Monday, March 29, 2010


Note: For some reason, the direct link to Piper's Viewpoint isn't working, but the link should take you to the main page and if you type in Looking for Transparency, the Viewpoint should come up. Or try and type in Looking. . . & etc? Ah, joys of blogging.

A Day Late & A Dollar Short

The Tribune finally got around to writing a piece on the Watson Montgomery Harza and New Orleans Inspector General Report a while back. And a few regular lurking Sewer Crazies came on this blog and had a cow or two. Now, Piper Riley has written an opinion piece posted on Cal Coast News at .

One interesting issue Piper mentions is the incident in Los Osos wherein “MWH local offices were broken into and all of the Los Osos records were stolen. Allegedly they were held in one sole location, the project manager’s laptop, which happened to be the only thing stolen. Around the same time, two integrally involved, government official’s hard drives were wiped clean” . . . “and MWH are also currently heading the heavily flawed, Morro Bay/Cayucos project. The project manager of the 2005, failed, MWH Los Osos Wastewater Project (whose lap top was ‘stolen’) is now the head of the Morro Bay/Cayucos Wastewater Project, the recent contract of which was questionable procured.” And so forth. Or as The Church Lady Would Say, “Well isn’t THAT convenient, hmmmm???”

And so, since I know that the regular lurking Sewer Crazies will have a cow with what Piper’s written and start chewing on each other’s ankles, I’ll best remind them now; Mind your manners, Children, or Momma will dump you.

New Rule

Since it’s clear that government employees don’t listen to Mother Calhoun’s Sage Advice for the Clueless when it comes to generalized canoodling inappropriately & other high crimes and dumb misdemeanors, I think we need a new generalized Rule for Firing People: Walking While Stupid.

I speak, this time, of Dean Smith, former superintendent of San Miguel Joint Union School District who, according to the March 27 Tribune, was investigated by the district and put on administrative leave in February and then resigned in March. According to documents, Mr. Smith formed a “friendship” with a student when she was in 7th grade and he was the principal of the school she attended, and after she turned 18 apparently that “friendship” became something more and they are now “dating” said Mr. Smith’s son. Also, Mr. Smith, after 33 years of marriage, was served a petition for legal separation from his wife -- last week. Which means he was “friending” this young woman while still married. And in its investigation, the school district also found (surprise!) that Mr. Smith had been Googling various inappropriate websites on district computers during work hours, and such like complaints.

Mr. Smith denies or ‘splains some of these charges and states that the district’s “personal disapproval of my associations with another adult, whom I happen to meet while she was minor, goes beyond legitimate district concerns about employee performance.”

See what I mean? I’m sure Mr. Smith is right. Private, of-hours behavior with an “adult” likely IS beyond legitimate district concerns, unless he and his “adult” associates are robbing banks. Which is why we need a New Rule: In addition to the endless list of reasons public employees can be fired, we need to add a new one – Walking While Stupid.

I mean, a Superintendent who moons after and “friends” a young student because his wife doesn’t understand him? Walking While Stupid. If he’s sad and lonely, he needs to get a dog, get a hobby, get a divorce and get out more – with people of the adult persuasion.

But here’s the kicker (and I do sympathize with Mr. Smith because I, too, am a quasi-Luddite,) but even I know that ANYTHING you do on a computer at work can be tracked. ANYTHYING. So if you’re tempted to Google “pictures of Playboy model Sara Jean Underwood in seductive poses” during your lunch hour – GO HOME and do it.

See? Walking while Stupid, you’re fired, Go away, Thank You.

Best Book Title

The Tribune reports that Karl Rove was in town and that 400 people coughed up serious money to attend a GOP dinner and maybe get a photo-op with him at $2,500 a pop. While outside the event, one protester held a sign that read, “I have a dream,” above an illustration of Rove being arrested.”

In addition to raising funds for the GOP, Rove was hustling his new book, which I think deserves an award for Best Ironic Book Title Of The Year: “Courage and Consequence, My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.”

Consequence? To date, Rove has never met a consequence he hasn’t been able to skate away from, with a little help from his well-connected friends.

Wildflower Alert

Saturday, I spoke with a couple who had driven up from Santa Barbara via the Carrizo Plains and said the wildflower display was spectacular. Also spoke to someone else who said the green-type grass is growing quickly as well, so if you want to catch the display, best do it ASAP. And pray a heat wave doesn’t suddenly hit and blast all the flowers to heck. So, time to play hooky. The Carrizo Plains visitor center has picnic benches, so pack a yummy lunch and head east.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

This from”Monologue of a Dog,” by Wislawa Szymborska. Ms. Szymborska won the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of seventy-three, a relatively unknown poet in her native Poland. In his introduction, Billy Collins writes, “The typical Szymborska poem, if such a thing exists, is a free-verse meditation couched in colloquial language. It begins with a stray fact or a mundane observation, then ascends to a heightened level of speculation. The shifts from zone to zone are engineered so smoothly that they often take place beyond the conscious awareness of the reader. She herself has said that attempts to estimate poetry or place a value on it often elude explanation: “ . . the fact that with one writer the words fall together into units that are alive and enduring and with another they do not is decided in a realm that’s not easily comprehensible to anyone. I suspect that this is a realm upon which the vicissitudes of life and the intensity of experience no longer have any influence.” Her comment points to the insufficiency of literary criticism and espouses a preternatural dimension for art.”

