge, could use that for summer storage and Broderson for winter recharge with the water also there for ag exchange.

6. Repeated questions as to why the county shorted The Process by taking STEP off the plate before design-build bids would be allowed. (This raised an interesting point. Chairman Christie noted that the Planning Commission is working from a document and a Process that includes STEP through to the end, so she had to ask if the BOS had pre-empted the Commission’s responsibility and authority in this “process” and/or whether the document they were working from is still valid and “legal,” since that short-listing suddenly changed what they are, under law, supposed to be doing. It was also noted by one speaker that shorting the Process could lead to a lawsuit for violating CEQA rules & etc. And noted by another speaker that she had called the (utterly Green) Rocky Mountain Institute about this project and was told that SLO County is “too hostile” to anything “green/design-build/anything NOT traditional gravity sewers & etc) and they wouldn’t set foot here. And since there was a recent Design/Build conference here, followed by the very interesting shorting of the Process that would cut out genuine Design/Build (in which all options are on the table, let the best technology determining the final project, versus shorting requirements to such a degree that the project is, in reality, already “designed” and really only needs a “bid,” – heh-heh -- not true design/build.) Additional claims that this project favors certain contractors, is a “rigged process” bordering on “public corruption” (reference to the MWH story posted above?) and a Process that was purposely narrowed, & etc.

All of which then raises more questions that the Planning Commission is stuck with: Are they playing with a full deck or have they been preempted and handed only certain cards and patted on the head and told to “decide” whether they’d pick the four of clubs or the duce of diamonds and when they ask,”Hey, where’s the full deck?” they’re patted on the head and told, “Sorry, no can do, shut up and give us our permit and stop asking annoying questions already.” Sigh.)

7. Sludge was a timely question since the County still doesn’t have a county-wide sludge plan in place and, according to both the Tribune and New Times, likely won’t have that figured out for another year or more. What was once considered a useful “biosolid” for ag use, is now being shunned as a hazardous waste that needs to be secured in sealed landfills & etc. (STEP tanks and pond systems “digest” most biosolids thereby leaving way less sludge to be disposed of than other treatment systems, but since STEP and ponds are off the table, the Planning commission will likely have to go whistle if they want to get clear answers regarding sludge at this point.)

8. Interesting issue raised concerning undeveloped lots within the PZ. Fear that waiting for the basin wide/PZ mitigation plans with Fish and Wildlife could take YEARS to do collectively, (for the project as a whole) hence property owners with vacant lots waiting to build their dream homes and their heirs and their heirs, yea unto the tenth generation, a la Bleak House, will all be dead of old age before that will happen. One speaker suggested letting vacant lot owners pay a bundle for the sewer assessment now, and then also pay a bundle directly to F&W to mitigate their lot only and then go guild build, thereby putting more money into the project right now. Another speaker, representing vacant lot-folks, made it clear that building in the basin/PZ will depend on the availability of water so it’s critical that the basin’s water NOT be taken out and dumped, thereby making build out all but impossible for everyone with an undeveloped lot. & etc.

9. Julie Tacker, former CSD Director, stressed that water is the #1 issue, not nitrates or sewage, so shouldn’t remove water outside the basin. Said not to issue a permit until we get a co-equal analysis for alternate disposal ideas, since right now, the county’s only plan is spray fields, perhaps it would help to take a look at alternate disposal plans, especially since tertiary now seems a given.

10. Scott Kimura, resident of the Los Osos Valley, who has publicly opposed moving the sewer plant out of town, nonethess supports the Tonini project and it’s tie in with future ag water use, which makes me wonder if, with tertiary water now all but a given, if farmers out in the valley, including one organic farmer, are re-thinking what a lot of farmers in Monterrey County and Watsonville have re-thought when they voluntarily signed on to get all the treated wastewater they could get their hands on (likely with all those nice nitrates?) for their fields?

11. And finally Alon Pearlman asked the One Huge Question: Who is steward of the aquifer? Now THAT’S a can of worms that very few are brave enough to open, but it is a critical question to keep in mind since It’s The Water, Stupid, and if agencies keep get sidetracked to their own narrowed focus (nitrates, ag use, Williamson Acts, development planning & etc) it’s easy to lose track of the Big Picture. Is it possible that if everyone keeps focused on total full cycle --aquifer to tap to toilet to ground to aquifer to tap again and/or sky to roof to green driveways to green streets to flood basins to ocean/aquifer to sky again – in other words full cycle use and reuse – then the proper solutions will arrive?

Sure will. Question is, will we be open to seeing the answers instead of only seeing our presupposed, pre-determined, short-listed, pre-selected plans? We’ll see.

Planning Commission will continue, April 30, Thursday, starting a 8:45 a.m.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Once Again, The Department of DUH

Few months ago, the state Fish and Game Commission announced they were taking testimony to see how everyone feels about hunting black bears in the County. There were a flurry of letters-to-the-editors encouraging folks to send in their public comment. Then, in today’s Tribune, the headline: “Questions doom bear hunt for 2009.” Writes David Sneed, “The department had recommended allowing bear hunting in the county for the first time. It also recommended eliminating a limit to the number of bears that can be taken statewide in a season.

“Both changes generated significant public opposition. . . . .” and then comes this howler: “The main criticism was that the state lacked the data necessary to justify a hunt.”

