Sunday, August 30, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

by Kay Ryan, whose book of poems, "Say Uncle" is in your local bookstore waiting for you to come and get it and read it.
Fool's Errands
A thing
cannot be
enough times:
this is the
rule of dogs
for whom there
are no fool's
errands. To
loop out and
come back is
good all alone.
It's gravy to
carry a ball
or a bone.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bend Over, Grab Your Ankles, Don't Call Me In The Morning And Never Mind About The Aspirin

Calhouns Can(n)ons for August 27, 09

The headline in the August 24, L.A. Times said it all: “Healthcare insurers get upper hand.” This was followed up with, “It’s a bonanza,” said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance executive for 20 years who now tracks reform legislation as president of the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates Inc.”

Lazewski is also quoted as saying that the insurers’ “reaction to early negotiations boiled down to a single word: ‘Hallelujah!”

I’ll say. At this point the health insurance companies own congress and have been remarkably adept at public outreach via various Republican Talking Points, as well as multiple press, talk radio, TV and Astroturf ad campaigns. The media blitz has apparently convinced a growing number of Americans that the government wants to kill their Grannies, install a government bureaucrat in their doctor’s office to make medical decisions for you, and that any “public option” will mean “socialized medicine,” followed by Communists taking over the country.

Gone missing from the Granny-killing fear-mongering is this telling tidbit: According to the Times story, “ . . the senate Finance Committee discussed requiring that insurers reimburse at least 76% of policyholders’ medical costs under their most affordable plans. Now the committee is considering setting that rate as low as 65%, meaning insurers would be required to cover just about two-thirds of patients’ healthcare bills.”

Translation: In general, Medicare reimburses 80%. If the insurance companies get their way – and who’s doubting that they will? – private mandatory health insurance could only cover 65% of medical costs. So there’s the perfect scam: Americans will be required to buy insurance from private companies that will make sure that their customers will pay top dollar while only receiving the lowest possible coverage, thereby shoving more and more of the financial burden back on patients and their families. And with no viable “public option” as competition, we’re back in the land of Harry & Louise’s “No Choice” choice.

In short, this is shaping up to become The Great American Love story: The American people and their elected representatives clearly love medical insurance companies so much that they will go to any lengths to keep them in business. Indeed, they appear willing to believe the most arrant nonsense so they can continue to pay more for less in order to make sure that their favorite companies will continue to receive those magnificent profits and so be able to reward their CEO’s with those breathtaking yearly salaries.

And since love is blind, that’s probably why Americans haven’t been able to bring themselves to ask these few simple questions: Exactly what do the private, for-profit insurance companies bring to the table that a not-for-profit type Medicare For All and/or Single Payer System does not? Administrative costs are far higher for private plans, and since the prime focus of the medical insurance industry isn’t to deliver quality health care, it’s to deliver profits to their stockholders, just how does that benefit the consumer? And if a not-for-profit “public option” turns out to be cheaper and/or delivers better healthcare to consumers, and some companies that can’t compete with that go out of business, why is that a bad thing? Isn’t that what “the wisdom of the marketplace” is all about?

Well, love can make people do crazy things. If millions of starry-eyed Americans refuse to take a cold shower and then start calling their Congressfolk, “The insurers are going to do quite well,” said Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. “They [the private insurance companies] are going to have this very stable pool, [us captives] they’re going to have people getting subsidies [from the taxpayers who also have to cough up for their own private policies] to help them buy coverage and . . they [the insurance companies] will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide – plus their administrative costs [which are about 3-5 or more times the administrative costs of Medicare for example].”

For insurance companies, it doesn’t get any better than this: Year ‘round Christmas plum pudding for them, while the American consumer will get nothing but coal in their stockings. But isn’t that sacrifice is what true love is all about?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Frat Boy Rules

Reading the papers as the ugly redacted CIA documents spill out, with more to come as the DOJ begins its investigations of the Bush Administration’s torture program, a recurring question keeps rattling through my brain:

The torture program is now coming into focus as one that is less and less something coming out of some “rogue elements” running amok and more and more something that a bunch of chicken-hawk, frat boy, Jack Bauer “24” wannabes wet-dreamed up in their cool offices, egging each other on in a circle-jerk of psychosexual frisson as far removed from the real world as pimple-faced teenaged boys laying on their bunk beds and dreaming about hot dates with Top Runway models. Or our Vietnam-avoiding, military-service avoiding, chicken hawk, Darth Vader wannabe VP Cheney macho-snarling about going to the dark side. Or our true Frat Boy, cod-piece strutting, land-on-a-carrier for a swaggering photo-op, “bring ‘em on,” President.

Toss in the almost Nazi Dr. Mengele-like attention to detail [“how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso-or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment.”] and what emerges veers off into the weirdly psycho-sick.

And so, the question haunts: If the men running our country had all seen military service, or actually served in combat, or even served some hard time in a real-world, hard-knocks reality, been less awash with juvenile psycho-sexual sadistic frat boy fantasies, would they have been less scared, less. . . . hysterical . . . after 9/11, and so less prone to mistake a TV show – “24” – for “reality, less prone to admire and emulate a fictional hero – Jack Bauer – and so better able to cope as battle-hardened, experienced, grounded, cool eyed adults?

Perhaps the DOJ’s investigation or a Congressional “truth squad” will answer that question, but somehow I doubt it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Aesop Was Right

I am a great admirer of crows, ravens, all the corvids. A gaggle of them spy on me regularly from the eucalyptus trees in front of the house, commenting and reporting on my comings and goings in dark muttered croaks. Or they sit in the huge dead pine tree by the road watching me while I sit in my yellow summer chair and read books about . . . crows.

