Culture 3.0

Culture isn’t what it used to be. Thank goodness. But it isn’t like the old archaic forms of expression aren’t putting up a battle. But they are soon to be history and are only able to maintain the illusion that they are still relevant by the loyalty of old money and old bodies. Without the tiresome habits of network TV watchers, MFA program promises, broadcast radio, producers of tedious monstrosities called “the full length play”, record company contract serfs, art gallery wine and cheese parties,  chapbook poetry writers, and formula special effects vehicles we call movies.

They all pretend not to notice the future digging the graves for past genres, even as they jump into the hole to help them. These are the people who cannot change, so of course, pretend nothing has changed. As long as there are enough gurgling incontinent season ticket buyers and nostalgic sponsors, it pays to milk the game to the end while emerging culture can be snubbed as a side show staged by impudent upstarts.

But its not like cultural investors haven’t hedged their bets by buying into the new technology. They’re just not conveying the mantle of culture to the unworthy till an institution can dominate it. That doesn’t mean the originators and developers will not have made their mark over a 30 year period. It just means they will be coopted by the same opportunists who threw up roadblocks to progress until they could dominate the new forms.

Its hard work pretending not to notice what is staring you in the face. No one goes out anymore to listen to poets read out of notebooks except their friends and other poets waiting their turn. Its boring listening to talking podiums read what you can read for yourself at home off the internet, while smoking or drinking whatever you want in the comfort of easy chairs and consumer electronics. The loyalists sneered at the performance movement called slam poetry while that movement itself is being pressured for even more cultural change to stay relevant on the edge.

This change is not a distant glow and low rumbling, open to interpretation about what it is and when it will arrive. No, change has been screaming and yelling on the front porch, pounding its fists on the door to be let in for quite some time. The ruse of being unaware of this unwanted visitor is belied by the barring of the door and directing the old school to enter thru the back door, as if it were the new front door. As if the reaper wasn’t forcing a game change fast enough by himself, the price of this exercise in futility keeps skyrocketing. Its like, demand falls off so you double the price for customers who are getting poorer and poorer.

Alright, I have a personal agenda and contempt for tribal snobs. In addition to kicking slam poetry up a notch and replacing both studio movies and network TV with an expanding (and cheap) internet scene and satellite TV, I have a long standing grudge against full length play based theater and all the class pretense that goes along with it. Yes, I know there used to be a counter theater. But that was then. This is now. Sitting through a full length isolated-from-current-issues-play is cultural waterboarding plus tasers.

Live theater as we know it is dead. As soon as life support becomes too expensive for the survivors to maintain this pointless illusion, the plug will be pulled. Make no mistake about it. Video and internet productions increasingly outstrip the four-wall rituals we call theater. So is there no hope for live theater? Yes there is. But first, we must assume the American Theater phantasm is only perpetuated by brain eating pundit zombies, academic whores producing MFA programs, sponsor sell-outs, and class traitors. Having eliminated this part of the problem the solution is obvious.

Remember, the average person, and many above average people, are perfectly happy with sitting at home in their 1500 dollar easy chairs, in their underwear, drinking their favorite cold beer at store prices, watching their gas plasmas with killer sound systems on broad band cable and satellite TV, as the internet belches forth millions of classic, free, or low cost offerings that they can talk about, or not, on hundreds of culturally related sites. The soon to be extinct cultural gatekeepers think this is irrelevant. This comment is based on long and painful personal experience.

I propose a new model for live performance that will not be based on a dying past. The model is split between salons and venues. The salons are close knit associations of compatible artists and writers who perform and interact with their peers. Participation is by invitation only. The purpose of a salon is not primarily entertainment. It is cultural interaction between peers. This should be the first exposure of new work, not institutional endorsement after admission by gatekeepers.

The model for public theatre venues is more aggressive. It assumes that plays should be fringe festival length – not over one hour. Other cultural forms will have to fill the evening out – music, stand up, skits, or group raps or slams. If serious food is not next door, an appealing menu must be part of the venue. The nite out will be one stop or not at all. Real time streaming to the web and chat will be a must for the under 50 crowd.

