Lost Dogs and Trump Supporters

A week ago I lost my dog. Lost, sounds like I misplaced her somewhere. Actually I became certain she was stolen. My personal experience has been that if she got tangled in her lead line she would slip her collar and escape. After running around for an hour she would come home. That didn’t happen this time.

This time the whole thirty foot lead line was missing off the dog run and Ruby was nowhere to be found. At first I decided that she must have gotten her lead line tangled in the surrounding brush on my knoll. Dragging a chain, she couldn’t have gone more than a hundred yards without getting hopelessly tangled. I just had to spend a couple hours circling out from my property calling her name until I found her. I did this and still no Ruby. To me the only other reasonable possibility was, she was stolen.

Even though she was a popular color of pit bull she was a spayed aging female. In addition to this glitch in the theft theory nothing else on the property was stolen or disturbed. It looked like someone took the only safe, non alarmed route to the hill top and bee lined it to Ruby and unhooked her lead line. This event would require prior knowledge or advance surveillance of my activities. This further narrowed down the possibilities in my mind.

After thrashing thru the brush for two days my mind started imagining suspects. A long time friend who was forced to give up Ruby, a few neighbors who seen me walking her on the backside of my knoll, and a crazy looking guy on an illegal ATV who roared thru the neighborhood everynight probing everyone’s access roads. I fantasized that he noted my comings and goings from all points. The motive: He had a market for fresh meat to train fighting pit bulls to tear dogs apart. This is the stuff that goes on in normal minds at wits end.

People started responding to Facebook notices of Ruby’s disappearance. A volunteer dog finder spread the word further. Several photos turned up of dogs similar to Ruby but not Ruby. I continued to walk the neighborhood, putting up lost dog notices as I went. They included a reward and pictures photoshopped by my girlfriend. I was loosing hope and felt like I was just going thru the motions because I had no power to do anything else. There was a short list of suspects in my mind.

How would government or an organization that has government’s ear handle this problem? Based on recent events, they would tap the phones and search cell phones and personal records of everyone in the area and who fit the profile of all hypothetical suspects. That is, as long as at some time or some place at least one person who fit one of the profiles committed a dog napping. Remember, at this point there was no actual proof Ruby was stolen. Then they would put a bunch of pins on a map and respond with devastating force, destroying all possible suspects along with neighbors who made the bad choice to live near a future target who may someday commit a hypothetical crime by one unsubstantiated method or another.

On day seven I checked the kennel again and put up my last signs on the fringe of my neighborhood. Then I went to the coffee shop and speculated about whether tactical nuclear weapons should be an option. After a couple hours my phone rang. “We have your dog.” Ruby’s journey over the last week was nothing like anything I deduced must have happened based on the facts. Apparently my facts weren’t all the facts. Even though I had first hand information I did not have most of the information about canines or people.

Ruby was glad to see me but also had been enjoying bed and breakfast treatment with a family who was still grieving over the recent death of their dog. They refused the reward and gave me the collar and leash from their dog to lead Ruby home. It made me sorry I had fantasized about reducing these five square blocks of doublewides to smoking twisted wreckage. I was certain the dog thief was there somewhere and would strike again and again and again until someone put a stop to them. Sure, a few thousand innocent people would die but that’s the price we pay, actually they pay, for dog freedom.

So what does this have to do with Trump voters? They seem like lost dog owners too. In fact they sound like people who have lost several dogs. They have a little first hand information and have been given an analysis of who is to blame by people who have not lost dogs. Many of these analysts have benefited magnificently in the past by advising owners who lost metaphorical dogs. I can relate. Aren’t you glad I don’t have access to 20 aircraft carrier groups and cruise missiles?

Lake Transit Chopping Block

As everyone knows a big chunk of transit money is grants. One of these grant pools is drying up this year. This particular pool has been getting smaller every year. Now the Transit Authority has to make cuts in service.

Most of these cuts will be lightly used routes and runs. Some routes are untouchable for the time being. Our contracted general manager will look at ridership on each run, how much money we have left, and what changes have to be made in the other routes to smooth over the gap. His recommendations will be made to the Transit Board and they will vote yes because they will not want to study the details.

In past meetings the General Manager and the Operations Manager noted which runs will be looked at hard for possible cuts. These tend to be routes to the hinterlands, 2 and 4A, and runs on popular routes that are too early or late to have more than one or two passengers on board. Regardless of the number of passengers, if these runs connect to an out of County route they can’t be cut. Otherwise another pool of money will disappear entirely.

