Thursday, November 28, 2013

Harvest Blessings

Blessed of the lord be . . . for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills.                                                 Deuteronomy 33:13-15

Wishing you all a lovely Thanksgiving Day and a happy Hanukkah. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Frat Follies, Redux

Another major bit of stupidity from Cal Poly "Greeks."  Some goofus dreamed up a "Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos" party, which hit the papers and everyone properly rolled their eyes and said, "Oh, Jeeze, not again?" 

Yes, again.  Who could forget another party at Halloween that saw some twits decorating the party site with a Confederate flag, a noose and some racial references that nobody with half a brain could miss.  Wink-nudge, wink nudge, know what I mean?

And so Cal Poly has to rush around and help mitigate the kind of "message" that these idiotic pranks have on a diverse student body that does, indeed, get the message. And everyone is left wondering, are all Cal Poly students this stupid, or is that gene somehow self-selected in kids who join the whole "Greek" culture? Or maybe wonder if kids nowadays are just cruel as well as clueless?

All possibilities, of course, but I wonder if there's a third answer:  Kids nowadays may not know real history, especially when it comes to how minorities have fared both in this country or in the world.  Could anybody who has studied Jim Crow America ever claim that there's harmless humor in juxtaposing a Confederate flag and a noose? Or been very familiar with the real history of Native Americans (which means do more than just watch Disney's "Pocahontas.") and then think it'd be swell fun to have a Nava-Ho party? And after studying the Holocaust, would the idea of hosting a Bergen-Belsen Bash (Nazi uniforms and black and white prisoner garb required) ever occur to anybody sane?

Unlikely.  As it is, I don't think kids nowadays have a good grounding in history.  I know I sure didn't when I was in high school.  Back then, utter denial was the order of the day.  Yes, yes, we skimmed over Custer and the taming of the west, and slavery, but in the most superficial way.  And while I was living through a real-time Black History lesson (the civil rights struggle) it wasn't until I returned to  college much later, that the University required at least one class in Native American Studies or Black Studies.  (Now, I'm sure there's other disciplines in Women's studies, Chicano studies, etc. available).  Those classes and extensive reading on my own, gave me a far clearer picture of what being a minority in a majority culture is like.  How history can be used to distort and deny, how images and coded language can be used to send a message and so maintain control and how a smiley-faced fake history can maintain the status quo. 

And how, if all you know about "Indians" is dressing up as a turkey in your grade school Thanksgiving pageant, how easy it is to think Nava-Hos is funny.

Universities and Jr. Colleges find a real need to require students to take remedial math and English classes since many students just aren't prepared for college course work.  I would suggest maybe Cal Poly might want to offer a required workshop to all incoming freshman that would include Cultural Awareness, the dangers of alcohol abuse and a personal safety refresher lesson on rape/date rape.

The kids involved in this latest piece of nonsense are, I'm sure, good kids, who would not knowingly be cruel to anyone.  But because they really didn't know much of anything, it was easy to cross lines they were never taught were there.  When they know better, they'll do better.

Like all kids everywhere.    


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday's Muse

                                The world is charged with the grandeur of God. 
                                      It will flame out like shining from shook foil; . . . 
                                               Gerard Manley Hopkins  1844-1889

Friday, November 22, 2013

Where Were You?

Calhoun's Cannons

Fifty years ago today.  Seems odd to say that, but live long enough and there you are, saying "Fifty years ago . . ."

The media will spend the day filled with remembrance of JFK's assassination. It was a generational, historical and transformational watermark, an act that in many ways symbolized and created the new era to come. There was Before, then there was After.  And everything had  changed, changed utterly.

I was attending Art Center School, in L.A. and had taken off a semester to work in the shipping department of U.S. Electrical Motors. (They made all kinds of electrical motors, from tiny submersible pumps, small motors of all kinds, up to behemoths that needed cranes to lift.) On that November day I was in the shipping office, typing away at the Bill of Lading desk, when one of the linemen came into the office and announced that the President had been shot.

In the stunned  silence, one of my co-workers across the room, an older woman named Ruth, who was a self-declared political conservative and ill-disguised bigot, laughed out loud and clapped her hands and gleefully blurted out,  "Thank God somebody finally killed that son of a bitch!"

