Thursday, March 31, 2011

Am I Glowing Yet?

Well, PG&E sure screwed the pooch with their efforts to install their new SmartMeters all over the state. Of course, these are the same folks whose gas lines blew a big hole in San Bruno, so maybe bungles are par for the course. But their efforts to modernize electric service have resulted in outcries followed by back-pedaling and the spending of vast sums of money to go back to ‘splain things better and soothe all the Calamities & Alarums stirred up by fears that we’ll all be irradiated in our beds by a barrage of microwaves from our SmartMeters. Even our County got into play when the Board of Supervisors voted to write a letter to the PUC urging that PG&E give homeowners an option of keeping their old meters if they didn’t want the new ones.

Which PG&E decided to do. . . . for a price: $20 bucks more a month to opt out.

Awww, Gawwwd. It was a textbook case of Bad Ad Campaign 101.

Here’s what you do: First, when you roll out a new product, you need to create a positive buzz, make the product not only cool, but a must have product. Then you reduce the initial creepiness factor (those radio-frequency micro-burst emissions) to a boring familiarity (“It operates like your kid’s cell phone if your kids only talked 45 seconds a day!”). Then you dangle carrots, (“We’re so sure you’ll save money by using your SmartMeter to track and manage your energy use, we’re going to give you 25% off your first year’s electric bill just to try it!”). Then toss in a positive media-blitz campaign showing happy up-to-date cool folks saving pots of money because they (not PG&E) are now in control of their energy use.

Here’s what you do NOT do: Pound on the door, tell the owner you’re here to change out their meters, then clump through the house and hammer it in place and if they say, “Wait, wait, I don’t want that thing because I’m afraid it’ll irradiate me and give me and my kids cancer,” you say, “Look, lady, the questions about the potential health effects associated with RF exposure will take time to resolve, but the FCC wouldn’t do anything to put you in jeopardy. Trust us. We’re PG&E. We blew up San Bruno. So, ya got no say here. Yer gonna get this here meter or ya can git no electricity at all. Or, if ya want I should leave the old one, it’ll cost ya twenny-bucks a month more to start. And you just know we’ll keep jacking that fee up since we don’t want to deal with you old fuddy-duddy Luddites with your analog TVs and land-line phones. So, hurry up, whaddaya want I should do, I’m running late here.”

No, not how you roll out a new product. Especially at a time when the country is already rattled and in full, scared paranoid mode. And at a time when new research is indicating that medical/health-issues from cell phone use, for example, may prove to be more troubling than we were lead to believe. And here we’re adding yet another layer of RFs to our environment only this time, the layer isn’t one of our choosing -- like buying a new flat screen TV or getting another cell phone or installing WiFi in our homes would be. This time, it’s Big Brother telling us we have no choice, no control. That we’re going to be forced to be stuck with scary RF-emitting meters that will irradiate us inside the only place left we feel safe -- inside our homes, while we sleep?

All of which brought PG&E to the SLOTown library last night for another “workshop” with the nice PG&E folks, tables of brochures, the meters themselves, piles of “scientific argle-bargle printouts with charts and formulas proving that radio frequencies used by the SmartMeters are safe, so far as we know.

And, considering the recent brouhaha about the meters, I figured hundreds of people would be there, TV cameras in tow, all making ugly crowd noises. But here’s who showed up: PG&E representatives (who brought pizza and cookies) and maybe 4-5 people. That’s it.

So, where were the outraged folks who besieged the BOS, pleading in a matter of life or death? Where was the rest of the public? Was I to presume that they had all the information they needed about the Smart Meters? (Including the huge pile of dense “scientific” hand-outs and FCC reports on RFs, all of which are wonderfully incomprehensible to the average reader.)

Or is it possible that 99.9% of the public didn’t know and didn’t care. Smart Meter? Sure. Whatever.

Meantime, the installations will continue, with The Gas Company apparently planning on installing their SmartMeters as well. (Here in Los Osos, since we’re in severe overdraft, it would be wonderful to install SmartMeters on our water meters since in the CSD water area, we only get a bill every two months: one little undetected leak and you can not only waste a vast amount of water in two months, you’ll also get hit with a HUGE bill. A SmartMeter would allow you to check often to make sure your water use isn’t getting goofy.)

And as for people seriously concerned with the RFs on the meters, I hope none of those folks own and use a cell phone. According to an RF Q&A, the SmartMeters will communicate in micro bursts lasting from two to 20 milliseconds, with a total of 45 seconds a day. “The RF from an electric SmartMeter is roughly one one-thousandth of that of a typical cell phone. In fact, you’d have to have one of our meters on you home or business for more than 1,000 years to get as much exposure to radio waves as a typical cell phone user gets in just one month.” (Not to mention the FCC “standard for RF-exposure considers not just RF-signal strength and the duration of the signal, but also distance, one needs to consider that any distance between the SmartMeter and the person, and the intervening presence of the house-wall and the back [metal] plate of the meter, will significantly reduce the strength of the RF-signal.”)

So, if anyone is concerned about RFs and SmartMeters, hopefully, they’ll use land line phones to communicate their concerns to the PUC.

And stay out of a Wi-Fi Starbucks.

Addendum: New Times had a news update on the SmartMeters and noted the new proposal for folks who object to the devices:  ". . . opt-out customers not enrolled in low-income programs will face one of two fee schedules:  an up-front fee of $135 with a fixed monthly chrge of $20, or a one-time fee of $270 and a monthly charge of $14.  Low-income assistance program-enrolled customers will receive a 20 percent discount."  Which means if you're so poor you need help paying your electric bill, you'll only be dinged $108 or $216 and  $16 or $11 a month.