Ideally, the food/alcohol component of the venue will also serve as an after event discussion forum. Think: absurdism, surrealism, true performance slam forms, That is, if we are serious about getting people out for live cultural events. These after hours soirees will be the democratic replacement for self serving theatre boards and grant fed institutions.

This is what is necessary to hold on to the live community part of cultural expression. Most forms of expression, globally and locally, will be on the internet or satellite. That is a given. The big question that few people are asking is “are we going to do what is necessary to keep the face to face part of cultural alive and relevant.”

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.

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.

Lake County’s Sister County

Many cites have “sister cities.” So I suppose counties can have sister counties. Political entity siblings are usually not located near each other. Its as if their drunken political bedfellow parents had a nasty separation and never wanted to see each other again. Each took one of the local mutant twins and made tracks.

So rather than speculate on who’s Lake County’s daddy, I searched for the perfect ugly sister for mutual admiration. That pit stop is Rowan County, Kentucky, population 23,655. Rowan’s newest claim to fame is that its the home of Kim Davis, the County Clerk who believed that she was an agent of God, charged with overturning that Obergefell v. Hodges heresy in accordance with some Divine plan.

Now she also took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. No one has figured out a better last word on the Constitution than the Supreme Court. The God’s word angle doesn’t always work as evidenced by centuries of religious wars by every side, all tuned into God’s word. Maybe they’re listening to different channels. Maybe the one true God isn’t broadcasting but is in the business of making radios. Davis didn’t have to take her oath of office and its only in effect from the time she plops down at her desk to the moment her car’s seat belt clicks. She is completely free to not issue marriage licenses to gays in her prayer meetings.

Why is Rowan County the right choice to partner with Lake? Lake County has also made national news for taking absurdly ridiculous positions that fly in face of legal issues that have already been decided.

Remember the Dinius case? A sail boat bumping along at 3 to 5 knots at night was run over by a speed boat plowing through the Lake at 35 to 50 miles per hour driven by the assistant sheriff. One of the sail boat’s passengers was killed. The District Attorney decided that the person at the rudder of the sail boat, who wasn’t the captain of the boat, was criminally responsible. The case drug on for months while the public and the sailing community were outraged. According to boating law the wrong person was being charged, resulting in a not guilty verdict for Dinius. In the glare of bad publicity, the DA and sheriff weren’t reelected but the speed boat assassin won election to Clearlake City Council by a landslide.

Lake County’s development in the 20th Century was fueled by selling thousands of  “paper subdivision” lots in rugged terrain with no paved roads or services. Buyers were told the services would just come someday. Someday never came and crashing land values attracted thousands of desperate people longing to own something, no matter how mean. A clique of small minded goobers got the order of events reversed and blamed the poor residents for falling property values and erosion. Their buddies in real estate were the victims not the cause of Clear Lake’s problems. This denial did not stop Lake County from becoming a poster child for California’s State Map Act which limited paper lot subdivisions without minimum improvements.

And don’t forget my pet peeve about Lake County. Lake County has the most censored public access channel in the Country. Ever since TV8 was taken over by local government and the volunteers expelled, all political programming has been put on a very short leash. The government dominated PEG Board has never sought legal advice and insisted they had the right to create new categories of speech control over looked by the Supreme Court. The attacks on volunteers who resisted have been particularly vicious.

But what about my charge that TV8 is the MOST censored public access channel? Surely I’m exaggerating even if the censorship policies were true. What about the Deep South or the Rocky Mountain states? Censorship must be worse there. Maybe it is, but not at public access channels. Why is that? Because courts have ruled that localities are not required to have public access channels. However, if they ask for them in their cable franchise contracts they have to follow free speech and public forum law. The places that would be inclined to illegally censor our free speech rights simply do not ask for public access channels, which is not a violation of our rights.