Yet another reason to read poetry; it speaks to and nurtures the preternatural – even when we think it doesn’t.

A Little Girl Tugs At The Tablecloth

She’s been in this world for over a year,
and in this world not everything’s been examined
and taken in hand.

The subject of today’s investigation
is things that don’t move by themselves.

They need to be helped along,
shoved, shifted,
taken from their place and relocated.

They don’t all want to go, e.g., the bookshelf,
the cupboard, the unyielding walls, the table.

But the tablecloth on the stubborn table
-- well-seized by its hems –
manifests a willingness to travel.

And the glasses, plates, creamer, spoons, bowls,
are fairly shaking with desire.

It’s fascinating,
what form of motion they will take,
once they’re trembling on the brink:
will they roam across the ceiling?
fly around the lamp?
hop onto the windowsill and from there to a tree?

Mr. Newton still has no say in this.
Let him look down from the heavens and wave his hands.

This experiment must be completed.
And it will.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Letter To The Prez & My Reps

Ah, yes, time to write and mail a letter.

March 27, 2010

To President Obama and my elected representatives,

THANK YOU for sticking with the appalling, exhausting battle for health care. I haven’t seen things get this ugly since the civil rights battles, which is what a lot of this displaced anger and rage is all about anyway. That, and the sad sell-out of Main Street to the insurance industry and big Pharma. But thank your for at least holding enough of the line to enable us to start the process of real reform.

To that end, I would encourage you all to keep pushing. I fully support Congressman Grayson’s bill to allow a “Medicare buy in program” for those who want it. As he has pointed out, taxpayers have already invested enormous sums into a “public option” infrastructure that’s up and running well. Since they’ve already invested in it, they should be able to choose whether they want to join it and pay the buy-in fees. Since “choice” has been the Republican mantra, this should be a no-brainer. I would ask you to support Mr. Grayson’s bill.

I want you to also vote for strong rules and real oversight for Wall Street. If we folks on Main Street had done what those boys have done, (and apparently are continuing to do) we’d all be in jail. Time for the grownups to put some real rules in place. Which means I also support a strong consumer financial protection agency. One with real teeth. Main Street has seen enough foxes being put in charge of chicken coops. And most important, we truly need a very strong carbon tax/ cap & trade program and full support for green technologies. From what I read, China is way ahead of us in that field. China? This is simply not acceptable. We’re now dependent on foreign oil. We don’t need to be dependent on “foreign green technology” as well.

And President Obama, you need to issue an executive order that requires the military to “stand down” on the “don’t ask” policy until the year-long “study” is complete. We can’t afford to continue to lose good soldiers for the next 12 months simply because they’re gay. It’s not only wrong, it’s stupid and wasteful.

I know you’re all exhausted. But now is the time to get ‘r done. John McCain has already made the Republican message clear: NO COOPERATION for the next year, so please don’t waste time seeking bipartisanship. And stop watering down programs and bills until they simply turn into Republican bills only to find that the Republicans had no intention of voting for them in the first place. That’s the sucker-punch strategy of The Republican “Mook’s Game,” which is now clear: Break the President and Make all Democratic Programs Fail. O.K. Understood. Did you get the message? Good.

So, please, please continue to find and show the courage to move ahead and do what’s necessary anyway. Millions of people are depending on you to set so many, many things right.



Ann Calhoun
Los Osos, CA 93402

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ramping Up From Stupid! Barreling Into Dangerous! Duck & Cover!

It’s easy to get the mob riled up, much harder to control what happens then as inchoate fear and anger runs amok like a blunderbuss scatting shot everywhere. Still, the right wing talkers, Palinistas, Fox newsies, looney Beckians are still babbling about reloading and targets and destroy the bastards and baby killers, while death threats are being called in to various congressfolk’s home phones as bricks are being thrown through their office windows.

Nuts. A whole lot of people are going nuts without knowing or understanding why they’re going nuts. Which is what happens when you scare people then lie about things, deliberately confuse and manipulate people who often don’t have a good grasp on much of anything anyway, then get shocked, shocked when violence erupts.

Or silliness ensues, like a Republican senator now, suddenly, after the barn door is closed, shows up on the floor of the senate to “add an amendment” to the health care bill that would block rapists and child molesters from getting Viagra from a health insurance company supported by public funds. Since this clearly is a critical, essential, extremely important, HUGE, really, part of national health care that affects millions and millions of people -- so awash is the country with Viagra-using rapists and molesters, right up there with pre-existing conditions and tossing people off their care when they get sick -- the puzzlement was why he didn’t show up with that all-important amendment when the health care bill was being crafted. Unless, of course, this amendment is nothing more than a cynical stalling tactic to slow down or prevent the health care bill from going through? Ya think?