In the absolute, utter shocked silence that followed her remark, all heads turned to look at her.  She suddenly came to herself and realized what she had secretly felt was now out there in the room, in all its ugly, grotesque inappropriateness.  Embarrassed, she hastily started a muddled back-pedaling, but it was too late.  All of us in the room had heard what we had heard. 

Ruth's remarks truly shocked me at the time.  I didn't realize it then, but I had been given a glimpse into a strain of  reactionary darkness that ran then and still runs through American politics.  It's the bone deep racist, reactionary, paranoid, irrational hatred and malice, often hatred and malice for its own sake, that festers beyond reason, beyond  policy, beyond politics or practical reality. Ruth's remarks were not some isolated oddity either.  They would have been welcome in many areas of the country and certainly in enclaves of the unreconstructed South, a fact that had the Secret Service worried even as Kennedy's plane winged towards Dallas.  It was a face I would see again and again as the years went by and the country was roiled with rapid change and it's reactionary counterpoint.  It's a face I'm seeing now as our politics turns dangerously poisonous once again.

For the rest of it, as I had no TV, the ongoing, daily wall-to-wall visual coverage that many remember passed me by.  I kept up with the news via newspaper, radio and Life Magazine, media that had none of  the same visceral emotional impact that live TV must have had.  It wasn't until much later, in TV re-runs or documentaries that I saw the many famous moments, after the fact -- Walter Cronkite taking off his glasses,  Oswald being shot -- as "moving pictures."  And all of those famous scenes were experienced later, in the cool of time passed rather than real-time.  So my TV-less experience was very different, far less visceral from the way so many others experienced this event.  Just how different it was became clear to me much later when I witnessed the Challenger disaster and 9/11 on TV, in real time.

But one thing that did remain in my memory of that time was the feeling of  just how wrong this act was, how utterly wrong it all was.  I suspect the unease I felt was because I was beginning to understand just what the underlying message of that killing was.   This, Oswald's bullet seemed to say, This is how I negate all that this country stands for.  This is how easily I can change your rules, change your government, change your life, change your history.  This is the New Rule, Baby.  This is your future.

Fifty years ago today.  There was Before.  There was After.  It's a long time gone.  Yet not gone at all.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Call Somebody, Please?

Will somebody please permanently take George Zimmerman's guns away from him, at least?  That boy's out of control.  Got money problems, got anger management problems, wife-girlfriend-abuser problems, stalk-and-shoot problems.  Got driving-too-fast  problems. Do we need to start a George Zimmerman Betting Pool, gambling on the date when he'll kill again? In "self defense," of course.

Seems that boy can't stay out of the news.  Or out of trouble.  He's like a train just determined to have a wreck somewhere. And now everyone within a mile of him has to be on tenterhooks keeping out of his way.  "Look out!  Here comes George and his AK-47! Run Away!"  Need to have a judge somewhere declare he has to stay 100 yards away from everyone on the planet. That might help.  Until the NRA gifts him with a sniper rifle.

For sure, the NRA loves the guy, no doubt about it.  He's their poster child, the best example of the Second Amendment they've got going.  The founding fathers would be proud.  Stand-your-ground, no matter where it is!  That's the ticket.  Just move that ground line anywhere you want it to be.  Lock and load.  It was her fault.  She yelled at me and I was in fear for my life.  Ker-BLAM!  I stalked him until he turned around and came back to confront me and scared me so I shot him in self-defense.  Ker-BLAM! I don't know why everyone's so upset.  What's the problem?

Obviously, the girls love this bad boy.  True, his wife got scared after an alleged altercation involving guns and threats and she decamped.  But pretty quickly he got a new girlfriend, until he allegedly pointed a shotgun at her and she called 911.  Funny how silly these women are.  Little 'ol shotgun.  What's the fuss about?

This time, however, the cops hauled him away, he spent the night in the hoosegow accused of felony aggravated assault and two misdemeanors.  The judge took away his guns, slapped a satellite monitor on him and instructions to stay away from the girlfriend. Then his wife served divorce papers on him while he was in jail, his enabling family had to cough up the $9,000 bail since, as the Orlando Sentinel reports, he's already $2.5 million in debt (legal fees from the Trayvon Martin killing).  Then the judge kicked him loose and he's now back on the streets declaring it was all his girlfriend's fault. 

