Monday, August 29, 2011

Your Government At Work Part 1

To date, only 22 people dead in a massive storm that raked the entire east coast. Even Republican governor Christie defended the pre-storm measures and dared his fellow anti-govnment types who will start whining about overkill to shut the f--- up; the "overkill" prevented deaths and Christie was firm that that's what government supposed to do -- protect life and limb beforehand, then stand ready to help dig out when terrible things happen.

After all, imagine what things would have been like if "heck of a job, Brownie" was still heading FEMA?

Your Government at Work Part 2

A drone strike killed Al Qaeda's second in command.  Buh-bye Atiya Abdul Rahman. 

Our County Governmnet At Work, Part 3 

And then there's our own SLOVille.  See "Warren Jensen, Please 'investigate' Your Own Clients, And Lemme Know If You Find Any Wrongdoing" at

Bwa-hahahah.  Yup.  Chinatown.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Daddy Neanderthal

There's a fascinating article in the August 15th New Yorker, "Sleeping with the Enemy," by Elizabeth Kolbert, about recent DNA evidence that indicates that early humans mated with Neanderthals (before (likely) wiping them out).  Even more interesting, there is also DNA strains from yet another hominid in some of our own DNA which means there were likely several strains of humanoids that we encountered and mated with (then wiped them out?) in existence on earth before the triumphant survival of modern man. 

Svante Paabo is heading up the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Antropology in Leipzig and is doing the DNA research and as more bone fragments come under study, it's likely that there may turn out to be even more branches of the human tree that still remain in our mitochondrial DNA.  Notes the story, "Neanderthals were very closely related to modern humans -- so closely that we shared ur prehistoric beds with them -- and yet clearly they were not humans.  Somewhere among the genetic disparities must lie the mutation or, more probbly, mutations that define us.  Paabo already has a team scanning the two genomes, drawing up lists of likely candidates.

"I want to now what changed in fully modern humans, compared with Neanderthals, that made a difference." he said. " What made it possible for us to build up these enormous societies and spread around the globe, and develop the technology that I think no one can doubt is unique to humans.  There has to be a genetic basis for that, and it is hiding somewhere in these lists."

What makes Paabo's work so important is this: "Over the decades, many theories had been offered to explain what caused the demise of the Neanderthals, ranging from climate change to simple bad luck.  In recent years, though, it's become increasingly clear that, as Paabo puts it to me, "their bad luck was us."  Again and again, the archeologoical evidence in Europe indicates, once modern humans showed up in a region where Neanderthals were living, the Neanderthals in that region were actively pursued, or perhaps they were just outcompeted.  The Neanderthals' "bad luck" is presumbly the same misfortune that the hobbits [small hominids-- Homo floreniensis -- discovered in 2004) and the Denisovans [another extinct branch of the humanoid tree] encountered, and similar to the tragedy suffered by the giant marsupials that once browsed Australia, and the varied megafauna that used to inhabit North America, and the moas that lived in New Zealand.  At it is precisely the same bad luck that has brought so many species -- including every one of the great apes -- to the edge of oblivion today.

"To me, the mystery is not the extinction of the Neanderthals," Jean-Jacques Hublin, the director of the Institute for Evolutionary Antrhropology's department of human evolution, told me. "To me the mystery is what makes modern humans such a successful group that they have been replacing not just the Neanderthals but everything. We don't have much evidence tht the Neanderthals or other archaic umans ever led to an extinction of a species of mammal or anything else.  For modern humans, there are hundreds of examples, and we do it very well."

Their bad luck was . . . us.  If you think about the future of this globe, that's got to be one bone chilling sentence.

The author concludes with a visit to one of the prehistoric caves at Grotte des Combarelles to view the extraordinary cave paintings.  "In very recent times, the floor of the Grotte des Combarelles has been dug out, so that a person can walk in it, and the tunel is dimly lit by electric lights.  But when the etchings were originally created, some twelve or thirteen thousand years ago, the only way to gain access to the site would have been to crawl, and the only way to see in the absolute dark would have been to carry fire.  As I crept along through the gloom, past engravings of wisent and aurochs and woolly rhinos, it occurred to me that I really had no clue what would drive someone to wriggle through a pitch-black tunnel to cover the walls with images that only another, similarly driven soul would see.  Yet it also struck me that so much of what is distinctively human was here on display -- creativity, daring, "madness."  And then there were the animals pictured on the walls -- the aurochs and mammoths and rhinos.  These were the beasts that Paleolithic Europeans had hunted, and then, one by one, as with the Neanderthals, obliterated."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

In an odd season without a summer, here's Jane Hirshfield, from her book, "Given Sugar, Given Salt."

