Friday, August 30, 2013

Deja Vu, Part Duh

Like Paso Robles, Los Osos had it's own little come to Jesus meeting last night at the Community Center when Rob Miller presented to the LOCSD a power point presentation of the draft plan hammered out for years by the ISJ working group, the major water purveyors -- CSD, Golden West, S&T, the county, etc.  

The 300+ page draft outlines the ISJ's agreements, goals, some of which include: Halt seawater intrusion, provide a sustainable water yield and conservation goals.  Also included are ongoing updated hydrological assessments, the creation of a water data base for future plans.  It also looks ahead for ag use and issues arising from rising seas and global temperature changes since less rainfall will have a profound impact on water availability.

Right now, municipal water users are metered, the private well yields are estimated as are ag wells.  Private well metering and reporting is encouraged, but as I learned at Tuesday's BOS hearing on Paso Robles, wells and well water is private property and the amounts pumped are subject to often arcane laws.  Which means, in Los Osos, as in Paso, well owners are free to pump whatever water they want without paying into the whole system, so costs to pay for water improvement (availability and quality) enjoyed by well owners will be paid by for by "urban" users.  That includes ag use. And, as in Paso, any effort to change that would involve a complex effort to create some kind of mechanism that would bring well users into the shared system.

While "urban" water use has declined about 40% , the challenge here is to reduce that amount even further while using various strategies to increase yield so as to first reach stasis -- one cup out, one cup returned -- then to decrease use and increase return so as to begin to improve the basin and push salt water intrusion back.

Maximizing yield is planned by a variety of measures, both by the purveyors and by the public, including increased conservation efforts, retrofits, reduced development, moving wells from west to east, better measures to capture and retain rainwater and run-off, greywater use, community-wide xerescaping, expanded purple piping, water-banking using decommissioned septics and etc.

(A side note:  If the plan is serious about counting on greater conservation plans, somebody better come up with better ways of doing it than the supposedly ongoing County's retrofit plans.  That program seemed to reverse the carrot and stick idea:  If you retrofitted your house early, to be a good citizen and save water long before you had to, you got zero rebate.  If you continued to waste water with old toilets, and washing machines and you waited until the last minute then called the County, you got "rebates."  Duh?  According to public comments, that program apparently is barely moving ahead, with complaints that records show that only 12 toilets have been logged on as given "rebates?" If true, that program certainly could stand improvement, especially since ratepayers have already coughed up $5 mil for it and aren't going to be too happy to see so little bang for their buck, methinks.) 

The plans offered in the draft run from least expensive to more expensive and will depend on what the community wants to do about staying in a moritorium or go to full build out, or aim for something inbetween.  The choices also depend on whether the yield targets are met.  They run from the simple--move wells, increase conservation, recharge from the sewer treatment plant, the plan most likely to be chosen first -- all the way to importing water from somewhere else.

The draft comment period will close in early October.  Written comments can be sent to the CSD.  The next step will be to go back to the judge, get the draft a stipulated judgement as quickly as possible, then move head. 

Bottom line on all this:  Mo' money.

Oddity of the night, an issue that also came up during the Paso hearings:  Why are the sewer pipe contractors dumping gazillions of fresh water into the bay -- in the middle of a drought, in the face of a distressed aquifer in desperate need of recharging, not emptying?  The water in question is the water from dewatering while the pipes are being laid.  Who's in charge of such a foolish thing and how can it be stopped?

That question was asked while Paavo Ogren was sitting 4' away from the speaker.  He said not a word.  Eventually, the answer turned out to be this:  The contractors are responsible for water dumping and, apparently, are allowed to continue dumping if that's more convenient (and less costly for them), rather than pump, pipe or truck that water onto land where at least it could get back down into the aquifer, and NOBODY can/will say otherwise.  The astonished and outraged citizen even asking that question is met with a blank stare and a helpless shrug.  Oh, well. Though the Regional Water Quality Control Board has written one of their "harumph" letters expressing concern that this is going on. A "harumph" letter and public questions and silence from the County means that water dumping -- a figure of 50 acre feet a day has been bandied about -- will continue unabated.

The insane, deliberately allowed loss of a vital community resource is typical of the kind of thing that has made the Hideous Sewer Project such a looneytune.  And the blank-faced silence and indifferent shrugs from folks in charge of this project in the face of such idiocy is what has made the Hideous Sewer Project so crazy-making to so many concerned citizens.

I mean, really, dumping gazillions of gallons of water in the middle of a drought?  Now, what movie does that remind me of . . . oh, yes, "Chinatown." 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Deja Vu, Damp Version

About 15 years ago, maybe longer, I was on an Ag Tour that was tootling around back of beyond in the dusty reaches of Paso Robles.  On the bus was an old, old-timey rancher who was opining loudly on how Paso Robles was in real trouble because the water table was dropping and wells were going dry and all these (then) new acres of grapevines were gonna suck the basin dry and then the community would be in one hell of a mess.