Which is why I say, can somebody get this boy some help here?  Guy's got problems and those problems are looking for trouble.  Real trouble.  And I'm afraid he's gonna keep looking until he finds it. And somebody else is gonna die. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Simon Legree Problem

The new movie, "12 Years a Slave," is one of those amazing films that you may not like but should see.  Chiwetel Ejiofor turns in a stunning performance as Solomon Northrup, a free black man living in New York, who was tricked, kidnapped and sold as a slave.  After 12 years, he manages to secure his freedom, returned to his family, wrote the book the film is based on and lectured on his experience, working with the abolitionists to end slavery. 

Ejiofor's powerful, moving performance is the heart and soul of the film and when the movie keeps it's focus on him, it manages to capture the horrors of what he endured better than any film about the antebellum south that I can think of.  And it is through his eyes we can experience some of the vast cruelty that this "peculiar institution" inflicted on millions of human beings. It is a stunning performance, supported by many others, with Lupitta Nyong'o bringing in a powerful performance as a young slave who became the obsession of the white planter, played by Michael Fassbender.

And there, in Fassbender's performance, is where I kept tripping over The Simon Legree Problem:  How do you portray, in film, the slave owners without sliding into a smiley-faced "Gone With The Wind" dishonesty or tipping over into the Grand Guignol of purest melodrama -- whisker-twirling, teeth-gnashing, drooling, eye-rolling, scenery-chewing, sexual sadists-with-a-whip buffoonery? 

Fassbender's made a career of playing kinky, edgy, conflicted characters, but in this role, the director kept him stuck in Johnny One Note mode -- a drunken, weak sexually frustrated sadist stuck in a bad marriage who spent far too much screen time thrashing around fuming and grinding his teeth. If that's your opening note, you don't have anyplace to go from there before you have only frothing at the mouth left.

And that's always been the problem with films trying to portray the experience of slavery.  It wasn't the Simon Legrees that made this "peculiar institution" so evil; it was the quiet absolute erasure of humaness for a whole group of people -- all justified by Scripture and self-interested economics and the human capacity to live with cognitive dissonance. White southerners didn't see themselves as monsters.  Indeed not.  They considered themselves good Christians maintaining a social/economic structure they viewed as just and right. (And not just "southerners." The power and riches of America, both north and south, were built on the backs of slaves.  And to keep their economic hegemony, the south would start a civil war. ) And, Yes, they would acknowledge, there were some "Legrees" among them, but they were no-accounts.  "Decent" slave holders were "good" to their slaves.  After all, one should care for one's property like one would care for a fine horse or a brace of oxen.

And that, for me, is where this film kept getting derailed.  In spending too much time on Fassbender's psycho-social problems, the director distracted the audience from so many far-more telling scenes that better illustrated the real horrors.  For example, Ejiofor is sold to a kindly slaveholder, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  We watch as a female slave's two children are sold off in front of her.  Distressed, Cumberbatch also buys her. (She's wonderfully played by Adepero Oduyeone). She is still weeping when the two new purchases are brought to the plantation.  Cumberbatch's wife inquires why the new slave is weeping.  She is told that her children were sold away from her.  Cooly, and not unkindly, his wife says, Give her some food and she'll soon forget them.  The line is delivered with the kindly indifference one would use when speaking about a cow bawling for her newly removed calf.  Stop fussing. A little hay, and the creature will come right. 

You don't need to chew the furniture to portray the utter evil that underlay that calm scene. And so it went throughout the film.  As long as the camera stayed with Chiwetel's point of view, the audience could experience his horrifying journey in so many many little ways -- the betrayals, the loss of hope, the banality of indifferent brutality, the daily struggle to simply survive for another day, the utter denial of one's humanity.  All of which was, cumulatively, far more horrible than "Simon Legree's" scene-chewing brutalities.

Despite the Simon Legree Problem, the film is in so many ways, extraordinary, powerful, brave, deeply moving.  Come Academy Award time, Mr. Ejiofor will be at the top of the list..    

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This by Joann Rusch from the new book of poetry published by our own Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay.  It's a second publishing venture by Coalesce Press and is a rare and wonderful thing -- a lovely book of poetry by four talented local poets.  "Where our palm rest . . ." poems by local Beverly Boyd, Carol Alma McPhee, Joann Rusch, Bonnie Young is available at Coalesce.