Turns out that “the department based its initial recommendation to allow a hunt on the number of nuisance complaints the agency received, the number of bears hit by cars and the use of baited scent stations. Bear numbers in San Luis Obispo County appear to be very similar to the numbers in Santa Barbara County, where the state already allows hunting, biologist said.”

The numbers “appear” to be similar? Are based on nuisance complaints? (Are the nuisance complaints worse in one particular area over another? If so, why open the entire county and/or state to unlimited hunting when a limited focus “culling” would likely take care of the “nuisance” problem?) Well, apparently on “appearance” and the basis of “nuisance,” the proposal was that not only would hunting commence, but there would be no limit to the number of bears you can kill.

Well, this sure didn’t make much sense to me. I mean, before you literally make it totally open season on bears (No Limit! Git Yer AK-47s! Kill ever’ damned bear inna county! Inna State! Call out the dawgs! Aw, heck with the dawgs, helicopter shoots, anyone?), shouldn’t you make sure bears really are a problem in the county? Like, people wake up in the middle of the night to find bears snuffling down the hallway. Trip over the damned things on the way to the bathroom? Open the kitchen cabinet and what falls out? Right, a doggone bear!

That way you’d at least know you’ve got a real state-wide or county-wide problem, not just a local, perhaps seasonal problem caused by inappropriate urban/rural interfaces, weather changes (drought, lack of food,), territory changes, the natural up and down of cycles of boom and bust population numbers, & etc. And if it’s simply a localized problem, apply a limited, local culling operation rather than a no-limit open season, all of which should be based on the best possible data, not merely “appearances.”

Well, for now, bears will shuffle around the county in peace and the Fish and Wildlife Commissioners will re-visit the issue next year. Maybe during that time, somebody will come up with some better data so before the guns start blazing folks will have a better idea of why they’re killing whatever it is they’re killing and have a pretty good handle on what the consequences of that kill-quota will have on all the other variables in a reasonably balanced ecosystem.

And maybe somebody will come up with an education program: What To Do When A Bear Falls Out Of Your Refrigerator At 3 a.m. and Other Tips For Living With Wildlife When You Build Your Dream Home In The “Country” And Then Get Shocked – SHOCKED – When The Damned Raccoons, Deer, Possums, Feral Cats, Your Neighbor’s Garbage Can Raiding Dog, Bobcats, Mountain Lions and Coyotes All Show Up To Eat Your Cat.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Uh-Oh, The Rock Is Loose!

The following e-mail notice from Ed Ochs. Posted with permission.

Warning: The Rock is out and The Jig is up ... online at in-depth articles of particular interest to Los Osos sewerologists, cash-strapped PZ taxpayers and all-around justice-seekers include two powerful, must-read views of Montgomery Watson Harza that you won't find anywhere else in the world but on The Rock: "MWH IN LOS OSOS -- UNANSWERED QUESTIONS" and "MWH BUSINESS PRACTICES HAUNT FLORIDA PROJECT"Those who missed the April 7th Board of Supervisors meeting where the Gibson-Ogren tag team knocked STEP collection, the last alternative standing, out of the cost-competition, breaking a repeated promise to PZ homeowners, we offer an in-depth account of the "courtroom drama" in "LOS OSOS GOES GRAVITY AS COUNTY RENEGES ON PROMISES TO LET CHEAPER ALTERNATIVES COMPETE IN SEWER SWEEPSTAKES"For those 70 speakers from Los Osos who suffered through the April 7th STEP "trial," the article will serve as a souvenir from hell.Other articles also related to the April 7th meeting: "Community Survey Concerns Raise Questions of Fairness," "The Vote to End Affordability and Transparency:The Gibson/Mecham Exchange," and "Ripley Steps Up to the Mic for STEP."Finally, those who think 10 minutes of total time for ALL speakers combined to talk about Los Osos at Tuesday BOS public comment isn't enough (minutes down to seconds), you might like my execution of the "two-minute drill" last Tuesday in "Rock Publisher to BOS: 'You gave us the most expensive sewer in the country.'" Tip: The shorter the time, the faster you speak, the louder you get, the madder you sound.To twist a popular Gibson-Ogren slogan of late, "The benefits of reading The Rock far outweigh its uncertainties and risks" -- the risks of knowing too much compared to the risks of knowing nothing at all.Ed

Monday, April 20, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

On a Monday because Sunday slipped away before I could get to the computer. Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets. He’s a sly boots who has to be watched carefully. You think his lines are smooth silver tangles that you can slide down safely and joyously, but there’s always hidden hooks there to catch and astonish or to tear the heart. These two are from his new book of poems, “Ballistics.”

August in Paris

I have stopped here on the rue des Ecoles
just off the boulevard St-Germain
to look over the shoulder of a man
in a flannel shirt and a straw hat
who has set up an easel and a canvas chair
on the sidewalk in order to paint from a droll angle
a side-view of the Church of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

But where are you, reader,
who have not paused in your walk
to look over my shoulder
to see what I am jotting in this notebook?

Alone in this city,
I sometimes wonder what you look like,
if you are wearing a flannel shirt
or a wraparound blue skirt held together by a pin.

But every time I turn around
you have fled through a crease in the air
to a quiet room where the shutters are closed
against the heat of the afternoon,
where there is only the sound of your breathing
and every so often the turning of a page.