It’s all ugly stuff, dangerous stuff. Folks really need to get a grip and chill out and to that end, I have a few suggestions. First, instead of allowing yourself to be run by others, maybe what’s needed is to get everyone (who can read) a copy of “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The easy to read book is Mr. Ruiz’s formulated Toltec Warrior Way. Simple to understand, hard to follow, like all simple ideas. But in a critical way, a truly important book for Americans in general because Americans have always confused a “Warrior” with “Anybody With a Gun.” HUGE mistake.

Or, instead of gittin’ yer gun, far better would be to understand the biological damage being done to your system by unresolved fear/trauma, which has been our American mode for years now – fear, fear, fear, Orange Alerts! Red Alerts! Eeek,” Them” are coming! Kill! Kill! Kill! Instead of all that insanity, I think we all need to get a copy of Peter Levine’s book, “Waking the Tiger,” and learn something about SE (Somatic Experiencing) or hop on over to Los Osos SE practitioner, Bev Moylan’s website at and read all about it. Again, an easy-to-understand process with great results, but harder to do than just staying stuck in fear/rage mode.

Or, start working on reforming your brain itself. Check out “Buddha’s Brain,” a fascinating book on the “practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom” by Rick Hanson, PhD with Richard Mendius, MD. Turns out that perception actually IS reality.

Yes, I know. It’s unlikely anyone will actually get the tools needed to get a grip since we’re a traumatized nation with a historical “paranoid style” in which too many people are self-trapped into freeze/fight/flight mode, which is always very bad because it makes them sitting ducks for manipulation and destruction by cold-blooded, self-interested political/corporate predators.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Death in the Streets

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for March 22, 2010

True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.
Kurt Vonnegut

OMG! Congress passed a health bill. Sure it was a huge boondoggling giveaway to the insurance companies and big Pharma, and yes, watching this hideosity get written was enough to make anyone sick, but at least now when we start dying in the streets like dawgs, which is what the Republicans predict will commence, oh, about, right now, at least we’ll have health insurance and can call a doctor as we expire next to the pothole over there near the parking lot on the corner.

True, all the polls showed that the majority of Americans wanted a “public option” to be on the table. Silly Billys. There’s no way Congress would allow anything “public” or even not-for-profit to be around to compete with the for-huge profit, freebooting privateer insurance companies. After all, it’s the government’s purpose to ensure that certain businesses (those that own Congress outright) be subsidized and supported and even encouraged to form vast monopolies, the better to make more money with. That’s the American Way, so some sort of less expensive, not-for-profit, single-payer “public option,” like Medicare for All couldn’t possibly be left on the table.

So what was left on the table? Well, this bill will prevent health insurance companies from tossing you off your policy when you get sick. According to Republicans, that’s a bad thing that people don’t want that. They want to pay for years for a policy and just when they need it most, it’s pulled out from under them, leaving them with hospital bills that bankrupt them so they go die in the streets like dawgs

And now insurance companies can’t deny you health coverage based on prior health issues. So if you have a pre-existing condition, even a minor one, and lose your job and with it your job’s health insurance, you can at least go get some insurance from a “pool.” According to Republicans, Americans really, really hate that, so they fought like Spartans at the Gates of Hell to keep that from happening. But they lost that one, too, so now an awful lot of people will now be able to get coverage. Dang.

Wait, it gets worse. This bill requires that health insurance companies must spend about 80% of their health insurance income on actually delivering health care rather delivering profits to the stockholders and CEOs, which is totally UnAmerican, and something Republicans know the American people won’t stand for. They want to pay more for their healthcare just to keep those profits high and Wall Street happy.

And the experts who’ve looked at the books on this awful bill claim that it will help reduce the deficit over time, or at the least may slow its catastrophic rise. Everyone knows how much Republicans really hate deficit spending. Yes, I know, Ronald Reagan, a Republican, blew the budget all to hell and gone into the red, and Democrat Bill Clinton set things right only to have Republican George Bush blow it all to hell again. Still, Republicans hate deficit spending so anything that’s supposed to reduce it is a really, really bad thing.

Worse, after this awful law kicks in, people will likely begin to find out that, No, there aren’t any “death panels” in it, so Granny isn’t going to be hauled away by Nurse Nazi and killed. Plus, the so-called “donut-hole” for Medicare drugs will be closed, thereby helping seniors better afford their medicines, which will keep Granny alive a little longer. And, with luck, various programs will now be in place to start the carrot/stick process of encouraging treatment that actually delivers better health outcomes, rather than just paying for more and more useless, expensive, uncoordinated “treatment.” All of which Republicans assure us, isn’t what we Americans want at all.

The press and pols, of course, are acting like this battle is over. Far from it. The Republican Governor of Virginia has publicly vowed to take this health bill to federal court and all the way up to the Supreme Court, which will make for an interesting case: Asking Justice Roberts, an “activist judge, legislating from the bench,” and a guy who never met a corporation he didn’t love, to rule that forcing Americans to buy insurance from private Corporations is unconstitutional.