Signals in Space

Doors have closed, but windows,
cracked by the cold, have opened to sun
since the cold spring years ago
when you drifted to the sea.

I've tried vision quests, Monk's jazz
and Billie Holiday.  I've met new men
and old monastics and fallen in love
with grandchildren and with Charlie Rose
on late night TV in the bed that fit
better with you.

Now that you're on the other side, do you
still have a passion for questions
without answers?  I pray no repose
of the soul for you, captured in a plot
of earth.  Rather, I wish you startling
skies, planets aligning, and now and then
a paraboloid homing between us. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gotta Room?

My, but SLOTowners are a civilized bunch.  At least the 100 or so who showed up last night at the City Council chambers were; well-spoken, smart, witty and courteous, even on an issue as controversial as the recent "home stay" controversy.

SLOTown has an ordinance that forbids "vacation rentals," any home rented less than 30 consecutive days.  The ordinance is in place to keep homes from being bought up by speculators and turned into short-term Animal-Houses Isla Vista Summer Party Houses.  Forty percent of SLOTown's homes are long-term rentals -- in large measure Cal Poly students, but also many adult "workers" who also rent. The rental percent is a high enough number to keep neighborhoods in churn and homeowners unsettled and in fear that any change in the rules could send their neighborhoods into one long frat-house decline.

Which accounted for two groups to show up for a showdown.  The larger a group called itself SLO Host and were private homeowners who, for years, have been quietly renting out a room or two in their house for tourists.  (Or, in many cases, offering their extra bedrooms for visiting musicians coming to the community as part of the Festival Mosaic and other cultural events.)  This practice really took off with the internet and companies such as Airbnb.  Tourists could now easily book a room in somebody's home and likely save a bit over a higher end hotel, but also have the experience of staying with a host family.  Since this was all under the radar, unlike hotels/motels, the Home Stayers paid no Transient Occupancy Taxes.

 And, as the economy tanked, many more people found themselves needing the extra cash that came with "home stays." This was also all  part of what's being considered  "the new economy," the "sharing generation," the younger, internet-connected generation realizing that you don't necessarily need to "own" stuff; you can share/loan/rent and often end up with a far more interesting experience (and dollars in your pocket.)  All part of what's being called a Peer to Peer business model.

So lots of people throughout the town quietly welcomed travelers in violation of the vacation rental ordinances but with no discernable problems being reported until somebody complained. Nine someones, to be exact. Well, more like 4 non-specific complaints about the whole "home stay" idea in general, and 5 actual complaints with a specific address listed.  Among the complaints listed were the usual ones about parking, noise and this deliciously odd complaint  -- the apparently unsettling " problem" to one complainer of "strangers wandering the neighborhood."  This brought a few snickers since anyone using the public sidewalks, taking a stroll, walking the dog, visiting a friend, has the potential to be a "stranger wandering the neighborhood."  

On the "complainers" side of the issue, was a group of homeowners who are the "Residents for Quality Neighborhoods (RQN), a watchdog group mainly concerned with keeping neighborhoods for homeowners as part of an effort to keep those neighborhoods safe and stable, thereby protecting their homes and their property values. The RQNs  listed a series of sliding slope concerns, from "strangers wandering," to Frat Boy Animal House Isla Vista Summer Party Blowout disintegration of neighborhoods, drunken, loud foreigners wandering around at all hours, making noise, scaring the dogs, and other ills that can slowly grow from ordinance changes that aren't regulated carefully and can creep up on a neighborhood while nobody's looking.

In short, the room was filled with good arguments on all sides and filled to the brim with context, subtext and nuance and often unconscious reactions to our disturbed and disturbing zeitgeist:  There's ongoing  Town and Gown issues, a long simmering battle in SLOTown with a growing Cal Poly enrollment turning into the real elephant in the room.  And class divisions, "Haves" having the luxury of large homes that can be quietly rented out, while regular working people can't afford to even get into SLOTown's housing market. (Or, conversely the irony of former "Haves" financially needing to become inn keepers and housemaids in their own homes, servants waiting on paying customers from . . . eeeuuuu, France!)  Fear of  a permanently altered economy that's changing all the rules, turning "The Happiest Place on Earth" into a tourist playground for the rich, all others need not apply.  All forming around a changing demographic and generational mind-set that's new and unsettling and can't help to ramp up unspoken and often unrealistic anxieties.