Fifteen years ago his comments were so obviously true that nobody contradicted him.  Instead, everyone sagely nodded their heads and said, Alas, true, too true.  The government, the powers that be, had better hurry up and do something about this or they'll be in one hell of a mess.

That was 15 years ago.  Now, here I sit in the BOS Chamber to find out if this hell of a mess will be fixed or whether the Sups will kick the can down the road again. The last time this chamber was filled with so many staunch anti-government, libertarian, Tea-Party stalwarts, free-marketers was when the county was voting on a plastic bag ban.  Then the chamber rang with cries against government tyranny and for Freeeeedom!  Freeeedom!

Once again the usual suspects were there, only this time they were all bleating, crying, pleading that the wicked government DO SOMETHING!  Like take over the water basin (quel socialistic!), institute some sort of well-drilling moratorium (Gaak! Communism!), or start water-rationing (eeek! Fascists!) With lots of finger-pointing that this problem was caused by the county in the first place since they knew -- oh, about 15 years ago, surely -- that continuing to issue well-drilling permits and building permits and water must-serves would lead directly to this crisis.

(Does all this sound familiar, Los Osos?)

Well, who could blame the BOS for doing nothing but dither.  Water law and water rights in California are some of the most Byzantine and convoluted laws you can imagine, all "There Will Be Blood" straws sucking up milkshakes.  As a society we haven't yet come to the conclusion that water, like air, are part of The Commons, a resource that all must share. And in California (and Texas) water is considered private property; if it's under your land, it's yours.  Which means we've left ourselves to the mercy of the Tragedy of the Commons, which was beautifully illustrated a few weeks ago when the Tribune reported a sudden spike in well permits after their wonderful coverage of the dire Paso water  situation appeared on the front page. It was a race to get those straws into the milkshake which, unless stopped, would result in NO more milkshake left.

Which is where Paso is headed. And why Mike Winn, long time member of WRAC (Water Resources Advisory Committe) stepped forward during public comment to urge the Board to make sure they contracted the services of water lawyers, a specialization that's critical when dealing with his area since the County, no mater what they do, are bound to get sued.

Compared to similar hearings (plastic bag hearing, the Los Osos Sewer), this one was astoundingly well-mannered, despite the high emotions. And, like all such hearings, it did have wonderful moments of weirdness and factinating fun-facts.

Delightful weirdness:  The number of Anti-Agenda 21ers (a subset of the black helicopter gang who are convinced that the UN's Agenda 21 plans on taking away private property and turning us all into socialists and/or locking us away in concentration camps or something.)  Many of the A-A21rs decried Agenda 21's mission statement urging a move to "sustainability."  Indeed, that word "sustainable" seemed to be anathema to the A-A21ers, all of whom were apparently oblivious to what had brought them to this chamber in the first place: An overdrafted water basin caused by unsustainable water mining.

And, of course, for wonderful weirdness, Supervisor Mecham pointing out the irony of some of his constituents who always decried the evil government who then show up demanding the government fix the mess the freebooting, unregulated, private property water rights helped create. .

Alas, unsustainable water mining is par for the course since there really is no way to regulate water in this state, since it's "private property."  You own the land, you own the well, you own the water and you're entitled to take your historical allotments, no matter what's happening under the ground.  In rural well-owning Paso, that means that there's really no structure in place to organize and regulate what is, really, a Commons, (the water basin underlying the region) unless you start from scratch and the well owners (water owners) form and then vote in such a water district, a long, complicated process that takes time, the one thing Paso doesn't have.  So a good deal of the day's discussion centered around finding a way to create such a district or cooperative plan that did not require going through LAFCO or mean reinventing the wheel, or adapting plans developed in other counties in order to avoid adjudication, a process that also can take years and years and cost millions.

Luckily, the stakeholders in this critical battle had formed a Blue Ribbon Committee to tackle some of the issues and bring the stakeholders together, but their work would have to be part of long time solution, if it could be done at all outside of the adjudication framework.

Since water is private property, one weird kink in the road became immediately apparent: wells aren't metered or monitored and even if they were, the information gained is private and proprietary. When I asked a lady next to me why water use would be secret, she informed me the info is kept private out of fear that if it were made public, the well owners could be targeted, as in shamed and blamed for being a water-waster, etc. (There was sufficient finger-pointing blame in the chamber already, with the large grape growers being portrayed as greedheads responsible for drying up a homeowner's well -- a scenario that had more than a whiff of  the turn of the century land and water wars that pitted cattle barons against the little sod busters.) 

However, it's pretty hard to really get good data on actual water use when nobody's monitoring it. So, for now, agencies charged with water planning have to go by guess and by god and hope they're numbers are close enough.  And that vagueness carries over into the geology of water as well.  As we learned in Los Osos, even the best water experts have to hedge their numbers because what really  happens deep under the earth is often a by-gosh and by-God guestimate even by the best water witches.

