Saturday, October 31, 2009

Calling All Dog Owners

Hah! Finally. Years ago "OutwardHound" made a small really neat canvas bag that velcroed closed and also velcroed onto your leash handle. You could stuff poo bags into it (I find the sleeve the Tribune comes in works perfectly) and so had a handy poo-pick up supply handy when I took the Calhooligans out for a walk. Alas, they stopped making the thing (though the company does still make the canvas, collapsable drinking bowl) and all I could find were heavy, clunky plastic holders or other really awkward things.

Then, in Dog Fancy magazine, saw an ad for a couple of really cool new products. One is the Dogbag Duffels, like OutwardHound, canvas zippered bags that clip onto the leash or collar and hold a supply of poo bags. Comes in a variety of colors and is under $7. They're located at, click on Dogbag Duffles.

Then, some more clever folks have solved the issue of what to do with the poo when you've picked it up and now have the leashes in one hand and poo in the other and, oh, dang, now what? So they invented the Perfect Poo Pouch ( in a variety of colors and prints. Even President Obama has one for his dog, Bo. The colorful pouch comes in large ($15, about 7 x 10," for dogs over 50 lbs, spaniels to shepherds + ) and small ($12, about 7 x 7," for dogs under 50 lbs, yorkies to terriers) and fastens to your leash.

So, now there's no excuse to be a tacky jerk and leave dog poo all over the street. Simply pick up the poo in the plastic bag from your little Dogbag Duffle, twist it closed and drop it into the Poo Pouch on the leash and you've still got your hands free to deal with the leash or leashes and anything else that comes up.

Plus, your dogs get to carry their own poo, but now they can do it in style!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

One Down, Two To Go?

The Oct 29 Tribune reports that President Obama has signed legislation that would allow communities larger than 10,000 to be eligible for federal loans and grants. One of those funding sources is the USDA., with $3 billlion in their pot that may be available to help low income homeowners pay for the sewer hook-up fees. There also may be low-interest loans and long-term loans and some grants available, and John Diodati, county public works administrator and grants coordinator, plans to submit requests to get his hands on some of that nice money.

Of course, the promise of grants and loans and etc. have been dangled just out of reach of the desperate fingers of Los Ososians before. Not to mention the wonderful semantic dos-a-dos of, Hooray We Got The Authoriziation Bill For Pots Of SewerMoney, Hooray! Oh, wait, did I forgot to tell you that there is no actual money in that Authorization Jar? Sorry, my bad.

So, once again, we have “authorization” to apply for some money, but no guarantee there will be money there or that Los Osos will get any of it. So, stay tuned.

You Have Our Deepest Sympathies

The CSD posted it’s intention of confirming and hiring W. Dan Gilmore as the new CSD general manager. He’s supposed to start work Nov. 16. The Tribune notes Mr. Gilmore is a Cal Poly grad, has an MBA with an emphasis in management and was a “utilities engineer for the city of San Luis Obispo from 1992-2009.” And “worked on sewer-related capital improvement projects . . “

Welcome aboard, Mr. Gilmore. You have our deepest sympathies.

Another Big Fat F for Baker.

In the Tribune’s County Roundup, Cal Poly was given another smack upside the head by State Senator Leland Yee, who condemned the way guest speaker Michael Pollan was treated recently. Said Yee, “the university was catering to the elite and committed a ‘gross violation of academic freedom’ after changing a free lecture scheduled for the best selling author into a panel discussion with three speakers” after “David Wood, chairman of Harris Ranch Beef Co. had threatened to stop financially supporting the university because of Pollan’s scheduled talk.”

Aw, picky, picky, picky.

Then there’s yet another dust up brewing over the scholarships being offered to Cal Poly (Rodeo) students by Smokeless Tobacco – a product that has been heavily associated with Rodeos and Rodeo participants. The University says they can’t possibly interfere with adult students who may or may not want that scholarship money and if use of the company’s product sickens and kills it’s users and certainly sets an unfortunate “branding” association with a dangerous product, that’s also none of their beeswax.

A recent letter to the editor (L.A. Times?) put this all into the proper nutshell: If you want PUBLIC schools and universities to operate without fear and favor and want them to support full academic freedom they must be adequately funded by the PUBLIC. If you don’t, then you open the door to corporate funding and with corporate funding, ya gotta dance with them what brung ya. If a grade school has to rely on Coke for a good part of its budget, then you can bet that when the best interests of the children (overweight kids slurping down soft drinks from machines located all over campus) conflict with the best interests of Coca-Cola, guess which interest will win?