Despite that potentially explosive stew, all the SLOTowners kept their admirable cool and the City Council moved quickly.  The general consensus was a kind of  "If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It" combined with, "Let's refine this ordinance carefully to allow this new business, watch it carefully (get some nice tax money), use our traditional nuisance ordinances if there's any problems, but keep the door firmly shut on a far bigger elephant -- 'vacation rentals.' Then see how it goes." 

So, if you're a SLOTowner with rooms to rent to travelers, you're good to go.  The fine print will be crafted and clarified.  If you live elsewhere and want to do the same, you'll have to check our local ordinances and go visit your city councils or the BOS.  Who knows, if this type of business works out well for everyone, it might go countywide.

It's a brave new world, a connected world, and The Happiest Place On Earth, whose economy is heavily dependent on the tourist dollar, needs to get with it.  So, stock the guest soaps and towels and little chocolates for the pillow and we'll soon become The Happy Inkeeper to the World.  

Bring 'em on!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This by Mary Oliver from her lovely, lovely 2012 collection, "A Thousand Mornings," (Penguin, 2012) available in paperback, so get down to your local bookstore.  Christmas is coming and your friends deserve a nice book of poems for the new year and this one's a gem.

Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don't say
it's easy, but
what else will do

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?
So let us go on, cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Movie Time

Robert Redford's new one-man movie, "All is Lost," is an  extraordinary tour de force.  There's a few words spoken by Redford reading from a letter at the beginning of the film and a one-word cri de coeur near the end.  The rest of the film is the sound of the sea, of water, of sounds made by a man on a deadly race against time and tide to survive against increasingly impossible odds.

Redford gives a powerful performance, the portrait of a self-sufficient, immensely competent man who methodically faces down each obstacle that arrives, stubbornly refusing to give in to despair or failure or panic,  bulldogging to the end with the quiet problem-solving determination of a test pilot in a broken jet hurtling to earth -- no panic, total focus, try this, try that, -- until, in the words of Tom Wolfe, the plane "augers in."  

The cinematography is spectacular, especially its use of scale (the small boat, the immensity of the sea) to illustrate the fragility of life and the utter indifference of nature. Or the use of scale as subtext.  In one scene, Redford's in the lifeboat and desperately trying to head into the shipping lanes in hopes of attracting attention from any passing ships.  Eventually, a cargo container ship comes his way but it is so immense, so towering, so closed off from it's surroundings so as to be a self contained universe all its own -- a behemoth too gigantic to notice a tiny life raft and a small desperate human.

That scene also recalls to mind that it was a floating container filled with tennis shoes, likely fallen off a similar cargo ship, a huge hunk of indifferent flotsam that put our sailor in peril in the first place by bumping into his boat and puncturing the hull: An indifferent, random, pointless, encounter in the middle of nowhere.

"All is Lost," is a riveting film; tense, exciting, scary, unsettling, beautiful, awesome, despairing, heartbreaking, exhausting, and triumphant.  Unforgettable. Don't miss it.     

Monday, November 04, 2013

Letters, We Get and Send . . . Letters . . .

Uh, oh.  Ron Crawford's up to more mischief. Keeps asking Zen koan-ish annoying questions that are unaswerable:

"Los Osos Makes Property Tax History: "More than 4,000" LO Property Owners Set to be Fleeced (Again), Starting Today, Nov 1, 20013"

Well, I can report that his posted story has a small update.   Seems Los Osos residents (and CDO recipients) Beverly and Bill Moylan received a copy of  Ron's 9/10/13 email to Supervisor Gibson, asking his persistent and (I'm sure) annoying questions, and wrote a little note of their own to Gibson in response.  I did too. Thought it would be interesting to see if anybody knew just how much of the original assessment dollars went to pay for the fake Ponds of Avalon and how much was left that could be transferred to pay for a real sewer.   (emails stacked in order, below)   Supervisor Gibson was kind enough to write back.  His answer was simple: The LOCSD did it.  