It also became clear that the current emergency ordinance had been crafted by non-ranching/farming tenderfeet who were trying to cobble together some off-the-shelf mechanisms not particularly suited to agricultural needs.  So some time was spent dickering over the banning/not banning of storage water ponds.  Apparently those ponds are part of best practices for many ranchers -- a source of emergency water to use as frost protection, fire protection if needed, wildlife habitat, etc.  However, it also seemed clear that some big grape growers just got greedy and went and built ponds holding 40--50 acre feet of water that was like a thumb in the eye of their neighbors since that waster was now no longer in the ground and no longer available to a neighbor whose well just ran dry for want of 40-50 acre feet of water.  Plus, water ponds lose water to high evaporation rates during Paso's hot summers, a water loss a community in drought can't really afford.

And so it went throughout the day and well into the evening. Eventually, about 7 p.m. Chairman Bruce started his famous Enough With This Dickering, Now We're Going To Do What I Want drill- down, his famous relentless parsing that pulls out bits and pieces and gets straw votes on each, then on to another straw poll piece, until you can tell that everyone's both tired and confused and now overwhelmed by looking at constantly changing scrolling gobblegook strikeouts, hurry-hurry-hurry.  Meanwhile, Debbie Arnold kept fussing and fidgeting and trying to put in amendments or minor changes only to have them parsed and pulled apart and challenged by an eye-rolling Gibson until you could just tell Debbie just sort of gave up and voted, fine, fine, whatever, Jeeze.

But she didn't look too happy.  Mecham did, declaring "I got everything I wanted."

Now, of course the heavy lifting must start.  There's been promised financial help in the form of the county waiving the permit fees for re-driling a new well, which will help a bit, and talk of private fundraising to help those distressed families in the finest farming/ranching help-your-neighbor-out tradition, the ordinance will be in effect for 45 days with a chance for renewal and revision to work out the bugs, and now The Blue Ribbon Committee has its work cut out for it if it's to bring all the major stakeholders together to find a way to sort this overdraft out and form some kind of management district.  It's going to be a long, painful slog and the record of success without going to a court process is probably slim to none, given the players.

The cattle barons of old have been replaced with wine-making mega corporations, and the little sod-busters are now teachers and plumbers and small business owners and retirees with a dream of owning a little place in the country, not exactly 20 acres and a mule, more like one acre of heaven and a pony, maybe a vegetable garden. But this time the scenario has a new wrinkle. There may now be no winners and losers, just losers.

In a time and place of abundance, this would be an easy lift.  In an era of growing scarcity and unsustainable growth, even the big players can lose it all as well.  No water is. . . no water, whether you have 1 acre or 8,000. Paso, like the rest of the state, is in for hard, hard times.  The climate deniers, the Anti-Agenda 21ers, anti-regulation boys may need to follow an old piece of advice given by a grizzled platoon sergeant to a young lieutenant puzzling over a map while out on maneuvers:  "If the map don't agree with the ground, then the map is wrong."  

Time for all of us to look at the ground. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This fromDavid Baker's new collection, "Never-Ending Birds," available in paperback . . . at your bookstore.  Support a poet today. 

Saints' Poppies

Somewhere they are weeds beside the long road
--lord of mishandling, lord unbefitting --

They are red ruined by rainwter or
the rust of a rebar tossed in disuse.

Nightengales name them across the chasm.
But not his one, who crooks her swollen finger

to stroke them,
           to dowse them with a little drink ...

     Somewhere they are weeds beside a long road
so potted by wagon whees it's ruined,

almost, for walkers pulling toward market.
Now she's lined her pocket with their clippings

and would fill another, had she another.
Which saints?  She won't say. It's her name for them

in lieu of their names.  She unpeels a few
petals, pale as crepe -- leaves in her good book --

     My book calls them bare root, spice, papaver
orientale Turkenlouis, or meadow

variety red corn-poppy.  They are
bred for ornament, oils, opium, food.

somewhere -- not here -- they are weeds to curse
beside steep houses, along stacked stone walls,

under the arthritis of olive trees.
And no one, not for ages, shall bless them.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Libel, Part Duh

On May 31, I posted a blog entry, "Libel," about the Dee Torres mess, i.e. Dee Torres had filed a libel lawsuit against Michael Brennler for alledged statements he made (part of an investigative piece published in CalCoastNews by CCN reporter Karen Velie) that Torres had stolen from homeless clients while director of homeless services for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO), claims which Torres denies.

My May commentary observed that suing people for libel is always a tricky problem.  First, because libel is really hard to prove since you've got to show real malice or intention to lie, and second, lawsuits open up huge cans of worms, such as depositions, wherein your opponent's lawyer gets to go fishing into your life and ask questions under oath that may cause you more problems than your original problem.  (See what happened to Paula Deen, and shudder.)