Branding hurts cows and lasts a lifetime (or up to the slaughterhouse door.) Ditto for “academic” freedom and The Best Interests Of The Children. We get the schools we’re willing to pay for or we get the schools Corporate America is willing to pay for. Take your pick.

So, kiddies, have a chaw, eat your Harris Beef and drink your Coke. Then drag your cancer-riddle jaw, your clogged arteries and your sorry diabetic ass to class. It’s American education at its finest!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall's Transit

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for October 28, 09

The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Phil Potts

The great grapevine is giving up the ghost. Even in the sunny heat of September, the leaves started tossing in the towel and with October’s bright blue weather they’re calling it quits for the year.

In the garden, the four o’clocks are decidedly looking like half-past six. Only the nasturtiums, the contrarian nasturtiums, rouse themselves into mounds of new dinner-plate leaves for one last tumble-running carouse before the frosts take them down. Whoopee time for the peppery-flowered Katzenjammer Kids.

In the street easement in front of the house, in the County’s no man’s land beside the dirt road midway between my neighbor’s house and mine, the huge dead pine tree stands, an arboreal threat to life and limb when the winter winds blow, the branches overhanging the power drop lines to our houses. Nobody knows who planted the thing or when. It’s been there forever. I called the power company and they came out to merely top a bit off, calculating that by reducing the overall height of the thing, should it fall, it would miss their highest power lines. About the “hot” drop lines, they don’t care. Not their problem.

Not the county’s problem either. They claim that the homeowner’s responsible for anything from their property line into the middle of the street. In my case, the street is an un-maintained county dirt “road.” When I say, Well, if I’m responsible for all that, and since you don’t maintain this road anyway, I’m going to block off a good portion and plant a garden. No, the County says, you can’t do that. That’s OUR property. Well, fine, I say, then come take care of this potential liability – the dead tree that’s on YOUR property. And they say, Oh, no, that area is YOUR responsibility. Okay, sez I, then I’m going to block it off and build a garden. No can do, they say, that’s OUR property.

And around and around we go. All benefit to the county, all liability to the homeowner with taxes paying for, What, exactly? Not dead street trees, that’s for sure.

My neighbor calls A Tree Guy who stands under the great dead, bug-infested pine and says, Listen! Woodpeckers. They decide to just lop off a good portion of the limbs, especially those of a size to threaten the drop lines, and leave the rest as perches for the birds. I’m delighted to hear of the decision since my beloved crows hang out there, practicing their mutters. It is a resting place for a local hawk and I often hear an owl up there softly calling on soft June nights. And the tree is always filled with a constantly moving crowd of small birds, all flitting from branch to branch. The Tree Guy says a properly trimmed dead tree can stand for 8 years. I hope he’s right.

More changes as my little red XBox Scion, The Tall Dog Car, was hit and shoved into the car in front of me. No one was hurt as everyone was going slowly to begin with, so the stiff soreness I feel a few days later I attribute simply to the effect of bracing for that Ohhh Shiiiittt moment when you look in the rear view mirror and know the guy behind you isn’t going to stop in time and watch in Slo-Mo as your own car moves inexorably forward, and then hear the sickening metallic crunch as the front end smooshes into the car in front of you. Ooooo, Noooooo.

The damage to my rear bumper was minimal since the young man behind me who ran out of space and time and luck was driving a car with a “normal” bumper set at the “normal” height. However, the destruction to the front of my car was awesome because the Jeep 4X I was shoved into had a Very Tall Bumper set abnormally high, as are all 4Xers, and instead of bumping into my bumper, it smashed into my car’s face.

And all I can think about during the insane Insurance/Repair/Crazy Dance that follows is, I wonder why the insurance lobby didn’t get Congress to mandate equal height bumpers. Would have saved them a ton of money.

Since the car rental agency discourages putting dogs in their rental cars, the pack of Calhooligans must make do with daily walks instead of visits to the dog park. That suits them just fine. For them, all change is good. Whether it’s a changing season, a dead tree, or a broken-nosed car, it’s all just another exciting adventure in a world filled with magical things.

Not a bad philosophy. Smart dogs.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

From “Selected Poems 1969 – 2005” by David Harsent, originally in “A Bird’s Idea of Flight.”

The Archivist

I found him, as they said I would, walled-up
by tree-calf and buckram.
Anglepoise, lectern, stool,
stylus, dividers . . . He crouched
in a funnel of ivory light;
I heard the creak of vellum,
then my own breathing, then his – a rich
cackle of tar rising
in either lung. He sifted the arcane,
part-chanted, part-sung –
dates and times as usual, the usual rhymes
but also the way a name might sometimes become divisible by number.