So it was with interest I read a story by Thomas Maugh II that appeared in the 8-8-09 L.A. Times: “Birds live up to fabled ingenuity.” Writes Mr. Maugh, “In ‘The Crow and the Pitcher,’ Aesop wrote of a thirsty bird confronted with a half-full pitcher of water. When the bird discovered that the water level was too low to reach, he dropped stones in to raise the level until it was high enough to quench his thirst.

“Aptly named zoologist Christopher David Bird of University of Cambridge showed that rooks, members of the crow family, could perform the same task, dropping stones into a tall glass beaker to retrieve a floating wax worm.

"The results, reported this week in the journal Current Biology, are not totally unexpected: Crows have previously been shown to use leaves and sticks as probes to dig out grubs, and shells and rocks as hammers to break open prey or as plugs to form pools of water for drinking.”

Continues Maugh, “The birds appeared to calculate how high the water had to rise, and put in only enough stones to raise the water to that level, not stopping to try to reach the worm after each stone. They also figured out quickly that larger stones would raise the water more quickly.

“The only other animals known to have accomplished a similar feat are orangutans . . . but the rooks’ feat is more impressive . . . because their brains are much smaller than those of orangutans.”

Volumetric smarty pants in elegant black plumage. Who keep a sharp eye on what humans are up to. We have been warned.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lordy! Lordy! Lizzie, Grab Caesar's Wife And Head For The Fence

In her recent formal complaint to County Counsel, Warren Jensen, former CSD Director Lisa Schicker included about a bazillion pages of documents. Mr. Jensen issued a preliminary report declaring, "Move Along, Nothing To See Here, We'll Look Into The Other Pages, Oh, Sometime, Maybe, And Get Back To You," while the Tribune trumpeted that the charges had been "dismissed," without adding the words, "for now," or "pending," to the headline.

Missing in all this "Jeeze, let's get this off the table and out of the public eye" is this hard lesson of history: If there is some way for somebody to derail or delay the sewer project, they will.

Depend on it.

One of the strongest smart moves the County did when they took over this project was to promise to keep The Process . . . clean. No sticky fingers on the scales, no back-room deals, no funny, sotto voce promises. CLEAN.

Then the promised "real" design-build went off the table, heh-heh, the project was suddenly cut up into pre-determined pieces and we had, ker-poof! a "short list" of qualified contractors with a set "to-do" project, rather than a real open design-build bidding process. And in the middle of that, several players who may or may not be tangled up in the bazillion pages of documents submitted for review.

That's not "clean." That's not "Caesar's Wife," not only being above suspicion but needing to keep the appearance of being above suspicion.

That's also not smart because an "unclean" process can leave too many legal "hooks" that can be used to ju-jitsu this project off the rails. The more legal hooks, the more ju can be jitsued.

Which is why the BOS needs to put Mr. Jensen back to work AND hire a neutral, outside review of the whole bidding process to make sure it's clean, make sure there are no legal , "bright-line hooks" that can come back to trip everyone up. Such a review won't delay anything since it can run simultaneously as this project makes its way forward. (And with the BOS hearings and the Coastal Commission reviews coming up, there'll be plenty of time for proper pauses and slight refinement/changes.)

True, a neutral, professional review may cost a bit, but suppose that review finds a few loose nails laying on the tracks. A few "bright line" nails. And removes them BEFORE the train hurtles down the track.

Near as I can tell, that'd be penny wise and about a bazillion pounds-wise as well.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Grab Your Conflict Of Interest Tool Kit and Head For The Fence

Ron Crawford, over at has been busy with his little "Conflict of Interest Tool Kit."

Grab The Rock, Call Your Lawyer And Head For The Fences

The Rock has been busy, as you can see below.

County Counsel Tries to Bury Schicker’s MWH/Ogren Complaint
Warren Jensen’s belated response to Lisa Schicker’s MWH/Ogren complaint paves the way for MWH to move forward, without legal impediments, in the design-build phase of the wastewater project as No. 1 contractor on the County’s handpicked short lists for both collection and treatment. At the same time, Counsel’s disclaimer shields the board. Schicker’s reaction...» Read Article

Next Speaker... Shut Up! The Los Osos Public Comment Scandal
It’s not sexy like the Edge/Wilcox scandal, but the Los Osos Public Comment scandal and coverup will cost Los Osos and County taxpayers millions of dollars more in rigged contracts, costs increases, additional fees and charges, further damage to Los Osos' threatened drinking water supply and probable litigation. The man pulling the strings behind the scenes of both scandals could pay at the polls in 2010, if voters take a deeper look...» Read Article

Best of Summer Public Comment: Los Osos Residents Fight Back Against Gibson Gag With Wit, Knowledge and Advice
Public comment on the Los Osos wastewater project at Board of Supervisors’ monthly updates is the time when no good deed goes unpunished, as Supervisor Gibson and idling board sidekicks turn the vice tighter and tighter on critics of the County’s town-sweeping $200-million megasewer built on the flimsiest foundation of lies and fraud. Following is a just a sampling of the vital public comment from Los Osos residents at monthly project updates on July 14 and August 4—ignored or dismissed by a board that almost never responds. We bring back some folks for an encore because public comment passes too quickly and should not be so quickly forgotten...» Read Article
For comment and opinion on these articles and more, go to:
The ROCK is The RAZOR is The ROCK

Call My Lawyer and Then Head For The Fences?

The following email was sent to me by Al Barrow/Los Osos Legal Defense Fund. Posted with permission.