Worse, what likely was a small footnote story unread by the vast majority of SLOTowners, with an added lawsuit, will now make the headlines in the Tribune and local TV news (wherein the original story wasn't deemed "important enough,") and kaBlooey, the falshood/libel/lie is now blown up into headline news and you become the talk of the town.

Wait, it now gets worse.  Suppose the judge rules against your suit, claims you're a "public figure," says that you haven't proven that your bean-spilling whistle-blower acted with malice. Now you've got the public's attention and suddenly what was claimed to be a lie, now looks like it's true since the judge hasn't upheld your claims and quickly moved the case forward.

And if your un-luck holds, the same judge may dismiss the whole case and stick you with the bill.

And there you are.  In the public eye (and from snatches of headlines) you're now branded a thief and a nincompoop and now you're broke (all those court costs and legal fees.) And if that's not enough, your nemesis, the reporter who covered this story, is now publishing phone texts by your fiance, who's a county Supervisor, that can be read like he's threatening a witness against you, one of your former boyfriends??.  OMG!

If you've been following CCN and now the Tribune, you'll recognize the players in this little scenario as CAPSLO Director, Dee Torres,  Supervisor Adam Hill,  private investigator, Mike Brennler.  Add in Judge La Barbera, who has written a tentative ruling that Dee Torres is a "public figure," which bumps the provable "libel" threshold over the moon, and you have one of those cases where everyone wishes they'd all stayed home.

Until the federal and/or state law enforcement folks finish their investigations, something that should have been allowed to play out before anyone opened their yaps.

Well, no mistake, this case is a gift that keeps on giving, especially since it involves Adam Hill (who has had "yap" problems in the past), and now reporter Karen Velie gets into the act.  She was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.  In a CCN story by Josh Friedman and Daniel Blackburn, Velie had been teaching a bridge class (filled with respectable, bridge-playing SLOTowners), some of whom told CCN that she looked fine, did not appear to be under the influence.  But when stopped by Officer Josh Walsh for an unsafe lane change, was given a blood alcohol test. Which arrest pushed the case back into controversy since Velie's blood alcohol was .06 and drunk driving laws require an arrest if a driver has a .08.  So Officer Walsh's discretionary judgement as to impairment/arrest requirement/guidelines now enters the game.

As does Adam Hill.  According the the CCN story, immediately after the arrest, Adam sent text messages to all CalCoastNews advertisers informing them of the arrest.  Thereby begging the question: What reason would a Supervisor have for such an action?  Clearly he was trying to discredit Velie.  But was he also trying to influence (muscle) CCN's advertisers into dropping their ads?  Is that something a Supervisor should be doing to a news organization that's just doing its job?  Or was that all part of Hill's campaign to malign the messenger rather than deal with the message? And does the immediacy of Hill's foolish action in contacting CCN's advertisers now play right into the hands of conspiracy theorists (on chat web sites) that Hill set this whole thing up, thereby casting doubt on the integrity of Officer Walsh and raising real questions about Supervisor Hill . . . once again?

So here we are, back in StupidVille. 


Do you think it would be too much to ask that everyone involved in this ridiculous mess finally keep their yaps shut, let their lawyers handle this, and let the investigations by the proper authorities finish their jobs and go from there?

I have no doubt Karen has learned a hard lesson as well.  Investigative reporters, if they're doing their job right, are always in a state of war and are always dealing with potentially dangerous people.  There is a reason Woodward met Deep Throat at night in a secret parking garage.  If you poke powerful people with sharp pointy sticks, you damned well better become like Caesar's Wife -- not only above suspicion in all things but to be seen to be above suspicion.  That means document everything you do, have plenty of witnesses, put everything you can in writing, keep really good notes, live a dull and prudent life, avoid sticky situations and dicey people (unless you're on the job) and stick to Twinnings Irish Tea at all times.

As for Adam Hill?  Hopeless. Only thing to do there is wait for the implosion.  Or I should say explosion, like the kind you get when a can of beans is subjected to high heat and goes ker-blooey! in an utterly loud and satisfying manner.  Beans everywhere.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Butler Almost Did It

"Lee Daniels' The Butler," certainly had its work cut out for it.  The film is an earnest attempt at telling the story of the civil rights struggle through one man and his family's own journey from "plantation" to freedom.  Unfortunately, the moviemakers picked the one character least able to tell of that journey: a 35-year veteran White House Butler, a man superbly trained up in a service (and in an era) that required a servant (like a slave) to be invisible, to be erased, so be so not-there that you would have no presence in a room: not seen, not felt.

