Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ah, the Irony, the Irony

Dan DeVaul. County Jail. Dan DeVaul. County Jail. Hmmmm, can there be an interesting connection, some six degrees of separation? Well, yes, according to Ron Crawford over at

Media Actually Does Matter

If you haven’t already put them on your “favorite places, do so: Critical group since media actually does matter so it’s important to have somebody taking a close look.

Parks Actually Matter, Too

While Sacramento legislators stay stupid and locked in their various ideological battles, I’m going to at least vote for Prop 21, which will cost me a small $18 yearly dink when I register my car next year, but that will get desperately needed money to our State Parks for desperately needed repairs. The ballot measure isn’t perfect, but our dysfunctional legislature won’t do anything about this, so I figure $18 a year is a total bargain if it keeps these treasures – our State Parks – up and running and there for all of us and for those who come after us.

Bill Maher’s New Rule

Yet another dreary story in the L.A. Times about a bible thumping preacher who “declared that his church had created a ministry that ‘delivered’ people from homosexuality.” Yeah, you guessed it. He’s accused of molesting young teen male church members.

Hence comedian Bill Maher’s “New Rule.” If a preacher carries on about homosexuals . . . he’s gay.

Actually, that rule should apply to most everyone who gets all worked up over human sexuality in general. Exceptions: protecting children from predators, keeping Republicans away from farm animals since an alarming number of conservative, "family-values" Republican pols seem to reference that activity a lot, especially when talking about slippery slopes, going from Gays in the Military to Sex With A Cow in an eyeblink. And, of course, violence and coercion never get a pass. But other than that, when it comes to what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms, Jeeze, get a grip.

And remember Bill’s New Rule.

Ya Better Not Laugh, Ya Better Not Cry . .

Yes, I know, it’s 114’ and the pavement’s melting and dogs’ tongues are hanging out and we’re all praying for rain. Or a breeze. Just one breeze that doesn’t feel like it’s coming from a convection oven.

However, the holidays are coming and if you have any dog lovers on your list, drop by Paso Pups’ great website at and scroll down to the bottom and take a look at their new calendar. The photos were taken during “Splash Days” wherein the Parks 4 Pups group reserves the local pool and dog park members, and all others, can reserve a time for their dogs to dive in. The photo on the cover of the 2011 calendar is reason enough to order one. Guaranteed to make you smile every time you look at the calendar. They’re $13.50 and you can get ordering information at the website.

So, dive in!

Come on Out For Some Eats!

SLO-4-PUPs, the group that started the County’s very first off-leash dog park, will be celebrating it’s 9th anniversary, Sunday, Oct 3, at El Chorro Dog Park (off highway 1 across from Cuesta College) with a hot dog BBQ and a dedication for our new entryway. (Full disclosure: I serve on the Board.) The beautiful entry, constructed by R.J. Barrett, was made possible by a donation from Chris Boyle to honor her late Aunt, Lee Boyle. The event will run from 10 – 2, with the dedication ceremony between 11-11:30, BBQ and cake to follow.

Bring your dog and if you don’t have a dog, come anyway.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

This lovely poem is from “Dogggerel; Poems about dogs,” and is by Lisel Mueller

What The Dog Perhaps Hears

If an inaudible whistle
blown between our lips
can send him home to us,
then silence is perhaps
the sound of spiders breathing
and roots mining the earth;
it may be asparagus heaving,
headfirst, into the light
and the long brown sound
of cracked cups, when it happens.
We would like to ask the dog
if there is a continuous whir
because the child in the house
keeps growing, if the snake
really stretches full length
without a click and the sun
breaks through clouds without
a decibel of effort,
whether in autumn, when the trees
dry up their wells, there isn’t a shudder
too high for us to hear.

What is it like up there
above the shut-off level
of our simple ears?
For us there was no birth cry,
the newborn bird is suddenly there,
the egg broken, the nest alive,
and we heard nothing when the world changed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm Waiting, I'm Waiting . . .

So Ron Crawford, over at posted several column on the fact that county staff DID NOT present the BOS with complete information they needed to make a gazillion-dollar decision, and I noted how the Tribune reported on the BOS postponing their decision but they also DID NOT report on that missing piece of information (concerning SB959 that allowed the county to utilize home detention for non-violent, first-time, suitable offenders & etc. at a humongeous savings, compared to building (and running) an expanded jail) so the taxpayers (who would be on the hook for running said expansion) were in the dark.

So the Tribune reported again that the BOS put the issue on hold so they could review their options BUT the Tribune AGAIN failed to mention anything about SB959) though it did report Adam Hill pointing out that more attention needed to be paid to various “detox and rehabilitation facilities.” So the taxpayers (and Tribune readers) are still in the dark about a couple of things:

1. County staff did NOT give the BOS the complete information they needed to vote on this matter until Ron Crawford pointed out the oversight and alerted the Board members that they were missing some critical information.

2. The Tribune reported NONE of this, so the public has been left in the dark. Which is how the Tribune likes it.

3. But you, dear reader, can follow the latests little dots over on Ron’s blog at

So, Just How Stupid Are We?

This from the Associated Press recent poll of 1,251 adults found:

Most people didn’t know that the provisions they cared and wanted, are actually in the bill, with many of them already taking effect. .