Once two spoons in bed,
now tined forks

across a granite table
and the knives they have hired.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Calhoun’s Ca(n)ons
for April 17, 09.

Shooting Daze

Let the killing commence. The economy has turned to quicksand, jobs have vanished, households are in chaos, Americans are afraid. Which means gun sales are on the rise, spurred in some degree by the vast right-wing conspiracy telling their frightened followers that President Obama is coming to take their guns away.

And every few weeks, another headline story about mass killing; deranged gunmen mowing down church worshipers, nursing home residents, killing their families then themselves, armed with a plethora of weapons, guns, guns, guns.

Also commencing again, as these mass killings arrive like the swallows at Capistrano, are the usual weeping, hand wringing and finger pointing. But now, in a scared America, pandering politicians are not calling for gun bans or tighter registration and control, but for more citizens to arm themselves with more guns. Guns for granny, guns for students, weapons hidden in pockets, purses, backpacks, a whole nation packing heat. After all, we are all Davy Crockett, John Wayne and Rambo rolled into one. Frontier Man, Dead Eye Dicks who believe that in the chaos of a random attack by a heavily armed crazy any average armed citizen could stop that crazy in his tracks – one shot!

That’s hokum, of course. More myth standing in for a hard reality that was clearly illustrated in a May 10th 20/20 program titled, “If I Only Had A Gun.” In that program, the producers, with the help of police officers and volunteer college students, set up a little experiment. Many of the students were very experienced gun handlers, fully qualified on the firing range, agile, young, athletic young men and women, with excellent sight, hearing and unimpaired reaction time. Other volunteers were given basic gun-handling training, far more than most average Americans ever receive. With that the basic set up was complete.

Unbeknownst to the volunteer students, the test class was also filled with undercover police officers, several of the volunteer students were secretly given paint-ball pistols and all were suited up in a class that they were told was to be a lecture about using protective gear. Helmeted and padded up, the class was listening to a lecture when into the room burst an “armed” crazy gunman who started yelling and then shooting at the teacher. In a split second, screaming chaos ensued, with students and “cop students” scattering everywhere. In the melee, one armed student got his pistol tangled in his tee shirt and was “killed” before he could get off one shot. Another student fired back while standing exposed and so was also taken down, while another, firing wildly, missed the “killer” but very nearly hit a fellow student racing for the door. In short, not one of these young students, many of whom were crack shots on the range, were able to do anything to stop the “crazy” shooter. Instead, they got themselves “paint-ball” killed, while the only survivors were the trained undercover police officers, who did everything right.

And the reason why these normal, typical students were so helpless is that this kind of chaotic killing field isn’t about guns; it’s about having 24/7 Cop Eyes and 24/7 Cop Brains, which is something that must be honed by proper training, discipline and constant, ongoing practice until it moves beyond the “normal,” into something instinctive that leads to accurate threat assessment, instant eye-hand coordination, increased peripheral vision, the ability (and training) to dismiss all irrelevant “chaos noise,” and to get it all correct in a split second.

All of which takes constant discipline and training. As one of the undercover cops said, if he doesn’t practice and refresh all those skills at least once a month, he’ll lose that edge, thereby putting himself in the same kind of danger as untrained civilians.

Which is something the politicians calling for more guns! more guns! seem to forget. After all, we are a nation facing an obesity epidemic that’s killing us because we lack the discipline to fend off Big Mac attacks. Yet we apparently think we have the ongoing discipline to stick with the constant training necessary to get and maintain 24/7 Cop Brains?

Well, not to worry. Our myths and movies are more important to us than unpleasant reality. After all, we’re Davy Crockett, we’re John Wayne, we’re Rambo. One shot wonders, all of us. Aren’t we? So give us more guns. They’re the only thing that makes us feel safe while actually killing us off in hilariously astonishing numbers.

Bang! Bang! It’s the American Way.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Show Me The Money!

Have you gotten yours, yet? I got two. I’m betting I’ll get more -- Info packets for Reverse Mortgages. One was weirdly generic and didn’t seem to have any contact info. The other, from True Compass in Paso Robles, offers several free lunches at the Madonna Inn (April 30 or May 5th at 11 a.m.) or a free dinner seminar at the matador Room in Paso Robles (April 28th 4 pm..) They even sent along four complimentary tickets for me and some friends. Show up, get some eats and get some information on Reverse Mortgages.

Why this sudden interest? I live in Los Osos and a whole lot of people who live in Los Osos, if they’re over 62 and are cash poor but house rich, will soon face eviction for non-payment of their sewer bills, so Reverse Mortgage companies are making sure their products and information about their products are available to their potential clients.

I’ve spoken with some folks who’ve gotten these packets who grumble that it’s like the vultures circling in for free dead meat. But I don’t view it that way. It’s smart business and for many people, the “vulture” may turn out to be a saving grace.

Some time ago, thinking I might like to write a column about this, I had a sit-down with Chrys Barnes from Capitol Mortgage here on Los Osos Valley Rd. (541-5353 if you’d also like to chat with her). I was quite surprised with what she had to tell me, since what little I knew about RMs turned out to be, not only way out of date, but the various horror stories I had vaguely heard about usually applied to foolish loans written on houses located in Hog Spit, Nowhereville, but not houses here on the Gold Coast. Not, at any rate, if the RM is prudently structured and used properly.

