Friday, December 31, 2010

Ah Gotta Guy and his name is Saaammm....

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for Dec 31 20l0

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
                                       Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ooops, well there goes the country. First black people got into the Army.  Then women.  Now gays. What’s the world coming to next? Well, since so many of our old, draft-dodging chicken-hawk politicians keep getting us into wars, I guess we’ll need everyone we can get our hands on to keep our military well-stocked with the finest professional soldiers in the world.

But I found the battle over gays in the military particularly funny.  Like gays haven’t been serving all along? And all the wink-nudge comments about being fearful taking showers with gay soldiers?  Like straight soldiers haven’t been scrubbing up with gay soldiers all along?  Snuggling in foxholes?  Yup, though if you’re under fire I suspect the sexual orientation of the guy next to you is the last thing you’d be worrying about.

For years, it’s been a constant battle to officially NOT know that there were gays in the military, and in an effort to codify that NOT knowing, Congress invented DATA: Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell, which was supposed to legalize NOT knowing.  Unfortunately, a lot of people were asking and telling so about 14,000 soldiers were booted out, including desperately needed Arab linguists at a time when the military was scraping the bottom of the barrel in a search to recruit enough warm bodies. So one military hand started desperately accepting citizens with criminal records while the other hand was kicking out highly trained soldiers. It was a destructive and pointless policy that constantly damaged mission readiness.

Despite the obvious futility (to say nothing about issues of simple equality under law of all citizens), the strongest opposition seemed to break along age lines.  To the old generals (and old politicians), gays in the trenches were a scary thing that conjured up tasteless jokes about bars of soap and showers; to the young kids actually in the trenches and in the showers, it was no big deal.  They’d grown up with gay friends amidst a popular culture loaded down with openly gay icons, had seen the rise of gay rights and had little problem with “gayness.”

Except for the Marines.  As Congress ordered the military brass to “study” the issue, all the branches came back with a report that pretty much said, “No Big.  With some minor tweaking, we will implement the new policy smartly, Sir!” 

But not the Marines.  Not the manly-men, macho Marines, guys famous for hyper-maleness, the rippling oiled muscles, the ripped abs gleaming in the sun, the testosterone-drenched manliness, the over-the-top HooRAH tough, chew-iron-spit-nails, take no prisoners, quintessential non-girly-men bonding in the deep mystical brotherhood of guyness.  Which, let’s face it, is all sooooo gay.  Probably explains why the mere thought of an actual, real gay marine snuggling up next to a straight marine in a foxhole had the top Marine brass rattled. Rattled!

Well, I have one word for those scared generals:  Sparta.  

Politically, the age break was also sadly apparent in Senator Grumpy Gramps McCain who in his dotage has turned into a spotlight chaser who waffles and flips over anything that’ll get him some TV face time.  That’s what he did on this issue, first declaring he’d listen to what the top brass had to say, then, when the top brass had their say, decided he didn’t like their say and voted against repealing DATA, declaring “this is a sad day.”  It was, indeed.  A sad day for Gramps McCain and other politicians who fail to see that arc of justice, bending.

Said Senator John Kerry of the historic vote; “The military remains the great equalizer.  Just like we did after President Truman desegregated the military, we’ll someday look back and wonder what took Washington so long to fix it.”

Ah, well, that’s always the question that goes unanswered when all the injustices we fight so hard to keep in place finally fall.  When the change comes, often after a terrible struggle, we blink and suddenly the world is the same but slightly different.  Then we ask, “Uh, what was all that about, anyway?”

And there never is a good answer.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Road, Road, Road Yer Boat . . .

Baywood Navy member, Phil Gross, commutes to work via the Lakes of Ramona.  Photo by Joan Hughes, Fresno.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Reason 2,307 Why Republicans Need To Shut Up

 Yes, all is fair in love and war and in politics, but the lies of politics cost lives and cause real misery to real people in real time.

Remember when the health reform bill was being hammered out and the Republican/Faux News/Palin lie machine cranked up to warn us that the health bill contained Death Panels where in some government agent would sit in judgment of your granny’s health and then pull the plug on her.  They’re gonna kill granny was the rally cry.

It was a lie, of course.  One among many. Deliberate, malicious, and evil.  But it worked and the provision in the bill that would have allowed family physicians to discuss end of life care with their patients was stripped out.

It’s hard to calculate the human suffering those lies may have caused, both in the false fear they generated, and in the removal of that service by physicians. Instead of Medicare covering a counseling visit (if they wished it) to get information on various end-of-life services and other necessary information people need to make informed choices, they were met with silence.  Or sent elsewhere.  Or sent nowhere and just left on their own with no information.

Well, President Obama has requested that the new Medicare coverage which includes a yearly physical examination or wellness visit, also include “voluntary advance care planning,” wherein the physician will be reimbursed for time spend making sure his patient has the information he/she needs to make choices based on fact, not Republican lies.