Dear Coastal Commissioners:

SLO County promised in the 218 tax vote that funded the Los Osos Sewer project:

"In the current project selection strategy, the STEP and gravity alternatives would compete through the construction bidding phase using a competitive bid, design/build, and/or build/own/operate/transfer process. "

That was signed by the Assessment Engineer and PW Director Paavo Ogren.
But they have removed the lower impact collection system, which was adjudged in their two year fine screening process as a "viable alternative" out off the Design/Build project delivery method. Now only the most impactive project on coastal resources remains. Gravity deep trenching in liquefaction conditions is what the SLO County has chosen as their only project. A loss of 300,000 gpd of drinking water through leakage into the collection system. Gravity is many millions of dollars more cost, a cost that the lower income half of the population cannot afford, $3000.00 a year.or 8 times average cost.

In order to put STEP/STEG or vacuum collection, which are far more protective of coastal resources, we ask that you direct the SLO County to do so immediately. Something that the SLO Country planning commission did not do in their recent findings.

We also believe, in order to protect our community and environment, we must have legal counsel so we have engaged the Law offices of Jesse LB.Hill to see that the Local Coastal Plan, The Coastal Act and the supporting laws in the CZLUO are respected and that the environment is once again is not sacrificed.

We would hope that the SLO County would be sensitive to our concerns as we have submitted them, but that has not been the case in most issues of concern. As we prepare for the coming BOS and Coastal commission we ask all parties to reconsider the impact of removing a more protective and affordable collection technology.

Our position is that SLO County violated the 218 process by promising a Design/Build process that included STEP/STEG, then after the vote removing it, damaging the ratepayers with exorbitantly higher wastewater fees, charges and capital costs, when a more compliant technology is at lower costs and impacts that is also quicker to already pre-designed in the LOCSD Ripley Report 2006.

SLO County admits there will be design changes required for their purportedly "shovel ready" collection system whose slopes are to shallow for solids to move through the collection pipes as the design flows are much lower than the original Montgomery Watson Harza design plans called for.

In order to avert "the train wreck" at the Coastal Commission Hearings we seek relief in the form of direction from your staff who have sent two directional letters to SLO County to date.

We also request by FOIA all communications whether phone memos, emails and letters relating to the LOWWP Coastal Development permit application.

Thank You,.Al Barrow

Los Osos Legal Defense Fund
P.O Box 6931
Los Osos CA 93412 805 534-0800 Thank you for your support.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Head For The Fence, Again

Below is a public response by former CSD Director, Lisa Schicker, in response to SLO County Counsel, Warren Jensen’s preliminary report concerning allegations of possible conflicts concerning county Public Works director, Paavo Ogren, and the Los Osos Wastewater Project.

Dear Supervisors and members of the press:

The reason I am requesting an independent investigation is because Gail Wilcox, Warren Jensen and Paavo Ogren , working together, created the 2701 implementation strategy in the spring of 2006 which included the recommendation of SOLE SOURCE contracting to the same contractors that were ultimately hired to sit on both sides of the interview table for the Los Osos project; the same contractors who were hired in 2006, WITHOUT the required legal waivers; the same firms and contractors working on the Lopez Lake Project, including Mr. ogren who worked both on the private and public side of the table; and the same firms that both interviewed and selected each other for the Los Osos project.

No one has yet explained how this is NOT a conflict of interest or an indication of bid rigging or a conflict of the design build code.
These are all unanswered questions still requiring an independent investigation (see note below)

THIS version of my statement contains the revised link to the documents: you from Lisa Schicker , Past LOCSD President and Board member 2004-2008

An Additional Response to The Press

An open statement to the press and Warren Jensen:

Here is my written statement to you and to the press:

I will be happy to make comments on your report after the County actually completes a complete review of all of the evidence submitted; this preliminary report states clearly that the review was not comprehensive and is incomplete. Warren Jensen has stated in this preliminary report that:- he doesn't have the time- he hasn't read the actual evidence- that the BOS hasn't reviewed it- that he has still not reviewed any of the source documents submitted or anything submitted after May 2009.

There is nothing in the report that refers to Lopez Lake Dam county project, where all of the same contractors were involved and paid on this project, too - when Paavo served as both a private consultant and a county employee - a very important link to be investigated still.

It is clear that neither Jensen nor his staff have undertaken any investigation of their own.This is far from a complete report. The test for bid rigging is fairly straightforward, and the exact statutes violated were backed up with hard evidence. The DA in 2006 called Ogren's knowledge and direction for the falsification of the CSD contract documents with MWH a serious crime. The rigging of the current contracts, and violation of the design build statutes is "bright-line" law.

To suggest that the complaint was merely "an opinion" suggests an unwillingness to investigate the documented allegations. Was not the firing of Ms. Gail Wilcox and David Edge based on an investigation and the main evidence was hearsay and opinion? This was also called a judgement based on the evidence and it involved an outside investigator.

To the contrary, the complaint against Ogren contains the actual documents and evidence of the violations reported. This brief report by Jensen, also called an "opinion" was one delivered without full review or outside counsel, and incorporates excuses for error in advance. It cannot be taken seriously.

A few of the violations that must be thoroughly investigated - STILL include:

California Public Contract Code section 20133 (Design-Build Procurement)
Penal Code Section 424 and Government Code section 6200
Government Code Section 12650 (False Claims Act)
Sherman Act – “bid-rigging”, undisclosed conflict of interest and “self dealing”.
Violations and conflict of interest related to Assembly Bill 2701
Material Breach of Contract - LOCSD Termination of MWH contract for default.