Continues New Times, "Basically, this is extortion," said Sandi Maurer, president and founder of the EMF Safety Network, who has led the campaign against SmartMeter installations. "For PG&E to say that if you don't want this you will have to pay hundreds dollars, that discriminates against the poor."

The day I posted this piece, I opened my PG&E bill and discovered that there was "no payment due" because somebody (not I) sent PG&E a $252.83 payment. I'll call them later, but if this kind of goof has happened with dumb meters and regular billing, I'd advise PG&E customers to hang onto your bills and check numbers for the last few years and well after the SmartMeters are installed since I'm betting there'll be a few bumpy rides before the bugs get shaken out.  My sister was SmartMetered and got a huge electric bill.  Luckily she had a whole year's worth of receipts and had a nice little chat with the accounting department and things are back to normal again.  You have been cautioned.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hope Merkel Builds A Bear Mud Oven, Part II

When we last left our Ms. Merkel, of Los Osos Valley Nursery (201 Los Osos Valley Rd., 528-5300) and the intrepid workshoppers under the guidance of  Jordan Josea, mud oven builder extraordinaire and his partner in mudability, Meleah (of Ncredible Edibles Sustainable Solutions in SLOTown (, 234-7779), they had finished round one of building a mud oven (Pics and story posted in the 2/14/22011 Can(n)on) that looked like this.

On top of the original shell, would be added another 9-10" layer of clay and straw.  Alas, rain ensued, then some injured hands, then more rain, until Saturday came and work began again. 

More wheelbarrows of mud and straw were mixed and piled on to the original form until there was the bear all roughed in and looking very bearish even with an oven in her tummy. 

When the bear was finished, the entire base was given a second and third coat of stucco. The bear itself will be left to dry, then lightly coated with a stucco-ish finish.  There'll be further finishing and staining of the stucco coating when it dries. 

After Sunday's work, a small fire will be built in the bear's tummy to help the oven dry.  Then it will be time to party.  Next Sunday, April 3, starting about 11 a.m. the nursery will be hosting a pot-luck, do-it-yourself pizza party. 

So, bring your favorite pizza toppings. Ms Merkel will have plenty of pizza doughs ready to go, and the bear will be taken out for a Community Pizza Party & Official Test Run.  Come join us. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

This from Kabir (c. 1440-1518), translated from the Hindi by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, in the New York Review of Books, April 7, 2011

Except ttat It Robs You of Who You Are

Except that it robs you of who you are,
What can you say about speech?
Inconceivable to live without
And impossible to live with,
Speech diminishes you.
Speak with a wise man, there'll be
Much to learn; speak with a fool,
All you get is prattle.
Strike a half-empty pot, and it'll make
A loud sound; strike one that is full,
Says Kabir, and hear the silence.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Los Osos On YouTube

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.  "The Scent of Money," a video report by Dan Blackburn , Central Coast News Agency.  All the usual suspects at   Camera! Lights!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Exhibit 3-C or How Much Is That $8-million in the Window?

"Seven Disasterous Years Later: The County's Recently 'Accepted' Project Looks Awwwfully Familiar to SewerWatch."  at

Read it and . . . . laugh? Then ask, What the hell was the Coastal Commission smoking, anyway? Without any proof demanded, they bought the pre-recall CSD's SOC statement about how the community was demanding a sewer plant in the middle of town so they could build a tot-lot next to it, and now it appears they also accepted, apparently with no proof, a claim that there was no "financial incentive" to put  the sewer plant out of town (C-3), even though, when the County later took over the project, it was easily able demonstrate a variety of "financial incentives" on the two plant sites.  (Not to mention that CEQA demands that if there's a less environmentally sensitive alternative, it must be persued.)  But in this case, that wasn't done and nobody asked, even when the old "bait & switchy" red flag went down on the play.  So, let me ask again: What was Rob Miller smoking?  What was MWH smoking?  What was the Coastal Commission smoking? 

Meantime, I think maybe Morro Bay and Cayucos better wake up since the CC will soon be "reviewing" their sewer upgrades and if the Wallace Group (Rob Miller) and MWH are involved with that project . . . ? 

Woa. Hide the silverware, Boys!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good for AG

It's always interesting watching a troubling story unfold in the paper.  First the shocking headline  -- cross burned on the lawn of a black Arroyo Grande family, the incident referred to as a possible "prank" by AG police Chief Steve Annibali -- followed by backpedaling by the Chief -- no, no, didn't mean prank, meant "hate crime," and the news that the FBI is now on the case and everyone's taking this very seriously -- followed by outraged letters to the editor decrying the event and apologizing to the family and reasserting that Arroyo Grande isn't "that kind of town."

All of which is very heartening.  Tuesday's Tribune, included a chart showing the number of hate crimes in the county, with a high in 2001-3 (perhaps caused by the national mental derangement caused by 9/11?) to a low in 2009.  In that year, there were 9 incidences described as a "hate crime."  That's pretty good news.  And the outpouring of letters to the editor is also very good news.  Public reassertion of a "norm" of decency is always good news.  And lest anyone forget our recent history, Henry County, Alabama finally got around to apologizing to a 91 year-old black woman who, 70 years ago, was brutally gang raped by white boys and the community, via the grand jury, repeatedly refused to indict anyone.  It was an ugly act of institutional racism that too often was the norm in many parts of the U.S.