50% mistakenly believe the overhaul of health care will raise taxes for most people this year.

25% mistakenly believe that there are “Death Panels” in the bill.

81% mistakenly believe that the health law would raise the deficit over time (Correct answer from the Congressional Budget Office: it will reduce the deficit over time.)

These same misinformed/mistaken people are likely set to vote for Republicans who have vowed to repeal the health care law, and they’ll likely be voting based on their misinformation. (“Quick, Herbie, let’s vote to Stop Them Death Panels That Are NOT In The Bill”)

Yes, the sound you may hear in Nov is likely to be the shriek that follows the loud bang that comes after the bullet leaves the gun and hits the foot.

Oh, and you just knew THAT was gonna happen . . .

Because the voters didn’t vote in enough progressive/Democrats/Independents who would have voted for a “Medicare-for-All Public Option” in a real Health Care Reform Bill, what the congressfolk they voted for actually created effectively sold the American people right back into the paws of the Insurance Company Monopolies.

And because the voters didn’t make sure they elected people who actually would be looking out for THEIR interests, (not the corporate masters) it was just a matter of time before the health insurance industry would start manipulating the new rules so as to avoid or bypass those rules to ensure that their profits will continue to bloom.

And, sure enough, step one was reported in the L.A. Times: “Insurers to stop issuing policies for kids.”

Want to buy a separate, stand-alone policy for your sick kid who has a pre-existing condition? Sorry. None available from ANY health insurance company at any price. No longer selling them. Nope, sorry.

Ah, yes, there’s the first salvo. Sans the solid check-and-balance of a solid Medicare-for-All option (which the voters COULD have ensured and that would have been available for themselves, had they voted for the right candidates) we’ll all now have to start a little list, because the elimination of things the insurance companies are going to offer in their policy coverage are going to start coming in, one by one.

Yep, once again, that sound you’ll be hearing from this point forward will be the continuing shriek as one-by-one the bullets keep hitting the voter’s feet, all shot from the gun in their very own hands, bang-Owww!-bang-Owww!-bang.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Murder Most Foul

Sue McGinty, whose last book, “Murder in Los Lobos” concerned a sewer and a dead woman, has published her second Bella Kowalski mystery, “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach.” And all characters, even the town, are purely fictional. Right. Sure.
Sue will be having a book signing party at Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay on Sunday, November 21st from 1 – 3 p.m.

Here’s the book blurb:

In 2004, Loreli Sereno has everything—looks, wealth, a great job as a real estate broker in a booming market, easy access to addictive substances. Then Loreli, supposedly clean and sober, dies in a kayaking accident with drugs in her system. "Murder," claims the Sereno family, major players in the emerging California Central Coast wine industry.

Five years later people have abandoned premium wines for two buck knockoffs. Creative financing forces the nouveau poor from their Mac-mansions, sometimes into homeless shelters. Everyone's credit cards are maxed-out, even Los Lobos residents, Bella and Mike Kowalski's.

Bella, a former nun, now a dirt-digging obituary editor, gets an urgent call from Magda Sereno regarding her sister's murder. Magda suspects Loreli's former fiancé, a maverick rancher who takes in the homeless on an ad hoc basis. Then Magda, a surfer, is brutally murdered on New Year’s Day at Cuyamaca Beach's annual Polar Bear dip.

MURDER AT CUYAMACA BEACH leads readers through the dark underbelly of California's scenic Central Coast, where the homeless gather under bridges while the wealthy slumber beneath satin sheets, and where a crowded, sunny beach offers no guarantee of safety.

Be All You Can Be – A Bigot

Republicans and a few spineless Democrats blocked a military appropriations bill, in part because it had a section in it that would repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote recalled a line from William Yeats famous poem, “The Second Coming” and is a perfect description of our Congress and most of America today: “ The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

Be All You Can Be – A Bigot, Part II

In the dust-up on the so-called “9/11 Mosque,” in all the screaming about how 9/11 is a “sacred” site that shouldn’t be polluted by anything “Islamic,” this small fact has gone unnoticed. From The New York Times. “About 60 Muslims – electricians, ironworkers, financial analysts, restaurant workers, secretaries – died when the World Trade Center was destroyed by Islamic radicals on 9/11. Muslims who worked in the buildings prayed daily at a prayer room on the 17th floor of the south tower. ‘It had the feel of a real mosque,’ said Zafar Sareshwala, a financial executive who sometimes prayed there. ‘It was so freeing and so calm.”

So, the south tower of the World Trade Center had a Muslim prayer room in it, but an Islamic center to be located several blocks away is somehow polluting and disrespectful to this “sacred” site. And the families of the Muslims who died there who might find this site as sacred as anyone, need to go farther away (actually, just what would be considered an acceptable distance isn’t clear) to pray for their loved ones who died that day, along with all the others.

This, because, clearly, the 9/11 site is FOR CHRISTIANS ONLY. Since they’re the only ones who count.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hip Bone Connected to the Shoulder Bone . . .

Karen Velie’s story over at Cal Coast News should be old news to Los Ososians. I especially love Able Maldonado’s suggestion that if the local DA doesn’t look into this matter of the Wallace Group, (seriously, like a “real” case, like actually interviewing key people involved) then folks should contact the state Attorney General or the Governor. Bwa-hahahaha. I never knew Abel had such a droll sense of humor.