Over a month ago, I suggested to Warren Jensen that an independent investigator, similar to one hired for the Wilcox investigation, occur, as Mr, Jensen was also directly involved along with Gail Wilcox and Paavo Ogren in the crafting and implementation of AB 2701 and have suggested that he may have a conflict himself.

Considering the plethora of unethical and illegal activities happening at the highest levels of County government, it seems like there is a lack of motivation or ability to self-police staff at this time.

I stand by the actual evidence that has been submitted, which has yet to be evaluated. I request that the County hire and independent investigator in this matter, due to the time constraints and potential conflicts for Mr. Jensen. Here is the link to all of the documents for any who cares to review them.

Thank you from Lisa Schicker
Past LOCSD President and Board member 2004-2008..

Well, Hey, Don't Let Me Disturb You

So, I got a call from Greg McClure (Central Coast News Mission central, so to speak,) asking him to call so we could figure out how to rejigger the banner head and he tells me that there were something like 16 comments on my little squib telling readers that they were not to panic, that the redesign was a work in progress, not to worry.

But 16 comments??? On a design shuffle? Lordy, I never knew I had so many readers who were into layouts, design elements, maybe type face design? I know there's lots of talented folks in my Beloved Bangladesh By The Bay, but had no idea that so many graphic designers were reading the Can(n)ons!

Design Mavens or Hideous Los Osos Sewer Wars Afficiandos?

Well, when as Greg and I were walking, I clicked on the comment section to see if all my Art Center teachers had come back to life and were now signing on to comment on the layout.

Aw, I shudda known better. Everyone was signing on to chew on each others' ankles over the Tribune headline, "Conflict-of-interest charge dismissed," wherein former LOCSD director, Lisa Schicker, asked SLO County Counsel, Warren Jensen, to review a pile of documents to see if there was a conflict of interest in the Hideous Sewer Project's "short list" or previous employment/association of Paavo Ogren with the CSD and/or Motgomery Watson Harza or any other issues that are/were illegal, improper, conflicty or troubling.

Jensen answered that his preliminary review of the documents found no problems, (Yes, there was that back-dated contract matter, but the statute of limitations ran out on that one) and he may turn out a final report sometime, maybe.

Quick! Toss 'em a bone then head for the fences!

Well, apparently you've all had a wonderful time chomping on one another's ankles over that.

Then I wake up and turn on the computer, sip on my coffee while the machine wakes up and grumbles about the early hour. I go to the blog and it turns out that overnight Greg re-did the banner head and lettering, ka-ZAM! there it is. He even found and added a photo of our bear sign. How cool is that! Thanks, Greg. Looks great.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Don't Panic

Greg McClure (Central Coast NewsMission) is working on reconfiguring the heading of the Can(n)ons and this is just a rough draft (unfortunately, can't futz around with the layout with out actually futzing around in "public" with the layout, so to speak, since he's doing this from his bunker deep in the mountains of Lompoc or somewhere, heh-heh.) So, we'll be working on this thereby making things look goofy for a while until we get the header right. Stay calm. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How Much Is That Fighting Pit Bull In the Window?

Well, in the case of quarterback Michael Vick, about “$1.6 million this season with a team option for another year at $5.2 million,” according to an August 15 L.A. Times story by Sam Farmer. Vick, who spent 18 months in federal prison for running a dog fighting operation which included charges of inhumane treatment of dogs, including torturing and killing them when they angered him or didn’t perform properly, recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles for that nice $1.6 million.

Michael Vick's Redemption

In prison he apparently saw the light with mentoring from retired Colts coach, Tony Dungy, who also ministers to prison inmates. Dungy believes in second chances and spoke recently on 60 Minutes about many young black men who may have lacked proper childhood parenting and so too often went wrong. In that same interview, Vick spoke of a childhood where dog fighting was simply an accepted way of life, including watching the police observing the activity, shrugging and walking away. Which sent the young Vic a powerful message: Dog fighting and gambling on dog fighting and abuse of dogs was simply an accepted cultural norm for his community.

Also on 60 Minutes with Vick and Dungy was Wayne Percelle, head of the Humane Society of the US (HSUSA). As part of his parole and as evidence of his redemption, Vick has committed to an ongoing outreach program to communities to talk about his downfall as well as educating communities about dog fighting as well as urging kids take another look at the issue of animal cruelty in their own lives and community.

So, it’s win-win all round. Vick gets the dough, Dungy saves another soul and the media-savvy Percelle gets a high-profile spokesperson for his money-making operation.

And Then PETA Shows Up!

Naturally, PETA and others had a cow. As the Times reports, one wag showed up at the team’s headquarters bearing a sign that said, “Hide your beagle, Vick’s an Eagle.”

The Times also notes this all important gem: “Meanwhile, according to Sports Business Daily, the price and number of tickets purchased on the online ticket site StubHub for the Eagles’ Dec 6 game at Atlanta against Vicks former team have tripled since he was signed.”

Ah, yes, money, money, money. Makes the world go round. But before too much outrage gets generated over this deal, a couple of points should be considered. First, people do change. As Oprah Winfrey is fond of saying, we do better when we know better. For Vick, it’s likely he realized that in the wider culture, pit fighting and dog abuse isn’t supposed to be “publicly” acceptable.

Too Many Dogs In L.A.

Which brings us to point Two – Irony. In Los Angeles alone, the Animal Control Services there euthanized 7,500 unwanted, unadoptable dogs in 2008. There were also 10,000 owner turn-in dogs and 20,000dogs were picked up as abandoned strays or lost. That’s a whole lot of “abused” dogs and an excellent example that our culture at large, just like Vick’s childhood neighborhood, doesn’t value dogs very much at all. In reality, in our wider culture, dogs (and cats) are as disposable as garbage.