And, like all bills, this one is a work in progress that certainly contains a lot of unintended consequences that will have to be “fixed” or expanded later, such as actually creating and expanding a real public option or allowing the government to save even more money by repealing the present law that forbids the government from negotiating better Medicare drug pricing. That law was a Republican-created big Pharma giveaway jammed through a Republican Congress in the wee hours of the morning, a bill that made the present health-care boondoggling giveaway look like beanbag.

But, equally possible, the whole thing can also be shut down and killed altogether if Americans vote to give Republicans a veto-proof majority in Congress come the next election. Then, like Penelope at her loom, they can begin to unravel this bill to once again give Americans what Republicans say they want – a health care bill that allows insurance companies to once again start tossing you off their rolls when you get sick or refuse to sell you a policy in the first place. Oh, and keep raising your premiums to pay for the CEO’s new corporate jet.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

This poem by Richard Wilbur, appeared in the March 22 New Yorker. More of his poetry can be found in “New and Collected Poems.”

Ecclesiastes 11:1

We must cast our bread
Upon the waters
, as the
Ancient preacher said,

Trusting that it may
Amply be restored to us
After many a day

That old metaphor,
Drawn from rice farming on the
River’s flooded shore

Helps us to believe
That it’s no great sin to give,
Hoping to receive.

Therefore I shall throw
Broken bread, this sullen day,
Out across the snow,

Betting crust and crumb
That birds will gather, and that
One more spring will come.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

MWH Back In The News Again?

In my email box. Read it and weep. Or Tune into Dave’s show today. Whatever. It’s dejavu time, all over again, with the County firmly putting it’s fingers in its ears and singing, La-la-la-la-la.

MWH in the news in New Orleans:
(Montgomery Watson Harza) Remember the warning to SLO co. Board of Sups--Is it worth the risk?
“It is an unbelievable story, however it is the same exact pattern of abuse by MWH on Ca. central coast as well as other communities----committing acts of fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, negligence, and/or incompetence in the practice of professional engineering. (see links below)
As a retired wastewater systems manager in charge of large capital project, I have dealt with MWH first hand. I know this pattern of abuse close up. The findings in the Inspector General reports concerning contracting procurement closely mirror the contract issues for Los Osos, Ca. In fact reports containing original documents confirm illegal backdated contracts, and specious payments.” [Gail McPherson]

I will be addressing this Tuesday on the Dave Congalton Show---Radio KVEC 920 AM Click here at 5:00 PM PST to listen live to the Broadcast.

Toll-free Caller-line:
800-549-KVEC (5832)


Recovery oversight contract allowed overbilling, poor performance, inspector general says
By Michelle Krupa, The Times-Picayune
March 10, 2010, 8:03PM

Report blasts firm overseeing Katrina recovery
Posted: Mar 11, 2010 4:46 PM PST Updated: Mar 12, 2010 2:04 AM PST
Associated Press Writer
Los Osos Project falis the smell test in New Orleans:

Despite lawsuits and bad blood, Montgomery Watson may yet land Los Osos sewer contract
Past President of the Los Osos Community Services District filed a formal complaint with the Board of Supervisors, the Public Works Director and County Counsel in April 2009. She provided public testimony regarding her concerns at each public meeting between March 28 and continued through July 2009. She provided the County Board and Attorney with approximately 350 pages of supplemental documentation describing the current violation of design build code, the flawed contract procurement process and potential conflict of interest .
A webpage (sky drive) for public access of all materials that were submitted was created.
Access to the formal complaint and supplemental documentation can be found here:

Lisa Schicker 805 234-1228

And While We’re At It

Over at, Ron’s having way too much fun. Prop 84? Park at Tri-W? Really?

Not Only Am I An Important Personage, I'm Actually Here

First I got that swell little card from Republican Party top guy, Michael Steele, the one that looks like a credit card, like it’s something really important and special, something that I can whip out and flash all around at the checkout counter at Ralph’s to impress the hell out of people, but it isn’t, it’s pointless and made of paper? But it doesn’t matter that it’s cheap and stupid and useless and obviously sent to the wrong person, Michael thinks I’m somebody!

Now, the United States Department of Commerce thinks I might actually exist, but it isn’t too sure, so it sent me my Census form. They’d have to combine that simple form with a whole lot of other information they already have on file to find out a whole heck of a lot about me. I’m sure there’s more information encoded in my Ralph’s card than could ever winkled out of this simple form. But no matter. Once I mail that in and the Census Bureau tabulates it, then I actually exist.

I exist and thanks to Michael Steele, I’m an Important Personage. All this and heaven (and dogs), too. How lucky can one woman be?

Die! Die! Die!