Read it and weep, at

Can I Have Mustard With That?

Let’s see, Meg Whitman’s spent $119 million for her bid to be governor. In 2008, there was about 17 million registered Ca. voters. If she just paid each voter to vote for her, how much would that be per registered voter? Or maybe just pay Dems & Independents to vote for her, let’s say 8 million. How much would that be? Meg’s always going on and on about how she would kick-start the economy again. So, what could be that? Talk about trickle-down.

Shhhhh, DO NOT Inform Your Readers

Few days ago I posted a link to Ron Crawfords blog ( wherein Ron spills the beans over an important law allowing for home detention for qualified prisoners – at a HUGELY cheaper price – and how that information had been withheld from the staff report to the BOS who were only given the option of spending tons of money to build a new jail expansion or face overcrowding & etc. As Ron reported, “staff” told him that they would include that in their upcoming BOS presentation.

This morning, however, the Tribune reports on the presentation, but makes NO MENTION of this third option. But here’s what it does note: Vince Morici (administrative analyst) and Sheriff’s Dept. Chief Deputy Rob Reid “warn that timing is important, insofar as the county’s ability to receive state money is concerned.”

Yup, that’s how you Empire Build here in Chinatown: Ignore cheaper alternatives, “forget” to bring that information up in your staff report, (you can always count on the Trib to overlook critical information that you “forgot” to mention as well – no need to keep the taxpayers in the loop) then “warn that timing is important, insofar as the county’s ability to receive state money is concerned,” as in We Gotta Build NOW (and incur an additional $1.6 million in ongoing operating costs) Or We’ll All Die In The Streets Like Dawgs (and pay no attention to a much cheaper, and perhaps better, alternatives. They don’t involve bricks & mortar Empire Building! )

On A Happier Note

Café Musique, that grandly bizarre and wonderful quasi gypsy/caberet-ish group of extraordinary musicians (On their last CD they played “Hernando’s Hideaway” with a straight face and made you really hear that song as a piece of music for the first time.) will be celebrating the release of their second CD and will be performing at the Steynberg Gallery (SLO) on Friday, Sept 24, at 7:30. Tickets $15. Can call (547-0278) to reserve a ticket via credit card or pay at the door.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

This from “View with a grain of sand,” selected poems by Wislawa Szymborska.

Family Album

No one in this family has ever died of love.

No food for myth and nothing magisterial.

Consumptive Romeos? Juliets diptherial?

A doddering second childhood was enough.

No death-defying vigils, love-struck poses

over unrequited letters strewn with tears!

Here, in conclusion, as scheduled, appears

a portly, pince-nez’d neighbor bearing roses.

No suffocation-in-the-closet gaffes

because the cuckold returned home too early!

Those frills or furbelows, however flounced and whirly,

barred no one from the family photographs.

No Bosch-like hell within their souls, no wretches

found bleeding in the garden, shirts in stains!

(True, some did die with bullets in their brains,

for other reasons, tough, and on field stretchers.)

Even this belle with rapturous coiffure

who may have danced till dawn – but nothing smarter –

hemorrhaged to be better world, bien sur,

but not to taunt or hurt you, slick-haired partner.

For others, Death was mad and monumental –

not for these citizens of a sepia past.

Their griefs turned into smiles, their days flew fast,

their vanishing was due to influenza.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Spend or not Spend?

Tuesday, at the BOS, we'll find out if the County is rolling in money and willing to blow a whole lot of it when they actually have a thriftier option, or whether the BOS will decide that they have other options than those given to them by staff. For some background, see Ron Crawford's post at

We're in [out of] the money, we're in [out of] the money . . . .

Friday, September 17, 2010

Would The Real Story Please Stand Up?

Stories in the Sept 16, Tribune:

Front page headline (McClatchy Newspapers) “Tea party could derail GOP’s bid for Senate.” Then, inside a couple of pages, “Poll: Climate for GOP keeps getting better.” (Associated Press). Uh, O.K. sure.

What Am I Bid?

Headline, “Whitman smashes spending record” and notes that Meg Whitman, who’s bidding like she’s gone on EBay to try to buy the CA governorship, has just upped the ante – another $15 million – which cranks her bid up to $119 so far. The EBay bidding closes Nov 2nd, so stay tuned.

“Warren will mold finance watchdog”

Elizabeth Warren, one of the smartest women in the room, will be appointed to “launch the government’s powerful new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” At this point, because Republicans will block anybody who might possibly actually set up an effective consumer-protection bureau (incompetent Heck-of-a-job, Brownies would be o.k.), President Obama didn’t appoint her as official director, since that would require Congressional confirmation. And Republicans certainly wouldn’t confirm her!

But, that’s o.k. for now since what’s critical about a new consumer-protection bureau is that it must be set up correctly – you know, so it actually protects consumers, not simply acts as window dressing. Says Rep Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), “The American people are tired of being ripped off by large banks and financial institutions and, in professor Warren, they finally will have someone in a position of power who can protect their interests.”

Naturally, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala) opposes the appointment because he feels she’s “not objective on consumer issues.” He's right, she’s not objective because she actually opposes consumers getting ripped off is what Mr. Shelby really means.