So, I’m gonna call the number given on this particular Seminar offer (1-800-508-0679) and make a reservation for one of the lunchie-poo dates at the Madonna Inn and go and take notes and report back here. If you didn’t get one of these packets, you could call True Compass, 1502 Spring St #D in Paso Robles. The seminar presenter is Katie Bateman. See if she can send you some tickets.

Some of the things that became clear when talking with Ms. Barnes was that there are a lot of different “products” now than there used to be, a lot of the rules have changed and, best of all, anyone considering an RM must pay for a loan review/audit ”educational class” given by a qualified independent personage. Said review ensures that the loan recipient has the right loan for their circumstances, understands thoroughly how the deal is structured, reviews the pros and cons and costs with a neutral person and has the loan looked at for real-time feasibility, thereby avoiding the predatory shenanigans we’ve recently seen by sub-prime mortgage brokers mugging, fleecing and then tossing their “clients” under the bad loan bus.

When I have mentioned RMs in the comment section of this blog, the usual “anonymous” reply comes in the form of cries about high fees and interest. True. The “downside” of any loan is always points, fees, and interest. However, there are several balancing upsides that people often don’t think about.

1.Compare the overall fees with the cost of packing up your home and moving. If you haven’t gotten a guestimate on what it costs to move an average 3 bedroom home, you’re in for an awful shock.

2. If you’ve owned your home for a long, long time and you sell your home and buy another one at today’s prices, unless you can somehow take your tax rate with you or have that put on hold (another kind of “reverse tax mortgage” with the taxes coming due when you die or sell the home or you forget to file the paperwork each year at which point all the taxes come due putting you into another pickle), the amount you’ll pay in increased property tax will likely come close to what you would have had to pay for the sewer you couldn’t afford in the first place, which is why you’re moving.

3. The loss of friends, family nearby, community connections, with the stress of pulling up stakes and starting all over again, is particularly hard on elderly people, with often devastating health consequences. And devastating health consequences also cost a whole lot of money as well.

4. Even though the overall housing market has dropped, Los Osos is part of The Gold Coast. The sewer is being sized to limit build-out here to a set rate, the town is ringed by green-belts, there is no water for additional homes, so the result is that whatever homes are here is it. This town has been gradually Yuppifing and aging (there’s a reason Sunnyside school is closed; Baywood elementary school will likely follow in a few years as younger families are priced out of the market, with the $200+ a month sewer fee helping that process along). This Yuppification will continue as wealthy Boomers retire, sell their very pricy homes in L.A. and S.F and look around for a little bit of Paradise to settle down in. And what’s not to love about Los Osos?

For many seniors (over 62) who bought their homes years ago, I have no doubt that a (prudent, conservative) reverse mortgage would enable them to live out their days in their homes with the eventual resale value of that home re-paying for that loan or at least a portion of it (the sewer’s scheduled for a 30-year pay back rate, so new home buyers will be picking up that cost as part of the cost of that home, yea unto the end of time), still leaving the RM holder/sellers (or their heirs) to still walk away with a nice bundle.

As I said, the cost of money is always the cost of money. But that should be weighed against other costs for any seniors who have sufficient equity in their homes, who may be house- rich but cash poor, and who are facing eviction and loss of their homes because they don’t have the income needed to pay for this sewer.

So, I’ll wander down to the Madonna Inn, notebook in hand, and report back. I suggest some of you might want to do the same.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Uh, Oh, Ron Crawford's Connecting The Dots, Again

"The Sequence," begins over at Chugga-chugga, toot-toot. Place is looking like Grand Central Station.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Awwww, Gawwwwd, It’s, Like, Sooooo Embarrassing

Iowa? Again? First it’s the gays. In Iowa, they get to marry. Not California. Noooo, Not in progressive, cutting edge, Number One California. Nope. Iowa. And in education, we rank somewhere below Hogspit Nowhereville Alabama or something. Universal medical care? Worse than, what? Chad??? And some Republican politicians up in Sacramento are still willing to push our budget-busted state off the cliff rather than break their sworn oaths to Grover Norquist. Embarrassing. It’s just plain embarrassing.

Now this headline: “Iowa breezes past California in wind energy; Texas is first. "

Awwww, Gaawwwwddd, continues the AP story by Dirk Lammers, “Texas continues to blow away the competition, but Iowa can now generate more wind power than California, according to a new industry report to be released today.

“The Lone Star state’s 7,118 megawatts dwarfs Iowa’s 2,797 megawatts, but wind power has grown into a key part of the energy infrastructure in Minnesota and Iowa, where each state generates more than 7 percent of their electricity from turbines, the American Wind Energy Association study said.”

And in a side bar, there was California with 2,517 megawatts. Jeeeeze.

Listen up, California, ya wanna make headlines and take a mega leap into the energy race? Forget Norquist. Let’s all tax ourselves a few shekels for up front money, form a county by county or state-wide, not-for-profit municipal utilities agencies that would slap solar panels on every single roof in the state, hook up the house and business, then hook up feed-back lines to the grid and Ka-Pow! No need to get stymied trying to build ginormous solar arrays out in kit fox habitat or stringing miles of transmission lines out in the middle of nowhere. Urban rooftops are already hooked up to power lines and ready to go, plus you don’t have to lose power getting it from middle-of-nowhere A to urban-use- point Z.