I hate to admit it, but part of me wants this pathetic jerrymandered portmanteaux “health reform bill” to go down to defeat, one vote short. Then I’d like to see all the Democratic legislators who voted against it voted out of office. And all the Republican legislators who stonewalled and foot dragged and pouted and stamped their feet and lied and lied and lied about death panels and all the other phony crap to also get voted out of office.

Then I’d like to see the American people get totally priced out of the insurance market, and/or dropped by their insurers so they’d start dying like flies. Then I could write a column that said, “If you really want “reform” in health care, you’ll have to do more than whine about it and paint signs of Obama as a Nazi and go to a “tea party” and instead, actually vote for people who also want “reform” in healthcare, not these insurance company shills you keep putting into office.” But I know voters won’t connect the dots and any and all health insurance/health “reform” will disappear down the Harry & Louise Rabbit hole, thanks to the Supreme Court Ruling about corporate money and elections, and the whole country will get sicker and sicker and get fleeced of more and more money.

Then, the other part of me hopes that the bill will pass, and the voters, knowing that the job is only half done, come November will vote into office even more legislators who actually do want real “reform” and so have a sufficient number of legislators needed to get the job finished, including a Medicare For All buy-in program and truly serious health-outcome/best practices reform. But I know that won’t happen because Americans can’t connect dots, so it’s likely that even if this bill passes, come the next election, the voters will put into office enough people who will happily dismantle the bill and we’ll all end up back at square one – One Nation, A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of WellPoint, sick and fleeced and broke forever, Amen. And people will wander around for 20 more years whining and wringing their hands and complaining loudly about their health insurance company that’s raised their rates. . . again . . . boo-hoo. Or dropped them altogether. So they head for the nearest hospital to get “free” medical care and tell pollsters, “We don’t need health care reform. We have the best medical system in the whole world!”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Your Sun . . . er . . . Monday Poem

What with company, a busy schedule and daylight savings time, Sunday just got away from me. I wish they’d just split the difference and re-set the time ½ hour one way or the other and then leave it that way. It’d get dark earlier in winter and stay lighter in summer, all just naturally. Save all this thrashing around with clocks and sleep schedules.

This wonderful little poem is by Edward Field and is from a book called “Doggerel, poems about dogs,” from a series, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets (Alfred Knopf)


Like harnessing
the tides or the wind,
how about attaching dogs’ tails
to power generators?

I want the job
of patting the dog
to keep its tail wagging.

Dogs could generate
enough electricity
for cities, for countries –
light up the world!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Grover Takes a Vacation

Calhoun’s Can(n)on for March 12, 2010

The image just won’t get out of my head. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, the guy who famously wanted to starve government to a size that could easily be drowned in a bath tub. Grover Norquist on vacation in Arizona driving down the highway in a convertible drinking his Big Gulp on account of it’s a very hot spring day. And it’s his second Big Gulp and Grover’s in the middle of nowhere and now he’s got a very, very pressing need to pee from that second Big Gulp and up ahead he sees a highway rest stop. It’s a state Department of Transportation rest stop, run by the hated “government,” the one that Grover wants drowned in the bathtub, built and maintained by taxes, which are evil and must be abolished in order to starve the government so it can be drowned.

Grover heaves a huge sigh and pulls off the highway and holding his hand over his now painful bladder, runs to the restroom. But there’s a problem. Arizona has turned into Grover Norquist’s dream come true. Its citizens, who, like Grover, hate taxes, refuse to raise taxes to continue their state services. Arizona is broke and in financial free fall. In short, Arizona is drowning in Grover’s bathtub and to save money, it’s closed its highway rest stops.

No public toilets and Grover has to pee.

Arizona isn’t alone. California is also in the process of turning into Norquistland. In a recent budget brawl, Republicans had a choice between raising a few targeted taxes or letting the State fall off a financial cliff. Republican pols who had taken a blood oath to Grover, voted no – in a choice between Grover and the people of the state, they chose Grover. All except Assemblyman Abel Maldonado, who likely felt he owed at least some allegiance to the people of the state. For which betrayal, he was later stripped of his appointments and banished into the outer darkness as a traitor to Grover.

Meanwhile, to save money in a rapidly devolving Norquistland, California is cutting prisoners loose on early release, which is ironic since Law & Order conservatives spearheaded the movement to build more prisons and jail more people for longer and longer times (No mollycoddling with “liberal” diversion programs or education/training programs!) until it dawned on them that all these new prisons had to be paid for by taxes. And when it’s a choice between more taxes and letting prisoners out on the street, suddenly the street becomes the new Law & Order crowd’s solution.

Meanwhile, school bond after school bond went down in defeat so, like wicked government, our schools started to drown in the same bathtub. Suddenly, when tuition costs started rising, and teachers started getting laid off, there were angry parents who had voted down all those bond issues, out in the street carrying protest signs and yelling about the future. But in Norquistland, there IS no future. To have a future, you have to wisely invest public tax dollars into building and maintaining a valuable public Commons; decent schools, roads, widespread health care, a safety net, parks and even public restrooms.