And while we can take heart that such things no longer happen now (well, o.k. don't happen as openly), we should never forget that the deep ugliness of bigotry is simply a fact of life.  The reservoir of malice swimming in ignorance and hate is a deep, deep pool that never runs dry. With constant effort, the size of the pool can be reduced, but it never dries up.  It can be stirred up by hard times, ignited by the election of a black president, and ginned up and fueled by demagogues of all stripes.  It's a toxic virus transmitted from parent to child, from person to person, and can spread with lightening speed on the wings of talk radio and all manner of "social media." In short, a fact of American life.

But there were a couple of wrinkles in this story that I found telling and interesting, and they concern language and the way it shapes the way we perceive "reality." First, the mother of the teenager (on whose lawn the cross was burned) was quoted in the paper as saying, "I will protect her always.  I thought I had done a great job protecting her from harm until this point. This just destroyed her faith and mine."

Try as parents might, it's impossible to protect children against the world.  But we can make sure our children see the world clearly, warts included. In that way, their "faith" won't be "destroyed" -- dented a bit, maybe, but not "destroyed" -- because their world view includes the hard fact that people behaving badly is simply a part of life. Another way we can arm our kids is to understand that words can create realities, so it's important to use the right word.  "Destroy," for example is a powerful word, but it's a word that can often trap someone into creating a reality that may be false. 

The other word that complicated this story was the AG. police chief using the word "prank."  That got a lot of heat.  Cross burning, he was reminded, is never a "prank." When aimed at African Americans, Jews, Muslims, and other minorities, it's a hate crime, plain and simple.  When aimed at non-minorities, it's an act of intimidation and terror, (as white supporters of the civil rights movement in the South found out.) Either way, it far surpasses the lark-y sounding word, "prank."

The FBI is now on the job, and it's possible whoever did this will be found and then more of the story will unfold when the question -- What the hell were you thinking? -- gets answered.  Maybe.  Meantime, I'm heartened by know that good people far outnumber the numbskull swamp dwellers. So, good on Arroyo Grande.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sudden Fuzzy Miracles

Cold.  Rain.  The grape vines are bare and waiting.  Then, a few days ago, when I was out watering the wall flowers, I look up and, Poof! there they all are, soft, green, fuzzy miracles.  The Roger's Red grapevine suddenly all a-twitter with buds.  Just in time for the rare big moon (alas, hidden by rain clouds) and first day of spring.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Goodbye, Los Osos. Hello, Bangladesh-By-The-Bay. Happy Days (Will Soon) Be Here Again (Once The Riff-Raff Are Gone)

The 30-plus-year-old game show was over. Time for the losers to pack up and leave. On March 15, the Ides of March, the SLO Board of Supervisors voted to take the sewer project, which means bids will be going out, assessments will likely show up on the tax rolls in Dec. and the financial wrath that is about to set down on the town will commence.

Or, at least a part of it will. The latest cost guestimates are now $163 unless the undeveloped lot owners vote to assess themselves for years in the hope of developing some day. If that happens, the guestimated cost could fall to $134 (plus the cost of hook ups and the cost of water used in the “rates and charge,” which will vary, depending on how much water a household uses.) All of which is an awful irony: This community will likely end up with a “better” and “cheaper” project with the sewer plant “out of town.” Which begs the Eternal Question: Why did it take a recall and a Hideous Sewer War to accomplish that? The community’s wish for a cheaper project with the plant out of town seemed at the time (and still seems) a perfectly reasonable request.

The Usual Suspects were at the meeting, reminding the Board that there were/are cheaper solutions that could/should have been possible if the Board had allowed the promised design build process to play out. That claim ignores the fact that the “promised” design build process -- wherein the best technology and solutions would be allowed to come to the top and the whole project be competitively awarded to the smartest guys on the block with the best solution and the best price, -- was all PR hokum, a wickedly smart Paavo Ogren lie that was accidentally exposed by Noel King blurting out that Los Osos would get a gravity system even before the TAC was selected and started work.

But, no matter, that little “Chinatown” bean-spilling was quickly forgotten and the original lie constantly burnished and dangled before the public until it was no longer useful and was permanently buried by another lie when Supervisor Gibson hilariously claimed he had to kill off design/build to get federal stimulus money for a shovel ready project & etc. Which sounded swell, except for the fact that there was no “shovel ready project.” Not even close. But the ploy worked beautifully in permanently taking design/build off the table, thereby eliminating forever any possibility that a STEP system design would be in the running. Can’t have too much design/build “best technology” running around and maybe showing up with low bids in hand. So, done deal, redux, while the rest of the Supervisors watched with blank faces.

Which they also did when citizens would come to the microphones at various project updates and earnestly ask, “What am I to do? Where am I to go? I will have to leave my home because I can’t afford this project.” No answers there. Not their problem. Not anybody’s problem, really. Not the County’s, not the State’s, not the Feds. So, move along now.

Or get berated from the dais for being whiners and “anti-sewer obstructionists,” or armed and dangerous crazies requiring that a Sheriff be in the back of the room. All for being annoying Los Osos people who endlessly parade before the Board to remind it of its promises, remind it of the problems still unsolved, warn them of pending crises and constantly ask questions that have no answers. (Well, they do have answers, but none that want to see the light of day.)

Questions like, What percentage of Los Osos residents will be forced to move? Who pays the assessment bills for homeowners who default, especially if a whole lot of them do and in a depressed market in the middle of a recession, they can’t sell their homes? What happens to local businesses when $200 a month of previously “discretionary money” is removed from the economy? What happens to the sales tax dollars paid by those businesses when there is no business? And what’s up with the water?