The end of life decisions and planning can run the gamut from arranging for DNR forms or palliative-only care to instructing the physician to everything possible to prolong life; the decisions will remain with the patient, but now the patient can have a frank discussion and get necessary information needed during routine screening visits, rather than leaving all this until it’s too late, leaving a family and patient in crisis.

The terrible irony in all this is studies coming out about end-of-life care are showing that a goodly number of terminal patients who select Hospice/comfort care along with standard care often live longer than those who continue with aggressive treatment alone. And the quality of their lives is measurably better.  Plus, that combination costs less and is far less stressful on the patient and his or her family.

So Republican Death Panel liars need to shut up and go away.

Reason 2,308 Why Republicans Need To Shut Up    

Fascinating News Analysis in the Dec 26 Tribune, from the Associated Press: Since Barak Obama’s election, Republicans have claimed that they alone know what The People Want, and since the mid-term election, “Republicans say they will follow ‘the people’s priorities’ when they gain power on Capitol Hill next month. Yet when it came to tax cuts for the wealthy and other top issues that dominated the just concluded lame-duck Congress, the GOP either defied what most Americans want or followed their will only after grudging drawn-out battles.”

Cases in point:
Tax cuts for the wealthy.  “AP/CNBC Poll found only 34 percent wanted taxes reduced for the richest Americans.”

Repeal DATA:  “ABC News-Washington Post poll showed 77 percent favored ending the ban” .  . . “and a Pentagon survey of thousands of servicemen and women found 7 in 10 supporting the move or saying it wouldn’t hurt.”

Approve the Dream Act:  “A Gallup Poll this month found 54 percent support for the measure.”

Ratify the Start Treaty:  “an AP-GFK Poll last month showed 67 percent backing Senate approval of the START pact.”

Concludes the story, “The GOP’s stance was striking for a party that spent much of the 2010 congressional campaign accusing Democrats of ignoring the public’s will, a sentiment often echoed by Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, expected to be the next House Speaker.”

So, please, Republicans, shut up or at the very least go back to the people you claim to represent and actually find out what they want done, then get out of your Faux News Corp alternate reality Big Lie bubble, dump the extreme base ideology and work with your fellow centrists to get the governance of this nation working again.

And stop lying to sick old people (and everyone else.)  It’s evil.  Plus, it’s not necessary.

Speaking of Evil

The comics are having a field day.  Ditto animal rights groups like PETA.  Reason?  Michael Vick expressed a wish to get a dog as a pet.  He’d likely have to get a court-ordered modification of his parole to do that.  But pet lovers everywhere are having cows, claming that Vick is some kind of special monster who should be given a lifetime ban on owning a dog.

Much rich irony in this situation.  From what Vick has said, while doing his time and going through “rehab,” is that, like a whole lot of other Americans, he came from a cultural mind-set that viewed a dog as something “other.”  In this case, he and a whole lot of people involved in the “sport” of dog fighting, viewed dogs as a product, a means to an end, much the way a rancher views a cow: useful for its monetary value only.  Or like puppy millers who may otherwise be kind people, but who simply do not see the cruelty in what they’re doing; to them the dog is a commodity, a product that only has value so long as it’s making money.  Or, like owners of racing greyhounds which are a “product” that is kept alive only if it’s winning races.  When it’s not, it’s as valueless as a broken toaster.  So, it’s a bullet through the brain and onto the trash pile it goes (and in one Florida case, not actually killed, but buried alive anyway.)  It’s just business. It’s just a mind set.

And if Vick’s “rehabilitation” actually changed that mind set, and he now views dogs as living creatures capable of suffering, creatures with inherent value not connected to his ego or income or gambling or rage issues, or whatever mind set he was trapped in while deep in the culture of dog fighting, then I see no reason why he shouldn’t get a dog.  A dog would continue to reinforce his “change of heart.”  Something dogs are very good at.

And as for the knee-jerk reaction from many members of the public?  This is the same public that turns a totally blind eye to the killing of millions of unwanted dogs every year, a public that pitches a fit when various governmental agencies and/or animal rights groups even suggest increased oversight on pet breeding, or tighter limits and rules on breeders (Government take over! Government take over!) or try in any way to reduce the annual dog and cat kills.  They couldn’t’ care less.

So, go figure.  And to Vick, go ahead, get a dog. It’ll do your insides good.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Rain.  Days of rain. Soft, silent, falling on the roof, dripping on the breezeway, rolling down the gutters to pour in a constant stream out into the back yard, like a waterfall.  Rain, heavy, heavier, heaviest, jumping the gutters, pouring, roaring like a roiling river,  puddles becoming lakes, lakes rivers, endless, ceaseless. And growing alarm: Will it never stop?
And then it does and suddenly, a glimpse blue sky in an upside down world, the twin moons of lemons in the tree topsy-turvey now, a reversed fence and a curious Finn McCool in his through-the-looking glass world delicately stepping around the shimmering puddle to sniff the air and stare at the bright blue sky.