Even more fun, instead of planting trees in parking lots, plant solar panels on poles. Park your car under the shade of a solar panel and when electric plug in cars finally become reality, we can all go park and plug in our cars and then go shopping! What’s more American than that!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chugga-Chugga, Toot-Toot, Some More

Aaron Ochs has posted some of his additional analysis and comments about last Tuesday’s BOS meeting and Oh Lordy, It’s The Hideous Los Osos Sewer vote. His blog is at:

And you thought the discussion was over? Bwa-hahahah. Not. So, Enjoy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Your Easter Morning Poem

by Ted Kooser, from “Delights & Shadows”

The Early Bird

Still dark, and raining hard
on a cold May morning

and yet the early bird
is out there chirping,

chirping its sweet-sour
wooden-pulley notes,

pleased, it would seem,
to be given work,

hauling the heavy
bucket of dawn

up from the darkness,
note over note,

and letting us drink.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Awwww, Gawwwwd, It’s, Like, Sooooo Embarrassing

So, like everyone knows that California is THE cutting edge, the sharp point of all that’s new and happening and progressive and forward looking, the avatar of the Future, the state that is the state of Firsts!

So guess whose Supreme Court just declared that outlawing gay marriage was unconstitutional and that there was no compelling state reason to continue to outlaw it? Iowa. IOWA???

Then the state legislature of Vermont. . . . VERMONT, fer crying out loud, voted to override their Governor to make gay marriage legal because they couldn’t find any compelling state reason to keep it illegal any more. VERMONT!

And then there’s progressive, ahead of the curve California wherein our state supreme court first said they couldn’t find any compelling state reason to ban gay marriage so that law was struck down as unconstitutional and a whole bunch of gay people got married amidst much whoop-eee-dooping, until the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church funneled a whole lot of money into the state and the progressive, forward-looking, I believe in equal civil rights folks of California voted to make gay marriage illegal again, thereby setting up a weird two-tiered system: Straight people and some gay people get all the full rights and responsibilities and benefits of “marriage,” while all other identical gay people get zip --second-class treatment – no marriage for them!

Meanwhile, in Iowa and Vermont, the message is clear. Their constitution and/or legislature think gay citizens are equal to straight citizens and should share the same rights and responsibilities. Imagine! But not in California.

Aw, Gaaawwwd, it’s sooo embarrassing.

Well, the Mormons and Catholics and various conservative groups better start shoveling money into Iowa and Vermont to rabble-rouse the population with threats that all those gay Iowans and Vermonters will soon start molesting all the children, destroying straight marriage, teaching gayness in school and, as part of their Gay Agenda, use their special powers to blight the corn crops in Iowa and kill off all the Vermont maple trees, thereby destroying the maple industry of the state, bringing down wrack and ruin to the bedrock of America, Gawd help us all!

Or, as political cartoonist Carlson had it: two guys standing by a fence, barns and silos behind them. Says one, "Only a state full of latte-sipping, arugula-eating, fashion-conscious, boundry-pushing libertines would sanction gay marriage." Replied the other guy: "That's Iowa for ya!"

Oh, The horror, the horror.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bye-Bye Sun Bulletin

Brief snippet in Wednesday's April 8 Tribune: "Last Sun Bulletin will be published April 15" "The Tribune is ceasing publication of the Central Coast Sun Bulletin, a weekly that has served the Estero Bay communities for 78 years. . . . 'This is a painful but necessary step as we face a pronounced economic downturn,' said Tribune Publisher and President Bruce G.Ray.' . . . News and feature coverage of Morro Bay, Los Osos and Cayucos will continue to be covered in The Tribune . . . ."

Sign of the times. The L.A. Times is disappearing before our eyes, the Tribune is getting anorexic, Sun Bulletin gone . . . what's next? While loss of national newspapers and national news coverage is bad enough, a lot of that is picked up on the internet sites. But loss of strictly local community news coverage is truly bad. It has always been a supreme irony that the stuff that has the most impact on our daily lives -- local politics, local elections, local government decisions, local taxes, fees, regulations -- are often the very stuff that falls off the radar. Community newspapers are killingly hard to keep alive, yet without a strong community news source, the public is ill served. So we'd best pray for The Bay News now. Heck, pray for all the papers.

On a personal note, I'm sad to see the paper that gave birth to "Calhoun's Can(n)ons" is gone. Waaaaay back in 1990, then local section editor, Bill Morem, asked me to write a column, even thought up the name, which I gleefully and gratefully appropriated (Thanks Bill!) and with the first Jan '90 column, have been scribbling ever since.

And that's another thing that goes missing when community papers die: individual, local "voices." While most of us with computers have access to national "voices," national columnists and famous Op/Ed writers, it's the loss of our own, homegrown local voices that is most unfortunate. Both the Sun Bulletin and the Bay News were wonderful about making room for a variety of those local writers, some funny, some serious, but all authentic and with a home-grown, local voice.

That will be missed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Chugga-Chugga, Toot-Toot

Elvis has left the building. The train has pulled out of the station. If you didn’t speak your peace at the Board of Supervisors’ “Oh Gawd, It’s Let’s Talk About Los Osos Time” yesterday, you will now forever hold your peace.