No answers there on the economic side, since nobody bothered to do any kind of affordability studies in the first place. Best not to know. Just build it and they will leave and then try to figure out what to do next, I suppose. Not our problem. Kick the can down the road for some other Board of Supervisors to deal with. Then move along.

And the salt water intrusion issue? Pray that enough recycled wastewater and heavy duty conservation by the community solves the problem, I guess. And people all over town start xerescaping like crazy.

Some public comments and Misc. notes:

-- John Waddell noted that while there was only one bid received from the short-listed three firms qualified to bid on the design, he felt that the bid was “competitive” since the company didn’t know the other two companies had dropped out of the running. One company that did drop out?  Montgomery Watson Harza. They cited “Los Osos controversy” as their reason to depart the field. Ingrates! I mean, Supervisor Gibson moved heaven and earth and risked a high degree of ridicule for the “shovel ready” short-listing maneuver that made sure they had a place at the table and then they leave town without so much as a bid? Ah, how sharp the serpent’s tooth. . .

-- The CSD Prez noted that the Board’s taking this project and repaying the $$ owed to the RWQCB helps the CSD’s bankruptcy case to move along. He expressed a concern for the affordability and noted that the cost is comparable to TriW, even five years later and is an improved project what with returning/reusing all the water and adding an ag element as well.

-- Supervisor Meacham (sporting a nifty beard and looking so unlike himself that I hardly recognized him and at first thought he was that actor that plays “the most interesting man in the world” flogging Dos XX beer in the TV commercial) again expressed dismay over the inherent unfairness of having a small group bearing the full cost for a general benefit that will be enjoyed by a larger group, thanks to the RWQCB’s poorly-drawn PZ. Paavo then briefly discussed the possibility of floating a special tax for general benefit for the community, a special tax that would mean people outside the PZ would be assessed for that benefit, (clean water) thereby lowering the costs to the small PZ group (who are actually paying to clean up the water.) Before that discussion could develop, Supervisor Gibson, in usual form, jumped in and in a blizzard of words, buried the whole topic then immediately moved to make a motion to adopt the resolution. It was seconded and passed 5- 0 .

The County now “has” this project. Pray for them. Pray for us. Pray that more grant money can be found. Pray that Supervisor Meacham will again be allowed to bring up the general benefit assessment tax idea without being buried by Gibson. Why Supervisor Meacham (whose district Los Osos is NOT) is the one who keeps bringing this up while Gibson, (whose district this IS) is the one who buries such a notion, remains a mystery. But bless Meacham’s interest in persuing equity.

Oh, the County will be sending out pre-payment information in a few weeks for those of you who have $25,000.00 sitting in your pockets.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hope Merkel Builds A Mud Oven

Well, actually, it was Jordan Josea, mud oven builder extraordinaire, (that's Jordan in the center with the plaid shirt.) and his partner in mudability, Meleah, who together own and run Ncredible Edibles Sustainable Solutions in San Luis Obispo (, 234-7799) and a whole bunch of workshop volunteers who showed up Sunday at Los Osos Valley Nursery.(301 Los Osos Valley Rd, 528-5300)

The day before the area in the back of the nursery had been cleared and the platform for the oven built using adobe mud/dirt-filled sacks which were stacked up to proper height. Then in the center round platform where the oven will be placed, bricks were laid to serve as the floor of the oven. And a channel cut out of the platform where the door will go. The channel cut will later have a stone extension (or more bricks) put into place. The oven is heated by lighting a wood fire on the brick floor of the oven and when the oven’s reached it proper temperature, those hot coals can be scraped out of that channel/lip into a bucket, the floor of the oven quickly swept clean and the breads and food placed into the now hot oven.

Once the bricks are in place, a pile of wet sand is mounded up and patted and sculpted into a round ball. While that process is going on, other volunteers were busy slapping their feet in the Mississippi mud – the rich dark adobe dirt that served as the basis of the oven and would soon be patted into “potatoes” of clay that were then laid around and around the sand ball and pinched together.

The clay covered dome was cut into to form a doorway (the door will be a thick piece of hand shaped wood cut to fit ) and when the clay was dried hard enough to support itself (sort of like Roman arch) the sand will be scooped out and the next thick layer of clay mixed with straw will be placed over the dome. The oven wall should end up about a foot thick.

The amazing thing about the oven is that it’s a living, breathing, sustainable convection oven, the round shaped circular interior is perfectly designed to circulate heat. The interior heats up to 900 degrees so food can be cooked very, very quickly, and because the insulation is so thick it holds heat for a long, long time, so you can cook all your meals for days while only using only one fire. The mud oven is quite an amazing piece of engineering that’s been in use for thousands of years. Very clever, our ancestors. 


The second half of the project will take place next Sunday, March 20 starting at 10 a.m. if you want to come watch the oven get finished (complete with more clay sculpted all around it to form a bear with the round oven to be its belly. How cool is that?). Then, the following Sunday, the 27, it will be time for a pot-luck pizza topping party. Visitors can bring their favorite pizza topping, and celebrate with a mud oven pizza party. Check with the nursery to see when the party starts and plan to stop by.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

This sly poem is from Jack Gilbert's, "The Great Fires, poems 1982-1992" Alfred A. Knopf, .Y 2004 This is a lovely collection.  Do yourself a favor, and get a copy. Poets need our support.  They're an endangered species.