Happy Holidays to all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Moon

 Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for December 21, 2010

Enough is as good as a feast
            John Heywood

The giant Four o’Clocks think it’s two-fifteen and are starting to fade while others think it’s 6 a.m. and are starting to grow again.  Part of the grape vine on the fence has put its leaves to sleep for a long winter’s nap while the other half thinks its spring and has sprouted out beautiful green leaves. A recent blast of Santa Ana winds drove temperatures past 100 degrees, followed by an unexpected frost that hammered the purple and olive leaves of the Vitex in the front yard, but not those in the back yard. Then it rained and the nasturtium seeds have all awakened in time for a record-breaking December heat wave.

I think my garden’s confused.

I don’t blame it.  It’s been a peculiar year.  And the country is in no better shape than my garden.  It’s not just the hard times, it’s that the hard times are so bizarrely contradictory. Wall Street gamblers are once again rolling in cash while homeless shelters are filled, food banks depleted and states are flat broke.  And budget proposals coming out of state capitols always seem to start their cuts first on the least of us --the old, the sick, the very young and the poor –while recoiling in absolute horror at the suggestion that perhaps relieving a rich man of a bit of his vast wealth might make it easier for him and his camels to get through the eye of the needle and into heaven.  It is a decidedly un-Christian worldview at the heart of a “Christian” nation and one I suspect would give pause to that small, poor child born two thousand years ago in a Bethlehem stable.

Meanwhile, the very people who were crying out loudest for more government help, for a better safety net, voted into office people who do not believe in government help or safety nets. Odder still, while telling pollsters they longed for a government that would compromise and cooperate, they also voted into office a cohort of uncompromising extremists who vowed to dismantle the very government they were elected to become a part of.  That’s like stuffing a wolverine and a Tasmanian Devil into a jar and telling them to play nice. Disconnect. All around me, disconnect. In the garden, in the nation’s capitol, in the heartland. 

Perhaps we all think it’s two-fifteen.  If so, we’re going to be in for a hard, hard winter.

Mother Nature, of course, takes no notice of safety nets or hard times.  Her clockwork is what it is and once set into motion her actions are unstoppable and will have consequences.  Governments fiddle as the earth burns, appointed experts spewing carbon to fly to glittering conferences on global warming to hear encouraging words which become substitutions for taking any substantial action.  There’s a disconnect there, too.  And a sense of helpless drift.  We don’t do anything because doing something would cost somebody money or be too little, too late, or too much bother, or step on somebody’s toes.  And so we wait and do nothing and hope some clever inventor in a garage in Silicone Valley will soon emerge with a magic cost-free, carbon-free, Eternal Energy Machine and we will all be saved.

But he never arrives, so the 500-year snowfalls hit Iowa again, the 100-year floods hit Tennessee again, and Holland starts building its massive sea-gates and sea-walls.  They know what’s coming. 

But on this silent night, the back yard is still and cold, the sky clear, the solstice moon white and pale, its sister star gleaming in the east. I would wish upon that star for peace on earth.  But there’s no evidence of that ever happening. Or whisper a wish that humans across the globe would suddenly connect the dots the way the Dutch have.  Not a chance. It’s getting so that I no longer know what to wish for any more, since a quick run thorough my usual list results in the same answers: No, nope, never happen, as if, no way, nada, zip, zero. Might as well pray that rocks can fly.

So maybe on these holiday nights, instead of wishes or prayers, perhaps it’s enough to just say, Thank You.  Thank you for the confused giant Four o’Clocks, the lovely pale winter moon, for the guardian nutcrackers and holly glowing in the colorful gleam of the Christmas lights.  Thank you for friends and family who will be gathering for a feast, for the feast itself, and for my dogs’ cold noses as they poke my hand in greeting on a new morning, grateful for one more day rising, filled with possibilities.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

This from Ked Kooser's "Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison."

december 19

cold, and snow in the air.

The cedars in the roadside ditches
are nearly black against the many grays
of this winter morning, but unlike
most things with darkness at their centers
they don't turn an impenetrable shell
to the light.  Rather, like ink on wet paper,
their dark limbs bleed into the light,
reaching farther and farther
into the whiteness of lightly falling snow.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Yup, You Can Say That Again

For another take on the recent BOS meeting on the Rates & Charges protest “vote,” here’s Rock of the Coast.


Supervisor Bruce Gibson had previously declared that “Prohibition Zone” homeowners would pay for San Luis Obispo County’s $200 million Los Osos Wastewater Project one way or another, and on December 14 he delivered on that promise – sticking them with the most expensive per capita sewer project – and now sewer bill – in U.S. history, to be built in an officially-declared “disadvantaged community” in the middle of the “Great Recession.”

» Read Article

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho. We Did It Again

The Dog & Pony Show group of certifiable looneys (see the Dec 11 posting) won a trophy as "Best Animal Entry" in the Los Osos Christmas Parade.  Yippy-ti-yi, good work, little dogies!