And so it goes. State by state and a lousy economy compounded by years of a mind set carefully fed by Grover and his ilk: We don’t need government regulation. The market will take care of all problems. Tax breaks for the wealthy will trickle down. Get rid of “the government” and you will be “free.” You can have all the services you want without raising the taxes needed to pay for it all.

The collective results of such thinking are now being played out across the country. And citizens are finally waking up and looking around at the Norquistland they have created and apparently they don’t like what they see – Where’s my kid’s teacher? You’re cutting a criminal loose with no support programs, no job, no resources? Tuition for my kid’s doubling? Why’s my local park closing? What do you mean, if I want those things, I’ll have to pay for them with taxes? What??

And so that image won’t leave my mind: Grover, driving, and it’s hot and his bladder hurts and he’s desperately looking for a public restroom because he really, really has to pee. But he’s in Arizona. And no matter how fast he drives, he’ll be in Arizona for hours and hours and hours.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bats in My Belfry

Well, close. My neighbor put up a birdhouse on the newly trimmed Dead Telephone Pole Tree, which got me to thinking. So I googled and downloaded some How To Locate A Bat House, which said it should be located facing east on either a house or a pole. Since this Very Dead Telephone Pole Tree was a sort of very, very fat “pole.” so I googled for any Bat People and came up with a very nice local bat saver/expert and sent her a picture of the tree to see what her take was on putting up a bat house. I didn’t want to go to the expense and trouble if, in her opinion, it was an impossible site. Her general feeling: Ah, ya never know, so you could certainly try a bat house there and see what happens. Said that "bat's are extremely loyal to their establishes roosts, they don't like to move any more than we do if we are comfy . . " but that "basts lose their roosts often and it would be great if theyhad a place to move into. They are also very curious animals and will investigate . . . who knows, they may like it and move right in. If not, consider moving it to a different location after 2 years." Then she said she’d send my questions up to the Giant Bat Discussion Group In the Sky and see if there’d be any feedback.

But before I heard back, my neighbor called to say she had found an extra bat house a friend wasn’t using. So we figured, What the heck. Next up, I dragooned my other neighbor into helping (he has the extension ladder) and before long, Holy Batman! It’s a bat house.

Now we wait to see if anybody moves in.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Dog Park & Other Fun Things

Morro Bay’s new fenced, off-leash dog park, while not officially open (the grand opening will be later this spring) is open for business. Located in Del Mar Mark, on the west side of the park, it has two fenced areas (small and large dog areas.) and lots of nice grass and trees and benches. Finn loved it and went into his zoomy, zippy gallop mode. Luckily he didn’t open up the throttle fully since every time he does that he gets into trouble by slipping or running into things. Followed by expensive vet bills. But he had a swell time anyway.

Smoke ‘em If Ya Got ‘em, Part Duh.

The Tribune reports that the Morro Bay city council has drafted new rules for an ordinance to allow pot dispensaries. The ordinance will be through back in 60-90 days for a vote. The city council felt that having a pot dispensary, properly run, would serve the needs of the area’s sick people. Which is all very nice. And it’s likely some brave soul will step forward and another pot dispensary will be set up. But I fear for anyone who’ll be running the place. If Sheriff Hedges gets into trouble again and finds himself in the headlines, I’m betting he’ll target that dispensary, call in the feds and the poor schnook will be hauled into federal court. I don’t care what the DOJ says about not raiding pot dispesdaries in states and local marijuana laws in states where prescription MJ is legal. The feds don’t have to “raid” the place. The local sheriff can do that, then turn the evidence over to the feds who will have to start the federal wheels grinding, and once they start, they can’t stop. Especially if the local Sheriff insists. So another legal medical pot dispenser will be ground up, more tax dollars will be wasted.

I’d like to say that I hope the Morro Bay dispensary works out and that sanity prevails, but the record on sanity and marijuana use hasn’t been evident since the government and other special interests decided it was a useful political tool for demonization and vote getting and repression. Nope, no sanity in sight. Too bad marijuana’s “medical” effects don’t include helping people be less venal and stupid.

Can We PLUUUEEEEZE Get Some Elected Officials With Integrity?

Honest, is it too much to ask for? A little internal integrity? Like, say, Republican state Sentator from Bakersfield, Roy Ashburn, who regularly and consistently voted against all measures granting equal civil rights for gay people who was recently arrested for DUI after leaving a gay bar and who then “came out” and fessed up. Yep, he’s gay and has been in the closet voting for laws that harmed people exactly like him.

That’s what happens when you have no internal integrity. The rot spreads outward into the world and ends up harming people. And the voters are complicit in all this as well. As Ashburn noted, he voted for those un-civil laws because his constituents wanted gays to be discriminated against. And if he’d stood for office with integrity, as a gay man supporting civil rights for all citizens, he’d never have gotten elected. True, true, and another person who wasn’t gay and didn’t want civil rights for all citizens would have been elected, but Mr. Ashburn would at least have lived his life with integrity. Could have even run for office openly and raised civil rights issues and perhaps confronted challenged and educated many people in his district who don’t like equal rights for others.