Speed and Perfection

How quickly the season of apricots is over --
a single night's wind is enough.
I kneel on the ground, lifting one, then the next.
Eating those I can, before the bruises appear.

Friday, August 19, 2011

And Why Am I Not Surprised?

Recent Op/Ed in the New York Times cited the update of an original 2006 study of political attitudes by David Campbell and Robert Putman of Notre Dame University. The pair “returned to interview many of the same people again this summer. As a result, we ca look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five ears later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously – isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant.”

Among their findings: The Tea Party’s “origin story,” is fake. They were portrayed as “non partisan political neophytes,” when, in reality, they were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born,” and,write the authors, “. . . past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.”

Further discoveries: Tea Party members weren’t created as a reaction to the Great Recession. While many Americans suffered from financial problems, “they were no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party.” And a wish for smaller government and balanced budgets weren’t a predictor either.

Note the authos, “So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

“More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 – opposing abortion, f or example – and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek ‘deeply religious’ elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.”

Which makes the Tea Party’s professed reverence for the Founders (and the wearing of tricorn hats and the dragging around of muskets) while yakking about following the constitution hilarious. The founding fathers were clear on that: Separation of church and state and no religious tests for officeholders.

As for the racial dog whistle music, well, that comes as no surprise. That was present from day one. (As was the fake “grass roots” “origin story” which was, in reality, funded and fueled by huge infusions of cash from Dick Armey’s Republican PAC, among other conservative donors, Fox TV personalities, and “think tanks.” Nothing “grass-rootsy” about any of it.)

What may come as a surprise are the authors’ conclusions: “Given how much sway the Tea Party has among Republicans in Congress and those seeing the Republican presidential nomination, one might think the Tea Party is redefining mainstream American politics.

“But in fact, the Tea Party is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion; among most Americans, even before the furor over the debt limit, its brand was becoming toxic. To embrace the Tea Party carries great political risk for Republicans . . .” because “On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans.”

And, irony, irony, the authors go on to point out that the there are parallels with “the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern in 1972. The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party – repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the Tea Party, Republicans risk repeating history.”

As someone who thinks the Republicans now running the Congress have proven themselves unfit to govern, the crash ‘n burn of a party that’s driven itself off the cliff can’t come soon enough.

I mean, Michelle Bachman? Rick “Yosemite Sam” Perry? Really?

Oh, Give It Up Already

Matt Fountain had an article in this week’s New Times on a proposed medical marijuana facility for Oceano. “On May 25, Grover Beach resident Tammy Murray applied with the county’s Department of Planning and Building to open a facility in unincorporated Oceano, she said, because despite several attempts by others, local qualified patients by and large remain without a place to get their medicine.

“According to Murray’s minor use permit application, the 5,500-square f-foot facility would be located in an industrial area on the 1400 block of South Fourth Street in northern Oceano, fitted with security cameras and staffed by a full-time guard.”

Oh, Dear. Poor Ms. Murray will now be subjected to the following:

1. Various public officials and politicians, including the Board of Supervisors, will chest pound about how they’re four-square in favor of “compassionate” use of “medical marijuana,” that nobody is more compassionate than they are, blah, blah, blah.

2. Various planning commissioners will scrunch their brows and earnestly pour over the submitted plans, niggling, snipping, adding, and forcing the applicant through all kinds of expensive hoops.

3. The sheriff will piously state that he will follow the law as written.

4. At public hearings, half the audience will stand up to tell horror stories about suffering people who can only get relief with medical marijuana while the other half will stand up to decry the evil weed and start screeching about SAVE THE CHILDREN!

5. When the matter finally comes before the Board of Supervisors, they will restate their profound compassion. Indeed they’ll vie with one another as to how much more compassionate they are than the other guy, then, with a huge sigh and crocodile tears flowing down the aisles, will, reluctantly vote the matter down.

6. IF by some miracle the dispensary does get voted into being, within a few months, the sheriff will head up a posse of federal agents who will raid the place, slap the owner into federal custody, drag him/her down to L.A. for trial, bankrupt him/her to pay for legal counsel, then he’ll/she’ll be found guilty under federal law and be slapped in prison for years.

