What Has Five Bodies But No Head?

The last election was not the first time many people felt they did not have a real choice. Of course, “not having a choice”, or rather only having highly filtered choices, is what our system is all about. Occasionally, a minor rebellion to create some serious alternative is beaten back with the programmed responses:  “You’ll be wasting your vote.” “Voting for the lesser of two evils is the responsible thing to do.”  “We have a better chance to change one of the parties from within.” The result of this strategy is to discourage the entrance of new players in the game to begin with.

Obviously there are structural barriers in our system that prevent break outs from below. New parties end up wasting all their “none of the above” political capital on transient candidates who will be moving on long before the first barricade has been breached. Motivated more by rage, righteousness, and indignation than substance, the upstart party then slides into oblivion.

What if a new mindset, disguised as a political party, promoted the heretical idea that this established process needed to be changed first before any challenge on issues can succeed. Agenda Item #1. They would not claim ownership of this goal since it is a premise that all excluded political entities could embrace. It would be a cooperative venture, for if it prevailed, they would all win by having the artificial barriers abolished.

The first filter is access to the voting ballot. The one and only voting ballot, where precious time and money has to be spent for voters to see you. For electoral purposes, you are not even considered a political party until you clear this hurdle. If you file papers indicating you are currently trying to achieve the exalted status of a “ballot qualified political party” you are awarded the provisional title of a “political body.”

In California there are five political bodies attempting to gain ballot status for the June 2018 election. The former Unified Progressive Party dropped out and has decided to work as a caucus within the Democratic Party, where they have had some early success. For the record, the functioning political bodies are California Pirate Party, American Solidarity Party, California National Party, Constitution Party, and the People for Justice.

Some of these bodies have one or more issues in common. So you could say they are in competition with each other. But there are good reasons why they should be working together or at least becoming knowledgeable about what each other is about. The strongest bond they have in common is being effectively shut out of normal political discourse and participation. They are all burdened by restrictions imposed by the two-party monopoly, even though new ideas tend to originate from outsiders. All political bodies should be presenting a common front to roll back this affront to democracy.

The first objection we hear from the average citizen is “we have to have some standards or the ballot will become too cluttered or confusing. This will not encourage democratic participation.” Before the backlash against “foreign ideologies” in the early 20th Century there was no problem. This was because what made a ballot official was not who printed it but the fact that one person turned in one ballot on a specific day with at least one person listed who filed for an office. Why do all ballots have to have a preselected subset of people running? Groups printed and circulated their own ballots which was less ballot restrictive. With the introduction of machines in counting votes, standardization was cited as the reason we have limited ballots.

The irony today is, machines, that is computers and computer programs, have made the restricted ballot obsolete. Secure ID technology has arrived, making voting online practical and inclusive. For people who have limited access, there will be voting stations where they can use official computers, the way we go to testing centers now to take standardized tests on computers. The disabled will still get assistance to vote the way they do now.

The only technology problems with online voting are the same tech problems we have with the present system. Those problems revolve around proprietary software and hardware owned by corporate contractors. Many of these contractors have a vested interest in the outcome of elections. Many anomalies have been noticed in proprietary voting equipment with the most “backdoors.” With state of the art encryption there are no compelling arguments against open source voting software. The popular fraud solution of “paper voting trails” is grossly inadequate.

On the core issue of information security, accessibility, and proliferation the Pirate Party will simply have to take the lead. They are the geeks of the political body front. For other issues they may have to step back and support other political bodies. So how will the disenfranchised political bodies support each other in the competitive world of limited independent voters and even more limited attention spans? They will cooperate in punching through the second filter. This is the filter of entertainment. If it is not entertaining today’s voter will tune you out. The power elite have more money, which is the third filter. They can buy more professional productions, media whores, and ditto time on TV. Knowledge presented in a compelling way will reduce this advantage.

To be brutally honest, none of the five functioning political bodies in California are making a compelling presentation to convince dubious voters to reregister. When approaching people who know little or nothing about you, to not just sign a petition but fill out a personal official document, you are going to have to sell sell sell. That means a schtick, a repertoire of answers, and an environment of entertainment. Most people have to be bought, entertained, or at least intrigued to gain their attention. Since no billionaires or celebrities have appeared, the political bodies are going to have to cooperate with each other to create an energetic scene.

Its hard to imagine anything else working. Just as the insiders stage phony debates, the outsiders are going to have to stage their own outsider debates, produce multi political body videos around common issues, and sponsor spectacles as a gift to the public.The concept of supporting a political body must become mainstream and fun. Mailing lists and social media are still relevant but no excluded wannabe will attract established media attention by themselves. That requires a coalition of wannabes, creating events that have the feel of “fairs.” Any registration defector from the electoral con game is a victory, even if your body doesn’t get all of them.

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.

Clearlake Scavenging Ordinance

Councilperson Bruno Sabatier asked for comments on the proposed Scavenger Ordinance.  Here are mine based on his “Issue Statement and Discussion” link.

ParagraphOne:  “….looking for recycling materials.”  Scavengers are not looking for most recycling materials. They are only looking for CRVs. They will not scavenge non CRV recyclables. The reason that property owners will not redeem CRVs is because 1) The redemption value is too low (historical) and 2) Three out of the four redemption sites in Clearlake have closed down, creating long travel distances and sometimes long wait times at the surviving redemption center at the Grocery Outlet parking lot. This is the reason that the CRVs are in the trash to begin with. This is the cause of the problem. The scavengers are the scapegoat. The cause of the problem will remain.

Paragraph Two:  “….get the funds to buy the alcohol from scavenging recyclables….”   You will not turn alcoholics into tea drinkers with an anti scavenging ordinance. Many out of desperation will join the hundreds of thieves that are victimizing Clearlake residents, including me. I would rather have people scavenging than ripping me off. People usually don’t do both. Point to ponder:  Robbery rates out of control is bad for tourism. Maybe this should be the focus for any new ordinances.

Paragraph Four: “….not seeing ‘sketchy’ people…” are the operative words in the sentence ending in “trash bins.” Since addressing government CRV failure would completely deal with scavenging in bins in the first place, the real reason for the ordinance must be “the sketchy people.” If the council were hot for a true causal ordinance they would propose an ordinance making CRVs in bins an “attractive nuisance.” The smart money says this isn’t going to happen.

The needs of Clearlake include the needs of all residents. No segment of the City should bare the burden for government short sightedness and class agendas.

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.