And a tip of the ol' cowboy hat to whoever made these trophies.  How cute is that?

Yippe-ti-yi-i, git along little dogies, time ta git yer waggin' tails on down the Ol' Chisholm Trail . . . . .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

End Game, Part Two? Three?

The results of the failed Rates & Charges protest vote hearing at the BOS: 
50% plus one of property owners needed for a successful protest
There were 5,262 notices sent out.
2,632 were needed for a successful protest
801 valid protests were actually received.
15% of the homeowners in the PZ protested

There’s no way of knowing how many people received the long, rambling, incomprehensive 2-page, double-sided notification letter dense with type and with protest vote information buried deep in the bottom half of the third page and figured it was just argle-bargle and tossed it out. As intended.

Public comment notes: 

Mr. Murphy of Reclamator fame was there “on behalf of the people of Los Osos,” wearing a black cowboy hat, black leather jacket and sporting a spiffy grizzled goatee. God alone in his infinite, mysterious wisdom, knows what Murphy thought to do or say or accomplish.  Until he plopped some sort of letter with signatures and a fancy-looking seal on it into the overhead projector and proceeded to announce that Los Osos was in line to receive piles of money from some really swell sounding organization with the words “water” and “green” and “international” in it and we’re talking PILES of money here, Midas-like piles, more money than what’s offered by Publisher’s Clearing House with their promises of vast riches, like BILLIONS, no, wait, multi—billions, TRILLIONS, free money just waiting to rain down on Los Osos, all sworn to by some people or other who, yes, right there, actually signed this here piece of paper, three signatures, look, right there, it’s official, all for the asking in this year of our Lord, 2010, money raining down from the south seas, Yes, Yes, money, piles of money and international and green and water and some signatures somewhere.  Right.  Sure. Swell hat, Murph.

The rest of the public comments were the usual:  Questions about how this “vote” was set up and run, complaints of confusion over the procedure, complaints of not using best science (Paavo’s old “let the best technology rise to the top” ploy – Bwahahahah), demands of a neutral oversight/audit of what this project has morphed into (the old back-scratching Paavo/MWH/Wallace Group/ Corollo two-step? No design-build for you, Los Osos!),  worries about affordability, questions about why the cost of the project was so quickly dismissed, protests over the violation of the original Mission Statement, requests that the BOS verify whether Dana Ripley’s plan actually would be $50 million cheaper and would be capped and guaranteed (a simple enough thing to check, one would think, if one were actually interested in a claim of $50 mil), questions about what’s going to happen to people who can’t afford this, what will happen to defaulted properties by people who can’t afford this, will those costs be dumped on the rest of the homeowners,  protests about voting ourselves out of our own homes, objections that the water/sewer numbers for commercial properties are wrong, that homeowners are subsidizing the commercial users, (Will Clemmens later noted that the (slightly incorrect) numbers used now can be adjusted later from guesstimates to real water billing records, while one wit noted that with huge amounts of discretionary income being removed from the community, a lot of the businesses will close and won’t be using any water so if the numbers are wrong, it won’t matter anymore),a non-protest paean by Joyce Albright, lauding Paavo and the Board and dismissing the “obstructionists,” a protest by Keith Wimer of the Sustainability Group because the project doesn’t mitigate for financial devastation, that there has been no affordability studies done, no life cycle costs analysis done even though it’s supposed to be done, a claim that even high-tech on-site individual systems may now be cheaper than this project, yet not allowed by the RWQCB (more Bwahahahah), objections that Los Osos will have the highest water costs in the country, pleads that real-time issues with the different water purveyors be fixed before proceeding, notice of the non-protest  by the CSD and the information that the CSD will now be starting work to have the Help Us We’re Poor and Dying Here cap in hand to try to get grants because the cost will hammer the town into the dust. 

The BOS response to the really serious questions about people losing their homes because they cannot afford this project?  Silence. Followed by Supervisor Gibson’s terse lecture to the audience that affordability is NOT an issue here.  This project will be what it will be.  Period.

And the palpable relief from the Board that they would no longer have to listen to all these pathetic whiners and complainers and “obstructionists” any more.  Done.  End game.

Moved that the rates and charges ordinance be adopted: 5-0.  Adjourned.

You Need To Say That Again, The BOS Is No Longer Listening

Bev De-Witt Moylan read the following to the BOS during public comment at yesterday’s Rates & Charges hearing. I’m not sure Joyce Albright was in the audience at the time.  I hope she was since she needed to hear Bev’s comments. Bev’s metaphor is one both citizens and elected officials should always keep in mind.  Canaries in coal mines can be dismissed as “obstructionists,” and whiners and painted in other negative colors, but the conditions in the mine they are warning about with their deaths still need to be addressed.  Posted with permission.

During a workshop on cancer I attended last spring a marriage and family therapist compared cancer in the body to the acting out child in a family.  Like the acting-out child cancer tends to get people’s attention she said.  It signals that some aspect of the patient’s life is out of balance.

