Thursday, January 31, 2013

God Bless The Child, Part Duh

Oh, now, this is getting silly.  You know how it is?  You have this Weird Uncle Harold and nobody wants him around because he keeps peeing on the carpet and chewing food with his mouth open, and insists on bringing his mistress to Sunday dinner, which upsets his wife no end, and causes everyone to roll their eyes and clamp their jaws tight.  Embarrassing.  Guy’s embarrassing ,but you can’t not invite him because, well, he’s still kind of of family, sort of, but you sure wish he’s move to France or something, and do it sooner rather than later.

So, you’re stuck with the guy, but you don’t, under any circumstances, allow him to represent the family at public events.  In short, you don’t let him go out in public, except maybe with a paper bag on his head.

Our Board of Supervisors is in a similar predicament with one of their members, Supervisor Gibson, who created a big stupid mess when he had an affair with his direct-hire assistant, then huddled with the County to hustle her out of his office and into a made-up type job while her work went undone, but her salary kept coming, until the County made sure its legal butt was safe from legal problems, then Gibson brought his girlfriend back to work as his assistant again.  And a good many members of the public said, “Whaaaa????”  And had a cow.

In cases of that kind, the usual behavior of Boards who have one of their colleagues behaving badly, is to pull an Uncle Herman – roll their eyes, clamp their jaws, smile a great deal and speak in bland generalities about “moving forward,” while quietly shoving their behaving-badly colleague into the background and praying he’ll stay quiet and out of sight until his term is over. And above all, they move heaven and earth to backbench their miscreant colleague in order to keep him out of the wider public eye

Ah, but not our BOS.  Oh, Nossir!  They voted to have Gibson  represent the County on the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Board. And since  word of his ridiculous “arrangement” has already preceded him to Sacramento, you can be sure there’ll be some general snickering and eye rolling up north, none of it very likely to reflect well on SLOTown. 

True, during the vote, new Supervisor Debbie Arnold voted against the appointment , the second time she’s tangled with the 4-1 Board , the first time over voting Gibson into the Vice Chairman position, thereby indicating her maverick-y willingness to  refuse to lock-step with her fellow Sups.  And, yes the hearing on the appointment did allow the public time to once again stand at the podium and wash Gibson’s dirty laundry in public and excoriate him and the Board and call for his resignation.

All of which was utterly ignored, of course. So Uncle Herman . . . excuse me . . . Supervisor Gibson’s grand career moves ever forward unscathed, enabled by so many willing hands. 

Truly, truly . . . God bless the child . . .

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

One of my favorite poets, Billy Collins, from his book "Picnic, Lightning," available in paperback in your local store. Support your favorite poets.  Buy one of their books today.

Looking West

Just beyond the flower garden at the end of the lawn
the curvature of the earth begins,

sloping down from there
over the length of the country

and the smooth surface of the Pacific
before it continues across the convex rice fields of Asia

and, rising, inclines over europe
and the bulging, boat-dotted waters of the

finally reaching the other side of the house
where it comes up behind a yellow grove of forsythia

near a dilapidated picnic table,
then passes unerringly under the spot

where I am standing, hands in my pockets,
feet planted firmly on the ground.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lilly Tomlin was right:

Lilly once noted, “No matter how cynical I get, I can’t keep up.  And the NRA wants more and more people to be armed, everywhere, at all times?  Too many Americans have been watching too many Rambo movies and self identifying with Rambo, when, in truth, they’re actually Mr. Magoo. An armed Mr. Magoo, which is a very, very bad combination. And the odd thing is the people busy shooting themselves in the feet don't seem to understand what the basic problem is.  Excerpt from Reader Supported News (RSN)