The composite character created by screenwriter Danny Strong , very loosely based on real-life White House butler, Eugene Allen, and played by Forest Whitaker, is too often simply not there.  Even when he's off duty, Whitaker spends most of the film simply looking blank.  Which is a problem since the screenwriter was attempting to tell two civil rights journeys: the historical outer one and the personal, inner one.  Whittaker's a very fine actor, but film is a visual medium that doesn't do well at showing inner states of being.  And making manifest inner worlds and inner transformations is pretty hard to do when your main character's essence is a void.  

Unless you use voice-overs, which are always clumsy and by the end of the film I suspect the filmmakers realized even this wasn't working very well so they stuck a few scenes in at the end of the movie designed to show the Butler getting his own transformative, consciousness-raising "wake up" call, but by then the film's nearly over and it's way too late.

Like all biopics, "The Butler," like the recent "42," the Jackie Robinson story, is a worthwhile, earnest attempt to frame both a personal story and an historical one.  And "The Butler" is reasonably effective in intercutting a personal story, a family story, a generational father/son conflict story as it plays out with and against unfolding historical events. (There were so many fictions added to the real story that I thought it would have given the movie greater freedom had they just made up a totally fictional character.  Sometimes, in trying to honor the truth of a real person, a greater "truth" is lost.)  And, like all biopics showing a character's life, the film was too often stuck with the cinematic dullness of the calendar:  "Then he did this, then he did that, and Oh, look it's President Johnson, now it's Nixon, (with a wonderfully creepy John Cusack), then this happened, then that, and some of this." (Another reason to go with a fake character: you're not stuck with linear "historical" reality.)

However, in one particularly powerful passage, the director effectively and seamlessly juxtaposed Whitaker serving at a White House dinner -- all placid silence and pristine glitter -- while his oldest son (beautifully played by British actor, David Oyelowo)  is being trained to and then endure the sit-ins at a Montgomery lunch counter as part of the Freedom Riders, all of whom are being assaulted by ugly racists in a chaotic scene of fear and growing danger.  It was an extremely powerful example of  cinematic story-telling at its best:  nearly exposition-free images of two parallel universes moving into collision.

So far, the stats on "Lee Daniels' The Butler" are quite good for a biopic; not a mega-hit but not a bomb either. When I went to the Sunday show at the underground theatre, there were about 60-70 people there, most all of them Baby Boomers. (Far more than were at a screening of "Fruitvale Station", a far better film.)  For them, I suspect the pull was Oprah and a trip down a sort of memory lane.  And the Treyvon Martin zeitgeist. (The film made several oblique references to the Martin case, a sad indication of how much has changed and how little has changed in 45 years.) 

And, like all biopics, especially biopics of Black History, the people who should see the film, won't.  And that includes young people who have no clue of what happened years ago when an astoundingly brave black woman sat down on a bus, and few incredibly brave young black (and a few white) students sat down at a lunch counter, asked to be served, and thereby transformed the country for the better. And for those of us of an age to remember this history, this is a good film to see to remind us what it was like and what too many in this country are too willing to deny or forget, since it was so awful.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Saturday Field Trip On a Sunday

Coffee roasting, open house, Aug 002

Los Osos very own SloRoasted Coffee Company had another open house yesterday.  Guests were invited to the warehouse on Los Olivos St. to  sample three types of coffee which been paired with six different desserts made by Apple Farm.  That was followed by a coffee roasting demonstration.
The warehouse is open M-F and you’re invited to stop by any time.  They have a small showroom inside the front door and have for sale all of the huge variety of coffees they sell.   So if you can’t find your favorite blend at the store, you can always stop by at the warehouse.  They can also be contacted at their website at or call 528-7317

They’ll be holding another open house in the early part of December, so if you missed this one there’ll be another in time for Christmas shopping. So if you have out of state or out of country people on your Christmas list and want to send them a little taste of the central coast, SloRoasted is a good place to start for products made here.

Coffee roasting, open house, Aug 004

The staff greets visitors

Coffee roasting, open house, Aug 007

Coffee, coffee everywhere . . .

Coffee roasting, open house, Aug 006
 just waiting to go into the huge Probat roaster

Coffee roasting, open house, Aug 010

and from thence into the Rube Goldberg-looking bagger.

Coffee roasting, open house, Aug 015

Master SloRoaster, Adam, ready to cook.

Coffee roasting, open house, Aug 018

Master SloRoaster, Nate, ready to spill the beans into the cooling tray.  Since the beans continue to cook even after they’ve been spilled, a master roaster’s deep knowledge of exactly how the beans are transforming second by second is vital.  That and split second timing is the critical  difference between  a bin of great coffee beans and a very expensive load for the compost bin.

Coffee roasting, open house, Aug 003
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe waiting to be sampled

Coffee roasting, open house, Aug 012

Coffee and treats are up.  Bon appetite.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Deen's Deliverance, Part Duh

Calhoun's Cannons for August 15, 2013

Woe betide an employer who has an employee who feels she/he hasn't been given enough -- enough money, enough respect, enough credit, enough shared fame and glory, or enough of whatever "enough" is.