I agree. I don’t want a wholly-owned corporate/wallstreet shill heading up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I want a very un-objective person in there who actually objects to American citizens being used as suckers so they can legally be robbed. I actually want a totally un-objective Woman With A Gun standing at the door when the thieves in Congress start – once again – to manipulate the laws so their big-money handlers can return to their thievery.

So, good on President Obama and to Liz Warren – you go, girl!

Tea Party Saves The Day!

Tea Partyite, Christine O’Donnell, will be the Republican candidate for Delaware’s senate seat. Let’s pray she wins and soon converts the entire Congress to her strongly held beliefs that there should be no sex before or outside marriage and that masturbation is the equivalent to adultery and should be stopped! Then Congress could stamp out all this self-canoodling by making it against the law and to enforce the new Anti- Onan Recovery Act, Congress will then votefor a new Anti-Self-Stimulus Fund that will be used to hire everyone now out of work and employ them to hunt down and arrest all self-abusers, including themselves, if necessary.

Voi la! Unemployment problem SOLVED! Good job, Christine! And who says Tea Baggers are a bunch of batshit crazies?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ya Gits Whatcha Pays Fer

Ah, yes. let the screaming begin over the gas line explosion in San Bruno. However, here’s the reality. If PG&E had spent the money needed to keep all their gas lines updated and in good repair, replacing the miles and miles of old, out of date pipes, they’d have to go to the PUC and get permission to raise their rates and the public would SCREAM!

If the government felt PG&E wasn’t keeping their lines in good repair, they’d pass laws and regulations spelling out exactly what needed to be done, PG&E and the public would SCREAM about too much government regulations!

And when those regulations required PG&E to raise their rates to cover the costs of all that repair, the public would SCREAM!

And if the government felt PG&E wasn’t operating safely and properly and turned the company into a not-for-profit (government-run) municipal utility, with profits plowed back into rebuild, repair and top notch maintenance, the public would SCREAM about socialism and communism!

Until their rates went down because munis often offer cheapter rates for their customers than for-profit operations. So, everybody, shush up. Seven to 10 people dead is about the going rate to continue business as usual.

Ya Gits Whatcher Pays Fer, Part Heh-Heh.

This from David Savage, reporting for the L.A. Times. “The conservative counterattack on President Obama’s overhaulof health insurance will take center state in the courts this week when Republican state attorneys general and leading small-business groups urge a federal judge in Florida to strike down the law before it can take effect.

“They contend Congress does not have the power under the Constittuion to require all Americans to have health insurance. They also say states cannot be pressured to spend more to cover low-income families.”

Oh, I hope the judge rules to dump the whole health care law. It will make millions of Americans very, very happy when we go back to the days of people being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, or being dropped entirely right in the middle of their battle with cancer, for example, over some minor clerical oversight on their insurance applications made years previously. Their kids will be off their family policies at age 18, rates can continue to rise unfettered and millions can continue to be forced into bankruptcies over medical bills. And the overall government deficit will continue to rise into bust-the-bank levels as health care costs rise along with the unbridled and obscenely lush profit levels for the insurance companies. No longer will they have to spend 80% of their income on actual health coverage.

It’s just too, too perfect and it’s what Americans desperately want – lousy and/or unaffordable medical coverage, or, better yet, no coverage at all! So I can hear the joy in Mudville even now. Yes!

Ya Gits Whats Ya Pays Fer, Part Trey

For over twenty years, our tax and trade policies have been deliberately structured to benefit corporations. Corporations have no country. They go where the profits are. Thus, while promising all boats would float and all money would trickle down, American’s manufacturing base was carefully eroded and destroyed, the factories shuttered and the manufacturing jobs shipped overseas, thereby gutting first the working class jobs and then the managerial white/pink collar jobs.

Now, with President Obama’s proposals to re-boot America with R&D tax credits and other tax incentives, the full irony is about to come home to roost. R&D, which is still America’s greatest asset (we’re a nation of very, very clever immigrants) will result in tremendous benefits – to corporations holding patent rights and to people living overseas. Which is where all the innovative stuff thought up in the US will actually be made, because American policy has destroyed its manufacturing base. So, while we can invent stuff like crazy, we can’t manufacture it here to benefit our own citizens. Plus, because of our trade policies, it remains cheaper to send it all to China to be made and then imported here, thereby worsening our overall trade imbalances.

It’s a perfect two-for one, with Americans the losers – Trickle down Reaganomics at its finest! Congratulations, America. You got exactly what you asked for.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Viewpoint & Other Events

The Tribune recently ran a Bruce-centric, County-centric-pat-ourselves-on-the-back editorial regarding the $87 million loan for the sewer. And, as usual, er, “forgot” to mention some key things, but did try to lay blame on folks who appealed the issue to the Coastal Commission, while, er, overlooking, even more key issues regarding that appeal or the reasons why it was necessary. Typical.

Here’s Julie Tacker’s “Viewpoint” which may or may not make it into the Tribune. Once again, proof positive, that it’s impossible to tell The Hideous Los Osos Sewer Story without about 7,000 footnotes and addenda. Posted with permission.