Yes, yes, I know, you’re free to show up at the Planning Commission on April 28 & 30th, and also the Coastal Commission whenever they meet and the RWQCB hearings & etc. and make all the comments you want, but if you wanted to ensure that Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee’s promise to bring to the community “fully vetted projects with real costs for an advisory vote,” (i.e. a gravity project and an “alternative” project) you’re outta luck. Not gonna happen. Was never gonna happen. Noel King spilled the beans from day one, even before the TAC was getting under way, by sending a clear signal that the county was going to build a gravity project, end of sentence.

Yes, I know, everyone tried to pooh-pooh and gloss over his remarks, heh-heh, and the County invested enormous amounts of time and money in the very public activities of the TAC, (with my deepest thanks to all those volunteer community members who served those bazillions of hours), but anyone who knew this game also knew what Mr. King’s “signal” meant: Big Dog Rules.

Happily, the system picked coincided with what the majority of those who returned the community survey wanted, indeed were willing to pay $49.99 MORE for – a gravity system with the treatment plant out of town. And as for Mr. Blakeslee’s promise? Well, politicians say many things in the course of getting legislation passed and communities pacified enough for legislation to get passed, and Mr. Blakeslee was nowhere to be seen at yesterday’s BOS meeting.

So, the short list going for RFPs remains short, no STEP firms need apply, bye-bye. The project, just like Mr. King said, will be a gravity system, and the “design-build” parameters will be carefully laid out, so bets, for those so inclined, can now be laid as to who gets what and what will or will not be allowed. And we’ll surely see what will be added to the mix when the Planning Commission [ next meeting April 23, 8:45 in BOS chambers] and the Coastal Commission and the RWQCB weighs in. Certainly, tertiary treated, Title 22 & etc. water is clearly on the radar, as is some sort of possible hybrid/sealed/vacuum system down by the bay and in other high-water areas, maybe.

And, of course, we’ll have to wait to see what Fish and Wildlife has on the map. That’s likely when the elephants will start to dance and at that point, we Los Osos mice had better be afraid, be very afraid.

So, once again with all things sewerish, stay tuned.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Going, Going, Gone

Board of Supervisor’s Tuesday April 7 Los Osos Wastewater update, 1:30 pm. Last time to speak now or forever hold your peace. The following from a Sierra Club e-mail alert.

Hello, Sierra Club e-alert subscriber & Los Osos resident:Every month, the County Board of Supervisors gets an update on the progress of the Los Osos Wastewater Project. Most of these meetings are informational, with occasional minor actions taken by the Supervisors. But when the Board gets the April update this Tuesday, it is essential for every resident of Los Osos to turn out and speak up in order to keep the Supervisors from making a terrible mistake.

The Department of Public Works is recommending that the County Supervisors not even accept a bid on a STEP/STEG collection system from a qualified design team.IF THE SUPERVISORS TAKE THAT ADVICE, YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHICH SEWER WOULD COST LESS.
Public Works has gone through the steps of a legally required alternative analysis of technologies potentially less costly and less environmentally destructive than a gravity sewer.
The Coastal Commission has told the County that its "preferred project" is unlikely to get a Coastal Development Permit, writing "It is our firm opinion that an approvable project differs from all these projects as currently envisioned, and in fact is more likely to be a permutation of the best components of these alternatives and other concepts identified to date."
The Regional Water Quality Control Board has told the county "Shallower trenching may result in lesser environmental impacts. The County should...discuss potential environmental impacts associated with dewatering activities as a result of deeper versus shallower trenching."
If the regulatory agencies decide that the environmental impacts of a deep-trench gravity sewer are unacceptable, or that one of the components the County needs to include in an approvable project is a STEP collection system and corresponding treatment facility, the County is going to have a problem on its hands if it never even invited the submission of a STEP project proposal.
The last time you shopped for a car and wanted to compare two models, did the salesman let you check the price and manufacturer's specs on one and test drive it, but refuse to tell you the price of the other one, or let you look at it?Unless you show up and speak out on Tuesday, that's exactly what the County is going to do.
1:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 7
County Government CenterMonterey & Santa Rosa Streets, SLO-
Fill out your speaker's slip for Agenda Item F1

Sunday, April 05, 2009

WRAC and Roll

The Water Resources Advisory Committee met Saturday, April 4th in the BOS chambers to hear a presentation from the County on the Sewer Project. The WRAC is an appointed advisory committee of County-wide representatives who address water issues of all kinds throughout the county. The WRAC committee Chairman, Mr. Winn, made it clear throughout the meeting, that the WRAC was there to ONLY consider WATER issues .

Paavo Ogren, Mark Hutchinson, John Waddell, John Diodati gave updates on the project:

--Still looking for money. The RWQCB has redefined Los Osos as a “disadvantaged community” so it can qualify for low interest, 30 year loans. Congresswoman Capps will submit a waiver to help qualify the community for stimulus funds, if the WRDA allotments actually get funded, Los Osos is already in line for $35 mil, plus the County is still looking for other grants and funds available to help low income individuals, especially with hook-up costs.

--Even though tertiary treatment is not required by the RWQCB, the county is committed to tertiary – Title 22 treatment level. (The Coastal Commission DEIR response report is also clearly committed to mandating tertiary treatment.)