And point Three. If what Vick did to the fighting dogs in his control was brutal and cruel, what do giant, testosterone-fueled football players deliberately do to each other each Sunday afternoon? Professional football is not beanbag and the physical damage these players are supposed to inflict on each other in pursuit of that lucrative win can leave players with short careers and permanent disabilities, including brain damage from head-slams that even a helmet cannot protect against. Professional football, like pit fighting, is a brutal “sport,” which is exactly the way sports fans like it.

Fighting dogs, bad-boy, body-slamming human behemoths, big money, violence and blood on the field on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. What could be more American?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Putt-Putt, Vroom-Vroom, Part Two

Ah, the power of the internet and jpeg files. I sent a copy of my “Calhoun’s Can(n)ons” column, the one about my college days and my wonderful Vespa, “Charlie,” to Roy Brody in Israel, where he lives with his lovely wife, Vivienne. Roy, if you recall, sold me Charlie way back in 1962-3. Back came this black and white image and a note from Viv. The photo ("Leadfield Shadows," 1962) is part of an exhibition at the Art Gallery of the Ein Hod artists village on the Carmel, Israel, where Roy and Viv now live. The exhibition was devoted to members’ first photograph and their most recent photographs. (Roy is still a very fine professional photographer and Viv a curator and publisher of some very fine books on photography.)

And there it was: “Charlie,” Roy and a fellow student, Mary Jo Paget, in shadow and hurtling along near Leadfield, close to Death Valley in the Panamint Mountains, in 1962, shortly before Roy sold Charlie to me.

Quite a photo! Ah, the permanence of memory. And ghostly photographs. And the internet. My thanks to Roy for giving permission to share the image with my readers.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It’s War and Peace and War, Los Osos Style!

Local author Barbara Wolcott finished her book on The Hideous Sewer Wars. Well, The Hideous Sewer Wars . . . . . So Far. Barbara’s previous book, “David, Goliath and The Beach Cleaning Machine,” covered the Unocal/Avila Beach destruction/rebuild and beach cleanup. The new book is at Volumes of Pleasure so you can go buy a copy and see if you’re mentioned in terms that aren’t too unflattering. Then everyone can call their lawyers and start suing for libel and/or start demanding retractions/corrections and we can all start The Hideous Sewer Book Wars.

For Immediate Release 8-11-09
Local Author writes new book about the
Los Osos Sewer Saga
Small Town Perfect Storm:
The Los Osos Sewer Saga
By Barbara Wolcott
Price: $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-930401-75-4
256 pages/softcover
Publication date: August 12, 2009

A monstrous environmental public health disaster lay under a
town of 12,000 people. It had already contaminated one of two
aquifers serving them and the surrounding area. Now it threatened
the remaining water supply. The source was not oil, nor chemicals
but 5,000 septic tanks sending a million gallons of effluent down
drains daily.

An even greater threat loomed as a minority of residents set
out to prove there was no danger nor any need to build and pay
for sewer plant and collection system. What started as a quest
for technical information became a contest of wills—a minority driving the majority to the brink of an economic disaster in an epic battle spanning nearly thirty years. The catalyst who finally found a solution was a first grade student when it began and a California State Assemblyman when he ended it.

Good intentions, enormous egos and a plethora of happenstance contributed to the long contest, creating a Perfect Storm that came gradually, destroyed people, long time friendships, some marriages and trust in government. Few believed the town of Los Osos was worth saving, but it survived with scars and started to reclaim its serenity before the dust settled. There are no comparables. Los Osos cut a fresh path and claimed its own redemption.

SMALL TOWN PERFECT STORM is available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online bookstores. For book cover digital images, you may contact Central Coast Press-publisher Bill Charlesworth at or 805-534-0307. Contact;Barbara Wolcott at or (805) 543-5240 for an interview.

Planning, Planning, Planning.

The Planning Commission finished dotting the I’s and crossing T’s on August 13 and 5 -0 approved their re-crafted, modified, Giacomazzi-sited, water-smart sewer project, including a water conservation component. And now it goes to the BOS and hence to the Coastal Commission.

So, start yer engines. Lawsuiters, please take a number. Supporters, take a number also. Everyone else, start placing your bets: Who will be the first to sabotage the PC’s hard work and how quickly will it be – Penelope-at-the-loom-wise – quietly unraveled and morphed or buried in the dead of the night by the light of the silvery moon, only to be replaced by some other project that will suddenly appear after the public has fallen asleep only to wake up and rub their eyes and say WTF???

And who will be discovered holding the lethal weapon?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for August 14, 2009

Forget the Two Aspirins, Just Call Your Local Death Panel In The Morning

You know the country’s jumped the shark when Congresspeople hold Town Hall meetings on a complicated issue like health care and instead of an intelligent discussion, they end up having to suggest that maybe the angry, booing, sign-waving disruptive audience members would be better off if they stopped listening to batshit crazy people like TV “personality,” Glen Beck.

Or when a crowd filled with Show Me Missourians all shouting about Socialized Medicine are asked by their representative to raise their hands if they have Medicare, and a sea of hands go up. Then they’re asked to raise their hands if they have Medicare and they want to see that program eliminated and no hands go up.

Or when President Obama has to go on TV to roll his eyes and ‘splain that, No, there are no Death Panels in the health bill, despite what Sarah Palin or Senator Grassley said, sigh.

How did Americans get so stupid? Or so easily fooled and manipulated by corporate/political special interests? When did Missourians not only forget how to connect some easy dots, but apparently now can’t even find the dots in the first place? When did we stop being brave, capable people and turn into frightened, gullible little Big Sillies? What the hell has happened to this country, anyway?