Theoretical Lives

All that remains from the work of Skopas
are the feet.  Sometimes not even that.
Sometimes only irregularities on the plinth
that may indicate how the figure stood.
Using the feet, or shadows of feet,
and the exact diagrams of German professors,
learned men argue about what the arms
were doing and how good the sculpture was.
As we do with our lives, guessing whether
the woman was truly happy when it rained
and if her father was really the ambassador.
Whether she was passionate or just wanted to please.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mullah Joe Rides Again

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for March 11, 2011

Are you now or have you ever been . . . .?

The ghost of Joe McCarthy is now haunting the halls of Congress again. This time, under the guise of a “hearing” to determine the extent of just how dangerous and disloyal American Muslims are and just how terrorist-filled their mosques are. The hearing is being run by Congressman Peter King, a Republican, at a time when the GOP has degenerated into a party that even conservative columnist George Will has accused of generating vibes of weirdness, so holding hearings on “Muslims” in a poisonously radicalized country like America while claiming you’re just after the facts, Ma’m, is ingenuous at best, malicious at worse. Dealing with the issue of targeting and recruiting young, disaffected, radicalized American Muslims to serve as foot soldiers for Al Qaeda is a job now being dealt with very well by local law enforcement in cooperation with the Muslim community. So what we’ll have with King’s committee, (which has the full blessing of Speaker of the House, John Boehner, so it isn’t like King is some kind of weird-vibed wacko running off the rez,) will be mostly a piece of Republican Political Theatre, a movie-trailer intended to feed the base and keep them riled up and ready for the 2012 election.

And I have no doubt that like the ginned up fake Ground Zero Mosque controversy, we’ll see a whole new round of hoiked-up up Islamaphobia. Which is all red meat for the GOP base --dog-whistle language of the uninformed, the fear-filled, the “birthers,” the AstroTurfed dupes who live in terror that Sharia Law is coming to their town and some Mexican-looking guy in a turban will go all hijab on their asses.

And if this little piece of political theatre results in generating more fear resulting in further scaring and alienating Muslim Americans, well, no matter. The 2012 election takes precedence over any long-term harm done to our social fabric. Social fabric, even our basic core beliefs are of no use in these Joe McCarthy hard times. Instead, the winning strategy for 2012 to keep fear alive, divide neighbor from neighbor, the have-less from the have-nothings, and make clear the battle lines are between Us (white, Christian) and Them (non-white, non-Christian, those not-really Americans du jours who have taken our Country away from us). Dog whistle music.

Mr. King claims that his hearings will be very informative and will educate the public. If that’s really his intent, then what Mr. King should be doing is broadcasting a National Education Workshop, a series of informative lectures about the history and basic belief systems of the world’s great religions. As it is, Americans are woefully uninformed on even the most basic principles of their own religion and disgracefully ignorant about other faiths. This lack of accurate information is what allows otherwise good people to behave so badly when the weirdness-vibe fear-mongers come to town.

Mr. King also claims that his hearings will focus on “terrorism.” If that’s really the topic, then shall we expect Mr. King to move onto hearings focused on Mexican Americans since narco-terrorists are recruiting young, disaffected Mexican American youth to go to work for their lucrative drug cartels? True, the narco-terrorists represent a lucrative business opportunity for American gun manufacturers, but they also are busy terrorizing American tourists, so surely Mr. King would want to next target the Mexican community and get some informative, educational answers?

No? Well, surely Mr. King will next target “Catholics” to find out why they are recruiting and sheltering dangerous pedophile priests in their midst? In Philadelphia alone, 21 priests were just suspended following a grand jury investigation. Surely, the Catholic community is a hot bed of radical clerics terrorizing children?

No, again?

Then how about targeting the Irish? After all, King was good buddies with the IRA, a known terrorist organization. Surely he needs to investigate the threat from his old Irish terrorist pals?

But, no. Irish terrorists, Mexican mafia, Catholics, even home-grown Christian Militia groups don’t have the cache that Mr. King can get from “Muslims.” And so we enter our burning time -- A feverish country filled with fearful people who have forgotten what it means to be an American, a populace with bulls-eyes on their backs, their homes stolen, their jobs off-shored, good men and women who are turning ugly in their fear and ignorance as they begin to understand that they have no future, except to be targeted and fleeced by demagogues and scoundrels with books to sell and TV shows to flog.

Demagogues and scoundrels. Now there’s a terrorist group that really does need an investigative hearing.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Burn it down, Sam, Burn it down

Remember when State Assemblyman, Sam Blakeslee, too a blood oath to Grover Norquist, you know, the anti-tax-no-matter-what guy who wants government small enough to drown in a bathtub? Yeah, that guy? And Republican Assemblyman Sam, wanting to punch his political ticket and move on up the line, sniggered right down with his fellow anti-tax-no-matter-what fellows and signed the pledge and California and his constituents were left to go hang. His loyalty to Grover was well rewarded. He was given a clear shot at a senate seat and when running told the public that, well, heh-heh, he would promise not to take anymore blood oaths and the Tribune patted him on the head for being a sensible, pragmatic little boy instead of being a Norquistian ideologue.

Bwa-hahahah. What most of the gullible public doesn’t know is that, like the Mafia, once you are wedded to Grover, you never get free. Not if you want to continue as a Republican and continue to stay in office. Grover is like a great big pitcher plant; all the sharp spines in the throat of that flower point downward towards a toxic insect-dissolving liquid at its base. Once the victim enters the flower, it’s trapped and from there, despite great struggles, it’s downhill into becoming the plant’s din-din.

Well, Sam’s no different than a bottle-fly. And being an ambitious man, he sealed his Groverian fate – the pretend pledge not to sign any more pledges was happy wallpaper for the Rubes – and he has now declared that he will stand with his fellow Republicans who are refusing to give voters the right to vote on whether they want to tax themselves to help pay down California’s horrendous debt. They’re refusing to allow the vote because their long Wish List of often extraneous demands will not be met at this moment.