--As proposed, the County system is a “discharge” project (to avoid higher levels of treatment required if it were a “recharge” project and/or well placement issues, vados zone issues & etc. ) disguised as a “recharge” project, heh-heh, wink-nudge. (I mean, the whole idea was reuse to avoid overdrafting, hence the cute little quickstep. Tri-W was the same deal). Since the new project cannot handle full disposal all in one place (neither did Tri-W, according to Paavo, so that project still left to the future the problem of figuring out a way to avoid water loss to the Bay via leach-lines & etc), this project will start out as an EVAPORATION disposal method with a small amount being returned to the community for Heh-Heh, “Recharge.” But, while evaporating the wastewater, the project does put into place the “backbone” for future use, whether urban purple pipe or ag exchange/ag use since the treatment plant and return pipe will be laid down as part of the initial project. (A key point raised by Joy Fitzhugh, of the Farm Bureau, is making sure the treated water meets the “leafy vegetable” standard, that is can be sprayed on lettuce meant for human consumption. It does, which means local farmers, like those in Monterrey County, can use the water for their crops. A further point: the unused Tonini land can be leased out for grazing and/or row crops, with all that nice “unrestricted use” water right there, thereby increasing ag use from what it is now.) And, the return pipe will be in town for future purple pipe access.

--A comprehensive water conservation plan – low flow toilets, retrofit shower heads & etc – is a must for the whole community.

-- Richard Margetson again rose during public comment to note that the water use figures were way more than they actually are or should be, a concern expressed in the Coastal Commission’s report – that if the plant is sized to accommodate way more homes than are even planned on build out, what’s that extra capacity for? And does the county have the numbers wrong and what does that mean vis a vis plant capacity and/or cost?

--The semi-final EIR, with comments from the DEIR included, is now out and posted at or and click on the EIR report.

Some questions from the WRAC:

1. Who owns the wastewater? This one from Joy was really great. Turns out that the water purveyors own their water allotments, and sell it to the owner who then owns it until it’s flushed into county pipes at which point the County owns it. (The people who are putting the wastewater into those county-owned pipes are paying for the privilege.) May sound like a silly question, but “Unrestricted Use” Title 22, “waste/recycled” water is now and will become even more valuable a commodity as time goes on and our rainfall disappears and the aquifers dry up. So who owns it is critical because it can be sold twice, so to speak.

2. Even though the County owns that wastewater, they cannot legally tell people what to do with it, i.e. they can’t mandate ag reuse or demand purple pipe reuse (except on their own property) BUT they are committed to ensuring that up to 10% be committed to environmental use (wetland restoration, etc.) and 10% available to ag reuse, and the rest available to the water purveyors and community for use as needed and/or however the Judge who’s overseeing the various water rights litigation sees fit. (A large component of water re-use will remain with the water purveyors. If the basin isn’t balanced they’ll be out of business so all of them have to figure out a fair way to recharge the aquifers they’re using, re-position and re-drill their wells so as to reduce salt-water intrusion and etc. with the Judge overseeing the entire issue, a Judge who can rule if the parties don’t come to an agreement. And, of course, the water purveyors will charge their customers accordingly. Hence, there will be additional costs for this project as “waste” gets separated out from “water.”)

3. There were a variety of public comments. The Sustainablity Group turned in their report for the WRAC’s perusal. That report focused on keeping the entire basin balanced for the long term. If the WRAC reads that report, they certainly can bring back for discussion any of the ideas therein which they can then pass onto the BOS as recommendations for consideration.

The final Resolutions from the WRAC:

1. Recommend to the BOS the project go with “unrestricted use” Title 22 tertiary treatment.
2. Form a subcommittee to review the EIR and come back with any further recommendations.
3. Urge every water purveyor to start conservation programs right now, not wait until the project is completed several years from now.

And, finally, it wouldn’t be a Hideous Sewer Wars meeting without a fascinating kerfluffle.

One of the WRAC members proposed a motion that the WRAC recommend the BOS consider asking for an RFP for STEP be added to the short list (Oddly, there is NO STEP RFP proposal/ engineering firm on the short list, only gravity, despite promises that this would be a fair process that would let the best float to the top all the way through, & etc. Somebody clearly was there with a thumb on that list or a pair of scissors at the ready: 5 names? No, we don’t need no fifth name, heh-heh.)

Suddenly, there was that unmistakable sound -- ker-CHANG! Calmly, in a soft voice, Paavo pulled the WRAC’s chain: If the committee submits such a recommendation, he blandly stated, they’d better be prepared to declare its relevance to water issues. Ker-CHANG!!! Translation? The county has pre-selected gravity and will not tolerate any attempt to include STEP in any form. Big Dog has spoken, so these WRAC puppies better get back up on their porch.

After a few whimpering back and forths explaining the WATER concerns of gravity pipes vs. sealed STEP pipes in low ground WATER areas and such like, the committee members scuttled the motion and scampered up on the porch to safety.

After which, alternate WRACer, Linda Chipping, went up on the porch with a rolled up newspaper to whap them with a school-marmish voice reminding them that the recent survey made it clear that the overwhelming majority of those who completed the survey either preferred gravity, would pay extra for gravity or under no circumstances would accept anything BUT gravity, Whap! Whap! Whap!