Of course, the folks putting together this Rube Goldbergian Health Bill need a slap upside the head. Instead of reinventing the wheel with some sort of wildly complex state-by-state, medical co-ops or group policies for a pretend Potemkin Village “public option,” just allow the public to sign up for Medicare. There. Simple. Done. Public option’s taken care of without having to reinvent anything. Then Congress can fix and improve Medicare by reducing the fraud, fixing the payment schedules and move it from too often wasteful fee for service to a best practices/outcomes-based Mayo Clinic type system. And if private insurance can offer a better deal, let the competition commence.

Then maybe we can have a discussion about what’s really going on inside of so many of us that can account for all this batshit crazy stuff that’s oozing out from under the floorboards. Like the guy who attended a political town hall meeting (where President Obama was speaking) while wearing a side arm and carrying a sign about watering the tree of Liberty with the blood of tyrants who then went on TV to explain to Chris Mathews that there is no connection between the gun, the sign and the President, that he’s simply a serious Constitutional scholar attending a public meeting and anyway, people in New Hampshire regularly go about their daily business with loaded guns on their hips. Now there’s a guy who’s in serious denial about what’s really moving him into such fearful dark waters.

So, no, very little of this is really about “health care.” So what is it? A tiny handful of Phony Astroturf “citizens groups” being manipulated by K-Street lobbyists representing Big Pharma and the insurance industry – Harry and Louise on steroids – who will do anything to kill off any reform so as to continue to rape and pillage the pocketbooks of the sign-waving people hollering about “socialized medicine?”

Or is the dark nightmare heart of Sarah Palin’s “real America” (Myth: white, prosperous, Norman Rockwell small town; Reality: white, poor, rust-belted, expendable), finally catching on that the racial and population demographic is changing and they will no longer have the luxurious delusion of thinking that they’re king of the heap? Worse, with the economic meltdown, has “real America” finally caught on that they’ve been complicit in being played for suckers for years by the Wall Street Boys and their water-carrying shills in Congress? Or perhaps it has now finally sunk in that Sarah’s beloved “real America” has never been anything other than Corporate American road kill?

Is that what’s really eating so many of us? If so, then America better start talking truthfully. No more phony manipulated side-shows, no hidden agendas, skip the buzzed code words, forget the displacement aggression. Time for a serious national dialogue about race, class, status, power, money, death and fear itself – all the dangerous lizard-brain topics your Mother told you weren’t fit subjects for polite conversation. But those are exactly the things we need to deal with honestly in the public square and around the dining room table. If we don’t, if we stay Stuck on Stupid, we’ll lose a unique opportunity to start making our country work effectively for all of us once again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Take Two Aspirins and Don’t Call Me In The Morning

Lay down yer bets, Ladies and Gentlemen. Pick yer odds. Here’s the challenge: Guess exactly what tiny event, phrase, actor, commercial, sound-byte will sink any and all attempts at reforming our unaffordable, hodge-podge and failing health care system.

The insurance companies and Big Pharma are hard at work, pouring piles of money into the coffers of the legislators they own, financing phony Astroturf groups and “think-tanks” to get the word out that if the proposed reforms are passed into law, the Government will come in their black helicopters and will start killing your Grannie. In short, forget “Star Search, the real search is on for another “Louise” of “Harry & Louise” fame.

Ironically, in an August 9, New York Times piece by Judith Warner, the real actress who played “Louise” – Louise Clair Clark – is now very, very sorry she had a hand in killing the Clinton Plan and/or killing any and all attempts thereafter at reforming health care. More irony, she had lived in Australia and was a grateful fan of Australia’s “Socialized Medicine.” (More irony; in the present fear-mongering about Government Takeover Of Medicine, David Lazarus of the L.A. Times notes, “Factor in Medicare, Medicaid, veterans assistance and assorted business subsidies, and the federal government already accounts for about 60% of all healthcare expenditures nationwide.” Yep, it’s the old canard about the Senior Citizen at a Town Hall Meeting hollering, “Keep your hands off my Medicare. I don’t want any Government-run Socialized medicine!” )

But her role and that ad was key in stopping reform utterly. Which is exactly what the Health Insurance Association of America wanted. And now, here we are again, looking for another Louise.

So, place your bets. What do you think it will be this time? A person? A sound-byte? An ad?

And let’s also start stacking up the ironies that will abound with yet another failure. In the 1997 debacle, the key with Harry & Louise was the fear of “losing choice.” The reality was that employers soon began taking away “choice” as they moved their plans into cheaper HMOs or downsized plans or eliminated medical benefits altogether. No choice there. And then, because they could, because short term profits on Wall Street became the driving force behind “health care,” not actual health care, insurance companies started eliminating costly customers. Which brought about even more “No Choice” for millions of Americans.

It if weren’t so tragic, it all would be very funny. And now it’s starting again. So, will Americans be stupid enough to fall for the old Harry & Louise trick again?

Of course, it may not be stupidity at work. It’s entirely possible that Americans actually like paying MORE for worse care and worse outcomes. Less bang for the big bucks. If that’s the case, they’ll surely get exactly that. Unfortunately, if the past is prologue, when they get what they demand, they’ll again start whining when the terrible downside starts happening to THEM.

Well, that’s the Apple Pie American philosophy: I’m All Right, Jack. Until I’m not, but by then it’s too late, Oh, Darn.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

New York Times news note: “Iran’s prosecutor general acknowledged Saturday that some detainees arrested after postelection protests had been tortured in Iranian prisons, the first such acknowledgment by a senior Iranian official.”