‘Your children admire you. Worse than that,
your wives kept back
all the old stuff you thought you’d thrown away.
Your parents loved you in their secret selves.
Because you hated them they lean
towards you to apologize.’ He clicked
his tongue: ‘There’s little more to learn, but why
did you come to me? You could have got
this much and more from any girl
with a pack of cards, a gift-
shop crystal and a borrowed shawl.’

As he bent back to trawl
the page, I heard a rustle like something
stirring a fall of leaves, and a worm
came out of his head, a thin
filament, breaking the skin
of the waxy crescent
just behind his ear, nosing the air
for the hint of burning
back along the stack.
‘You have wasted your life.
I can’t give news of the journey
you want to undertake,
but everything here says pointless,
ill-advised; look for yourself . . .’ He was cupping
a mirror; I saw my image flow
from the glass to the sieve of his fingers.
He spread his hands: ‘What else . . .?
What else do you want to know?’

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Times Commentary

Lisa Schicker has a Commentary in this week’s New Times at:

Gee, I wonder if The Shredder will find it poo-poo-pee-dooo funny?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Head For The Hills, Sam, The GAY Is Coming!

So is our own Assemblyman, Sam Blakeslee, got his eye on running for State Senator? Casting an eye on his “base,” fixin’ for ta’ fire ‘em up, fixin’ fer a run?

According to an Oct 18 Tribune story by Bob Cuddy, Sam sent a memo to his fellow Republicans just dissing Governor Schwarzenegger all over the place, attacking several pieces of health care legislation that Sam thinks are really bad. Seems Sam thought it was reeeeelly, reeeelly awful to have a law that outlawed “gender discrimination in health care and prohibit health insurers from dropping clients who run up large bills within two years of signing up.” (Uh, wasn’t that a key issues in the federal “reform,” making sure insurance companies can’t dump people who cost them money? As for gender discrimination in health care? Sam’s FOR gender discrimination in health care and opposed to a bill that would eliminate that? Huh?)

Also on Blakeslee’s top 10 list of WORST legislation is recognizing out-of-state gay marriage [you know, complying with the Federal full faith and credit clause] and “declaring May 22 ‘Harvey Milk Day,” which Blakeslee said ‘champions (the) homosexual political agenda.”

So Sam’s four-square behind creating two classes of California citizens; those who have full civil rights and can marry and have those marriages done in another state be legit in this state, and those who almost have full civil rights, except their perfectly legal out-of-state marriage is bupkis. And, Awww Mah Gawd. Hide the children, it’s the dreaded “Homosexual political agenda.” (Does that differ from the standard, plain vanilla, white-bread, run-of-the-mill “Homosexual agenda?”) Yikes, sounds like Sam’s cranking up his Feed The Base It’s The Dreaded GAY! playbook.

Cuddy’s story also notes, “As the Republican leader in the Assembly, Blakeslee is one of the so-called Big Five who have significant input into how the state is run.” All you second-class citizens need to keep that in mind. Sam’s moving on up. He signed a blood oath to Grover Norquist and was willing to see this state go off a cliff rather than make some sensible tax compromises and for his party loyalty he was given a seat at the Big Boy table. (Senator Maldonado modestly compromised and was punished for his loyalty to the state as a whole and loyalty to the people of the state. In Grover Norquist Land, there is only one loyalty and it isn’t to the constitution or the people of the state; it is to the Republican Party.)

Thank You Doctor Foreman

In the Trib’s Oct 18 series on health care, “Can We Heal The System?” there’s a brief story on Dr. Larry Foreman, an emergency room physician from Arroyo Grande. Dr. Larry sensibly notes that even though we are supposedly “reforming health care,” what we really are doing is simply reforming health INSURANCE, which still doesn’t solve the problem.

“We can do it now, or we can do it later,” Foreman says of universal health care. The current system is destined to ‘implode,’ he says. ‘It’s not sustainable.’
“Demographics are not reassuring, he says,” to which I can only add, “I’ll say!”

“The ideal system, Foreman says, would provide ‘the best result with the least amount of money being spent,’ as opposed to the market deciding, which he believes is the way health care delivery works today.

“As to spending less money, many reforms are needed, including making sure pharmaceutical companies spend their research and development money on research and development and not on salaries and advertising.

“Foreman also stresses the need for preventive medicine.”

Indeed so, Dr. Foreman. We actually need a system that’s focused on coordinating patient care -- the so-called Mayo Clinic method – add in known “best practices” care and aggressive preventative care early on, and maybe we’d have a shot at actually improving our medical health. Plus, figuring out a way to get the American public to grow up and begin to take some responsibility for their own health.