There are a couple of special cases. One is that part of the 4A that runs to the Konocti Vista Casino. In addition to gamblers, people work at the Casino and there are two large communities nearby. Years ago, before the 4A was born, this was on the popular Route 4 line. Four was later diverted to Highway 29 outside Lakeport to express itself to Clearlake. If 4A is eliminated 4 will have to reroute its service back to Konocti Vista.

The other special case is the City of Clearlake for a couple reasons. Clearlake receives over have the system’s transit runs on three local routes. All three overlap in a large triangle area in the center of the City. Clearlake’s local area includes the adjacent town of Lower Lake where the High School and Lake County Social Services are located.

Lower Lake is served as an afterthought at the tail end of Route 10. This Route is primarily designed to serve Clearlake Park, a subdivision of extremely bad and narrow roads. Instead, most people go to Lower Lake on Route 12 which loops around town at the beginning of the Route before overlapping Clearlake’s center triangle with the other two local Routes. On Saturday the High School and Social Services are closed. Probably Route 12 could be closed on Saturday as well.

Since schedules take time to design they aren’t done for minor or temporary changes. There is a rumor that all the cuts that could be made without damaging service too much will be made all at once, even though this may be a little ahead of the curve money wise.

The good news is that during periods of forced change, opportunities arise to make other changes. Change requires a period of adjustment so managers who like things to run smoothly don’t change for creative purposes. Change is usually the result of more money, less money, or a new law. The route cuts and changes may reopen cost neutral options for the overlapping local routes in Clearlake. The overlaps produce ongoing transfer and route planning confusion.

Due to three routes overlapping many passengers could misuse transfers for return trips. That is why a rigid policy exists allowing transfers at only specific locations other than the beginning of the route. It is inconvenient and seems unfair to riders. If a passenger is adamant that they got on the wrong bus to begin with, drivers will usually relent and ask another driver to honor a transfer.

The service rule for Clearlake is that any local route change must all serve current stops every hour. By measuring the time allotted between all Clearlake stops on each of the three routes and adding these segments together you get the total amount of time to serve Clearlake. Currently it takes two full routes and most of a third to do the job. It would take a single bus an hour and 20 minutes to serve all Clearlake stops. Passengers would also feel thrashed after such a long local ride.

But I have made an amazing discovery. Using the time numbers and the limiting assumption I have found a cost neutral way to hit all the Clearlake stops every hour using only one route. This would eliminate all transfer problems and most trip planning difficulties in the City. This seems impossible given the hour and 20 minute drive time to travel to all stops. Guess how it could be done. Hint: All three local routes are intersecting loops.

Piracy On the Local Seas

 

The Northern California Pirate Festival is June 17 and 18 in Vallejo. As a registered member of the California Pirate Party I’ll be there. It’s not a joke. The name was chosen because people who value a free internet, open information (which means government transparency), and reforming our archaic copyright laws were called……pirates.

The point is we are now an information society which moves very fast. Freedom and survival depends on the free flow of information. But barriers have been going up fast and furious. California Pirates are focused on these goals but the broader platform and strategies are still in formation. In general there is a bottom up bias in organization. Not too much thought has been given to what this means at the bottom. I would like to share some pirate flavored strategy names to my own attempts to work at the local level in my checkered past. Continue reading

Liberty Bookstore

This is an intellectual odyssey. I graduated from high school in 1972 with far more questions than answers. This was the first year that 18 year olds could vote in federal elections. Even at this tender age I could tell that the so-called two party system was a scam and con game. My standard college general education did not yield much more in the way of insight. Years later I decided that what was lacking was context – some overall paradigm that would tie the pieces together.

At the County Fair in 1975 I stumbled across a booth. Whether it was a political, religious, or educational booth I wasn’t sure at first. It turned out it was a wanna be political party but there was a flyer on their counter for a Liberty Bookstore at the other end of Santa Clara County. Six months later I got around to checking it out. It was in Mountain View. Continue reading

Well Prepared for the Trump Era

When I moved to Lake County in 2002 little did I know that I was going to undergo a rigorous conditioning to living under a fascist regime. While the 2016 Election left millions of people dazed and bewildered, I looked at the horror unfolding and could only see that the Nation had caught up with Lake County reality. There are several elements to this reality. If I thought deep down most of the Trump vote was anything more than fear and ignorant rage I would not bother writing this.