Normally, this information would result in US officials wagging a finger and calling Iran horrible names for violating human rights. Thanks to Bush/Cheney/Yoo, et al, however, the U.S now has to zip it. Pots and kettles, you know. And now Obama’s struggling with Whatever Shall We Do With The Quantanamo Detainees That We Tortured? so here’s an idea. Since the US and Iran both “torture” innocent people, why not set up some Sister Cities and exchange notes and maybe swap prisoners? You torture ours, we’ll torture yours. Total Win-Win.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

By Ted Kooser from his book of new and selected poems, “Sure Signs.”

Sunday Morning

Now it is June again, one of those
leafy Sundays drifting through galaxies
of maple seeds. Somewhere, a mourning dove
touches her keyboard twice, a lonely F,
and then falls silent. Her in the house
the Sunday papers lie in whitecaps
over the living-room floor. Among them floats
the bridal page, that window of many panes,
reflecting, black and white, patches of sky
and puffs of starlit cloud becoming
faces. On each bright brow the same light falls,
the nuptial moon held up just out of sight
to the left. The brides all lift their eyes
and smile to see the heavens stopped for them.
And love is everywhere. Cars that have all week
lurched and honked with sour commuters are now
like smooth canoes packed soft with families.
A church bell strides through the green perfume
of locust trees and tolls its thankfulness.
The mourning dove, to her astonishment,
blunders upon a distant call in answer.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Tick, Tick, Tick

Now that most of the fooferaw over the Edge/Wilcock/Perry mess has settled down to a dull roar, will the County attorney finally get around to looking at the formal complaint against the county’s shortlist of sewer experts? The following posting alert from The Rock, below:

UPDATE: County Counsel That Can’t Count to 100 Should Be Fired
It’s been over 100 days since County Counsel Warren Jensen stated he would respond in two weeks to former LOCSD board president Lisa Schicker’s well-documented complaint against MWH and Paavo Ogren.(UPDATE: At the August 4 Board of Supervisors meeting, Counsel Jensen again refused to respond to the public’s request for his promised written response to the full complaint.) For the rest of the article, click here to read it on THE ROCK/Razor.

Los Osos Sustainability Group: Leading the Fight to Save the Basin
According to the water re-use reduction targets in the volunteer group's Basin Management Plan, the goal is to have each household use 33% less water, effectively reducing the monthly usage rates while aggressively reducing the effects of saltwater intrusion. “[Saltwater intrusion] is much worse than people think,” says the group's Keith Wimer. “We have a serious problem that can’t be avoided any longer—and the [County's wastewater] project has got to address it.”To read the rest of the article, view it on The Razor and post comments.

The Freestyle Magic of Tokyo Joe’s Sushi
Good news travels fast in Morro Bay. Since opening early summer, Tokyo Joe’s Sushi, the brainfood child of entrepreneur Joe Yukich and Chef Hiroki Ohata, has rapidly gained a following for its high quality sushi, its small, cozy, relaxed cafĂ© atmosphere, and friendly, attentive staff. But that’s only where Tokyo Joe’s begins, or takes off...
»; Read Article

Only on THE ROCK ...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tick, Tick, Tick

The dreaded Jury Summons arrived in the mail. Sunday night I had to call the 24 Hour Information Line to see what I was in store for the next five days, starting Monday morning. The voice on the other end of the line told me I was on stand-by and to call in Monday at 11:30 a.m. Since I couldn’t risk gambling that I may or may not have to report at 9 a.m. Monday and since I didn’t want to put another person on standby to cover my shift, if needed, I had already arranged coverage at work. So, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, there I was, no work, no pay on Monday, stuck in limbo.

That’s the problem with stand-by. I can’t get started on any big projects sinceI may have to drop everything and have about an hour to get my behind downtown to report for jury duty, should the voice on the phone tell me to go. But there’s always too much to do so I can’t just kick back and figure I’m on vacation and grab a good book and go outside and sit on my yellow Adirondack chair in Kifani’s Corner, put my feet up and read. That would be slothful, somehow. So what I end up doing is piddling and frittering.

You know Piddle and Frittering; prune those overgrown bushes and haul the trimmings out to the recycle bin, get a cup of coffee, read a few sections of the Times, sweep the bedroom floor, drink a glass a water, go walk the dogs around the block, dust the furniture, eye the clock, stand in the middle of the room and look around, look at the clock again, 11:30, make the call. I’m on stand-by, again. Now what?

Then there’s the problem of previously made appointments, like the 6-months it takes to get an appointment to have my teeth cleaned. Do I cancel and risk that I’ll be told that I’m still on stand-by, thereby having to wait another 6 months for another appointment? Don’t call until it’s too late for the office to plug in another person?

Tick, tick, tick. Every day, a roll of the dice. Waiting for shoes to drop. Neither here nor there. Limbo Monday, limbo Tuesday, Limbo until 11:30 Wednesday, and then the blessed voice: Your service is over for another year. Dismissed early. Recess! Yaaayyy!

What makes this all so doubly frustrating – yes, yes, I know, civic duty, citizens’ responsibility, an honor to serve, yadda-yadda-yadda – is this: No DA or defense attorney will ever want me on any jury EVER. On the times I got dragooned and ended up downtown going through panel reviews, I could see them with their “lists,” checking off names, muttering. And during voir dire, it’s always the same. Speak my name and somebody politely remarks that they’re “familiar” with that name, heard me on the radio or read my column or blog or, perhaps, a snarky letter to the editor? ah, yes. . . her. . . . No way we want her on this panel, you’re excused, please return to the jury room, thank you.