And what are some of these vitally important demands that MUST be met RIGHT NOW or else they’ll let Granny and the pre-schoolers take the full hit of zero services? Well, the vitally critical issue of ending “frivolous lawsuits” and streamlining “cumbersome permit processes.” These are all wonderful reform plans that can wait until the state stops bleeding out on the floor, but apparently Sam has lost the ability to discern the difference between a tourniquet and a Band-aide

Reports the Tribune, poor Lucia Mar Unified School District superintendent Jim Hogeboom sent Sam an e-mail letter pleading with him to support the June ballot allowing voters to vote for tax extensions, noting that without those extensions and/or if good old Sam and his Norquistians won’t support Brown’s proposed budget reductions (reductions plus tax extensions) and instead Brown is forced to balance the budget with all-cuts, his school will take a massive hit, including the loss of “25 full-time intervention and resource teachers and a school nurse,” among other cuts.

Poor Hogeboom. He thinks Sam cares about school kids. He doesn’t understand. It’s not about the state bleeding out, it’s not about doing the practical, the necessary, the pragmatic. It’s all about getting Sam’s ticket punched so he can move on up. This time, if he does what Grover tells him to, he’ll be rewarded by a first class election ticket – straight for Washington, D.C. Senator Sam in the Big Enchilada!

And as for his constituents? As anyone past the age of three knows, those cuts won’t fall on the backs of Corporate or the rich. You know, Sam’s “base.” It will fall on the poor, the sick, the old, the young and, since they’re sinking fast, the disappearing middle-class. People like Mr. Hogeboom’s teachers.

Well, I say, fire ‘em! Everybody knows that greedy teachers (union members, wouldn’t you know) are responsible for tanking Wall Street and bankrupting the State. So, F—k ‘em! They probably voted Sam into office anyway, so they certainly don’t believe in tax hikes or safety nets. I’m betting a whole lot of them are Norquistians as well so they won’t have a problem with any of this. Sure, they’ll lose their homes, which can be snatched up for a song by wealthy speculators. And they’ll lose their medical coverage along with their jobs, but if they’re Sam Republicans, they surely view Obama care programs as evil socialized medicine and should be happy to get shut of it. And being Sam Republicans, they will have absolutely no problem seeing Gov. Brown slash the hell out of Medicaide and Food Stamps, and other useless safety net resources.

True, these newly impoverished teachers might end up actually needing Food Stamps, but too bad. They’ll just have to bootstrap it like all good Norquistian Republicans. And on the up-side, they’ll have plenty of time to home-school their kids once the socialistic public education system is crippled and well on its way to drowning in the bathtub.

So, light it up, Sam. Burn it all down. Then pack your bags. Your ticket’s been punched. Next stop: Sweet, sweet Payback Time in the Big Enchilada. YessssSir! D.C.

Awwww, Gaaawwwww, it’s Zelig Again.

New Times reports that Abel Maldonado, the Zelig of the Central Coast, is “forming a campaign committee to make a congressional run in 2012.” Wanna lay bets he’s hoping that the redistricting that’s going on may end up creating ZeligLand – a second, primarily Republican district that could get locked up permanently? Well, Abel knows how to work a room and just whose elbows to cling to, so I’m sure he’ll do very well indeed. Who knows, he might end up on the same plane as Senator Sam.

Wow, how did the Central Coast get so lucky?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

This from Virginia Hamilton Adair from "Ants on the Melon."

Second Coming

all the little flowers
fringing the stones
& pale as halloween

dry for a long time now
quiver in the low wind
close to the sand

hanging in there
saving their seeds
dead but not gone

waiting for the resurrection
come again someday
matter of faith


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Light US Up?

The following email was sent along by Judy Vick, who's heading up a local campaign to get the BOS to at least send a letter to the PUC to stop the mandatory installation of "smart meters" until some issues can be ironed out.  Here's my letter to the Sups:

"Dear Sirs:  I would urge you to sign the letter asking the PUC to wait on the mandatory installation of "smart meters" until several troubling issues can be resolved at the state level: aparently these (mandatory) devices have no UL certification?  (is that some kind of sick joke?), lack of a hack-proof security system, lack of a hard-wire option , etc.)  The LAST thing this county needs is somebody suing you guys if this sytem goes ker-flooey because you were aware of the unresolved issues yet did nothing to protect the citizens from this "mandatory" installation.

The PUC is the unelected body that needs to step up to deal with these (soon to be) statewide issues.  Ditto the state legislature.  Get them resolved first, then proceed. Right now, it's clear the cart is driving the horse an the horse may well be heading off a cliff. (Awww, Gaaawwwddd, Why is THAT scenario so hauntingly familair?)


While some folks are having a snicker over the issue of having a cow over micro-bursts from smart meters while daily getting bombarded with brain-cell-altering cell phones, satellite transmissions, Wi-Fi's all over the place, nonetheless there's likely enough other screwey things left unresolved in this system to give one pause. What I see here is just more horses and carts and I suspect Ralph Nader's right: This is more about corporate bottom lines than about "smart" energy use. And when it comes to corporate bottom lines, the public better pay particular attention to their behinds, because Corporate sure ain't gonna.

So, if you hear wagon wheels screeching and the thunder of hoofbeats and spy a cliff ahead, drop an email to your Sup and let him know what you think about this matter.  