I happen to like details, check facts, and I follow thru. This made me immediately suspect to the self serving paranoids that ruled the backwater of Lake County. The first thing I learned is that “the public” does not include me. A full description for “the public” in this former frontier of Napa County is “the old landed families”, the real estate industry, right wing fundamentalists, retired police, corrupt civil servants, opportunists pitching Lake County’s low development requirements to out of County interests, and small town, small minded, mean spirited Republican business men who would never survive in a dynamic market environment.

People who find themselves stuck here, but are not members of the club, are only valued if they have brought money with them that can be siphoned off by the tight knit cabal of reactionaries to keep the black heart of the past beating on. The poorer sorts who retreated here from more expensive areas are alternately vilified as the reason progress has bypassed Lake County and exploited as State and Federal grant bait. This grant money is either used to hire more do nothing cronies and unemployable relatives or used for programs that attack people in a class war that the money was supposed to help.

Those who meet in the usual gatherings for “the right kind of people” to hatch schemes for excluding or crushing “the wrong kind of people” are found even in decent localities. Only in Lake County it is all out in the open, for all to see, with neither shame or denial – just like Donald Trump. There are no cover stories, rationalizations, or excuses. The law is not important except when it benefits the right kind of people or some fancy lawyer gets involved to muck things up. Coalitions of diverse interests and future thinking are strategies for losers.

Remember, Lake County was the scene of the Dinius trial that caused a National sensation, resulting in the ouster of both the District Attorney and the Sheriff. Fast boats, corruption, and death on the water. Its only a matter of time before Clear Lake gets their big Hollywood movie. The Chamber won’t like it.

Myself, I’ve experienced numerous instances of freedom of speech and search warrant violations. But so have many other residents. Even in the 21st Century reefer madness still justifies the most absurd and egregious assaults on our civil liberties in the land of Clear Lake. In the rare instance where someone can get a lawyer, and of course win the case, the attitude is “So what. The taxpayers will pay for it.”  No actual presence of devil weed is seen as necessary. They are on a mission from God who over rides the Supreme Court.

My first experience as the subject of civic minded mob action was when I decided to produce a video parody of local politics for the public access station. I was not considered part of “the public.” The City Manager of Clearlake was outraged. When it leaked out what I was planning the former Chamber head and a right wing minister organized a howling mob of their buddies, retired policemen running for local office, businessmen, even one of the founders of Clearlake to storm the  PEG meeting to intimidate me. The Chamber guy kept saying he wanted to punch me out. I challenged him to a chess game. He declined.

After years of attacks on the station everyone was finally driven off, leaving TV8 nothing more than a government channel with some internet filler. But all three governments still use its public forum status to extort money from cable users as a fee for public access. No shame. No shame whatsoever. And why should there be? After all, they are the right kind of people taking from the wrong kind of people, like me and you. When people like Trump aren’t born rich they are called bullies or thugs. To me, Trump is just one of these Lake County goons in a better suit with bigger guns.

As someone who has made a habit of showing up to places I’m not supposed to be at and reading documents I’m not supposed to read, I understood the Trump mindset right from the beginning. I see millions wringing their hands in disbelief that the short sighted, unapologetic arrogance I experience on a local level is now on display in the Presidency for the World to see. I had hoped that after another generation of goobers had died off Lake County would finally join the civilized world. Instead I find that the Nation has decided to become Lake County. It won’t be pretty but I’ve seen it all before.

Public Access Transition

Since the late 1970’s the principle electronic public media has been channels on cable TV. But they were an option that most cable franchisers did not ask for, according to a survey by the Alliance for Community Media. From the beginning the goal has been to allow local content from the public without social or political considerations. Other alternate media included underground newspapers, low power community radio, public broadcasting tv and Pacifica Radio.

By the late 1980’s political and economic changes shifted the relevance of various alternative and public media. The financing of public broadcasting, as opposed to public access, became dominated by corporate sponsors. In the 90’s the internet gradually replaced much alternative print media. Even though video options on the internet increasingly replaced cable video the internet itself never provided much community centered media. The internet was better at dispersing media than connecting people, especially in community. Those communities that used the cable public access option still had a better source of local and public media. Cable use was declining but so was print media, which kept cable public access relevant.