The September 9 Tribune editorial, “Credit goes to many for securing sewer funds” may as well have read “Blame goes to appellants for County filing late application.” The op-ed piece states “delays in granting the permit – including a nearly six-month continuance by the Coastal Commission – caused the application to be filed later than originally hoped.”

Without naming names the Tribune, parroting statements made by Supervisor Bruce Gibson at the September 7, 2010 Board of Supervisors meeting, blames the twenty-nine appellants for the County’s late application. Twenty-nine appellants (vacant lot owners, long time sewer watchers, a LOCSD Director, a local developer, Sierra Club, Surfrider and two Coastal Commissioners) raised myriad environmental impacts overlooked by the project.

If truth be told, blame for delays rests squarely on the shoulders of Gibson and the Public Works Department. This four year pursuit of the Los Osos Wastewater Project is different than any iteration of the past. By disconnecting water from wastewater -- leaving management of water supply to the purveyor shifts the financial burden to the water bill, equal to or greater than the monthly wastewater bill.

Over a year was lost chasing the “dead on arrival” water wasting sprayfield project at the Tonini Ranch. In the process, the County spent well over $4 million conducting site specific studies of the 642 acre property.

Further removed are the vacant properties from the financial equation, no service -- no charge, no savings from economies of scale. Leaving a $27 million funding shortfall, shifting the entire project cost to the developed properties and adding approximately $30 per month to the already high price.

The leading appeal contention, STEP vs. Gravity, could have been resolved with a side-by-side comparison as was promised in the assessment vote of 2007. Instead, the County spent money elsewhere and thus allowed the debate to continue unresolved.

The USDA money is more complicated than it appears. At 3.25 percent interest for 40 years, when Los Osos is eligible for lower interest through State funding, what “huge relief” does the Tribune see that we don’t? USDA funds at higher interest for a longer duration increases the project cost and a $4 million grant is not “free money” there are always strings attached. Let’s see the fine print.

The County driven delays came long before the permitting process or any appeals were filed. These missteps will continue to plague the project and shift the costs to the project’s rates and charges or to the Golden State and LOCSD water customers.

Blaming appellants perpetuates the divisive tenor in Los Osos, no thanks to the Supervisor or the Tribune for continuing to stir the pot.

K Rat, DOA?

The Solar Ranch folks, who are planning on building a huge solar array out in the Carrizo Plains area, will be holding a workshop at Embassy Suites, in the Edna Room, (333 Madonna Road, SLO) Wednesday, Sept 15th, 7 – 8:30 pm.

The Tribune recently ran a story about the little giant kangaroo rat likely putting a kink in this project’s proposed footprint. Seems there’s giant kangaroo rat dwellings all over the area the 250-megawatt photo voltaic power plan was planning to use. So, now the power-plant footprint shuffle starts. Some of the alternative plans are being looked at by county planners, including putting the whole thing in the central valley, which has already destroyed any native habitat.

But one thing that needs to be addressed in all our plans for building anything that will reduce carbon emissions is this: Is the giant k-rat (or any other critter) a critter that can only survive in an environment with very narrow parameters and variants in temperature/moisture/food supply? If so, then because of what we have already burned, the climate change is already in the pipeline and cannot be stopped. So, is it likely that the Carrizo Plains will either get hotter/drier or wetter/colder or swing wildly between, the grasses and plants will change as well, and the k-rat’s narrow world will be destroyed even if no solar arrays are built out there. So, do we delay going green for fear of wiping out a little critter that’s already doomed, thereby making things worse for other critters down the line? Or do we figure this is all triage and accept that our failure to act years ago has already finished off X amount of critters and we’d best move as quickly as possible to try to avoid killing off Y more?

Well, maybe that question and others will be discussed at the workshop.

If You Plant It, They Will Come

My sister sent a Fresno Bee story that’s a sign of the high times to come if marijuana initiative gets passed.

Remember the good old days when kids climbed Farmer McGuillicuddy’s fence and stole his apples? Well, a field of marijuana in the back yard of a guy with an official medical marijuana permit was growing away under the nice Fresno sun, its green spiky leaves towering over the 6’ fence. Mmmmm, lush, green, 50 x 75 feet of the stuff, right there, mmmm, just over the fence. So, naturally, some guy climbed the fence and started helping himself to some of the lush crop and got himself shot for his trespass.

The shootee is in the hospital in serious condition and the shooter is in a world of legal trouble. (Farmer McGuilicuddy used to just holler at the kids. Nowadays, people pick up guns and end up with a whole passel of violations having to do with excessive use of force.)

Ah, sign of the times, I suppose. If the state-wide initiative passes, maybe a homeowner trying to grow a whole backyard of marijuana would be smart to toss a few seeds out in the public rights of way to lure away thieves and post a sign out at the edge of the property line saying, “Git yer own box!” in hopes it would distract some stoner and prevent the need to shoot the idiot for criminal trespass.

Or get a big dog and hope he doesn’t like to nibble on the leaves.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Your Sunday Soup Recipe

With the fall glooms returning, time for soup! This recipe is adapted from one in “Passionate Vegetarian,” by Crescent Dragonwagon, a wonderful humongeous book (available in paperback!) just loaded with all kinds of yummy veggie recipes. The original recipe, adapted by Dragonwagon, is from Michael Romano of New York’s Union Square Café, and called for 3 jalapeno chiles, seeded if you prefer, and diced. Yeah, well, good luck with that. I will just say, season with “heat” to your own taste with jalapenos, or cayenne or red pepper powder or thai hot oil or whatever.