Then everybody will go home, smugly satisfied that while, yes, yes, it’s unfortunate, that people suffering from cancer will have to suffer more, the community will be protected from the awful prospect that somebody somewhere might be getting high on “medical” marijuana.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Creepy Factor

So, Rick Perry declares he's running for President and the media pundits start visibly drooling and swooning and getting shivvers up their spines at all the manly manliness of the Dude, and salivating at now being able to push the election coverage into a simple-minded 24/7 empty of content sports metaphor with ratings and rankings and minute by minute plays to be called, and suddenly, watching him on the news, everything blurs and doubles and suddenly its all deja vuish again as Perry morphs into George Bush and I get cold chills and think, Aw, Gawd, we're gonna now bomb Iran because they may have weapons of mass destruction and then put the war on the national credit card since deficits don't matter if it's a Republican who's running them up, and give more tax breaks to rich people and oh, God, in no time there he'll be in a crotch-stuffed jump suit and  Texas-sized boots, all hat and no cattle, clomping across the deck of an aircraft carrier only to fall to the deck to raise his arms to heaven and thank Jeeeesus for his Victory over the Heathen and, while he's kneeling, to also pray for rain for Texas, then go on to dismantle Medicare, Social Security, EPA regulations, education reforms so as to turn the U.S.A. into one big polluted states-rights successionist Texas filled with minimum wage jobs, a country being run by a handful of wealthy oligarchs overseeing the serfs. 

Oh, Boy, America can't wait. Yeeee haw!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What To Do On A Nice Saturday

First, go to  then call (805) 540-5771 to reserve a tour.  It's $20 per person.  The Trolley Departs 12, 1 & 2 pm. on every Saturday from a parking area outside Avila Beach (Directions will come with your reservation confirmation) .  Docent led tours are about 1 1/2 hours. 

The lighouse was built in 1890, closed in 1974, was granted to the San Luis Harbor District in 1992, in 1995 Point San Luis Lighthouse Keepers formed to restore and manage the light station.  The trolly tours started in 2010.  Don't miss this one.

If you were at lightkeeper in 1890, or the lightkeeper's wife,

Here's what you'd see coming up the wagon road from Avila Beach

And here's what you'd see walking up to your front door.

And here's what you'd cook breakfast, lunch, dinner on.  And heat dish water and bath water on. It ran on coal. 

And here's where'd you wash up, with hot water from the stove.

And then you'd sit in the livingroom in front of the coal stove.

And here's what you'd see up in the tower while you were cleaning the Fresnel lamp.

And here's the beautiful Fresnel lamp and pendulum that turned the great lamp.

And here's part of the steam run machinery that ran the great foghorn that boomed out across the sea, keeping ships from harm on dark and stormy nights.

And if you were the lightkeeper's 10 year-old daughter, here's what you'd see as you left your home to catch the boat that met the train at the foot of Avila's pier that took you into San Luis Obispo for a big day out in the big city.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Grab the Plant Food

Run, do not walk, run over to ,or visit them on Facebook, then call the Clark Center box office at 489-9444 (Mon-Fri 12-6, Sat 12-4) and get tickets for the Sorcerer Production's peformance of "Little Shop of Horrors.  It'll be playing there Aug 12 - 28 on Friday, Sat (two shows) and Sunday matinees.

Sorcerer Productions has a great line up for the upcoming season and if "Little Shop" is any indiction of what this outstanding ensemble can do, the audience is in for some wonderful theatre. Everything about this production is top notch.  It was a fast, funny, fantastic evening of theatre.  Do not miss it.


Friday, August 12, 2011

OK. What In Hell Was THAT All In Aid Of?

Stock market up. Stock market down.  Stock market up. Down. Up. Down.

Not a single shoe did the Stock Market manufacture.  Not a bridge, a road.  It planted no crops, taught no child, ministered to no sick person.  It didn't build a single house, repair a single car, machine a single die, pour so much as one ingot of steel. 

It did absolutely nothing to rebuild America.  It has now even become uncoupled from "real value," "real businesses," "real things," and is simply a big casino for a tiny handful of The International Monied Class. The disconnect is dangerous for America because "real" people have bought into the notion that somehow they are part of the International Monied Class, that the market will affect their real life, that in pandering to Wall Street, Congress (a wholly owned subsidiary of both Wall Street & Multi-national corporations --Which, as Mitt Romney reminded an outraged senior citizen in Iowa, "are people," as in "Corporations are people."), is somehow going to "help" the average working stiff.  It won't. 

So decoupled has Wall Street become from reality, that stocks that used to be valued and traded based on  actual value, have now become disconnected algorithms -- meaningless bits of data moving at the speed of light, split second speculation based on . . .  split second speculation, pure gambling and gaming of the system, totally divorced from the real Wealth of Nations, a con game that enriches a few at the expense of everyone else.