Vick's email:
Enough county citizen complaints about smart meters (health, accuracy, loss of privacy, security, risk of fire and damage to in-home electrical appliances) have caused the County Board of Supervisors to consider sending a resolution to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to suspend installation of smartmeters until the CA legislature acts on current legislation AB37. The county will be joining 31 other California governments (counties and cities including Morro Bay) who have sent similar resolutions. Seven have gone as far as outlawing the installations and/or suing PG&E.



Please attend the Board of Supervisors meeting, 9 a.m., Tuesday, March 8, 2011 in the Board Chambers on the corner of Santa Rosa and Monterey (1055 Monterey) in SLO. This is a Consent Item that is near the top of the list. If you want to speak as well as attend, there are speaker slips to fill out at the back of the room that can be handed to the secretary.

Please see attached Agenda, letter, and resolution.

AT THE LEAST: Write your supervisor, or all of them, before next Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

• District 1 Frank Mecham

• District 2 Bruce Gibson

• District 3 Adam Hill

• District 4 Paul Teixeira   

• District 5 James Patterson

NEED MORE INFORMATION YOURSELF? Read a summary of reasons below and links to more information.

Capitola- During a meeting last week in which they joined six other local governments* who have passed laws criminalizing the installation of wireless ‘smart’ meters, the Capitola City Council discovered that the wireless ‘smart’ meters that CA utilities are trying to install are in fact not certified by Underwriters Laboratory, a certification that is required under the state electrical code for all electrical appliances and equipment within the home.
The lack of certification was confirmed by Karl Moeller, a senior engineer with UL earlier today:
Product certifications can be verified by going to then scroll down to the bottom and click on “on-line certifications directory”. You can search for active certifications at the On-line Certifications Directory.
In summary, I am unable to confirm these devices as being UL certified.

Not just CA--unqualified installers reported in Atlanta, Georgia (CNN-TV, March 1, 2011) and Victoria, Australia, challenging safety.

Public Citizen (Ralph Nader’s consumer advocate organization) leads a national coalition raising alarms about smart meters. “Smart meter installations have thus far prioritized utility budget efficiency – not household budget efficiency. Poring through utility dockets, utilities make it clear that the vast majority of projected savings from smart meters is from laying off utility workers – and not from consumers’ lowering their energy use and bills. Utilities highlight savings from remote disconnection--mainly for nonpayment. This raises serious consumer safety and health issues.”

Public Citizen, AARP, Consumers Union, National Consumer Law Center and the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates released a sweeping overview of needed improvements for smart meters to better serve the needs of working families (August 2010). 

The Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), an independent consumer advocacy division of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and the California Small Business Association (CSBA), a non-profit small business advocacy group, have requested that the CPUC revisit its decision to direct Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to place 500,000 small business customers on a dynamic pricing program beginning in November 2011. That program will likely lead to disruption and higher costs to small businesses.  

Bloomberg Business Week states, "Duke Energy's proposal to install 800,000 (such meters) in Indiana was rejected by regulators because the cost of the project would outweigh potential benefits to consumers."  

The Government Accountability Office (the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress) warns that smart-grid systems are being deployed without built-in security features. Certain smart meters have not been designed with a strong security architecture and lack important security features like event logging and forensics capabilities used to detect and analyze cyberattacks, while smart-grid home area networks that manage electricity usage of appliances also lack adequate built-in security. "Without securely designed smart-grid systems, utilities will be at risk of not having the capacity to detect and analyze attacks, which increases the risk that attacks will succeed and utilities will be unable to prevent them from recurring," said the report. The report also took aim at the self-regulatory nature of the industry, saying utilities are focusing on complying with minimum regulatory requirements rather than having adequate security to prevent cyberattacks.  

29 California local governments have formally demanded a halt or a moratorium on smart meters. Seven have gone further and legislated against installation, enacting ordinances, the strongest action a local government can take.

San Francisco Chapter of the Sierra Club voted unanimously (2/15/11) to call for an immediate ordinance to ban smart meters in the city

Assembly Bill 37, introduced by Assemblymember Huffman, directs the California Public Utilities Commission to determine alternatives for customers who do not wish to have a smart meter installed. The legislation also directs utilities to disclose important information about the smart meters to consumers, including the timing, magnitude, frequency and duration of radio frequency emissions so that individual consumers can make informed decisions.Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) represents the 6th Assembly District which encompasses southern Sonoma County and all of Marin County.

For more information:

Nina Beety, Monterey County, spent $4100 on a newspaper ad to protest Smart Meters. 

A motion detector light is activated - goes on and off - when you put a smart meter with RF bursts near it. It malfunctions.The nervous system is activated - by bursts of RF - all day and all night - just like the light bulb. Your nervous system malfunctions. The body 'sees' EMF as 'light-at-night; interfering with the melatonin cycle, and interfering with sleep. Whether you are trying to sleep near a power line with high EMF levels, or a constantly transmitting RF device, it interrupts normal neurological functioning.

Melatonin production is high at night, and low during the day. Interfere with that cycle, which is one ofthe drivers for your circadian rhythms, and you have interfered with one of the most potent free-radical scavengers in the body (a cancer surveillance and mop-up system), you have interfered with sleep (essential to memory, learning and health maintenance). Someone reported recently that PG&E had 'replaced' a smart meter that caused a resident's motion detector light to go on and off continuously. Wonder when they'll figure out how to replace a malfunctioning human nervous system. And what it will cost you.