The therapist said she loves acting-out children because they are the bravest members of their families.  They are the ones who know the family secrets; they cannot tolerate them; and simply by virtue of their courage and honesty they cannot help sending out warning signals that something is terribly out of balance in the family.

Not surprisingly families view these children as the problem she said.  The acting-out child is an inconvenient embarrassment. The family wants someone to cure the child, to remove the child, to make the child stop doing what he is doing so the family can live out their dysfunctional patterns in unspoken agreement. 

The family investment in separating the acting-out child from themselves is great.  Each family member’s ability to continue to ignore the truth depends on it, the therapist told us. 

And so it is with the intrepid people who appear thanklessly before you every week at great personal hardship to be a voice for the underrepresented and unrepresented in Los Osos.  With the naïve hope that perhaps this time said in this way you will hear, they repeat the secret aloud that something is terribly wrong.  For that they are scolded, demeaned, threatened, silenced, removed, and apologized for.

These inconvenient embarrassments are courageous community members who risk scorn and public humiliation every time they appear.  You perceive frustration; they perceive indifference.  You perceive hostility; they perceive dysfunction.  I respectfully request that this Board consider that what you perceive as acting-out is the desperate exercise of constitutional rights by citizens trying to defend themselves and their neighbors from a government that appears to be coercive and non-responsive.  Scolding, threats, and shows of force only cement that perception.  Respecting citizens by listening to their opinions, and responding to their concerns, even when you have to work hard to do it, is part of being a public servant. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gone To The Dogs At The Los Osos Christmas Parade

Last year our Dog & Pony Show Los Osos Christmas Parade entry got rained out along with everyone else.  This year, we had a warm, sunny, perfect day.  The Chamber of Commerce kept the same theme, a Western/Cowboy Christmas, so our gaggle of dog and pony looneys still had our costumes ready from last year and so wandered over for the muster. 

And a Cowboy Christmas wouldn’t be complete without cowboys and cows, as in Git Along, Little Dogies.  The Mighty Finn McCool suited up.  Even Archie got dragooned into the mix and actually behaved himself.  Of course, he was wearing enough snaring leashes and a head-collar to hog tie him if he decided to go berserk.  Amazingly, this hyper-reactive nincompoop behaved himself.  Which was surprising considering he had to endure the humiliation of wearing a cowbell and a cow suit.  Good boy.

And, can’t have a little dogie drive without a chuck wagon, direct from the Bar-King Cattle Ranch.  This one’s being pulled by a Bernese Mountain dog named Tug who isn’t taking happily to the hot weather.  But, bless Tug, he soldiered on down the lonesome trail.  Montana or Bust.  Or, in this case, somewhere near the library. 

And the best thing of all in this hometown parade is half the town is IN the parade while the other half is WATCHING IT.  And if you’re in the parade, when you get to the end of the route, you can double back and before you know it, you’re watching the parade you were just in.  So you don’t miss a thing.

And then it’s home for some hot chocolate, or, in this case, some cold water.  Then a nice winter’s nap.

Well done, little dogies. Well done.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why Los Osos Gets Crazy & Confused

The following Op-Edish email by Gail McPherson includes an Op-Edish email by Bill Garfinkle. These Op-Edishes are a perfect example of why the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project always remained so difficult to accurately ‘splain or describe.  The first is the use of the often false and always negative generalized and misleading description of anyone who disagrees with the writer.  The perfect example is the Phamous Phrase, “anti-sewer obstructionist.”  This tar-brush branded anyone who raised a critical question, even a critical technical question, as some Moonbeam McSwine urine-drinking blockhead who was mindlessly blocking any progress just for the sake of doing it.  In this case, Bill Garfinkle describes people who disagree with him (i.e. people who want others to file a protest) as people who are trying to derail this project, or people who “inflicted hardship on the community.” (The Sustainability Group “inflicted hardship on the community?” Really? That’s a perfect example of false broad-brushing. )  All of which misses the point, which as McPherson points out, is this: The protest vote is a legally required process that’s asking a very simple question: Do you want these charges added to your yearly tax bill (or, if the county figures out a way to send the bills out monthly) or not – Yes, No.

(Perhaps it’s the name – “protest” vote.  Sounds very negative, doesn’t it? Like something an evil “anti-sewer obstructionist” would be in favor of.  Or someone who’s “inflicting hardship on the community.”  Evil. Bad.  Oooo, “protest” vote.  Had it been labeled “Sewer Affirmation Vote,” would people be bringing out their tar-brushes?)  

But the second, really serious problem has to do (as always) with numbers and costs and how slippery they have always been, depending on who’s doing the figuring.  People wanting to put the largest smiley-face on this project’s cost will move certain figures off the page.  For example, when giving monthly guestimates, Bill apparently thinks that  the hook up costs shouldn’t be in the total monthly costs since some people will pay for that in cash which apparently, in Bill’s world, somehow takes that amount off the table?  Ditto for the $18 a month for the previous assessment.  So it appears that he views adding in those numbers is somehow a “scare tactic?”