From the beginning, political entities in and out of government occasionally tried to censor legal content on public access channels, which enjoy the legal status of a “designated public forum.” Over time a number of political and economic innovations sucked money away from the public sectors and transferred it to commercial entities. Local government budgets became tight and the perceived essential services were going to be fulfilled first even if other functions could survive on a pittance. At the extreme, there are several problems with this reasoning as well as a couple of solutions.

Not all public access channels were well funded. Many did not receive any general fund money or an entitled part of the cable franchise fee. Public support often consisted of free rent in an unused part of a public facility. This was the case in Lake County. TV8 was a single channel access station created by a provision in the city of Clearlake’s cable franchise. There was never any intention to turn over day to day operations to a qualified non profit. It was bounced around from one public space to another. It was financed solely by a $5400 per year Distance Learning Program fee charged to Yuba College. Even though it was never a budget burden this did not prevent the most egregious violations of civil liberties by government authorities who locked out volunteers under flimsy pretenses.

The bottom line is that there is a critical need for an independent, public, and local media if communities are going to be vibrant and inclusive. But the technology and funding are going to have to change. If public media advocates step forward to make the transition then politicians need to help the transition to the next step forward in community media. Especially since it won’t cost much.

The Alliance for Community Media has been working to make the the technical transformation of public access from a cable dependent media to internet based platforms where existing cable access channels will become “nodes” of local content. The internet is now more accessible to more people than cable tv. Many subscribers have switched to satellite tv where public access is not an option. A media platform or portal could be an upgraded blog site. The Premium version of WordPress costs $8.25 per month.

Linked videos on the public platform could be stored on YouTube, Vimeo, or Archive.org.  Each “division” of this new local media platform will have its own page on the platform. Probably these separate pages would be edited by non profits with the homepage edited by the sites overall administrator. The three public access stations in Mendocino and the one in Trinity are owned by non profits. My own non profit which is currently parked is Cache Creek Performance. I naively intended it to operateTV8. There are several low cost live streaming services that charge by the month or data use to make local media more of a real time experience.

With many production programs being usable on a good laptop, the only resource missing is space for a studio. This is where thinking outside the box is critical. Why pay rent on space that is not used most of the time? If lighting and sound equipment can be put in portable packages, a studio can be anywhere – meeting rooms, restaurant stages, coffee shops, churches, government chambers. I’ve used them all. And let’s not forget the great big outdoors. There are schools with small performance areas open to the public (Lower Lake High School) as well as non profits who might like to trade temporary shooting space for publicity.

How do you make the public aware that this is the new goto public media? First, everyone on the site needs to plug the site and everyone else on it while they still can. Second, sponsor or cosponsor events and contests. Obviously the first contest should be “The Best Name for This Platform” contest. I would be interested in sponsoring a new type of Slam Poetry competition, especially if I could get Mendocino’s Poet Laureate Michael Riedell on board. There are clubs who are always looking for speakers. We need to speak to them. When something new happens on the platform, such as its initial formation, we need to send out press releases.

What can local government do to help transition to the new public media? They can make a commitment to the future. Rather than simply let declining public access channels crash and burn a positive response would go something like: “The days of paying for centralized facilities along with technical staff are coming to an end. We will work with a broad base of media advocates by providing an insurance umbrella, offering more use of public buildings for media functions, especially for storage of valuable equipment, and establishing a jack location for existing public access channels to link to the new platform.” The future is only scary if you do not prepare for it.

Booshies, Yeoman, and Sturdy Peasants

The recent election of Trump to the Presidency sparked riots and protests across the Country. Just one question: What were they protesting? It certainly would have been understandable to protest his comments when he was running for office and civil disobedience will be on point when he decides to implement his more unctuous promises. But why take to the streets after his election? Are people protesting massive voter fraud? Are they complaining about his status as a political insider that shut out more mainstream competition? Neither is the case. So what is this about? Anybody?

All I can think of is that people who have not been following events or issues are now enraged that their ignorance and apathy finally caught up to them and the Country in a very nasty way. The smart money is betting that none of this rage is directed against the Democratic National Committee that pulled the rug out from under the Bernie Sanders campaign to fast tract their favorite daughter. If they had played fair then Bernie likely would have carried the rust belt, Pennsylvania, and the election. Therefore, the DNC is responsible for Trump’s new job in the Oval Office. Strangely, there have been no massive demonstrations with signs saying “Never Again” outside the DNC offices.