5 People Shot at 3 Different Gun Shows on Gun Appreciation Day

By Adam Peck, ThinkProgress
22 January 13
f the gun advocates behind this year's inaugural Gun Appreciation Day had hoped to use the day's festivities to build support for their anti-regulation platform, they are going to have to wait another year.
Emergency personnel had to be called to the scene of the Dixie Gun and Knife Show in Raleigh, North Carolina after a gun accidentally discharged and shot three people at the show's safety check-in booth just after 1 pm. Both victims were transported to an area hospital, and the Raleigh Fire Department announced that the show would be closed for the rest of the day.
Gun Appreciation Day is the combined effort of dozens of far-right organizations who have been vocal opponents of gun control advocates' efforts to reduce the number of dangerous weapons on our streets and prevent them from ending up in the hands of people with criminal backgrounds or a history of mental illness. In response to a renewed push for sensible reforms of gun laws after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, groups like the National Rifle Association and the founders of Gun Appreciation Day have instead advocated for an increase in the number of guns in public places like elementary schools, arguing - falsely - that more guns will mean more protection for individuals.
But today's unfortunate accident, which took place at a safety check in surrounded by hundreds of people who presumably have at least some training on how to properly handle a dangerous weapon, undermines that case. Earlier this week, an armed security officer at a Michigan charter school accidentally left his gun in a restroom that is regularly used by students as young as five years old.
A representative from Political Media, the group responsible for organizing Gun Appreciation Day, was not immediately available for comment.
Two similar incidents occurred at entirely separate gun shows in the Midwest, one in the Cleveland suburb of Medina, Ohio and the other at the state fairgrounds in Indianapolis, Indiana. In Ohio, the local ABC affiliate reports that one individual was brought to a hospital by EMS, and in Indiana Channel 8 WISH says that an individual shot himself in the hand while trying to reload his gun in the show parking lot. That brings the tally to 4 victims of gun violence so far at three different gun shows during the country’s first Gun Appreciation Day.

On Another Note

President Obama's inaugural speech was rightly lauded on so many points, but one that I think got slight shrift was his reference to we, the people, being Citizens.  Citizens. That designation has gone under the radar for so long.  We've touted our "freedoms," our individuality, our rights, and bewailed our "moochers" and "takers," (while mooching and taking, I might add) but we have rarely discussed our duties as citizens, a contract we make with each other to be both beneficiaries of the riches of The Commons AND our responsibility and duty to see to the continued health of The Commons.  Citizens are adults who see to it their government acts responsibly in their names, citizens vote, citizens work to see that justice is done, that the community is ruled by law, not the mob, citizens strive to open up the bounties of The Commons to more people, not restrict it's bounty to only a few, citizens are involved in their country's civil life, in their community's life because citizens understand that their government is them, their country is theirs and they need to continue making it a more perfect union.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

God Bless The Child . . .

Good old SLO County.  There is always something splendidly delicious in watching the way they can weasel themselves into spectacularly compromising twists  in order to accommodate people in power.

Case in point:  Supervisor Bruce Gibson’s girlfriend is now back in her old $89,000 a year job as Gibson’s legislative aide. 

If you recall, when the affair was made public, Bruce and the country frantically hustled her out into some other department where she continued to get paid out of the Supervisor’s budget while pretending to be doing some other job, while her original job was supposedly done by Bruce or wasn’t done at all. 

And Bruce was all apologetic, hand-wringy in public but ,according to County Counsel, behind the scenes he was pushing since Dec 17th to get her back at her old job, please, please.  But the County balked on account of being afraid of getting their asses sued since Bruce was sleeping with his employee, which is supposed to be a big, stupid no-no.

Oh what to do, what to do? 

Well, never fear.  While turning a blind eye to the ethical ramifications of such an arrangement, the County was ever ready to serve the Supervisor.  So County Counsel cooked up a legal agreement for the couple to sign that included a release that would absolve the County for any al all liability claims, past and future, that might arise from this little “affair of the heart.”  The document does include pledges that keep Gibson from “making decisions regarding the pay of legislative assistants, and gives the County unannounced access to the duo’s phones and computers.” Oh, and they also signed pledges not to go all kissey-face at the workplace or engage in long, loving looks across a crowded room at work-related functions.

So, problem solved! Once again, the County has done it’s Uriah Heepish best to make sure those in positions of power will be accommodated. 

True, had the couple in question been some lower level duo, it’s likely that one or the other would have been demoted or fired, or certainly actually transferred , not just “pretend transferred.”  But that’s why God blessse the child that has his own. . .

And true, this agreement doesn’t prevent a lawsuit from some other employee (you know, the “little people”) from suing the county for accommodating or creating a discriminatory or hostile workplace, as in, “Hey, why can’t I sleep with my employees, too, just like Bruce?”

But, not to worry.  The county is only interested in creating legal protections for itself and carving out legal loopholes for the powerful .  All other can just eat it. 

As for the “ethical” problems with all this.  Well, “community activist,” (and long time commentor on this blog) Lynette Tornatzky was quoted in the Tribune story saying, “Great! Let’s get her (Aspuro) back in there as soon as possible,” and called Aispuro “incredibly professional.”  While Marshall Ochlyski of Los Osos said the issue was “whether Gibson can restore trust among the residents of the 2nd District.” And the Tribune reported that Gibson, “Asked whether he intends to run for a third term next year [said] it is too early to make that decision.”