Cindy Sage
Environmental Consultant
Sage Associates
Co-Editor, BioInitiative Report
Research Fellow, Department of Oncology, Orebro University Hospital, Orebro, Sweden
Sage EMF Design is owned by Cindy Sage. Mrs Sage has been involved in EMF issues as an environmental consultant and public policy researcher since 1982. She has provided professional consulting services to cities, counties, various states and a national EMF policy group on the issue of EMF policy and prudent avoidance. 

Friday, March 04, 2011

Talk about Dumbth

Last night I attended another of the multi-part lecture series on Islam in SLOTown.  It was, as usual, wonderfully informative and was attended by about 300 people.  These are people interested in educating themselves about a topic they likely knew little about.  By contrast, take a look at the link below and watch the UTube video.  There's the face of  a pretty good part of America: It's a face filled with malice, hands full of flags, heads full of Stupid, all dangerous as snakes.  Oh, and did I mention, fully supported by various elected Congresspeople. Disgraceful?  Yes, and, sadly, but the tip of a very large iceberg, I'm afraid.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Speak Up!

The Supreme Court ruled 8-to-1 that the endlessly fascinating Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, a (very, very ) small family-invented “church,” has a Constitutional right to show up at military funerals carrying signs saying that God hated the dead soldier and wanted him/her dead. They’re free to do this providing they adhere to various local ordinances regarding permits and maintaining the legal distances from the funeral & etc., just like any other group that wishes to picket or protest on public streets.

Judge Alioto dissented on the point that “fighting words” are not protected. Then noted that “Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case.”

Clearly, he’s wrong about that. Americans LOVE vicious verbal assaults. Always have. And while such assaults used to be held on the looney fringe and ignored by polite society, our present Twittered/Facebooked society has brought vicious out into the open. For better or for worse.

But like all the often dark unconscious matter roiling around inside our poisonous souls, “vicious verbal assaults” can serve to illuminate a great deal. Which is why I find the Westboro crowd (Weirdly Gay-Obsessed Preacher Daddy and his adoring Daughter) absolutely refreshing. Their fascinating obsession with all things homosexual mirrors what many more “reputable” religious organizations also believe but are too polite to say outright . While many mainstream Christian churches are weaseling around with the old “God hates the sin not the sinner” rhetoric, the Westboro Duo get straight to the heart of the matter. God hates fags. Right there in the Bible. Period, end of discussion.

And if you believe in the absolute inerrancy of the Holy Book, (and/or if you’re weirdly gay-obsessed like Preacher Daddy) your lines are clearly drawn. At military funerals, you have a choice: Stand with the Westboro crowd or stand across the street holding a sign saying, “Uh, what’s up with the Gay Obsession thing anyway?”

Doesn’t get any clearer than that. And, thanks to the Supreme Court, the right to decide which side of the street to stand on remains clear as well.

On Wisconsin!

Interesting article in today’s New York Times, “Teachers Wonder, Why the Scorn?” The protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere have certainly highlighted the contempt for “government employees” by non-government folk, among which is a constant leitmotif of the lazy, overpaid, glorified babysitters formerly known as “teachers.”

Not a new article of faith, but a conservative mantra that’s being played again for all its worth: Public schools are a waste of money, teachers are crappy (except for MY kid’s teacher, who is terrific), privatize the schools, de-unionize the teachers and the country will soon be filled with brilliantly educated kids at half the price.

Nice fake dream and useful for whipping up the resentful masses du jour who wonder where their jobs went, where their paychecks went, where their futures went. (Don’t bother pointing them in the direction of Wall Street or advise them to take a peek at tax breaks for Corporate off-shoring.) Nope, kick the teachers because they think they’re better than us laid-off, low-information schnooks who are now sinking out of the middle class and into the hard soup of the working poor. And beyond into the ranks of the “permanently poor.”

While this meme is being dredged up for political purposes, it’s not a new theme. Americans have long had a love/hate relationship to “book larnin’” and “schoolmarms” and “pointy-headed intellectuals” of all stripes. In short, America holds them in low esteem – unless they’re also rich. Then they’re admired, not for their intellectual gifts but for their money, while their intellectual gifts breed nothing but resentment: He thinks he’s smarter ’n me.

All of which keeps America heading for the bottom, our kids poorly schooled and testing near the bottom of the heap on international math and science scores. None of which should come as a surprise: You don’t get good results from things you do not value and/or actively scorn. If being smart isn’t cool and being dumb is, then you’ll aspire to achieving Dumbness.

Thus does American class-resentment meets America’s political “paranoid style” meets Tom Sawyer’s anti-intellectualism. So, kick a teacher today, then wonder where your and your kids future went.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

It's Getting Downright Embarassing Out There

Mike Huckabee fashions himself to be presidential timber, possible darling nominee of the Tea Party, certainly the Republican right, and is being considered (and considering himself) as being fit to run for President, and if elected, serve as the leader of the (still) most powerful Empire the world has ever seen.

Mike Huckabee goes on a talk show and states that if there's one thing he's sure of it's that President Obama was raised in Kenya.  Then goes on to speculate that -- being raised in Kenya -- Mr. Obama would hold certain notions about the Brits and the Mau-Mau uprising, & so forth.

I despair that too much of the American public is just uneducated or poorly educated or considered to be "low information" voters.  Our ignorance is well known.  But just how ignorant or poorly educated or badly informed or "low information" should our elected leaders be? Do we have some standard below which we just draw the line and say, "Oh, sorry, that guy's just too dumb to elect to any office?" 

Or is there no bottom to our Dumbth now? 

Elect Mike Huckabee!  He thinks Honolulu is in Kenya.  God help him if he decides to bomb Libya.  He'll probably send the planes to Nebraska.