Round ‘em UP, Head ‘em Out

That loud sucking sound you heard east of town was Cal Poly President,Warren Baker trying to ‘splain why he capitulated and forced a guest speaker (author and agribusiness critic) Michael Pollan to share his (formerly) solo podium with speakers from agribusiness so he wouldn’t lose Harris Beef Ranch Co’s promised donation to the university. Suss out on academic freedom or lose the big cow bucks, said Harris. And Baker said? Well, in the Tribune he had an “explanation” that went, Blah, Blah, Blah, our students need to be exposed to diverse viewpoints, Blah, Blah, Blah, “Alumni – or for that manner any special interest groups including donors – do not dictate classroom content and they do not dictate who will come to this campus and who won’t.” Blah, Blah, Blah. . . .

Well, that’s sure good news; no classroom content “dictation” BUT, apparently donors WILL dictate what kind of forum certain speakers will get when they do come to speak. Which means a solo speaker can get a solo podium BUT NOT if a wealthy donor demands that he be given a “panel” with “opposing views.”

Then he’ll get a panel or he’ll be given the bum’s rush.

Said Pollan, who is a journalism professor at UC Berkley, “. . . Wood’s threat constituted an attack on academic freedom, adding that bullying has no place at a university.”

You may laugh now.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Your Sunday Poem

This from David Harsent, appearing in the August 10 & 17 2009 New Yorker. Harsent’s book, “Selected Poems 1969 -2005” is just waiting for you at your local bookstore.


They bring with them a coldness, as tradition demands,
and a light, dry odor of rot
much like worm in wood, and bring a chorus of cries

to fill the air as if it were birdsong, and bring in the their open hands
tokens of themselves, a letter, a snapshot,
and bring some trace of their point of departure, a smudge

on a shoe, a stain on the sleeve, and bring the disguise
they lived under, stitched with their names,
hoping you’ll give them the nod, hoping you’ll recognize

something, perhaps, of the old times, the fun and games,
while they shuffle up as if they stood on the edge
of night so a nudge would tip them over, and bring

a dew of death that settles on picture frames,
on pelmets, on clothes in the closet, on books,
on your eyelash, to make a prism through which you get

a broken image of what must be a stage set
of the Peaceable Kingdom, a front
for that place you only ever find in dreams,

its undrinkable rivers, its scrubland of snarls and hooks,
horizons gone askew,
beasts hamstrung and walking on their hocks,

and bring their long-lost hopes, which they lay at your feet
then stand back, stand apart,
hairless, soft-skinned, their eyes bright blue

like the eyes of the newborn, and bearing a look
of matchless sorrow, as would, for sure,
stop the heart of whoever it is they take you for.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Mighty Finn McCool As A Racing Stripe

Finn's legs are so long he can't quite sit like "normal" dogs so ends up like this. Don't try this at home!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is Michael Moore Getting Tired?

Well, who could blame him? His movie “Sicko” spelled out the medical insurance company scams and how thoroughly they owned Congress and now the American people are watching that game unfold in all it’s glory and they sit there doing nothing, apparently unaware that they’re about to get hosed so that insurance companies can make more money off their backs.

Now, in his new film, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” he spells out how the Bank Of The U.S. was robbed in broad daylight, with the foxes firmly in control of the chicken coop. And even after the big heist, the foxes who robbed the bank are STILL running the chicken coop. And, once again, the American people will watch this film and do nothing. Michael seems to realize he’s on a fool’s errand for he closes this movie with a disheartened comment that he can’t do this any more; the audience now has to get off it’s butt and do something for themselves.

Which, of course, won’t happen. The people who go see this movie already know about the scam, while the very people who really, really NEED to see this movie, won’t go. They’ll be at home (or in a homeless shelter) watching “Dancing With Washed Up Stars And Disgraced Politicos." Or showing up at faux AstroTurf Tea Bag rallies yelling about Obama as Hitler, then go out and campaign for the same thieves who happily are picking their pockets even as they wave their protest signs around.

It really is an amazing phenomenon. When did Americans get both stupid and spineless? Where we used to have a Don’t Tread On Me prickliness, a Missourian Show Me truculence, an Everyman both looking out for himself AND his neighbor, we now have either rapacious sociopathy or beaten-down “victims” – “peasants” who accept their crummy lot as nothing less than their just due. (Indeed, as Moore shows, many ginormous blue-chip companies are secretly taking out life insurance policies on their employees, privately referring to them as “peasants.” When the “peasant” dies, the company gets a hefty payback. And I’m not talking about insuring a key, top employee whose unexpected death would create a financial liability for the company. No, we’re talking about Wal-Mart “associates.” Low level employees. And when this “peasant” working for Wal-Mart dies, and leaves her family with hundreds of thousands in medical bills, Wal-Mart, one of the richest companies in the world, gets a few hundred thousand in insurance payout on that dead peasant. It’s such a sweet deal. And Lord knows, Wal-Mart needs the money, doesn’t it?