For its name alone, this soup just had to be tried.

Michael Roman’s Union Square Café Indian Borscht

4 med. beets, scrubbed, trimmed
3 tbs. vegetable oil
3 onions, sliced
3 tbs peeled and finely minced fresh ginger
2 tbs ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cayenne or red pepper or Thai oil, etc. (or less, use the hot peppers to taste)
1 tsp paprika
1/4 cup white basmati rice
1-2 tsp salt or to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 QT vegetable stock (or can use chicken stock or both)
1-2 tbs honey
1 cup canned diced tomatoes in juice
3/4 tsp Garam Masala
Yogurt, sour cream, cilantro leaves, to garnish.

Roast beets in 350 oven about 60 min until tender, peel and cut up.

Heat oil in large soup pot and sauté unions until transparent. Add ginger and cook a few more minutes. Add the spices, stir a bit. Add everything else, (except the garm masala) bring to a boil for a bit, stirring, then turn down to mere simmer and let cook until the rice is done, stirring occasionally (about 25 minutes or more0

Cool mixture a bit, then blend with hand blender, add more stock or water to thin to preferred consistency. Add more honey if needed, and garm masala. Reheat if necessary.

Serve with dollop of yogurt and cilantro, if desired.

Hot, spicy Indian borscht? What’s not to love about THAT soupy weirdness?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Song Cycle

Calhoun's Can(n)ons for September 10, 2010

I hear America singing . . . Somebody hand me an aspirin. My ears hurt.

We want major health care reform! But don’t change MY health care policy. Stop socialistic government-run health care! But keep your hands off MY Medicare. No new taxes! But fix the roads in front of MY house and hire more teachers for MY kid’s school and put more policemen on MY beat. Don’t raise the deficit! But get ME a stimulus-money job. No government regulations! But make sure MY breakfast eggs are safe. Reform Social Security! But don’t change MY benefits or costs. Bring our troops home, the war’s bankrupting us! But let’s bomb Iran! Shut the border down! But don’t deport MY gardener. America welcomes all religions! But not Muslims, so let’s get a bunch of Christians together and threaten to burn Korans in a true Bonfire of the Stupidities.

It’s an old, old song heard whenever Americans get unnerved by events. It’s incoherent and filled with fear-generated divisions, long simmering resentments and bone-deep religious, racial and economic hatreds. While the song comes from the American heart – hypocritical and a-historical to the core, the knives always there just under the carefully burnished, smiley-faced surface – it is always roused into full voice by opportunistic political choirmasters and master demagogues manipulating the singers and the song for their own profit and power.

And when the last note dies, the result of all the sound and fury is almost always a nation filled with self-inflicted bullet holes shot through a great many feet, loud wails of anguish, and a HUGE transfer of wealth into the bank accounts of the select wily few. Which sets us all up for the song cycle to repeat itself, the problems unsolved, the lessons unlearned, the connection between words and music a complete blank.

But the run-up to this particular election is not without its delicious moments – little operatic solos and riffs and delicious subtexts and wrong notes.

Consider the ironies of multi-gazillionaire (EBay) Meg Whitman running for California governor on a platform of business know-how and fiscal-prudence while spending like a drunken sailor --$104 million of her own money so far. This to buy a chance to govern a financially busted state polarized by gerrymandering and locked into a furious refusal to seriously change the way the state taxes, budgets and spends its money. Or Carly Fiorina, who, as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, downsized and outsourced 30,000 jobs before getting fired and walking away with a big fat bonus. She’s now running for senator as a job-creating business leader. And while the Koch brothers (oil and gas) are pouring money into opposing a California green alternative energy ballot measure, Exxon Mobil (oil and gas) just invested $300 million in a San Diego green alternative fuel company that will benefit from that same ballot initiative. Does anybody have a program here? How do you spell cognitive dissonance, anyway?

And then there’s the richness of the subtexts and symbolism of the leading notes of this song cycle. Take Joe Miller from Alaska, the newest tea-party-ish darling du jour. Is that carefully clipped quasi scruffy semi-unshaved permanent five o’clock shadow the result of careful two-day-growth manscaping like the macho undercover actors in the new TV series “Dark Blue?” Or an overdose of testosterone that keeps him running around the northwoods in big-check flannel shirts hauling moose antlers by the armload?

Well, no matter. In the upcoming Fox Noise/Republican/Tea Party 24/7 FearFearFear! congressional campaign – Nonexistent headless bodies in the Arizona Desert! Deadly Killer Mosques at Ground Zero! Black helicopters coming to kill your Grandma if ObamaCare comes to your town! Communism creeping over America that can only be stopped by Glen Beck who’s now speaking for God while raking in the filthy lucre of mammon! (Buy gold, now!) – what better subliminal message can a candidate project in these ginned-up scary times than an image filled with moose antlers, five o’clock shadows, the whiff of chain-saw engine oil and buffalo check plaid? Photo shoot, styled-up Momma and Poppa Grizzlies coming to protect us. Yes. America is saved!