The meeting was adjourned until further notice.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, for April 3, 09
(Note: The Can(n)on’s print version will be on brief hiatus while The Bay News goes through some budget reconfigurations. Meanwhile, I’ll try to post here on the same bi-monthly schedule.)

Funny Business

A few years ago, I asked my sister where she got her news. With a straight face she said, “Jon Stewart’s, The Daily Show.” I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. So I started tuning in Comedy Central’s cable “fake” news show and discovered she was right. If you wanted to understand what was really going on, The Daily Show was the place to discover it.

The satirists and comic writers that make the show so deadly were some of the first to smell a rat in the ginned-up rush to war, and were relentless in pointing out the growing disconnect between what the Bush administration and the mainstream news was telling the American public. The show was also brilliant at deconstructing and satirizing just how much the mainstream news media had become propaganda or mere infotainment -- “theatre” in the literal sense of the word, complete with splashy, exciting graphics and the network’s specially composed “war news” theme music. And as for the carefully controlled “embedded” reporters, The Daily Show was merciless in presenting their own embeds -- fake reporters in their fake cammo-duds standing in front of fake green-screen projections reporting fake news with their faux-serious faces. It was the stuff of wicked satire that reminded the viewer that they really should take a closer, more critical look at the “real” news.

Even more astonishing, in the financial meltdown that left the mainstream media looking more than ever like the watchdog sleeping nowhere near the chicken coop, Jon Stewart turned into a credible newsman. The transformation began when Stewart and his band of merry writers stared asking an astonishingly simple question: Why didn’t CNBC, the cable show that’s all Wall Street, all the time, see this mess coming? After all, that’s all CNBC does – report 24/7on Wall Street’s every twitch and wiggle. Among some of the clips Stewart showed were ones of CNBC’s “Mad Money” man” Jim Cramer touting Bear Sterns shortly before that company tanked. Well, Cramer went on various other networks to whine and complain that Stewart was taking him out of context, which was the worst possible tack to take with a satirist with a large staff and endless video clips. Before long the kerfluffle was being played up in the mainstream media, and the stage was set for a fake confrontation on the fake news show.

But instead of silliness, what occurred was both sad and funny. Instead of pig’ bladders and funny beepers, once Jon Stewart had Jim Cramer in his sights, he suddenly turned into Edward R. Murrow and started asking the questions the mainstream media stopped asking years ago: Who is Cramer and CNCB serving? The American public or the corporations that own CNBC? What responsibility did CNBC (and, by extension the entire media) have to investigate Wall Street “shenanigans” – Cramer’s word. In short, with Cramer standing in for our entire media, there was the question – who do you serve?

The answer, of course, is found in a column by Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times, who correctly observes that “ . . Mr. Cramer and CNBC stood to profit from the [Daily Show] encounter. In today’s television news market, that cable network and its stars are like the financiers they cover: media short-sellers trading shamelessly on publicity, good or bad, so long as it drives up ratings. There isn’t enough regulation on Wall Street, and there’s hardly any accountability on cable news; it’s a 24-hour star system in which opinions – and showmanship – matter more than facts.”

A 24-hours star system in which opinions – and showmanship – and ratings and money – matter more than facts. Cable news, mainstream TV news, newspapers, talk radio, blogs and not a single watchdog serving the public good in sight: Just ratings and money and entertainment and whatever serves the corporate interests.

So, if you want to know what’s really going on, you have to watch a very funny fake news show. Which, come to think of it, is actually not funny at all.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ah, These Clever Chinese

There’s been a lot of gloom and doom in the papers: America doomed! World Ending at 11! and so forth. Meanwhile, as happens during times of transition and profound change, out in the real world things are rustling in the shrubbery. Very clever people starting things up in their garages or, in the case of China – a behemoth with a ginormous garage – starting things up in a big way.

Check out the New York Times story at

Unlike America, China has the unique ability to “decree” that things happen quickly and on a large scale. This makes them a formidable country. They also have the luxury of leapfrogging 19th century technology, thereby saving themselves a step or two in their progress. Interestingly, a couple of guys in Israel, I think, are also thinking about a similar plan: electric cars, public plug-in stations and battery switch-out shops. Drive in, switch out your battery, drive out. Slick.

As the story points out, China’s still stuck with dirty coal, however, I won’t count out a gazillion people who can be “decreed” to build stuff. Think of all that wind and sun out on the high Mongolian plains blowing the yaks around.

If America is going to stay in the race, we’ve got to seriously think about “decreeing” as well as figuring out ways for a bazillion kids tinkering in garages will be able to feed their clever inventions into a system that’s ready for them – not faced with government protected crony monopolies stamping out innovation and competition, hogging resources and stifling the wily and the nimble.

The 21st century race is going to go the smart and the flexible. It’s possible that the era of the plodding, too big to fail and too big to change quickly dinosaurs – GM, AIG, MegaCorps is over. More important, as discussion about reforming medical care heats up, maybe voters need to think about this: How many people would leave their present jobs and become an entrepreneur knowing their family’s health coverage was always there and not tied to a specific job? In short, make a change, start a business, invent a widget. That’s the stuff that made America a powerhouse and can do so again. Just takes a little smarts on the part of the voters and government alike.