That’s the kind of culture we’ve created and cling to with such fierce strength. Grover Norquist is alive and well and clearly has become the philosopher king of our age: All liabilities and costs go to the Public; all profit goes to the smallest possible number of (tax free) hands. It’s Gospel. And it’s all ours. And, clearly, we love it.

Which only begs the question: Why?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

October Rain

Rain, soft and gentle right now,

which makes the people living in the burned-up

hills breathe easier for a while.

Heavy rain means mudslides.

Apocalyptic California.

Heading for the hills won't save you -- they burn.

Running for the flatlands won't help -- they flood.

Standing still won't work -- the earth will quake a 7.0 under your feet.

Move to Oklahoma, get struck by lightning.

Move to Kansas and a tordano takes you to Oz.

So, hell, best just stay where you are

and dance around with happy feet

and sing

a little rain song.

Monday, October 12, 2009

At War Over A Peace Prize

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for October 12, 09

I don’t understand all the furor over President Obama being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. I think some of the confusion comes from the title of the award – Peace Prize. Maybe if they renamed it the “Nobel We Keep Hoping For Some Peace Prize,” people wouldn’t be so touchy.

But let’s face it, that award has always stirred people up. I mean, every year the Committee seems to award the Prize in Literature to some obscure writer named WhoThe Hell? that nobody’s ever heard of, so in the international literary salons eyes roll and peer down sniffing noses, sneers slide onto faces and sotto-voce mutters are heard – This is an outrage! Whoever heard of WhoTheHell?’s book? It sold 40 copies, 39 to his Mom, and he gets the Nobel, while my books are international best sellers and I get bupkis?

So, this year’s Outrage du jour is no different, except it does have a couple of extra wrinkles. First, of course, is our country’s poisonous political climate. Since Obama is a Democrat, the Republicans felt they had to knee-jerk damn with faint praise as Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee Chairman sniffed, “The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’” Which is a hilarious question coming from somebody who would qualify as a Nobel WhoTheHell?? himself. Of course, so much of what’s left of the Republican party has gone so far to the right that they’re now stuck with the likes of Bill Kristol and Rush Limbaugh, that gang of Right Wing No-Nothings who were all cheering when the U.S. lost the bid for the Olympics, which means that Republican Conservatives now Hate America And Want The Terrorists To Win.

The second wrinkle is that Obama is Commander in Chief and is heading up a country still actively mired in two wars, so a “peace” prize carries its own curious cognitive dissonance. And, since he was only in office a very short time before he was nominated and selected, the prize seems to be an a priori award, which is like giving the prize in literature to an author for a work-in-progress: A sort of Nobel Prize for First Draft Literature.

True, the historical list of Nobel Peace Prize winners doesn’t include many people who actually secured some kind of “official peace,” i.e. single-handedly negotiated a treaty or cease fire that stopped a war. And despite the best efforts of many noble people over the years toiling in the vineyards of peace, their harvests have too often been fleeting and thin, even though they got the Prize for At Least Trying. Or they got the award because their efforts on other fronts were focused on creating system changes that could help avert future wars, such as Al Gore’s work on global warning, a climate disaster that, if not mediated, will indeed lead to resource wars on an unimaginable scale.

In Obama’s case, what I find so fascinating, is that the Committee seems to be acutely aware of the old saying, “appearance is reality.” Indeed, our modern viral communications often turns appearance into actual reality in a trice. The fake can travel the world five times over before the “real” puts its shoes on, and intentions actually can shape reality. And since the Nobel Prize is powerfully about perception – the award money’s nice, but there’s nothing like having that title before your name to open doors and so move your career and hence your work forward – then an award that’s a sort of Good Job So Far, may accomplish more than an after-the-fact, Thanks for Your Past Efforts, Too Bad They Didn’t Do Much award ever could.