“Incredibly professional?  No.  Incredible professionals aren’t stupid enough to sleep with their bosses.  “Trust?” Anyone who’s watched Gibson from day one knows the answer to that question. “A third term” for Gibson?  Well, near as I can see, Gibson’s answer to “the public” in this affair has been, “Go to hell. This is none of your business.” So, if the public is smart, their response will be, “Ditto back atcha, Bruce.”

As for the County, well, they can always be depended on to respond to power with a great big, “YESSIR! Anything you ask, SIR!” 

Which is why watching SLO County in full weasel mode is so deliciously entertaining.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This by W.S. Merwin, from “180 more, Extraordinary Poems for Every Day,” selected and edited by Billy Collins.

To the Dust of the Road

And in the morning you are up again

with the way leading through you for a while

longer if the wind is motionless when

the cars reach where the asphalt ends a mile

or so below the main road and the wave

you rise into is different every time

and you are one with it until you have

made your way up to the top of your climb

and brightened in that moment of that day

and then you turn as when you rose before

in fire or wind from the ends of the earth

to pause there and you seem to drift away

on into nothing to lie down once more

until another breath brings you to birth

Friday, January 18, 2013

Wheel-less Joe

Calhoun's Cannons for Jan 18, 2013

Oh, Lance, just go away.  Shoo.  You're a liar and a cheat and a fraud.  Worse,  you sued and trashed and defamed and injured people who dared tell the truth about you. You effectively turned your sport into a laughingstock and brought your own charity into disrepute.  Now you run and plop yourself down on America's premiere confessional  -- Oprah's couch -- and boo-hoo that you're so sorry and now can you please be allowed to return to racing, please, please?

No.  You can't.  You're an idiot. Go away.

Good Lord.  Have we all gone mad?  I mean,  bicycle racing? Really?  Well, Lance is not alone.  The Baseball Hall of fame recently inducted exactly zero new players because the proposed list was nothing but dopers and cheats.  It's a punishment uniquely suited: In a sport obsessed with stats, the numbers racked up by these steroid-filled sausages are now forever tainted.  Though some of the more addicted fans are still hedging.  After all, they say, a number is a number.  Yes, it is.  So why not just make up all the numbers in the first place? After all, once you divorce a true, clean performance from a number, it's all meaningless.

In 1919, when Shoeless Joe Jackson had to admit that he fixed a world series for money, the world was genuinely shocked.  How quaint.  Nowadays, nobody is shocked because everybody knows that it's all about the money. That's what drives our whole sick, faked-up sports enterprise.  Not the sport itself, not sportsmanship, not personal best, not achieving a goal.  Money.  Win the Tour de France and you're worth a bundle, baby.  Lose it and you're a nobody lost in the pack, working a day job so you can buy flat tire repair kits.

Bulk up and smash your brain into early senility (or brain-damaged suicide) on the gridiron and get that million dollar contract.  Ruin your body with steroids to get those out-of-the-ball-park hits and the majors come calling with sacks of money. Do neither, simply play the game clean, and you're bupkis. That's the way the fans like it.  More, more, more, higher, faster, harder. The more violence, blood, and excitement, the more the branded merchandise sells!  And if there's a price to pay, well you can be sure the fans won't be paying it.  The athletes will.  They're our bought-and-paid-for gladiators and they're expendable once their sell-by date passes.  

Grist for the great American Corporate/Entertainment mill.  Movie stars dying of alcoholism are jeered at on the blogosphere and  splashed all over the tabloids because their dying sells those papers, baby.  A deranged bullet-through-the-heart football player requests his brain be autopsied to prove the obvious: football head injuries are killing the players.  He hopes maybe his death will bring about a change in the skyboxes.  It won't.

 And Lance Armstrong, not content with the extraordinary feat of overcoming cancer and winning a Tour de France, has to dope so he can do it again and again and again, like some coke addicted rat pushing the food-pellet bar, unable to stop, until it dies of sheer exhaustion.  And the fans and the sponsors and the press ate it up, fed his addiction, wanted more, more, more and willed themselves to believe that this was all true because it was such a wonderful fairy story with such a happy ending.  Trompe  l'oeil as Triomphe du monde! 

 Instead of knowing it was all too good to be true, knowing that life doesn't operate like that, knowing that the Tour de France is such a brutally hard race that the odds are stacked against anyone winning it twice ever, let alone winning it seven times in a row.  

And so we end up on Oprah's Couch and America is asked once again, Do we keep the whole killing fake fantasy game going?  Or call it? Since it's all about the money, I know which way America will roll. 

But for me, it's simple.  Lance, here's a paper bag.  Put it over your head.  You're an idiot.  Now, go away.  Thank you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dem Ol’ Modem Blues

My four year-old Motorola Modem finally bit the dust.  Poor thing worked beautifully for years before going to heaven. 