Like pebbles in pools, people with integrity ripple outward in amazing ways. Imagine a whole state filled with them. Including voters. Now, there’s a thought.

Teacher! Teacher, I have a Question

Nick Wilson reports in the March 9 Tribune, that local business star, Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s chain of office-service-copy stores, who “dontated $15 million I company stock to the business college, which was renamed the Orfalea College of Business in honor of his parents . . . was asked by [Cal Poly’s College of Business]Dean Dave Christy to teach an international business course in the fall in which 25 top-tier business students were chosen to participate and share in catered meals.” (Catered meals? Donated millions? Did they serve Harris beef at the lunches, hmmmm?)

Well, so far, so good. Universities often hire guest artists for guest-artist-in residence programs or other non-teacher expert and famous personages to teach classes. Usually, though, the classes are official and open to all students who qualify, not some quickie, off-the-books deal for hand-picked special students.

I say off the books, because apparently a lot of the other Professors had no knowledge of this special class and before long, the you-know-what hit the fan. Orfalea’s class was described as non-rigorous, there were no written exams or texts, students were supposed to read and discuss news articles and think critically about global issues and were encouraged to speak up in class.

“My course is rigorous in that students are required to speak up and participate,” said Orfalea, who was not paid to teach the Cal Poly class. “Most students can go through all four years of college without ever raising their hand to ask a question, he said.”

Which, if true, is sad enough. Four years of college without ever asking a question? Doesn’t speak well of the college OR the teachers, OR students, to my mind. But no matter, the Academic senate is investigating what happened and whether any violations of the formal curriculum procedures may have occurred . . .” reports the Trib. So, we will certainly hear more about this, maybe.

But what caught my eye about this dust up is this: Orfalea wasn’t paid for the class, but lecturer Jere Ramsey, “whose specialty is international business” “filed a grievance with the university last year to receive the amount she would have gotten had she taught Orfalea’s class. She received $5,000 in a settlement late last year.”

No, that’s not the fun part. Orfalea was “free,” Ramsey sued and got that money even though she didn’t teach anything, so money-wise, that’s a wash.

But here’s the fun part. “Mike Stebbins, a retired professor who had tenure at the university, also was paid for teaching the class, although he did not help Orfalea teach the course or show up for any of the sessions. [Business College Dean Dave] Christy, who did not recall how much Stebbins was paid, made the decision to pay the retired professor under the union’s contractual agreement with the university.”

A business college that pays TWO professors for NOT teaching ONE class, and a teacher’s union that contractually requires that teachers who do not teach classes still get paid for not teaching them anyway.

Where do I sign up?

Yup, It’s The Future

If you’ve been wondering how the recent Supreme Court ruling giving corporations unlimited “free speech” rights in elections will actually play out, take a gander at what the national Chamber of Commerce is up to. Money is now pouring into their organization, money that can effectively be “laundered,” money whose origins are easy to hide from the average citizen, buried under layers of fake grass-roots groups, thereby giving effective cover for the corporation making the donation. And the C of C’s lobbyists are hitting the congressional offices, again with their corporate backers effectively hidden. It’s starting to rain money, hidden money, corporate money.

And when it comes to money and deciding between what’s good for the donor or good for The American People, guess who’s going to win that fight? Yup, It’s the Future, and you, dear Citizen, aren’t in it. Except as a mark.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Los and Found

I haven’t figure out what in heck Facebook is good for yet. Always seems to me like one large Twitter Board, but then I’m a luddite who doesn’t even own a cell phone, let alone an Iphone, IPad, IPod, IDon’tknow.

But one thing Facebook is good for is surprising you when people in your life you thought were long gone pop back up again to say, Hi! Such was the case with Jeff McMahon. Those of you who’ve live here for a while will remember him. Terrific writer over at New Times about 15 years ago, when owner/editor Steve Moss was still alive. I still have a 1996 column Jeff did called “Waiting for Rosebud,” pinned to the wall across from my computer. It’s there to remind me every time I sit down to write what I need to remember every time I sit down to write. It’s damned good, too, finest kind, which is also why I keep it posted there. The tap on the shoulder. The Pssst in the ear. ”

Well, Jeff disappeared years ago, headed for somewhere NOT Slotownish, and popped up next in Chicago and by gosh he’s still there, teaching journalism and other non-fiction journalism at the University of Chicago. He edits contrary magazine ( ), writes a column/section called “Scorched Earth” for True/Slant at and still maintains his blog at .

If you remember Jeff, check out his sites and/or go on Facebook and say Hi.

Friends Let Friends Write

Sandra Nielsen, who served in the trenches as a Trustee on the San Luis School Board during the Hideous San Luis School Board Wars, when Ed Denton was Superintendent, back in the 90’s, said wars covered by the Can(n)on’s own Miss Plitchard commenting on the battles. She also served on the Pismo Beach Planning Commission, went to live a few years in Las Vegas, writing an informative blog, “Sandra Off The Strip, and is now back in SloVille and has published a new book – Sex and The Zen of Shopping – which is an absolute hoot. Her premise: Sex is to men what shopping is to women, and even in this awful economy, if you get into the serendipitous zen zone, you can still shop very well indeed on very little moola. And Sandra tells you how.