I mean, rewarding good effort and intentions is often a great way to get MORE good efforts. And if we want to end up with a peaceful world, we’ll need more good efforts, more good intentions, more cooperative efforts, and more world-wide problem-solving that doesn’t involve bombing people. Then, when peaceful interaction becomes the norm and not the exception, selfish, greedy, unilateral, corporate plunderers and cowboy warmongers will be considered shockingly tres gauche outliers – easier targets for the world political salons’ eyeball rolling and down-the-nose sniffing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Your Sunday Sooooooop Recipe

Ah, October’s bright blue weather, crisp cool mornings, time to get out and start in on fall pruning chores. In my back yard, the four o’clocks are sagging and dying, the magnificent grape vine along the back fence is filled with yellowing leaves with many already on the ground. The ‘spitoonyahs’ are looking blowsy and blown and time for a trim back in hope they’ll have one last bloom in them before they’re gone for the season. Clearly, Winter’s a’cummin’ and what better on a crisp day than Spinach, leek, and potato soup? This one again from the Oct. Sunset Magazine, which describes it thusly: “Good old vichyssoise, but with spinach and without cream – so it’s a beautiful electric green and kind to your waistline.” I Yum Wot I Yum! Turn you into Popeye in a trice! And couldn’t be more simple or deeeelicious!

Trim tough stems from 1 lb spinach (1 bunch)
Cook: 1 lb ( 2 leeks, approx) cleaned, sliced leeks in butter with salt, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups low-salt vegetable or chicken broth and 1 large chopped peeled Yukon Gold potato (or 2-3 medium regular potatoes if you can’t get Yukon Golds). Bring to a boil covered, then simmer until potatoes are tender, 10 – 15 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.
Puree soup in a blender or with an emersion blender. Reheat in pan thinning with more broth. Season with salt and pepper.
Top it with croutons. Serves 4 – 6

Friday, October 09, 2009

Blind Justice

The Supreme Court’s hearing a case that could be interesting (or not) involving a ginormous cross in the Mojave National Preserve atop Sunrise Rock that was put there in 1934 as a “war memorial.” Ten years ago, as the L.A. Times reports, “it came under legal attack from a former park service employee who, though a Catholic, thought it was inappropriate to favor one religion over another in the preserve. The National Park Service had turned down a request to have a Buddhist symbol erected nearby.

“A federal judge and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the stand-alone display of the cross in the national preserve was unconstitutional and, further, Congress’ move to transfer it to the private VFW did not solve the problem.

“The Obama administration, joining with the VFW, urged the high court to uphold the display of the cross now that it is in private hands.”

In other words, the government was trying to duck the issue by shoving a piece of (formerly public) land with the cross on it off into private hands then declare, See, it’s a private matter right to have a ginormous cross right in the middle of public land, heh-heh.

Well, the court will now decide to focus on the “private” land deal only or go for a larger view, but what was interesting was how well this case illustrates how we get ourselves into paradigms that then that construct becomes “real.”

In this case, without even thinking about it much, it is culturally accepted that a cross signifies death, graves, war-dead memorial & etc. You name it, if you’re looking for a symbol involving “dead,” the cross is simply a cultural “given,” handed down from our theocratic ancestors. Build a memorial to dead people? Put up a cross. No questions asked. Of course we put a cross up, we’re honoring dead people. What else would you put up??? So, Honored Dead = cross; case closed.

So now we have Justice Scalia apparently stuck in this paradigm, which is scary. A justice of the Supreme Court? Stuck in constructs?

Argued the ACLU, a cross “is the predominant symbol of Christianity. It signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins,” Peter Eliasberg told the justices. But because of its special religious significance, he said, it should not stand alone as a prominent symbol in a national park.

“Justice Antonin Scalia sharply disagreed. ‘It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all the war dead.”

“Eliasberg objected, ‘I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.’

“Scalia shot back: ‘I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that the cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.”

Uh, no, Mr. Scalia, the outrageous conclusion is that a Supreme Court justice finds himself comfortably and unquestioningly in a cultural construct that accepts, without question, that, Of COURSE a War Dead Memorial = A Cross, What else should be used” in honor of all the war dead?”

What else, indeed. Think, Mr. Scalia. THINK.

Quick, Hide the Gerbils

Followup story on the Supreme Court’s hearing on the 1st Amendment case versus selling videos of dogs fighting or “snuff” films involving torturing and killing small animals for sexual gratification of sickos & etc. (Quel Make-A-Buck American! Quel human, alas!) the Times reports the justices taking the discussion of this issue to an interesting new place.

“Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. garnered the attention of his colleagues with a series of questions on whether videos portraying humans being killed would be protected as free speech.
“Describing a hypothetical scenario, Alito said there might well be a “pay per view” market for programs made outside the United States and beyond the power of U.S. law that showed people actually being killed. He call it the ‘Human Sacrifice Channel’ and wondered aloud whether Congress could outlaw the showing of such programs in this country.