Several months ago, Lisa Jackson sued Paula Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, claiming she suffered sexual harassment and racially offensive employment practices while working for five years as a manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, a restaurant run by Deen's brother. This being a case that was claiming racial discrimination, Deen was deposed and from her mouth -- under oath -- out popped the N-Word and the media pounced.  The firestorm that ensued was fueled by the Trayvon Martin zeitgeist, the call for a national "discussion" of racial issues by a country dangerously unsettled in its mind over anything racial. 

And the media went nuts.  Deen became persona non grata du jour,  sponsors of her TV show scampered off her sinking ship, product endorsements dried up, heck even Smithfield ham dumped her.  Suddenly toxic, Deen watched as her empire crumbled in a matter of weeks, all because she had testified that years ago she had once used the N-Word -- a word that 99.99% of Americans have likely muttered once in their lives.  But her sin was compounded because soon cringe-worthy TV clips turned up showing she was most certainly a Southern Lady of a certain age with an apallingly tin ear and a good degree of clueless silliness.  It was an eye-rollingly bad combination for a anyone trying to run a multi-million dollar empire -- TV show, cook-book publishing, cookware and product endorsements, shilling for a brand of insulin  -- while facing a mob of pitchforks and flaming brands.

And in typical fashion in a country bereft of any sense of context and operating with a kind of National Short Term Memory Syndrome, in an eyeblink the fury was over, gone.  Deen's hash was considered settled and she and her travails disappeared from the front page.

Until a few days ago.  There, buried a couple of pages in, was The Rest of the Story, a brief notice that Lisa Jackson's lawsuit was mostly tossed out as having no standing since Lisa is white, Deen and Bubba are white.  Can't have a racial discrimination case if everyone's the same race. But, still left standing are her claims for sexual harassment, but that claim is laid against Bubba, not Deen. And, as of this writing, the remaining claims against Deen herself may also be tossed out as well.

So we'll then be left with, what?  A case of sexual harassment against a Southern Good O'l Boy of a certain age, a tin ear and a good degree of clueless pigishness?  

And what about Deen, now?  Was she a victim of someone who didn't have "enough"  and so used a flimsy lawsuit to get, what?  Justice? Revenge?

Or was The Great Reveal the point?  Sworn depositions given by attorneys on fishing expeditions can be a potent weapon in service of someone looking for some sort of extra-legal rough justice.  One should never underestimate the powerful human love of exposing the motes in other people's eyes while ignoring the planks in our own. And if one is aggrieved, if one is treated unfairly, if one doesn't have "enough," while others have "more," or are getting away with something, then that's a powerful motive to settle old scores. Spill a few nasty beans, shake out enough messy laundry, hit the zeitgeist at the right time, and public disapproval and fury (and corporate skittishness) will inflict punishments undreamed of in any court of law.

As a morality play, I'm sure the Deen case still has more chapters left to play out. Like Deen showing up at some point on Oprah's couch to shed a few tears, declare how this whole episode was a wake-up call and an opportunity for redemption and transformation, how her suffering has now made her a much better person (She's gone vegan and lost 47 pounds) and she's now written another book, (Available on Amazon), developed a new TV show, (Bravo Channel) so be sure to tune in (Wednesday's at 10 a.m.)

A Come to Jesus happy ending, at last! Crime & Punishment,  American style.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Healed At Last?

Well, over at, Ron Crawford has a few things to say about the "ReCreate Los Osos" organization that was formed to "heal Los Osos" and is now dead before it could get born, alas.  But Ron's too hard on Marshall Ochylski and Lou Tornatzy, the folks behind the "healing."  If Ron wishes punishment upon them, rest assured, they have suffered plenty since he writes that they're now dissolving that organization as a state non-profit.

As someone who spent about a year wandering in the virtual halls of Sacramento attempting to dissolve an uneeded Ca. nonprofit that was part of the off-leash dog park,  I can tell you those two are in for a nightmare.  I have never seen a more confusing process, full of wrong directions, unintelligible paperwork, forms returned with absolutely no reason given for returning them, futile phone calls, hair pulling frustration until I finally got ahold of a nice young man who in four sentences laid out what still needed to be done.  When I asked him why those instructions weren't included with the original dissolution packet, he was silent.

It was Byzantine bureaucracy at its worst and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.  So, good luck to those two.  In the meantime, it's all sunshine and happiness in Los Osos, so apparently this nonprofit, "ReCreate Los Osos" worked.  Mirable Dictu.