Since I doubt anybody really knows or, cares, except as a matter of mere historical curiosity, (or amusement), or is willing to find out, here's what I believe to be the most truthful thing anybody can say about this particular issue: Los Osos homeowners voted to assess themselves to pay X$$ for something that they believed was "sewerish."  Then they voted to assess themselves to pay more $$$ for a real sewer, the one that is being built now.   

Case closed.

 Unless Ron starts sending emails of inquiry to the LOCSD as part of a document research project . . . .  Letters . . . we get letters . . . .     

Ron's 9/10/13 Letter to Supervisor Gibson
Hello Supervisor Gibson,

Sorry to bother you again, but I never received a reply to my email below (sent on 5/13/13), and now it's getting down to crunch time, because, starting on Nov. 1, when the next round of property taxes becomes due, "more than 4,000" Los Osos property owners are about to be fleeced AGAIN, when they are forced to pay the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment fraud... again.

Apparently, Los Osos has made tax assessment history. I have now spoken with three county officials, and searched the heck out of Google, and no one seems to have ever heard of this happening before: Where property owners pass an assessment for a public works project, however, years later, it turns out that the so-called "project" was based on nothing but fraud, and, therefore, it was never built (because it was based on nothing but fraud), yet, the property owners are still paying for it... for another 20 years.

And because of that unprecedented-ness, no one seems to know what to do in this situation.

Today, I spoke with Jim Hamilton at the County Auditor's office, and he told me that now it is too late to remove the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" line from the "more than 4,000" Los Osos PZ property tax bills that are set to be mailed out next month.

So, here's what I recommend:

The County needs to conduct some sort of audit (or whatever) that shows exactly which parts of the LOCSD's $25 million worth of their sewer "project" design that the County was able to salvage for its project -- collection system plans, environmental documents, etc. -- and what the County didn't use, like the LOCSD's "infeasible" mid-town sewer plant/"picnic area" -- a VERY expensive-to-design (and begin construction on) treatment facility, that turned out to be based on nothing but fraud (as my reporting has repeatedly shown over the past decade), and, therefore, will never exist.

In other words, how much of the $25 million that the 2000 - 2005 LOCSD spent (read: wasted) on the Tri-W "sewer-park" fraud was the county able to salvage for its project?

$1 million? $10 million? Zero?

Once that audit is complete, it will show how much of the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment money actually went to a real sewer project, and how much went to the LOCSD's fraud.

Only then will we know if the PZ property owners, that have been paying that fraud-based assessment since 2003/04, are TODAY actually funding real sewer project related stuff, or they are now only funding the fraud, and will continue to fund that fraud until the year 2034.

This is also very important: If that audit is not complete by November 1, and considering that it is now too late to remove the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" line from the next property tax bill, I also recommend that the Board of Supervisors direct the tax collector's office to go ahead and collect the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment (starting on Nov. 1), however, instead of using that money to pay off the bond holders (whose names are heretofore unknown, despite my numerous attempts to acquire that information), the County establish some sort of special account, where the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" funds are held until the audit determines whether or not more than 4,000 Los Osos property owners are actually paying for REAL sewer project related design information with the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment, or whether they are now simply being fleeced twice a year, by funding the fraud, and, if it's the latter, then that entire assessment now needs to disappear completely, ASAP, and the funds held in that special account returned to the property owners.
So, again, is that something you can help with?

The clock is ticking: Only 51 days until November 1, when "more than 4,000" Los Osos property owners are set to be fleeced... again.

Thank you for your time,

Moylan's  Letter To Supervisor Gibson

Dear Supervisor Gibson,

We are in receipt of Mr. Ron Crawford's insightful message to you of 9/10/2013 regarding the annual LOCSD WASTE TREATMT assessment of approximately $225 that has appeared on the tax bills of Los Osos Prohibition Zone households since the 2003/2004 tax year and will continue to appear on our tax bills until the 2033/2034 tax year. We have copied his message below for your reference, especially since he has indicated having received no response from you on this disturbing matter after more than a month.

Mr. Crawford has demonstrated on his blog, and in previous correspondence with you, Mr. Gibson, how the original Tri-W ponding project, the prime reason for the formation of the LOCSD, had already failed before the election that formed the LOCSD. According to Mr. Crawford, this outcome means that the original vote to form the LOCSD occurred for no reason, since the point of the LOCSD was to bring that specific Tri-W ponding plan to fruition on that specific site. 