“Live. Pay-per-view, you know, on the Human Sacrifice Channel. That’s OK?” Alito asked.

“A lawyer defending a Virginia man who sold dog-fighting videos said she wasn’t sure.

“The fact conduct is repulsive or offensive does not mean we automatically ban the speech,” said Patricia Millett, the lawyer for Robert Stevens.

“She said the 1st Amendment usually protects speech and expression, even if the underlying conduct is ugly or illegal. She said the government should work to stop the illegal acts rather than make it a crime to show the illegal acts. [Forgetting the powerful link between sales fueling and even creating the behavior because it’s so lucrative – the old free market at work.]

“Several members of the court pressed her.

“I’m still looking for an answer,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “You are unwilling to say that Congress can pass a law that you cannot have a Human Sacrifice Channel.”

Ah, doncha love it. A Human Sacrifice Channel. Well, rest assured, if there’s a way to make THAT happen, bet on it – it’ll show up on your nearest pay-per-view and will make a bundle!

Meantime, this case will attempt to somehow figure out where 1st Amendment lines can be drawn. So far it’s No yelling Fire in Crowded theatres and no Child Porn. And, of course, there’s all kinds of remedies in civil court vis a vis libel & etc. But will the court add No Animal torture & snuff films for profit and/or No Human Sacrifice Channels to the list? Or will those be O.K? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Post Time

Ah, finally, the cat’s out of the bag, sort of: story in the Oct 6 New York Times about a lawsuit over a racehorse that “has exposed the fault lines of administering legal drugs to America’s thoroughbreds.”

Seems that I want Revenge, a Kentucky Derby favorite, was scratched from the race with a bad ankle. Happens all the time, you say? Yes, indeed. But the interesting wrinkle here is the testimony of the veterinarians has exposed the typical example of injured horses being doctored up and run again, often without telling the owners or co-owners (in this case) with the horse breaking down later because it’s been run on an injury that may not have had time to heal (time in the barn costs money and scratched races mean loss of more money) and eventually the horse breaks down and there goes bazillions of dollars in winnings, not to mention lost bets. The horse, of course is often lost as well as a jockey or two.

Legal doctoring with steroid injections and other anti-inflammatories plus lax oversight or even a lack of consensus as to what constitutes correct treatment or overuse is the problem. Plus the love of money which too often times comes first over love of the horse. Plus the sad fact that thoroughbreds are unnatural creatures deliberately bred for speed which leads to the unfortunate and deadly consequence that they now have freakishly weak ankles and forelegs legs – in short thoroughbreds are not a horse that would survive without human intervention; too fragile.

And since they’re being used as a method of making money, you know that too many of them will be regularly overused and abused and when they founder, it’s time for the knackerman.

And it isn’t just race horses. If you remember the awful case of the string of Argentine polo ponies that suddenly died at a polo match in Florida. They had been given a specially mixed “tonic” and unfortunately the pharmacy that mixed it apparently got the amount of one of the ingredients reversed and a whole lot of the horses died very quickly. The “tonic” was totally legal, contained no forbidden drugs, and was administered because it allowed the horses to recover more quickly after a chukker so they could get back into the game again. When I first heard about the tragedy (and a devastating tragedy it was for these top riders who bond powerfully with their remarkable horses, many of whom they’ve trained from colt-hood and ridden for years), my first thought was, Why are you giving a “cocktail” to perfectly sound, perfectly conditioned and trained healthy horses? And if you’re giving them this cocktail so they can “recover more quickly” from a totally unnatural activity – chukkers are nothing that exist in nature; horses run away from danger for a short time then stop and rest; they do not run back and forth at high speed, with numerous ankle-wrenching stops and turns-on-a-dime for an exhausting period of time, again and again – then maybe you need to think about what you’re doing to your beloved horses and maybe need to allow a longer natural rest time (sans cocktails) by getting some more ponies as fill-in.

Of course, that would cost more money. So the horses get their cocktails and sometimes something goes wrong and they die. And race horses get their ankles doctored up and run before they’re healed and founder and die. And the money rolls on.

Free Rein, or Dead Hampsters Don't Count

Meanwhile, in the Supreme Court, an interesting “free speech” test case involving what are basically snuff films involving small furry animals being crushed by women in high heels or bare feet sold to sexual fetish sickos, as well as videos being sold (and owned) of a variety of animal snuff films – dog fights, dogs fighting and killing hogs, you name it, all for the stimulation of sickos who get off on that kind of stuff.

One group is arguing that it’s all a matter of free speech. The other group is arguing that animal snuff films have no redeeming value and should be illegal. The court seems to be leaning to the free speech side, which will certainly open the way for even more “creative” animal snuff films because one can never forget the unredeeming power of money and sexual sickos.