And if nobody wants to seriously talk about choices and consequences, if nobody has the patience or foresight to work for long-term goals or put in place real reform that actually results in, well, real reform, if nobody will support efforts that will lead to a transformative payoff in the future by changing parts of a system that simply aren’t working anymore, then style over substance, image over content is about all that’s left.

So, here it is. The word to fashionistas --Flannel. Better stock up now.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Bonfire of the Stupidities

The pastor of a very, very small fundamentalist evangelical Christian church in Florida is going to hold a Koran burning Saturday.  He's also hinting that he might not, but he's praying on it and Oh, isn't it such fun to keep the media on the hook as long as possible, oooooh, yes-no, well, maybe, we'll see, call me back in an hour and can you get me on ABC World News Tonight?  Pastor Terry Jones claims his actions will send a message to Muslim Americans that America won't stand for Sharia Law being imposed here, even though Sharia Law is NOT being imposed here and there is no danger that it will ever be imposed here.  But no need to muddle the good pastor with facts. 

And Pastor Jones also claims he wants to "send a very clear warning that they [muslims throughout the world] are not to retaliate in any form," thereby displaying the kind of magical thinking that demand A on my part will stop Reaction B out there in the world, a delusion that likely caused him to become a pastor of a very, very small fundamentalist evangelical Christian church in the first place. 

General Petraeus has weighed in, stating that the good pastor's pathetic auto-de-fe burn-in will endanger American troops.  But, reveling in his 15 minutes of fame, and operating on the Wife-Batterers' Moral Code -- if I hit you and you hit me back, it's all YOUR fault --it's clear the good pastor doesn't care about consequences, especiallyif they happen to somebody else.  And while Secretary of State HIllary Clinton has spoken out against this profoundly ignorant event, so far, no word from anybody important on the Republican right.  And, oddly, zero tweets from Mamma Grizzly Sarah, who likes to inform the world that she's a mother of a soldier.  Whose buddies will be put in danger by this action.

Meanwhile, City officials in Gainesville have declared that the Dove World Outreach Center is "an embarassment to our community" and has refused to issue Pastor Jones a burn permit.  Unknown is whether city officials will have a fire truck standing by to do what fire trucks do when matches are lit without the proper permits. If they are quick first responders, we may end up with a Rain Day rather than a Burn Day, followed by a You're Under Arrest Day.

And it remains to be seen if a whole lot of un-stupid people of all faiths will also show up at the book burning/media circus to protest this event. Let's see if we can end up with some world-class photographs of a very wet fool in front of a soggy pile of books surrounded by thousands of people of all faiths standing arm in arm holding crosses, Bibles, Korans, Books of Mormon, volumes of Torah, and all carrying signs bearing photos of  Pastor Jones wearing a Hitler moustache and a dunce cap.

On the other hand, I think maybe the pastor's thinking is way too small.  What we really need is a national auto-de-fe, a HUGE central bonfire, maybe located in Kansas, upon which we will throw ALL our holy books that use God to justify what are really just our own pathetic human fears and hatreds. Burn 'em all!  And then each and every one of us will forswear to never believe any fundamentalist religion that creates The Dreaded Damned/Infidel/"Other" and then uses God as an excuse to indulge in our own dangerous monkey-brained ugliness.

Maybe then we can create the kind of societies we actually want to live in.

Say Amen.  Amen. 
Now, gimme that match.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Your Sunday Poem

This by Nancy Willard from her 1996 book of poems, “Swimming Lessons”

What the Grass Said

All summer the trees are packing to go.
They engrave their maps on their hands.
They have thousands of hands
and no two maps are the same.

The further they travel, the less they move.
Traveling for them is throwing the maps away,
one by one till they stand naked.
You can see the sunlight through their ribs.

They don’t forget to put out buds before they go,
but even that is a way of saying goodbye,
got to make a new map out of my blood,
got to find my home on the mountain.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Take It Off, Take It ALL Off

Ah, where's Joe Namath when you need him?  Well, never mind, we now have Joe Miller from Alaska who's either trying to out-Nixon's five o'clock shadow or planning for a Noxema shaving creme commercial a la Joe Namath with a cooing blond babe holding a razor blade. Oooooo, take it ALL off!

So, there's the Big Question of the upcoming Political Silly Season:  Is Joe Miller's caefully clipped quasi scruffy semi-unshaved five o'clock shadow the result of careful two-day-growth manscaping like the macho undercover actors in the new TV series "Dark Blue?"  Or is he just so busy running around the northwoods in big-check flannel shirts hauling moose antlers by the armload that he just doesn't have time to shave?

Either way, it's the subtext that's so much fun here.  Especially in this season of Fox Noise/ Republican 24/7 FearFearFear! campaigning -- nonexistent headless bodies in the Arizona Desert! Deadly Killer Mosques at Ground Zero and in Tenessee and San Diego County! Black Helicopters coming to kill your Grandma if ObamaCare comes to your town! Communism creeping over America that can only be stopped by Glen Beck who's now speaking for God while raking in the filthy lucre of Mamon!

And with Russia right there over her left shoulder, deliciously rich speaking, book and TV contracts in her hand, here comes the Mighty Moose Killer herself . . . SARAH! SARAH! SARAH!

Ah, America is saved!