So it’s always a complete waste of time. And the one time it looked like I might get chosen to serve on a panel, the judge just had to ’splain a set of overriding legal issues that perked my ears up and required – being under oath to speak truth – that I utter the dreaded words – jury nullification – and ker-BLAM! Thank you, you’re excused, please return to the jury room and don’t let the door hit you on the behind as you exit.

Not to mention the fact that I will no longer consider convicting anyone of simple drug possession or use since I believe our drug policies are absolutely insane and in desperate need of vast reform, which ain’t gonna happen since politicians can too easily demagogue the issue, the general public loves to be demagogued on the issue, plus there’s simply too much money to be made by all parties of the Drug War – cops, judges, prison system, Drug Lords, weapons manufacturers – it’s the perfect Military/Industrial/Judicial/Prison Industry/Drug Complex . So all I can do with that issue is a simple Right of Conscience – non serviam. (On the other hand, I have no trouble convicting someone for other crimes that may have been caused by and/or being under the influence, i.e. Walking While Stupid.)

So, all in all, putting me on jury duty call is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Tick, tick, tick.

“Why Did No One Rein In Wilcox Debacle?”

Asks this morning’s Tribune. Ah, good question. Far too late to ask and answer, in the case of Edge. He skated out the door with full benefits BEFORE the Robertson report revealed that he was “covering up” for Wilcox’s affair. O Lucky Man! Wilcox was fired for “cause.” Edge wasn’t. In his dismissal, the BOS blathered on about a change in philosophy, yadda-yadda. What they should have done is either censure him for his failure to blow the whistle on Wilcox when it became clear to him that she had an affair with Perry or fire him “for cause,” sans nice benefits package, just like they did with Wilcox.

What remains now is to figure out why officials in positions of responsibility for dealing with, uh, employees’ behavior/ethical conflict issues, turned a blind eye. And whether the county has some sort of early warning system to determine if alcohol is becoming a problem for employees, since so much of the Robertson report seems to involve Wilcox and “drinking.” Was that a culprit in some of Wilcox’s more troubling behaviors? According to the Tribune story, people responsible are now busy covering their behinds and pointing fingers, including pointing to the previous Supervisors. And round and round we go.

On August 3, Jay Salter had a letter to the editor in which he compared the “Wilcox Tragedy” to Greek drama. “The trio’s performance may be judged as either satiric farce of a public display of human suffering of near Aristotelian proportions. But since I have a workplace acquaintance with each of the players, I see the entire affair as painful tragedy. These are star-crossed beings, each suffused with colossal hubris and each exhibiting achingly “fatal” flaws.

“They are us, writ large, and deserve far more compassion than derision.”

My reply to Mr. Salters apt observation is as follows:

“ . . .[while] the Wilcox/Edge/Perry triangle was nearly Greek in its dramatic proportions. Since nobody died, it can’t be classified as a classic “tragedy,” no matter how painful it has been, so “satiric farce” or classic “comedy” would be closer to the mark.

In reality, I suspect what ultimately happened here was even more simple than Greek drama: Edge and Wilcox were exceptional people who made the mistake of thinking they were The Exception. That delusion always leads to disaster, as this unexceptional case so sadly illustrates.”

And, as usual, the taxpayers are gonna eat this one.

Monday, August 03, 2009

New Dog Park Coming!

Yesterday The Mighty Finn McCool attended the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Jody Giannini Family Dog Park at Del Mark Park. Volunteers with Moro Bay Pups ( have been working for years to get an off-leash dog park up and running in Morro Bay. After years of work and heavy lifting, the park was given a generous donation by the Giannini family in honor of Jodi Giannini and so installing the fence and entrance paths and other amenities can commence.

The effort was also helped by the sponsorship of Coast Veterinary Clinic (Finn’s favorite place!), the Drs. John Truax, Duane Stephens and Elias Stack-Aguirre. Not to mention all the generous help from so many other people.

The site is the lovely tree-laden hillocks on the west side of Del Mar Park (north Morro Bay) just past the basketball, hockey rink and future tennis courts. There’ll be a separate small dog area and large dog area.

And Finn can’t wait until it’s open so he can go run very fast on all that lovely grass. (And with his luck, slip and break his other leg so he can go visit Dr.Truax and Dr. Stevens. . . again. Sigh.)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Your Sunday Morning Poem

Lyanda Lynn Haupt opened her wonderful new book with this poem by Mary Oliver. The book is “Crow Planet; Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness,” (Little, Brown and Company, 2009) and is very fine indeed.

And from the book, “Ravensong; A Natural and Fabulous History of Ravens and Crows” by Catherine Feher-Elston (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin 2005), Feher-Elston writes of the story of the Haida people, “After their emergence from the clamshell with the encouragement of Raven, the Haida became a mighty people. They developed fine villages and carvings that told stories of their emergence and the history of their clans and families. Raven taught them to cure sickness with herbs and songs and magic. They made prayers to Raven, and continue to do so to this day. They know that Raven is the Creator of the World, they know that the world goes through many cycles. They know that the time of Human Beings may not last forever but that Raven the Transformer, Raven, Bringer of Light, is one who is, was and always will be.”


From a single grain they have multiplied.
When you look in the eyes of one
you have seen them all.

At the edges of highways
they pick at limp things.
They are anything but refined.

Or they fly out over the corn
like pellets of black fire,
like overlords.

Crow is crow, you say.
What else is there to say?
Drive down any road,

take a train or an airplane
across the world, leave
your old life behind,

die and be born again –
wherever you arrive
they’ll be there first,

glossy and rowdy
and indistinguishable.
The deep muscle of the world.