We supported the formation of the LOCSD to carry out the Tri W ponding project, because all the meetings that we attended and all the promotional literature we read at that time showed the ponding system of wastewater treatment to be clearly superior to the County's conventional WWP in Los Osos. What we did not know at the time, and what Mr. Crawford's blog has pointed out, was that the CCRWQCB had already rejected the ponding project at the Tri W site before the election to form the CSD, rendering our vote pointless and the election itself essentially a "fraud."  Following the election the project quickly morphed, was no longer the project we had voted for and expected, and became a completely different project. We were promised a "drop-dead gorgeous" ponding park - and we got a conventional sewer plant - in the center of town.

It is my understanding that the annual LOCSD WASTE TREATMT assessment pays for that failed Tri-W project, which the County itself rejected as "infeasible." It seems shocking now to discover how the agencies involved in overseeing the LOWWP failed to find the revised project to be "infeasible" years before its being turned over to the County for completion, especially given Mr. Crawford's documented evidence that agencies essentially trusted the LOCSD, but did not verify. That agency failure before the fact burdens us and our neighbors with the annual LOCSD WASTE TREATMT assessment of approximately $225 per Prohibition Zone household for which we receive in return absolutely nothing.

For seemingly complicated but actually quite simple reasons the people of Los Osos are paying for a WWP that was never going to work, and that a powerful state agency told the project's developers was never going to be approved because it was not going to work, before it left the drawing board. Duped into voting for a CSD and an already-failed WWP by misleading statements by community leaders, as Mr. Crawford's blog reports with nothing but primary sources, Los Osos appears to be caught in a scam that has defrauded our community out of millions of dollars to date and will continue to defraud us for the next 20 years. 

Given that Prohibition Zone residents have apparently enjoyed little or no benefit from this assessment, and given that the County is the agency of record in collecting this assessment, we echo Mr. Crawford's request that the County order an audit of the annual LOCSD WASTE TREATMT  assessment as it appears on our annual tax bills. Mr. Crawford's final request below is ours, too.

"This is also very important: If that audit is not complete by November 1, and considering that it is now too late to remove the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" line from the next property tax bill, I also recommend that the Board of Supervisors direct the tax collector's office to go ahead and collect the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment (starting on Nov. 1), however, instead of using that money to pay off the bond holders (whose names are heretofore unknown, despite my numerous attempts to acquire that information), the County establish some sort of special account, where the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" funds are held until the audit determines whether or not more than 4,000 Los Osos property owners are actually paying for REAL sewer project related design information with the "LOCSD WASTE TREATMT" assessment, or whether they are now simply being fleeced twice a year, by funding the fraud, and, if it's the latter, then that entire assessment now needs to disappear completely, ASAP, and the funds held in that special account returned to the property owners."

It is our hope hope that other Prohibition Zone property owners will come forward, as well, to support you in requesting this audit.

Thank you for your time,

Beverley De Witt-Moylan
William Moylan

My Missive
Well, since this was such fun, I had to drop Supervisor Gibson a note as well:

Dear Board of Supervisors,

Like Ms. Moylan (below) I too would like to know exactly how much assessment money is still being collected on what was essentially a fraudulent election and fraudulent assessment. An audit should be able to show what portion of that assessment money was actually utilized (by the present County's project) and what was wasted by the deceptively linked CSD/ Ponding project.

It's clear to me that elected officials, regulatory oversight and/or law enforcement agencies don't care about the "fraud" that happened here.  But $225 per year per household is a very tidy sum and at the very least, the citizens of Los Osos deserve to know how much of the  assessment for that particular, original "fraud" is costing them, (and will continue to cost them for the next 20 years while delivering no benefits. ) and  how much of that amount actually is a received benefit.


Ann Calhoun 

And herewith:
Gibson's Reply.

In response to your emails regarding the assessment levied by the LOCSD for
their wastewater project, let me review again the situation;

1.  That assessment was proposed solely by the LOCSD and voted on (per Prop
218 ) by residents within the PZ.  The county has and had no authority over
the expenditure of those funds.