And fashionistas take note; Flannel is the season's fabric to watch.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Uh, let me get this straight

O.K., so the Tribune runs a story, "Lottery winner identified," which contains the following interesting information:
1.  Mike Dominquez, owner of Mike's Barber Shop in Morro Bay says that John Davis, who cuts hair in the shop, is the winner of the $133 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot.
2.  John Davis has not been contacted by the Tribune, so the information has not been confirmed before running the story.
3.  The winning ticket, purchased at Bottle Liquor and Deli, has not been validated or verified because whoever won it hasn't come in to validate or confirm it. Until it is verified, there is no "winner."
4.  But that didn't stop the Tribune from headlining this hearsay as if it were an actual event.

Think that's called The New Journalism.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Pyrrhic-Victory Annie

Annie, the Aussie, has been reunited with her original owner, Chuck Hoage. But what should have been a Happy-Ending Story, has ended with an unpleasant taste left in a lot of mouths.

Yesterday, the Tribune ran a story saying the adoptive owners had agreed to return Annie, but instead of a gracious explanation, perhaps some justification for not quickly making this mistake right, the excerpts from a letter supposedly written by the folks who adopted Annie was filled with anger, fear, accusations and grudging resentment. No high road there, just the anger-filled response from someone who perhaps, deep down, knows they’ve not done the right thing, weren’t going to do the right thing, but who were finally forced to do the right thing and are ticked off about it.

And Bob Cuddy, who kicked off this brouhaha in the first place, wrote another blaming column, turning his focus on the various people who organized to hold rallies, write letters to the editor, including radio talk-show host, Dave Congalton, who offered a very public venue to rally the troops. But while pointing fingers and urging everyone who responded to this story to go look in the mirror as some people took this issue to the dark side with nasty, threatening anonymous blog comments and allegations of threatening phone calls to the adoptive family, Cuddy failed to note that his own paper was instrumental in not only keeping this story alive, but when it stated to naturally die down, goosing it up again and again. After all, Annie sold papers.

But Cuddy’s last column was right about what can happen when what should have been a Happy Ending Story turned into something far darker. But therein lay the one key thing that made Annie’s story so long lasting and interesting. Like a tooth ache, from the start, this story went wrong and that wrongness is what got people riled up.

Humans have a very finely tuned sense of justice and fairness. It’s inherent in us. And, apparently, it’s inherent in dogs as well. There was an interesting experiment done on dogs that indicated that even dogs have a sense of justice and fairness. Trick a dog unfairly and pretty soon he figures out he’s being unjustly treated and he’ll respond by not cooperating any more with the experiment.

And it was that sense of unfairness that bothered so many people. This wasn’t a tale of evil and good. It was a story of a series of mistakes that had been made and an opportunity to make it right. But that didn’t happen. And the public was never given a reason why.

And it was that silence which helped drive and escalate the increasing outrage, the anger, the frustration, the community disapproval and pressure (threats). The public read into that silence a Bleep You and All The Horses You Rode In On defiance followed by images of cheats getting away with something, thieves stealing another man’s property, heartless kidnappers, evildoers! All of which needed community outrage and increasing pressure to bring the scofflaws to heel in order to restore that sense of broken justice.

And when the denouement came, it was graceless “Here’s your damned dog back. And we’re only giving her back because you’re all a lynch mob and we fear for our lives, so F-you all!”

No, no grace notes there. No Happy-Story ending. No winners. Just rough justice that remains . . . rough.

And leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Just How Stupid Are We, Anyway?

The cover of the September 6 Newsweek says it all. In huge type it says, “The Making of a Terrorist-Coddling Warmongering Wall Street-Loving Socialistic Godless Muslim President,” then in fine print and asterisk and “who isn’t actually any of these things,” just to make sure the reader gets the joke.

And there, in that cover, is the perfect example of why we are in such a mess.

In the good old days, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, there were actual editors on newspapers, and TV and radio stations had to abide by rules of the Fairness Doctrine and had to offer actual public service in order to justify their using the public airways.

These folks and those policies helped make sure that batshit crazy lies promulgated by looney-tune fringe groups stayed where they belonged – at the non-credible fringe.

That all went away with the wind with the changes in the telecommunications acts (written in the back room by special interests), cable TV, Faux News, and the internet. Now, the Noise Machine brings the batshit crazy lies into the mainstream where they are plunked right down into the mainstream media and given equal weight with actual facts. While “reporters” never bother to expose the lies as lies but instead treat them as valid segments in the corrupted On the One Hand / On The Other Hand style that passes for reportage nowadays.

And we wonder why Americans are so poorly informed and believe so many false things? In the same issue, Newsweek’s poll shows that 24% of the respondents think Obama is a Muslim. 24% don’t know. 24% think it’s “probably true” that Obama “sympathizes with the goals of fundamentalists who want to impose Islamic law around the world.”

Really? Are 24% of our fellow citizens really that stupid? Poorly informed? Really?

Of course, who can blame some of them when we have Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell saying “The President says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word.” Wink-nudge, “says,” heh-heh,wink-nudge, are you still beating your wife?

All this for political/corporate advantage. All this to the detriment of the Country. All being done by scoundrels supported by uniformed fools.

None of which bodes well for this country. So, just how stupid are we?