So I trooped down to the ATT store and bought another one.  Plugged it in. Up popped the ID box, so I put in the 6 digit code and the Modem Access number and was good to go.

Until the next morning when I turned on the computer and the little yellow warning sign popped up on the bottom bar.  When I clicked on that it told me the PPoE had failed.  So I logged on manually, plugged in the ID numbers and was good to go.

Until the next morning when I turned on the computer and the little yellow warning sign popped up.  Called the ATT tech line and spoke with a very nice man named Steve or Joey or Fred in Mumbai.  He marched me through the same log on procedure that I had done two mornings ago, then assured me positively, absolutely that would fix the problem once and for all.  Which it did.

Until the next morning when I turned on the computer and the little yellow warning sign popped up.  Called the ATT tech line and got Joey this time and I explained the problem.  So he proceeded to march me through the exact same steps and positively, absolutely assured me the problem was now fixed totally forever.

Until the next morning when the little yellow warning sign popped up again.  This time I spoke to Carmen who concluded that something must be wrong with the modem; somehow, for some reason, it wasn’t holding onto the log-in information, and suggested I take it back to the ATT store and exchange it.  Which I did.

The new modem worked perfectly for a day or two then up popped the yellow warning flag.  So I was back on the phone to Fred in Mumbai who, yes, walked me through the same procedure and assured  me absolutely, positively the problem was solved. Which it was.

Until the next morning. 

This time I drove down to the ATT store, walked into the midst of a gaggle of fine young gentlemen, flung my arms wide and said, “I want to talk to the biggest, baddest, geekiest, nerdiest highest tech person in the house.”  A nice young man stepped up to claim that title and I explained what was happening with the Ghost Modem from Hell.  He was totally stumped. Had never heard of anything like that happening.  When I asked who within the whole ATT organization  could I call and talk to who might know what was going wrong.  “Oh,” said he cheerfully, “That would be the Tech units”

In  Mumbai.

One final call got me Carmen in Somewhere and while she was stumped, she did manage to route the log-ins through another program in my computer and so far it’s working. 

Until it doesn’t. 


In an effort to make it easier for readers to log on and comment, on advice of another blogger, I decided to risk removing the Captcha requirement.  Which was fine, until it wasn’t, and a spam bot showed up.  So back goes the Captcha.  Sorry for the inconvenience.  I’ve left the comment section on “anyone” since there’s a lot of anonnymice who are not Crazies but are still anonnymice who might like to comment but are scared to do so.  And, like Spam itself, nothing deters some of the crazier Sewer Crazies.  So Captcha at this point will have to do with hopes that solves the problem.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

For a frosty morning in a time of crazy weather.  For thinking about living in the future we have made with our own busy hands, a catastrophe we are already starting to swim in.  This by Phillis Levin, from "Poetry 180, A Turning Back to Poetry," Selected and edited by Billy Collins.

The Blizzard

Now that the worst is over, they predict
Something messy and difficult, though not
Life-threatening.  Clearly we needed

To stock up on water and candles, making
Tureens of soup and things that keep
When electricity fails and phone lines fall.

Igloos rise on air conditioners, gargoyles
Fly and icicles shatter.  Frozen runways,
Lines in Markets, and paralyzed avenues

Verify every fear.  But there is warmth
In this sudden desire to sleep,
To surrender to our common condition

With joy, watching hours of news
Devoted to weather.  People finally stop
To Talk to each other -- the neighbors

We didn't know were always here.
Today they are ready for business,
Armed with a new vocabulary,

Casting their saga in phrases as severe
As last night's snow: damage assessment,
Evacuation, emergency management.

The shift of the wind matters again,
And we are so simple, so happy to hear
The scrape of a shovel next door.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What's In A Word, Anyway?

 Calhoun's Cannons for January 11th, 2013

" When I use a word, "Humpty Dumpty said," in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
                               Alice in Wonderland's Through the Looking-Glass

The new movie, "Zero Dark Thirty" has opened in theatres near you and certain folks in Washington are having a cow.  Seems that the movie, a retelling of the hunt for, finding and killing of Osama bin Laden suggests that it was "torture" that gave the CIA the needed information that led to bin Laden; No waterboarding, no bin Laden.

That had been the Republican storyline from Creepy Veep Cheney who, you could just tell, was all a-tingle when he growlingly announced, like some cheap-suited gunsel, that sometimes it was necessary to go to the "dark side." Heh-heh.  He and his PNAC NeoCon cronies were all thrilled with the Jack Bauer "24" macho-man idea of torture and had their own manicured, soft handed Justice Department lawyers parsing out and approving each and every "medically supervised" turn of the screw.  And, now, like very bad pennies, and despite having history proved  them so wrong on so many levels, this same gang of Zombies are still turning up on the Sunday Yak-Yak Shows to defend their appalling record on torture and again flog their old, failed PNAC (Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran) schemes. Which always prompts my hollered query, "Can't talk-TV find anyone else but these wrong-headed dinosaurs?" 