2.  Whether or not anyone believes there was "fraud" involved, the county
has no mechanism or authority to do anything more than an examination of
the books and records of the LOCSD.  This type of audit would not provide
anything more than information that is already publically available.
Concerns regarding the expenditure of the earlier bond proceeds should be
raised with the current LOCSD Board.

3.  We do know that at least some funds from that assessment were used to
purchase the Mid Town and Broderson sites.  Through the provisions of AB
2701, those sites were transferred to the County and are now part of the

If you have any further questions please feel free to call my office

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, has a new book out, which just arrived a few days ago. "Dog Songs," (The Penguin Press) and available at your local bookstore.   
It's a wonderful compilation of poems and prose about the many dogs who shared her and her partner's life.  Here's one.

Little Dog's Rhapsody in the Night

He puts his cheek against mine
and makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I'm awake, or awake enough

he turns upside down, his four paws
   in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.

"Tell me you love me," he says.

"Tell me again."

Could there be a sweeter arrangement?  Over and over
he getes to ask.
I get to tell.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Nimble Fingers

Calhoun's Cannons for Nov 1, 2013
It's getting difficult to walk through the living room now because of the dizziness caused by the eye rolling. When I turn on the TV or radio or open a newspaper, it begins to flood the brain like fuzzy snow as the cascade of idiocy pours out.  In an instant, they're everywhere. Makes it hard to move. 

I refer, of course, to "air quotes."  You know, when you're referencing something that's so blatantly phony you put your hands up in front of your face and make little quotation marks in the air with your fingers? Then roll your eyes?

When I'm alone I don't make the physical gesture to myself, except for the eye roll.  I can't seem to stop that, but there they are inside my head like an annoying tic, all those little hands and little fingers twitching out little punctuation marks.  Pick, up a paper, read anything to do with Congress or politics, or almost anything at all where somebody is weaseling, and suddenly it's one big flickering blur of air quotes.

The Select Committee to air quote Investigate air quote Benghazi?  Or air quote investigate the Affordable Care Act's roll out?  Investigate?  Really?  These Committees aren't interested in air quote investigating anything.  Folks on those committees are only interested in bloviating and preening, and playing political gotcha during their three minute tap dances upon the national stage. Except Darrell (I'm-ready-for-my-close-up-Mr. DeMille) Issa.  If he gets less than three minutes face time with the TV cameras rolling, he'll form another pointless committee to air quote investigate something else.

And what's so astonishing about all these airquote investigations is what they reveal: What a collection of dunces are running this country. I heard one technical expert commenting on the computer bungles of the ACA roll-out express astonishment at how technologically ignorant the air quote investigating Committee members were about how computer networks actually work.  Indeed, he considered them to be dangerous fools. An apt judgment since these are the people responsible for crafting laws and policies about which they know less than nothing. After which they form committees to air quote investigate why the policies and programs they know nothing about went kerflooey? 

Where in God's name did we get these people?  I mean, Louie Gomert?  Really?  Is that the best Texas can do? And Darrell Issa?  California should put The Paper Bag of Shame on its head. Or people like the air quote right honorable Congressman who personally raked in $3.5 million in taxpayer financed air quote farm subsidies, then voted to cut food stamp programs that keep hungry children fed, all in the name of air quote saving taxpayers money? Same guy who quotes scripture and runs on a platform of air quote family values?

It's endless.  You can't turn around without bumping into air quotes. Name any issue facing this country:  Air quote National Security.  Air quote National Debt.  Air quote Reforming Medicare.  Air quote Saving Social Security. Air quote Climate Change.  Air quote Income Disparity. Air quote Child Poverty.  Roll eyes.

None of these serious issues mean anything any more.  Not really.  Thanks to the corruption of our political speech (Pace, Frank Luntz, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, Faux Noise, et al) everything has become "so-called," the alternative version of the air quote.  And it's all slipped down the rabbit hole into Alice in WonderlandVille where Humpty Dumpty rules:  "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less." 

And in a country where science, technology, facts, honesty, clarity, even practical, grown-up common sense is ignored in favor of hypocritical morality, dishonest ideology, scientific illiteracy and technological Ludditism, a country where everything is transformed into a so-called, air quote fake, how can serious people govern themselves?

Yes.  I know.  Roll eyes. Then head for cover.