Interestingly, possession of child pornography is now an exception to the free speech rule – own that stuff you go to jail even though you did not actually molest a small child, just owned the video or owned or downloaded the pictures of the molesting, while it’s a good bet that owning animal snuff films and photos will be declared perfectly fine. In both cases, sentient beings are being injured and brutalized and abused for the enjoyment of sickos, an activiy that is utterly without redeeming social value, not to mention the socially redeeming issue that there is a powerful connection between animal abusers and human abusers, but in this case, animals don’t count.

Which is ironic because about 100 years ago, there were a few animal cruelty laws on the books but NO child cruelty laws on the books, so an animal cruelty law was used by the good people of New York to shield and save a child – who, it was decided, was an “animal” after all. That case led to a raft of child welfare laws.

Too bad the favor will not be paid back in this case.

Calling All Doggies

Saturday, Oct 10, SLO-4-PUPs will be having our 8th Anniversary celebration and fun/fundraiser for the Off Leash Dog Park at El Chorro Regional Park. (Full disclosure: I’m on the Board of SLO-4-PUPs). The event will run from 10 a.m. to about 2 pm-ish. There’ll be an fun quasi-“agility” course for your dog to run through, a “Not So Serious Dog Show,” with certificates for all participants, lots of chances to win really cool raffle baskets, an official Canine Good Citizens Test (those aren’t available very often so here’s a great chance to have your dog certified), the Department of Animal Services will hold an adopt-a-pet booth (time to adopt a dog), and we’ll have a hot dog BBQ and lots of swell cake!

So, bring your pooch (or come down and adopt a dog) and stop by for some fun.

Monday, October 05, 2009

One Little "Opinion," Two Little "Opinions," Three Little "Opinions," . . .

Check out "Fradulent Concealment" over at I suggested to Ron Crawford that he send all these documents to the County Counsel, who would call them "opinions," and then Supervisor Gibson could yell at him and tell him to stop calling Montgomery Watson Harza names, then everyone could wave the documents and go . . ." BOOOOOOO -- Hissss, these official documents are nothing but Opinion!" and then toss rotten tomatoes at Ron as he scampers out of the BOS chambers, after which the Shredder could call him another LON (Los Osos Nut) and make more poopy jokes and then we could all have a big laugh and nobody would ask so much as a single question about the matter. Case closed.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Your Sunday Photo

Put a mortuary in next door, and there you'd have it!

Reason # 2938289301 Why I Love Los Osos.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ooooo Noooo, Et tu Brooootay?

The Shredder has a funny take on the County’s response to Lisa Schicker’s request that they look into alleged conflict of interest issues over the contracts for the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project. What makes the Shredder’s piece doubly funny is this:

One of the key problems with The Los Osos “Story” is that once you re-brand and reframe the story as LON (Los Osos Nuts, as the Shredder calls them) then anything anyone from Los Osos brings forward – no matter how factual or true -- can be dismissed as Looney Toons. When the “media” buys into that “story,” then it’s really hard to overcome. “Market-based” and media-savvy people know just how to reframe and re-brand the issues, i.e. “anti-sewer obstructionists” becomes a lazy but useful buzz word to falsely describe and so demean and dismiss anybody who raises a concern, even legitimate concerns and ideas that actually do get incorporated in the project, like returning water to the basin, which was proposed by those wacky Los Osos Anti-Sewer Obstructionist Crazies, The Sustainability Group. And once it’s reframed, the false story takes on a life of its own that absolutely defies correction. Worse, the consequences of that false story can be catastrophic on a community that is falsely branded – after all, a town full of LONs and “anti-sewer obstructionists crazies” can easily be demeaned and dismissed as a community deserving of regulatory incompetence, botched political and technical decisions, and a continued failure of due diligence and oversight, all failures carrying a devastating price tag, all failures that did not need to happen in the first place had the powers that be – including The Press – done their jobs properly.

Better still, once re-branded, instead of having to do the difficult job of sorting through the message to separate the wheat from the chaff, it becomes easier to lump it all together, shoot the messenger and then toss the whole thing out as LON chaff. So, lies are truly enduring, especially when they have so many handmaidens with vested interests to keep them alive.

Though it’s funny to see Shredder falling into that “rebrand & re-frame” trap since he/she’s usually waaaayyy more savvy than that. But, Shredder is right about one thing: It’s pointless to ask foxes to investigate their own chicken coops. That’s what the Watchdog Press is for . . . oh, wait . . . Shredder’s right. Forget that. Silly me.