Well, apparently not.  As far as the media is concerned, even Republican idea men who stopped evolving in the 10th century and are stuck in re-run mode are apparently the  only guest on the right they can find.  So we keep getting one endless rerun of  out-of-date  Republican Pax Americana with a gun.  And a waterboard.

Meanwhile, Democrats are also having a cow. Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats have always contended that torture didn't work, that "no significant information" about the courier, the key link to bin Laden, came from detainees after they were subjected to torture.  Oh, excuse me, "coercive techniques."  They maintain that information about bin-Laden's courier came from a detainee before he was tortured.   Pardon, I meant to say,  "subjected to coercive interrogation techniques." And that the movie gives a totally false picture of what really happened.  Furthermore, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, is demanding that senior CIA official, Michael Morell, who acted as a consultant on the film,  'splain himself for a message he sent to CIA employees that "some information" leading to the Al Qaeda chief  "came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques." 

Because, lurking in the middle of all this is an interesting, unarguable fact:  One unknown man, one unknown name -- bin Laden's courier -- turned out to be the one tiny key that lay in plain sight for years, yet turned out to be the one who unlocked the door to bin Laden's compound.

Which allows Feinstein and others on the Intelligence Committee to claim that "no significant information about the courier came from detainees after they were subjected to coercive techniques" because  "the detainee who provided crucial information about the courier in 2004, identified by U.S. officials as Hassan Ghul, did so before he was subjected to coercive interrogation techniques.  He was never waterboarded." All of which lands Mr. Morell in hot water and the defenders of torture on the hot seat.    

So there we sit.  Did torture work? Or did it hinder and delay? No? Yes?  And in the middle of it all, weasel-wording Humpty Dumpty and the meaning of the word "torture" and "enhanced interrogation techniques." And what, if anything, does "significant" mean, anyway? 

In his extraordinary book, "The Looming Tower; al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," Lawrence Wright made one heartbreaking, furious, frustrating fact very clear: In tracking bin-Laden and al-Qaeda, everything was both significant and insignificant at the same time. Information is information.  And whether information that is obtained by torture will turn out to be "significant" or "insignificant' can't be known until after the fact. 
Which means that spook-hunters have to be jigsaw puzzle experts, tapestry-weavers,  psychics, psychologists, sly and subtle master interrogators and  time-travelers, moving magically into the future on a thread from the past.

Or they rely hard slogging grunt-work, or on sheer dumb luck, or both -- one needle stumbled upon in a painstakingly sifted haystack.  Or not found, and because not found, the twin towers fall and thousands die.

And so we're left with war crimes on America's books, with only low level prosecutions completed, thereby assuring that no one in high office will be  held to account because America is always conveniently in need of "moving on."  And the only question left is, are we still enhancing our interrogations? 

In  a drone and spook-filled world engaged in limitless war-by-any-other-name, who knows?  I certainly don't, do you?    


Sunday, January 06, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

By Robert Blly, from "Poetry 180, A turning Back to Poetry," anthology edited by Billy Collins. Available in paperback from your local bookstore. Go buy it today.  Get more poems into your life. 

Gratitude to Old Teachers

When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked.  Be we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?

Water that once could take no human weight --
We were students then -- holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Dat Ol' Time Religions

The Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church in San Luis Obispo will be holding a six-week series of lectures on Islam, Hinduism, Judiasm, Buddhism and Christianaity.

The series will be held at the church at 17021 Fredericks St in San Luis and will start Sunday, Jan 6 at 10 a.m. and will continue on the next six Sundays at 10 a.m. as well.  A series of experts will discuss the various traditions and beliefs of these world's great religions.  If you wanted to expand your spiritual knowledge, this is an excellent way to get a start.

Jan 6:  Tony Criscuolo on the Vedic tradition
Jan 13: Cal Poly religious studies professor Stephen Lloyd moffett on the split between Catholic and Eastern Orthodox in 1054.
Jan 27: Deborah Wilhelm from the Monterey Diocese on  Mary's place in Catholic theology and the role of women in the Catholic Church
Feb 3: Naiyerah Kolkailah, president of the Islamic Society of SLO County, on the Quran
Feb 10: Sozan Peter Schellin-sensi on Zen Buddhism.

For more information call Heather Ross at 544-2133 or email her at or check the website.