Speaking of The Odd Couple

If Healing Los Osos didn't quite work for you and you're still in need of a good laugh, head up to The Pewter Playhouse in Cambria.  They're putting on a distaff version of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple," with Janice Peters and Sharyn Young playing the mismatched leads.  The play is running every Friday & Saturday at 7:30 pm through Sept 1 with Sunday Matinees on August 18, 25 and Sept 1 at 3 pm.  Cost is $15 on Fridays, or $20 on Sunday's, with Seniors and Students for $18. Reservations can be had at (805) 927-3877 or

The theatre, which has been there forever, has been recently gussied up, with new cunningly comfortable seats (modified directors chairs, each named by chair donors after a famous actor/actress.)  While the theatre is small, it's intimacy supports all that is best about the words "little theatre." 

Next up on their playlist is "The Weir, A Ghost Story" by Conon McPherson (Sept 20 - Oct 27, a perfect ghostly play coincide with Cambria's Scarecrow Festival during the month of Oct.  Then they'll be doing "A Tuna Christmas," running Nov 22 - December 29.  If you haven't seen this satiric comedy, put that on your Christmas list to go-see. 

And Now The Department of We're Not Surprised

A nice fat envelope from Bruce Gibson for Supervisor landed on my doorstep and when I opened it up I learned that our supervisor, who had, if memory served, petulantly declared he wouldn't be running for another term, said while he was embroiled in getting his girlfriend back into his office as his legislative assistant  (dare I presume that was part of the ploy to sway public opinion, as in, "Well, give him what he wants since this will be his last term and we'll just have to hold our noses for a while until he's gone?")  

Well, if you're one of those holding your nose, you'd better start breathing because the first sentence of the letter was this, "My Dear Friend, I'm writing to let you know that I am seeing another term on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in 2014 -- and I'm going to need your help now more than ever." 

And reading further it turns out that he needs your help because the well-funded Looney-Tune Tea Party/COLAB/Paranoid anti-Agenda 21 UN conspiracy promoters and climate-change deniers are at the gates and the County faces wrack and ruin unless he's elected. And, yes, he knows ". . . that my actions have hurt my family, my friends and my community.  I'm deeply sorry for that, and again, I apologize," but clearly he feels that without him the County will be overrun by special interests and land-grabbing despoiling Huns pouring in from the North County, let by the Terrifying Khan, Debbie Arnold, and her henchman, north and south. (More grapevines! More grapevines! Drain the aquifer!

Well, no mistake, the next few months and years are gonna get interesting, especially for the North County.  In typical SLO County fashion, they've known about the dropping water table for 20 plus years and did nothing.  (Not to mention the Regional Water Quality Control Board that should have been concerned about, uh, water quality, especially when the quality of the water starting turning into dust?)  So now the piper has arrived demanding to be paid.  And it ain't gonna be pretty.  I have two words for everyone involved in what's gonna go down now:  Los Osos.  

In the meantime, for all the peasants in the path of the Khans, I can only say, relax, don't worry.  Who needs water when you have PomWonderful and wine to drink and Fiji water to bathe in?  Quel luxury!  



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This from a new (to me) poet, David Baker, an Ohio resident for over twenty-five years, lives and gardens in Granville, is a professor of English at Denison University and editor for The Kenyon Review.  So sayeth the back of his new paperback, his 9th collection, "Never-ending Birds."  Available at your nearest bookstore. 


The greater the lesser, the cars bulked up
and armored for the exurban, panic-
room set, for whom a wide wheelbase
is a military presence on the highway,
superior -- if insecure -- in its security.
A strip of highway, and then they blow by.
And the long blast aftereffect, like the pitch
that flies by the same name, the brush-back
warning shot of a little chin music, what
the veterans call from the dugout.
All you see is a wing then feel the whir.

They're out there now, the lesser the faster,
each fury-borne blur with a ruby ribbon
at the throat of the meanest thing
on wings, diving to suckle at sugar-
water tubes we dangle from our pin oaks,
stealing sips from coral bells or the pink
hoods and human poisons of a foxblove.
We love to watch them.  Though watch, precisely,
isn't right.  They shoot, dart, flipper away
at astonishing rates --seventy-five wing-
and twelve heartbeats per second, unless

courting during which the tenuous wing-
member vibrates two hundred times a tick.
All we catch is a pencil-line fading-
in-water escape.  or the rare instance
of a landing, when one whirs to a pine bough
-- blue finger, with a beak -- then back, back
to bombing each other, bumping windows.
What drives them if not hunger's hundred shapes,
hatred, thirst, mania, survival, force of habit?
Each is greater than the last, according to
the laws of compensation and revenge.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Coffee's Ready!

Next Saturday, August 17, from noon to 4 pm. SLO Roasted Coffee at 1172 Los Olivos Ave, in Los Osos will be hold another Open House, coffee tasting and roasting demonstration.  There'll be coffee pairing with yummy pastries from Apple Farm, music, raffle prizes. SLO Roasted Coffee had one of these tastings open house at Christmastime last year and it was a wonderful event.  Great chance to taste some of their newest coffees, including Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, whatever that is. 

