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.

Letter to Mendocino’s Ad Hoc Committee on Public Access

I am the Secretary for Cache Creek Performance, a non-profit created by some former TV8 volunteers.  The purpose of Cache Creek Performance is to create a structure to contract for non-traditional public and private venues. Our focus area is Lake County and Ukiah Valley. I believe the Board of Supervisors may be interested in our idea for a relevant internet platform for all Mendo-Lake community media.

 Twenty years ago, cable TV was still in it’s prime. For rural California, it seemed that almost every home was hooked into cable TV. 

Behind the scenes, many government and volunteer hours were spent obtaining contracts for public access funding, putting broadcast studios in place, and keeping the channels operational.  Having a public access channel was the only community controlled media.  It was a boon for local businesses and community groups, while allowing local governments to educate and engage their citizens. It was the only public platform for local performers, producers and videographers. 

 But now, many customers are switching from cable to satellite for their television viewing.  Other customers are giving up their television sets altogether, using the internet to provide them with both information and entertainment. The internet doesn’t require people to schedule their lives around someone else’s schedule. We enjoy an explosion of choices that we can use at our convenience.

Local businesses, organizations and governments are less dependent on Public Access, preferring to rely on their websites to get their information out.   Budgets are tightening, and the cost of running brick and mortar operations keeps rising.   And with the loss of cable customers, Public Access viewership is dropping.   Now would seem like a good time to say ‘good-bye’ to Public Access. 

 But the internet has not been able to fully replace public access. There is no one place on the internet where someone can learn about the full range of local culture, local issues, and local activities.  Without some kind of filter, the community gets lost in the cyberspace noise.  And it is that very cyber roar that puts our community identities at risk. 

  Perhaps as important as our community identity, is our right to a public forum.  Unlike satellite TV and internet, Public Access holds a special place as a legal “designated public forum.”  It cannot be overridden by commercial or political considerations.  And, since the enactment of DIVCA, we can be pretty sure that if we allow these unique Public Access forums to fall off of our radar, we can never get them back.

 How do we keep these assets alive in this changing climate?  First, we need to rethink the type of local government contributions that would best support the transition of our public access channels to the internet.  Second, we need to work with the new technology. 

 Viable public access requires: a place for the live cable jack (ensuring a legal free speech entity for all the public); protected storage for valuable equipment; and an inclusion under the County insurance umbrella.  This way, the County could support the transformation of a vital resource by replacing PEG line items with in-kind support.  Other examples are increased municipal wi-fi locations (remember, the shift to more internet incorporation) and better access to public spaces for “on-the-fly” shooting spaces as well.  But no scary budget item for a declining technology.

 Technically, the cable links need to be nodes on an internet platform, which is essentially a beefed up blog site. WordPress Premium at $8.25 per month should be adequate. The $5 per month Vimeo option seems to be working well as the preferred video upload site for Willits. Notice I said links, plural. Each access channel and community radio in the region would need to have their own pages on the platform for basic info and links which they would administer themselves. Live streaming and podcasts should be platform centered. There are plans available for under $20 per month.

Cache Creek Performance would like to help create a relevant internet platform, including cable public access, for all Mendo-Lake community media.

 

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.

Sustainable Economics Conference

I wish I could have made the Conference. I bought a ticket but the sustainable approach failed me.

Taking the 12:45 Route 3 from Rays in Clearlake should have got me there. We boarded and secured a large wheelchair at Twin Pines Casino which put us 10 minutes behind schedule to catch the Route 10 in Calistoga Southbound. I called The Vine and asked for a short hold. The dispatcher said she would try but Calistoga was at the limit of their radio reception.

As we had the Lincoln Bridge in sight, one minute late, we saw the 10 pull away. Now I’m down an hour waiting for the 3pm Route 10. I get to the Napa Transfer Station to catch the 4:30 29 Express to the North El Cerrito Bart. I wait and wait. Its 5:15. Another rider finds out the 29 Express is a turnaround and due to heavy traffic in American Canyon they are skipping the 4:30 and we’ll have to take the 5:30, too late to catch the Conference after a Bart trip to the 19th Ave Station. (by the way, the SELC directions map doesn’t have the Bart stations on it.)

It looks like Napa Vine is a sustainability barrier. Lake Transit drivers carry a company cell phone when they are out of radio range. As the Vine offices are at the transfer station someone could have walked over to the 29 Express platform to tell passengers the 4:30 wasn’t happening. I would have at least been able to catch the next Northbound 10 to catch the last Route 3 back to Lake County.

This was not the first time the Vine stranded me. Sustainability requires flexibility but also functionality. I guess I will have to follow the SELC online.