In the real world, however, the real world of real money, real monthly expenses, those numbers aren’t “scare tactics;” they’re .  . well, real.  It doesn’t matter what box you put them in (previous assessment, hook up fees, sewer/water charges, regular water charges) their total divided by 12 will be what a homeowner will really be paying each month. So you can end up with individual lows and highs, but pretending somehow the high numbers aren’t correct because you’ve put them in a different box is just dishonest and misleading. Yet that tactic has been consistently used by all sides, which just adds to the distrust and confusion.

So, please.  The Protest paperwork is a legal process, your response is entirely up to you.  As Gail points out, if you can’t afford what’s being proposed, you say No.  If you can afford it and want it, you don’t do anything since  doing nothing counts as a Yes vote.  Simple.  And the sewer cost numbers really need to be dealt with honestly without parsing them into pretend categories.  Take ALL your total guestimate costs and divide it by 12. Simple.  Then pray the contractors are hungry in these lean times and the bids for the project will come in much cheaper and the undeveloped property owners vote to cough up a chunk of money early on to start paying for the project well before they can develop. Then start thinking up ways (and start saving and budgeting for major low-flow product purchases) to cut your indoor water-use. And wait to see if the county uses the 2010 census numbers rather than the old 2000 census numbers they’re presently using and then hope that some alarm bells will ring in Washington so that someone will do an affordability study so we’ll know what percentage of our community will be forced to leave their homes, then pray for those people.    

But, for Chrissakes, retire the “anti-sewer obstructionist” mantra.  That phrase and others like it were a deliberately designed marketing/branding device to spread the Big Lie about a lot of people in order to quash any and all criticism and/or input from anyone who opposed Tri-W and/or disagreed in any way with the person using the phrase. It was and remains dishonest to the core and has caused untold damage to this community. Enough, already.

Bill’s Op/Ed-ish

Déjà vu in Los Osos
Once again the same group of people -- who forced the 2005 waste water project to be canceled, wasted the monies secured in the 2001 Prop 18 assessment (which we are still paying), caused the LOCSD to enter into bankruptcy, and opened the door for the Regional Water Quality Control Board to issue cease and desist orders -– have launched a campaign to derail the County waste water project for Los Osos.
This vocal minority of residents has put together a mass mailing to the property owners in the Los Osos prohibition zone to persuade them to send in formal protests to the current Prop 18 Rates and Charges Ordinance that will be heard by the Board of Supervisors next Tuesday, December 14th.
The document that was sent out is rife with unfounded assumptions, half truths, misleading statements and scare tactics.
To arrive at their estimate of monthly charges at $243 to $363 they add in the $18 from the failed 2005 project which they stopped but still must be paid regardless of the outcome of the protest vote. Also included in their figure is an ongoing charge of $50 to $100 for sewer hook up which is not a component of the projects monthly cost. Each homeowner will approach the one time cost to hook to the system differently. As a result the actual projected costs on a monthly basis would range from $169 for a single person residence to $244 for a family of 6 based on estimated water usage.
If the undeveloped properties are brought into the project, which is highly likely, then the range of costs drop down to $137 to $213.
The writers of the document state that if the protest vote fails (i.e. the project moves forward) then the County will have no incentive to complete the HCP (Habitat Conservation Plan), LCP (Local Coastal Plan) Update, amend the Estero Area Plan and have a ground water master plan. This is all untrue. The Coastal Commission requires this in order for the project to be completed.
It is also important to note that all of the costs for the project are based on calculations made in 2007 with built in inflation based on the economy at that time. Since then we have entered into a recessionary period and all signs suggest that the project could come in well under those numbers. This would further reduce individual Rates and Charges.
 The county is currently working diligently to access additional funding through grants and special financing that could reduce the costs and also provide assistance to disadvantaged property owners. Hopefully by the time that the Rates and Charges begin in 2014, options will be available.
The bottom line is, however, that the costs will never go down. And additionally if the project is once again delayed it is likely that the RWQCB will begin enforcement of Basin Plan prohibition through fines to individual property owners.
This group of people who dominate all public meetings and hold out false hope must not be allowed to inflict more hardship on the community. I urge all property owners in Los Osos to ignore their petition and allow the process to continue. Do not send in your protest.
Bill Garfinkel
Chair of the former Technical Advisory Committee on the LOWWP

Gail’s Op-Ed-ish Response

 . . . .   UNDER THE CA STATE CONSTITUTION Before YOUR personal property can leined (and thereby taken if you can't pay)  you are asked "Can you afford it?" (reasonable question) Yes or No?

This is a legally required question to the people putting their property at risk and paying the bill.

 . . . . .  