Matt Taibbi is right: America has now become Griftopia, a nation of grifters, addicted to the blinking Big Spin, frantically buying lottery tickets, penny-ante day traders, eyes glued to the streaming stock numbers, dreaming of the big payday that will never come because in Griftopia, the Street is being run by and for the benefit of a handful of major players.  And as for the "real" people?  They're the mooks and marks.

Yowsa, yowsa.  Step right up.    

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Uh, Wanna Run That One By Me One More Time?

If all six Republican apointees to the New! Improved! Super Mini-Me Congress have signed Grover Norquist's Blood Oath to never, ever raise taxes, and this super committee is supposed to be one of those "Let's Solve The Budget Deficit Problem Committee Wherein Everything's On The Table," how's that gonna work?

Shall we start taking bets now?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Aw, Shut Up Wisconsin and Eat Your Mouldy Cheese

Bwa-hahahah.  So Wisconsin voters voted in a whole bunch of slash 'n burn Republicans who (surprise!) slashed 'n burned, so everyone went Waaaa, Waaaaa, and the unions got all pissy because they, particularly, were targeted for destruction, and they said, Boooooo!  Boooooo! and everyone stomped around and held huge, loud protests, then they organized a bunch of recalls to dump some of the Republican legislators who'd been slashing and burning them, and the election is now over and the voters only recalled two legislators (out of six)  which means the state government remains firmly in the hands of the slash 'n burning Republicans, so everyone's back to square one, and now folks are talking about recalling Chief Slasher, Governer Walker.

Are you kidding me???? Oh, Wisconsin, give it up.  You don't seem to understand.  We live in Battered Wife Nation.  Smack us around, cut us to the bone, create policies that begger us and kick us to the curb and we'll re-elect you again and again or we'll elect even worse batterers -- ones with knives, not just fists.  We're addicted to the abuse because, like battered wives, we've been brainwashed into thinking that we're not worth anything.  Sell our jobs down the river and move the profit upline to a small handful of wealthy?  Fine by us.  We don't deserve a living wage.  Leave us and our underwater homes underwater while spending our tax dollars to bail out the rich Wall Streeters?  That's o.k., too. We don't deserve a bail out.  Matter of fact, we don't deserve anything at all since we're expendable, unnecessary baggage dumped by the road to insure that only a very few will win the all American race to the top .

So, instead of your "On Wisconsin" fight song, it's time for all you cheesers to shut up and just eat the few scraps of Cheddar that's trickling down to you.  It's all you deserve and everybody knows you're not going to do anything about it. I mean, look at your recall results. Meh.  

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

And Now, The Question

Ah, the stock market is dropping like a stone.  Guess who makes money when the stock market drops like a stone?  Guess who makes money buying up tons of blue-chip stocks cheap when the market drops like a stone, then waits for the market to return and thereby makes pots more money?

Working people?  Poor people? Middle class people who are out of work and underwater on their mortgages, their 401K's shreds?  Why, Nooooo.  Not them. They lose their jobs as multi-national companies dump them and move those salary-savings (and the jobs) offshore.  Speculators?  Really, really rich speculators?  Like Wall Streeters? 

Ah, yes. Lots of quick money to be made when economies crash.  Lots of money to be made by, uh, helping economies to crash, too. So, let's all give a big shout-out to the Tea Party who were instrumental in getting this Wall Street party started in the first place. Yippee! Yo, Michelle Bachman, you were right.  Claiming defaults and downgrades would be harmful to our economy were all a big Democratic lie. Rich people, who are the only ones that count, are gonna get richer and if regular people get hurt?  Talk to the hand.  

In America, "regular" people don't matter any more. They're not the demographic American business is looking for.  Brazilians are.  Brazilians, for example, are in an expanding economy, having lots of babies, setting up households.  Lots of money to be made by American companies who move their operations (and jobs) offshore to focus on their new customers and grow their new business.  And those new customers aren't Americans. Who are broke and so not buying what American companies produce any more. So the hell with them.

Unless, of course, Americans can be turned into non-union, cheap-wage sweatshop workers hired by multi-national American companies to produce products for, say, Brazilians. Hey, maybe the tag "Made in America" will once again mean something.  O.K., maybe that wouldn't quite mean what it used to mean, but heck.  In a third-world country like America, a sweat shop job is better than nothing. 

Meantime, happy days are here for the big cash-boys.  Mo' money, mo' money.  Let the good times roll and God bless the child. . .

Monday, August 08, 2011

While Rome Fiddles

If you think the stakes aren’t high, please go to the Youtube link below.