Brought to You by the DNC

With only Michigan still hanging in the balance, the Presidential Election is Done. Trump was an unlikely nominee and an unlikely victor, at least according to polls. But polls don’t count a lot of things. They don’t count a dislike of polls and how they are used. They don’t count the distrust of a corporate media which has their own agenda. They certainly have no way of registering the intensity of betrayal, unfocused rage, humiliation, and a singleminded determination to make someone, anyone pay for what is essentially the end of hope, patience, and confidence in conventional wisdom.

The media of course pointed out the corrosive, self centeredness of Trump when he was still a contender for the Republican nomination. The other candidates pulled away from him because of his bluntness but most of them had been carefully cultivating the soil of resentment for some time. After all the Republicans’ opportunistic promises, the faithful were demanding that the insider Senators and Governors lusting for the brass ring to spell out exactly where the harvest was, dammit. The more the polite candidates isolated him the more he stood out. The more the media attacked him for his divisiveness the better he looked to his core supporters. Trump’s numbers went up after every smug expose’.

It didn’t hurt Trump that the other primary pretenders were putting all their chips on one losing number or another. “I’m the Jesus candidate.” “I’m the Black candidate.” “I’m the woman candidate.” “I’m the hereditary dynasty candidate.” I’m the…..you get the idea. The Republicans started a high stakes game that an outsider was now better at playing. Trump only bet on one number too but it was a comparative winner – “I’m not an elected politician and I have enough money to make the Republican negative program happen without donors who have strings attached.” Bingo – a winner – so to speak. In the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is king.

Although the Trump strategy was a winner to get the nomination it should have guaranteed a 1964 Goldwater type train wreck in the general election. Fortunately for him the Democratic Party National Committee came to his rescue. The Country just went through eight years of shell shock after the 2008 crash with only some short term stimulus, no recovery for those taking the big hits, and no jail time for those responsible. Now someone who had been drawing big administration checks all that time thinks she should be President. Virtually all the grass roots, progressive, and blue collar families who went from 60 to 0 in 5 seconds said, “I don’t think so.” An old independent Senator who registered Democrat to fill the void stepped forward.

In America it’s tacitly accepted that you can lie, cheat, and steal to get something in politics as long as you stay within bounds. One of those bounds is that competition among fellow travelers should not descend into fatally backstabbing each other. This would weaken the commitment of the faithful in the General Election. The Republican Party understands this point. The Democratic Party decided to do something different.

A micro cabal of self important dictators, called the Democratic National Committee, decided that anyone who challenged “their” anointed choice for President should be subjected to every trick in the book. They also saw nothing wrong with funneling all money for the Democratic Party to the DNC’s chosen one. What do we care about what a bunch of stupid peasants say in silly primaries?

In spite of overwhelming support of the rank and file, big money prevailed. Incredibly, the DNC thought that the millions who threw their heart and soul behind a game changer would forgive and forget to close ranks against some mythical common enemy. Most Bernie supporters did not have “stupid” tattooed on their foreheads.

Much to the surprise of the professional pundits, the howls of pain and anguish of Trump supporters prevailed over the arrogance of the Democratic establishment. The rust belt that went for Obama in 2008, defected to Trump. Pennsylvania one of the five biggest states: Obama in 2008, Trump in 2016. Obama got North Carolina, a Southern state, in 2008. Lost to Trump in 2016. Trump’s victory was in spite of thinking conservatives defecting to the Libertarian Gary Johnson campaign. It took both major parties together to fantastically screw up to get Donald Trump elected. Maybe we need to dump this anomaly called the two-party system. It breeds an opportunism the future cannot afford.

People who do not share Trump’s simple scapegoat values were angry after the election. They were so angry they decided to join Trump supporters and stop thinking, looking for their own scapegoats. They didn’t have to look far. Trump was the reason Trump was elected and they would riot and hold self righteous demonstrations to protest this reality.

None of these sore losers have the attention span to move on the causes of successive Wall Street crashes, an eight year do nothing administration, a DNC Hell bent on destroying any sign of intelligent life in the Democratic Party, and a 20 year campaign of voter disenfranchisement by the Republican Party. Trump was the beneficiary not the cause of this malfeasance.

In the next two years America needs to take off its dunce hat and put on its thinking hat. Defensively, we need to fund legal action to protect what’s left of our civil rights. But real change will require crafting a researched, long term agenda outside both major political parties. Fact finding across disciplines is not fun and sometimes reveals hard truths. American media will not help and sneer at you. Aggressive bottom up organizing for purposes of supplanting not serving the political and media elite is long, hard work. It is far easier to blame some egotistical, loutish, oaf, who never tried to disguise it, for the desperate choice of the people than it is to take direct responsibility for solving problems going back decades.