The issue is IF you can personally afford to foot this ordinance for an "open ended" sewer charge filled with uncertainty and millions is added misc. costs. The rates as presented by the County right now will force you to pay $250 to $350 per month on top of your current household budget. (Your on-lot construction/connection is NOT included) 

Personally affordible? THAT is the question. The decision IS YOURS ALONE.

If yes, no problem ---do nothing.
If NO send in the protest letter, it protects you now and in the future. It is your say. If enough say NO- the sewer costs must be reviewed for affordability standards, charges reviewed and refined. The Co will be armed with YOUR "NO " and  can press harder for grants with the 218 protest in hand. Interest rates can be lowered, past $6.5 mil forgiven, and a NO helps establish the disadvantaged community status, so low income programs promised by Gibson are made available. 

Review the power point presentation with the County costs included. A huge concern is approving the  "minimum rate structure" The assessment + an open rates/charges= $250-$350 a mo.

A NO forces A CAP on costs. Contracts with a guaranteed maximum cost were developed, then tossed, and these need to be enforced to control costs.  
If you can't afford this, there is no down side to sending in a letter.  

A NO letter simply says you can't put your property and family at risk without some assurance of a maximum you can pay. Your home is the loan collateral for the nearly $183 mil in borrowing required to date. 
I did not address the unfairness in allowing the vacant lot owners to shift the balance, although they do not have an assessment stake or water to develop their properties. 

I hope this helps. Feel free to pass it around.



Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Distaff Footnotes

Distaff Footnotes  Elizabeth Edwards

I felt enormously sad hearing of Elizabeth Edwards’ death after a 6 year battle with breast cancer. It wasn’t so much her dying; we all get to do that, one way or the other.  But what saddened me was the newspaper/TV obit summing up that suddenly reduced an extraordinarily complex life and a complicated woman into a cliché:  The Betrayed Wife. The Cad Husband.  End of Sentence. 

So that’s what it always comes down to, I thought.  That’s always it. That’s what her 61 year struggle came down to.  Nine words.  And that’s how history will remember her; footnoted into the lead in a bad Lifetime TV movie of the week. Stuck with what others dumped on her, stuck with what she chose to accept, ultimately defined by others and reduced to a few sentences that may or may not capture some of the complicated life she lived, or explain the complicated woman she had to have been. 

And so it will be for all of us.  A few lines in an obit, and our complex, often contradictory lives will be so quickly reduced to shorthand, our memories boxed into nine words or less.  Mrs. Smith.  Wasn’t she the one who . . . .?  Mr. Jones, that’s the guy that . . . . And, finally, Ms. . . . who?

Well, R.I.P.  Those people she helped by her candid discussion of her breast cancer will remember one Elizabeth.  Those who benefited from her honesty in discussing her complex marriage will remember another Elizabeth.  Those who were helped by her public work on the state of U.S. health care will have known a third Elizabeth.  All parts of the whole. 

Who I hope now is resting in peace.


Monday, December 06, 2010

Upcoming Doings

Vicky Kastner will be speaking on Hearst Castle and Christmas and other things at the Hearst Cancer Center at French Hospital (1941 Johnson Ave, Suite 201A, to the left side of the hospital as you enter the parking lot)   Vicky wrote the book on Hearst Castle.  Literally, the gorgeous  “Hearst Castle, the Biography of a Country House and her talks are always interesting. 

The Hearst center is hosting a day long open house from 12 – 6, Thursday December 9th.  Vicky will be speaking about 12-ish, then again at 3-ish and again at 5-ish. Refreshments will be served and I have no doubt there will be other speakers and activities during the day-long event.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Resource Center, here’s a great chance to get acquainted with all the amazing classes, support groups, information and programs they offer. For further information on the all-day event, or if you want information on this amazing Center, call 542-6234

Parade! Parade!  

Yes, Saturday, December 11th, starting (maybe) at 10 a.m. and stomping right down the middle of Los Osos Valley Road is our very own Christmas Parade.  Last year the thing got rained out, so the Chamber of Commerce is keeping the same theme (so folks who got themed and gussied-up can use the same costumes).  So, better hurry up and decide if you want to be the half of the town IN the parade or the half of the town WATCHING the parade. 

Apres Parade

And after the parade, please come by the South Bay Community Center on LOVR from 10-a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s the 5th Annual “Needs ‘N Wishes Holiday Fundraiser for the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter for the Homeless.

Santa will be there for the kids, there’ll be a gift boutique, baked goods for sale, a silent auction, raffle baskets, food and refreshments, folk dancing, music, school choirs. Santa’s Toy Store will offer over 400 toys at below retail.  The money goes to the shelter and, best of all, you can buy a toy then turn around and donate it to the Marine’s
“Toys for Tots” or the Cal Fire Department’s “Operation Santa Clause” bins nearby.  Talk about a win-win.

And most important, two huge big 5-gallon jugs just waiting to be filled with ALL YOUR COLLECTED CHANGE.  They hold $1,000 when filled and the challenge to all Los Ososians so to get those jugs filled.  And this year, with such hard times and so many people hurting, getting those jugs filled is really important.  And, if you can’t make the event but would like to donate, please send a check made out to:  Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter and mail to P.O. Box 6721, Los Osos, CA 93412.