It’s your home and its in trouble.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Your Sunday Poem

This by Jane Hirschfield from her book, "Given Sugar, Given Salt."

                              August Day

You work with what you are given --
today I am blessed, today I am given luck.

It takes the shape of a dozen ripening fruit trees,
a curtain of pole beans, a thicket of berries.
It takes the shape of a dozen empty hours.

In them is neither love nor love's muster of losses,
in them is no chance for harm or for good.
Does even my humanness matter?
A bear would be equally happy, this August Day,
fat on the simple sweetness plucked between thorns.

There are some who may think, "How pitiful, how lonely."
Others must murmur, "How lazy."

I agree with them all: pitiful, lonely, lazy.
Lost to the earth and to heaven,
thoroughly drunk on its whiskeys, I wander my kingdom.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Millionaire America. Happy at last!

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for August 5, 2011

Whew! That was a close one. A band of crazed Democratic socialists in Congress were threatening to reduce the country’s massive debt by both making cuts in various government programs, including Medicare and Social Security, and – horrors! –by balancing those cuts with higher taxes on the rich and super rich, until the newly elected Tea Partiers saved the day, took the country hostage and threatened to take our economy over the cliff unless Congress promised that there would be No Taxes, not even on the ultra rich.

Not wishing to see the US economy ruined, which could have triggered a world-wide crash, the weenie Dems caved. Now, you’d think that such a meek capitulation would make the average working American furious, knowing that they alone would be the ones bearing all the pain of cuts to their safety net, but, no. They were jubilant because Americans, no matter what their station in life, truly believe that they are the millionaires and billionaires that the proposed tax hikes would have affected.

Which is why they elect and re-elect representatives who are rabid Norquistian No Taxers, staunch ideologues who believe in the theory that millionaires and billionaires (like the voters) are “job creators,” and that taxes are “job killers,” even though there is little historical evidence to support either claim.

And, believing themselves to be millionaires, the American voters also don’t need or want any social safety nets either, and vote accordingly. They’re apparently convinced that they’ll never lose their jobs (don’t need any of that socialistic unemployment insurance; that’s just another government give-away). They also believe that they’ll never lose their job-related health insurance or that their health will never fail (don’t need or want any kind of national health-care reform, and certainly not some awful socialized medicine like Medicare.) Being rich, they don’t’ need it. The private market will take care of their few needs. And if it doesn’t, well, that’s no problem. They have millions. They’ll just pay the doctor and hospital out of pocket.

And as for getting old and needing some kind of “social security?” Not needed. They’re rich and will pay their own way.

And so, in the middle of a near depression, they elected lots of new cut ‘n slash Tea Partiers and re-elected their staunch oath-signing No Tax Norquistian incumbents and sent them to Congress to slash the budget and cut government programs to the bone, and/or to try to kill them altogether. And keep taxes low or zero on millionaires and billionaires (and corporations who’ve skated out of paying taxes altogether) so all those non-tax-paying “job creators” can create jobs. And if you look around you, you’ll see how well it’s worked. The corporations that were awash with hoarded money, paying out obscene bonuses to their CEO’s, and/or getting tax breaks for moving jobs off shore, have, with this latest budget deal, started hiring again. Factories are humming. Every day I can hardly lift up the newspaper, so heavy is it with “help wanted” listings from all these “job creators.” Companies are desperately opening up hiring halls in towns across America just begging people to come work. And Millionaire America is once again filling the malls and shopping centers, buying everything in sight. I can only imagine the kind of sugar plum dream retailers will have this Christmas.

All of which is great news since the recently promised cuts-only to the federal budget will mean that hundreds of thousands of federal employees are about to lose their jobs and be added to the unemployment rolls. And those federal cuts will also trickle down to add to budget woes in the states, with state employees getting even more pink-slips as well. But, not to worry. Federal, state and city workers are all millionaires, too. And all those private sector, un-taxed, cash-hoarding job-creators are ready for them! Step right up. Here’s a job application blank. Name your salary! Happy days are here again.

Talk about a win-win for Millionaire America where every man thinks he’s King Croesus and votes accordingly. And if that wasn’t enough good news, Congress, always messy and often dysfunctional at best, has now decided to make itself irrelevant. It will create a tiny new Super Congress – the Gang of 12 – that will decide what to do about the budget. Talk about Grover Norquist’s wet-dream; make government small enough to drown in a bathtub. Grover’s never been able to drown the real Congress before – it was too big. He couldn’t fit them all into his house, let alone into his bathtub. But twelve unelected people?

Ah, piece of cake.