Check out her website at or google the book on Amazon. Always nice when people you know do what they love. When Sandra has her local book launch/book signing party, I’ll post the info here so we can all show up for a gala time.

The Shock Locker

Interesting upset at the Academy Awards last night, though come to think of it, not so strange. Actually, it was a duplicate, sorta, of 1976/7 when a game changer of a movie – Star Wars – was ignored for a small film – Annie Hall – that’s likely unwatched today. Here we have a game changer – Avatar – ignored in favor of a small film – The Hurt Locker – that likely will be unwatched a few years from now.

While Up in the Air and Up, two gems that, I’m betting, will remain fresh for years, were pretty completely ignored.

Well, one thing I do like is the expanded list of nominees, which gives honor to more films that otherwise would get overlooked. As for awards matching art, ah, not so much. Art has to endure, and that takes time, which is why the “Best of “ lists have to be revised constantly. What seemed great one year, fades quickly while an odd little film that was completely overlooked somehow keeps plodding up the list. Or becomes a “cult” classic, earning new fans generation after generation. Like The Big Lebowski, which played recently at the Freemont’s old movie night and was positively jammed, mostly with younger people who couldn’t possibly have see that film originally. Yet there they were, some in “Dude” costumes, calling out the dialogue and having a grand time.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

If you try this, you’ll see exactly what Billy’s talking about. Interesting thing, perception, and what we think we see and how much of what we think we see isn’t there at all. It’s inside our heads. Made up. From his 1995 book, “The Art of Drowning” by Billy Collins.


You can use the brush of a Japanese monk
or a pencil stub from a race track

as long as you draw the line a third
the way up from the bottom of the page,

the effect is the same; the world suddenly
divided into its elemental realms.

A moment ago there was only a piece of paper.
Now there is earth and sky, sky and sea.

You were sitting alone in a small room.
Now you are walking into the heat of a vast desert

or standing on the ledge of a winter beach
watching the light on the water, light in the air.

Monday, March 01, 2010

I Am Somebody, At Last!

Did you get yours yet? I did. Direct from Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. A letter saying that House Speaker Nancy Peolosi and others are going to raise taxes, impose government rationed health care and weaken our national security. And the only thing that can stop that terrible fate is me and my 2010 Platinum Card. Oh, and sending money, of course. Lots of it.

But for sending my nice money, I get this really swell silver credit card sized, well, cardboard card. It has my name and some numbers on it embossed and raised up so at first you think it’s maybe an exclusive credit card or one of those affinity cards. Or can be used to buy a side order of fries at McDonalds or something. But no. It’s just a cardboard card. But, Michael Steele wants to know that I received my 2010 Platinum Card in excellent condition. And that I’m proud to accept this prestigious honor, and check a little box saying I’m sending $1,000 in order to stop Nancy Pelosi from killing my granny.

So, it’s pretty wonderful. Imagine. Me getting such an amazing honor. But there’s only one problem. I’ve spent about an hour reading all the paperwork that comes with my prestigious honor and STILL can’t find anywhere that says what it is I’m to do with the card. Put it in my wallet and carry it around for a while? I mean, what’s with that? And how would I share this amazing honor with people. Like, say, I’m at the checkout at Ralphs with some parsnips and a few cartons of yogurt and some little cans of dog food for The Lady Emma, who’s so old and goofy and toothless now I have to mush up her kibble and put some little mooshed up dog food for flavor on it or else she won’t eat it, and maybe I have a loaf of that really wonderful whole grain artisan bread (after all, I’m now somebody special and deserve some of that wonderful artisan bread to go with my bowl of soup), am I supposed to say to the checker, “Here’s my Ralph’s card, Oh, and wait, let me show you my 2010 Republican Party Platinum Card, too!”

I mean, what’s with that? Not exactly a conversation starter, now is it? Unless the checker has a Granny that needs killing. And right now my wallet’s full, but at least the cards I have in there actually do something, like I recently used my Kohl card to get a life-saving Shark Steam Mop and danged if that thing works so amazing the floor’s never been cleaner with less elbow grease. It’s a miracle, what with living in a House of Sand & Mud With A Bunch Of Dogs With Muddy Feet, I can tell you. And I recently checked out some books from my library with my library card.

But my new Platinum Card? It won’t work at the library. And I certainly don’t think it would work at Kohl’s, either. Well, no matter. Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee believes that I have an exemplary record of loyalty and patriotism, thereby proving that I’m the caliber of leader he needs to stop Nancy Pelosi from killing my Granny and turning America into a socialist state being run by a godless Muslim of African persuasion.

Still, with a matter of such important national interest, you’d think I could at least maybe get a side of fries with the darned thing. Not a large side, just a little side. O.K., and maybe a cuppa joe.