For further information or to volunteer to help, please call 528-5800

Uh-oh, Is That A Lump of Coal?     

Uh, I think The Razor has just put a lump of coal into the Taxpayer Watch’s stocking over at  Oooo, bad Santa. Well, all you Sewerville Ankle Chewers, please take your comments on that topic over to the Razor and start chomping.  Don’t do it here.

Here, I want to hear how many of you are gonna help out at the Maxine Lewis fundraiser or, equally important, Ya gonna be in the parade? 

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

This by Sophie Cabot Black from "The Descent."


Nothing else to do
But love while waiting.  We hold our hands
To the flames until we no longer know
What we wait for.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Calling Bruce White . . .

Aw, well, lay down with dawgs . . . as Karen Velie outlines in her four-part series on "developer Kelly Gearhart and his political allies," ( ) (Uncovered SLO; "Gearhart's Control of Atascadero.").  Business as usual in SLOTown, including County Planning Commissioner, Bruce White? Git the flea powder!

Friday, December 03, 2010

More, Please

Calhouns Can(n)ons for December 3, 2010

When in doubt, tell the truth.  It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.
                                                                          Mark Twain

The outrage I’m supposed to feel over the latest WikiLeaks release of purloined diplomatic cables keeps slipping into an evil chuckle.  Yes, I know the previous dump of military information likely cost some lives.  That blood is surely on the head of Julian Assange as he scuttles around from hiding place to hiding place, a wanted man-on-a-mission.  But Assange likely doesn’t care about a few dead people.  He’s a self-righteous naïf, supremely sure of the rightness of his cause and happy to accept the broken eggs needed for his righteous omelet, so long as it’s not his eggs that are broken.

But now WikiLeaks is promising another large data dump, this time exposing misdeeds by some large financial institution, and instead of a frown, I find my self growling with savage glee, “Yeah! Do it! DUMP IT ALL!”

That’s how tired I am of the lies.  All the lies.  We’re lied into war, we’re lied into national beggary, we’re lied into policies that damage us and damage our country.  The culture is awash in lies, we’re drowning in them.  Global warming doesn’t exist, Obamacare is trying to kill your Granny, tax cuts for millionaires won’t balloon the deficit, the free market will solve all problems, privatization is the answer, Wall Street doesn’t need any regulating, all taxes should be paid by The Other Guy, credit is always free, and all our problems will be solved if we just go shopping.

And instead of watchdogs in the press, we have corporate lapdogs or, in the case of Fox News, a media giant that’s little more than a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican party that acts as a political spin machine disguised as “news.”  Instead of Mr. Smith going to Washington, we have a culture of corporate politicians, venal hacks revolving from Congress to K-Street and back again.  We have become a nation that has lost all sense of shame: lie and cheat and steal and instead of a paper bag over the head, our felons go on “Dancing With The Stars” and become media darlings.  We have bred a generation of indifferent DAs and regulators who know all about the frauds and lies and respond with a “Chinatown” shrug, then turn away: not their problem. And a populace more interested in what Paris Hilton’s doing than paying attention to who’s picking their pockets.

So, Enough!  In the let-it-all-hang-out Facebook Age, what we need are more WikiLeaks, a new whistle blowing ethos, and a battle cry throughout the land:  Dump it!  Dump it all!   I want America crawling with outraged idealistic naifs with pockets-full of memory sticks.  Is your employer conspiring to make and sell products that will make your children sick?  Get and dump his emails! Is your company polluting your drinking water with chemical waste in order to increase the company’s bottom line?  Dump it! Shoddy coal-mining practices?  Back-room cozy deals with city planners and developers? Wall Street gamblers gaming the system with your retirement money? Hypocritical Pols publicly grandstanding  in the Culture Wars while privately foot-tapping in airport bathrooms? Dump it! Dump it all!

While it caused a furor, dumping diplomatic cables is small potatoes.  I mean, is there anyone over the age of 12 who does not know that all national leaders often have very poor opinions of their counterparts?  Or that catty “mean girl” private chat is the lingua franca of diplomatic cables? Or that nations regularly plot and plan against one another while publicly putting on a smiley face? Who doesn’t already know that?

But who knows what shoddy drilling project BP’s cooking up that will end up destroying your livelihood?  Or what plans are underway in the boardrooms of Big Pharma to deliberately, knowingly start selling dangerous pills that will kill your child?  Or what secret emails are being exchanged among government regulators indicating that they’re going to turn a blind eye to safety laws so when your husband goes down into that mine, he’ll never come back? Or what Congressional back-room deals are now being cut that will financially ruin you?

So, I say, Dump it.  Dump it all! If sunshine is a disinfectant, then it’s way past time to open all the windows, turn on the lights, and hope that will finally awaken Clueless Nation.