How did this happen? Because other than the long ignored issues themselves there are the class identities that shape a bigger view of how people see themselves and the interests they see aligned against them. Facts are not terribly important to two identified classes: one barely educated but hard working  and a middle class that believes that once they have arrived they deserve to stay there, along with their material symbols of rank. These two classes overlap in their pretensions. It has gradually dawned on both groups that the Democratic Party that was once inclusive has now cut a very different set of deals that don’t include them. Republicans are the undeserved beneficiaries.

Is there an alternative to jumping out of the Democratic frying pan and into the Republican fire? A different way of weighting facts and choosing allies may be called for. Rather than a sturdy peasantry who thinks a life of toil without complicating abstractions should be enough or a merit based bourgeois class of minor nobles, maybe the most solid aspects of both could work along with something bigger. Maybe work outside a bureaucracy or chartered corporation should be esteemed. Maybe the only status should be that conveyed by being part of a community of interests, preferably more cooperative than individualistic. This goal suggests several mental sea changes.

The first transformation must be within what’s left of our middle classes. We created a booshie wonderland that peaked in the 50’s that was based on the best of conditions that obviously weren’t going to last. When the bill for a war that was not paid for came due and corporations were given the green light to ship American jobs overseas the house of cards came tumbling down. Now it is time for the booshies to shed their phony hyper individualist identity and join the rest of humanity. Looking for scapegoats among people who never had the power to create a sharp division between haves and never-will-haves is not going to bring back an ever expanding consumer utopia.

One real identity was the workers’ quest for a fair share of the corporate booty and shorter hours to enjoy it. As their success pushed them into middle class income levels they started detaching from less successful workers and taking on booshie sensibilities and insecurities. In addition to a fair share from their work they also started assuming that their security descended from on high and not from common interest cooperation or tighter, less anonymous neighborhoods. When the corporate exodus dropped the worker backbone of America into low wage, no benefit contracting, an anger developed. Workers also looked for the culprits who stole their rosy future in unlikely places.

Angry people don’t think very well and they certainly weren’t thinking at all in the last election. But it is true that big, bold things need to be done and soon. Consider my bottom up list, “a people’s agenda” with specific plans attached. A bottom up, first things first agenda is neither reactionary or progressive nor is it moderate. First item on the agenda: take inventory of what is left to work with. How many small property owners are left without second mortgages? How many good jobs are left? How many bad jobs are left? How many people aren’t two paychecks from being tossed out on the street? Finally, what kind of usable skill base is there that can be put to use within a community?

Other agenda categories imply an economies of scale to pursue them outside the existing political and economic structure that likes things just the way they are, thank you very much. This does not mean a researched and shared knowledge base should not be used to confront indifferent politicians about what is minimally acceptable for them to be taken seriously as agents for positive change. Laws need to be changed. Voluntary legal structures need to be created for defense and lifestyle stability. Corporate intrusions into our education and health need to be rejected and replaced. Visualize  fewer cars, lawns, and hours being spent mindlessly entertained.

So what is the focus for this new or maybe very old mindset?  Its about having a place you control. Its about being able to do work for real people. Its about having some greater purpose of your own beyond acquiring, consuming, or controlling. When we were a farming country this was the “yeoman” ideal. But we are beyond that never realized state – more complications and opportunities. Often our new tools get in the way of our lofty goals. It doesn’t have to be that way. The intentional connections between people, structures, natural resources,  and within our bodies and environment are called context. A chosen context also provides a filter and focus for relevant information streams.

A yeoman today would probably not be a farmer but they would work locally to serve the local economy. A yeoman is more focused on “us” rather than “them.” There is an effort to maintain a community of action that you are not paid for and is not always fun. Mutual ownerships and memberships make dropping out or walking away inconvenient. The sturdy peasant does not see the point of effort that is not paid or fun. The booshie tends to see a world of other atomistic booshies imbedded in a envious or hostile world out to get them and theirs. The only real purpose of government is to add the security that valued chattels and paper wealth fail to provide.

Over time, the lack of social context of the peasant worker and middle class booshie created the anger and terror of everything outside their world, real or imagined. It was only time before all issues beyond their control or understanding would shrink to fear and resentment. Blaming them for honest if irrational reactions won’t change anything. Promoting the citizen yeoman option in all things will give people a positive alternative to a world out of their control. The biggest job will be taking functions away from distant power centers. Those who have benefited from centralizing wealth to pit strangers against each other will not go quietly into the night.