Monday, August 05, 2013

McPoor, Inc.

Calhoun's Can(n)ons for August 5, 2013

How much extra would you be willing to pay for a Big Mac if that extra amount got the person handing you your burger above the Federal poverty level income?

That's the question The Daily Beast asked on their website and they installed a McPoverty Calculator that lets you try out the number of pennies needed to accomplish that feat.  ( )

It's a timely question since many of McDonald's and other fast food workers from KFC and Burger King are staging protest strikes in several cities around the country and Congress is being urged to raise the minimum wage, which the Census Bureau sets at $23,000 for a family of four.

Naturally, McDonald's, which made $5 billion in profits this year, cried poor and declared that if their workers got a pay raise, they'd go broke and have to shutter their restaurants and throw people out of work. They even went to far as to partner with Visa on a website with what they must have thought was a helpful line-item budget for their  poverty-wage workers.  Their helpful advice was to get a second job, spend $0 for heating and pay $600 for rent.  All of which gave comedians a field day and caused a good many people to blow their McCoffee through their noses at McDonald's arrogant, clueless Marie Antoinette presumptions. ($600 for rent?  In New York City?  Really?)

Meanwhile, the usual suspects showed up:  Conservative Talking Point Pols declared that these minimum wages are just fine for these kinds of jobs since they're being held by teenagers earning extra money for school. This was followed by Bleeding Heart Liberals pointing out that the average fast-food worker is 29 years-old and many of those have families to feed. Then the discussion degenerated into the usual contemptuous rant about "moochers" who shouldn't have kids they can't support. All followed by  conservatives' favorite false narrative about "job creators, " a narrative that fails to understand that the wealthy CEO of McDonald's isn't the job creator, the minimum-wage worker with a few extra coins in his jeans is the real job creator, since he doesn't park his money in offshore accounts, he spends it on more goods and services, all of which drives our demand and supply economy.              

Also lost in the squabbling is the unmistakable fact that America has tragically shipped its well-paying jobs overseas, leaving it a low-wage service economy and turned itself into Detroit -- A hollowed out shell with the income disparity between the few haves and the many have-nots reaching historic and unsustainable limits. Even rapper Jay Z,  a man who knows something about vast wealth and income disparity, observed on Bill Maher's "Real Time" show, that he didn't want to scare the white folks, well, scare 'em just a little, but the racial and economic disparity in this country will ultimately lead to problems since you can crush people just so far and then you've got real trouble. A sentiment expressed by Voltaire 150 years ago when he aptly observed, "History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up." 

While fast food workers are wearing sneakers, not wooden shoes, the destabilizing stairway remains.  As does the Basic Question: What kind of society do We The People want to live in?  Detroit?  Or MiddleVille, USA, where a person working full time takes home a living wage that can support himself and his family. A place where society's wealth returns to the stabilizing middle, where honest workers, not Wall Street Gamblers, have real value and get the breaks. 

So what does it take to begin to create that decent society? That's the question The Daily Beast  asked: How much extra for a Big Mac are you willing to pay to ensure that the person handing you your food has a chance at a better life?  According to their McCalculator, it's twenty cents.

Twenty cents.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This lovely, lovely poem is from "The Rattle Bag," and extraordinary poetry collection edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, and is by Harry Edmund Martinson from the Swedish, translated by Robert Bly.

Dusk in the Country

The riddle silently sees its image.  It spins evening
among the motionless reeds.
There is a frailty no one notices
there, in the web of grass.

Silent cattle stare with green eyes.
They mosey in evening calm down to the water.
and the lake holds its immense spoon
up to all the mouths.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Lovin' It Yet?

Minimum wage workers at various McDonald's are staging a protest over their crappy minimum wage which keeps them working full time but getting poverty wages.  Conservatives claim that McJobs like those at McDonald's are held by teenagers.  Liberals point out that the average worker is 29 years old, likely married and even working full time is still at the poverty level for a family of four. 

McDonald's had a profit somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 billion last year, so it's certainly clear that they COULD raise wages for their workers, if they weren't so greedy. But since they are so greedy, like most of their corporate brethren, to get workers a pay hike, they claim they'd have to charge more for their crappy, artery-clogging, diabetes-causing McFood, (since the CEO's couldn't possibly take so much as one penny less of their gazillion dollar salaries and perks) .  So over at The Daily Beast, there's a McPoverty Calculator.

If you click on the link, you can plug in how much extra you'd pay for a Big Mac to get McDonald's workers a wage that had a shot of getting them closer to a living wage.  Go ahead.  Take the challenge.  It's a real shock to find out how little it takes to help someone else live a more decent life. (And, by the way, help the economy, since low-wage workers put that money immediately back into the economy, not into off-shore accounts.)

It's also a shock to find out that a Big Mac Costs $4.56.  Are you kidding me?  $4.56?