According to a survey by the Alliance For Community Media, only 18% of cable systems have public access channels. Public access censorship can only take place in this 18% of cable systems. The other 82% are off the hook even if many of them would have violated our rights. Lake County is in the 18% of cable TV who said they would follow the law but  did not. I have not found another station in that 18% that has systematically trashed our liberties over so many years.

Why would Lake County ask for an outlet for the people’s voice if they wanted the people to just shut up? Maybe they thought free speech was a locally defined thing or something only the better sort of people were entitled to. Maybe they thought they could squeeze more free equipment from the cable company if they asked for a PEG channel, discouraging anyone outside their insider club from using it. Who knows. No one who was around at that time is talking. Rowan County doesn’t even have a PEG channel anywhere within its Jesus blessed borders.

Its this complete contempt for the legal process, substituting their views of how things ought to be, that has put Rowan and Lake Counties in the same State of Denial. Think of what they could learn from each other about applying faith based vetoes to every advance since the Dark Ages. The two counties could exchange local newspapers to read about people across the Continent who were just like them. Or maybe they could ban each other’s newspapers. It would be more fun and less work than reading.

Polishing Up Censorship

On August 12th County Counsel Anita Grant made a report to TV8’s PEG Board on their free speech policies. She briefly outlined the legal rights of PEG station users that our citizens have demanded since this government dominated board was formed 8 years ago. The PEG Board members responded to the Counsel’s report as if this information was all news to them.
 
The County Counsel emphasized that programming decisions must be “content neutral” except for several categories narrowly defined by the Supreme Court. Her source was an issue of Community Media Review. It sounded like the one I had passed around several years back. However, the County’s PEG representative, Ed Robey, has indicated in past PEG meetings his intention to bypass this restriction by using the “time place manner” legal concept to schedule offending political programs late at night when few people will see them.
 
The Counsel appeared to be giving the green light to this strategy when she assured the PEG Board that they could use the “time place manner” provision in scheduling. She did not indicate that there were legal criteria to prevent this concept from being used as censorship by another name.
 
The current crystallization of elements that must exist for time place manner to be employed is listed and explained in “”Ward v. Rock Against Racism” 1989. In this binding decision, employing time place manner must not be content specific. But also the time restriction must be narrowly tailored and serve a “significant government interest.” Once employed, the restriction must leave ample alternative means to convey the message.
 
The Counsel’s remarks did not show awareness of this requirement. When the PEG Board programmer asked, “I am allowed to accept 10 videos on 1 candidate?” Grant responded, “That’s an administrative function that’s a time place manner restriction.” She did not give an example of an administrative action that would not be a content restriction in this case.

Counsel added, “You don’t want to set up a circumstance where 1 candidate CoOps the station.” This statement was curious. How can TV8 “set up a circumstance” when the station is open to all residents on an equal basis? If by CoOp the station she meant only supporters of 1 candidate chose to use the station then she is ignoring the fact that different campaigns will choose to use different strategies. You can be sure that a campaign that draws significant contributions to run mass mailings and media ads will not be encouraging their supporters to produce campaign videos for TV8. That’s for poor people.
 
I cannot think of a single way that an administrative action designed to curtail residents from submitting candidate videos that would not fail one or more Supreme Court tests under Ward v. Rock. Historically, these tests are derived from time place manner concepts developed in “Grayned v. City of Rockford” 1972, citing examples from numerous other cases for context. These contexts almost exclusively deal with noise, blocking traffic, and denying other people the use of parks.

These are clear government interests. Providing cover for government subterfuges would be an abuse of time place and manner. One cited example is two parades cannot use the same street at the same time. This does not mean that government has the right to schedule all non Chamber of Commerce parades at 3 a.m. in the morning.

The message was that the PEG Board needed to display the right motives when impeding residents’ political activity. Setting aside “X blocks of time” was not to ghettoize the people’s voice but rather to “make sure everyone has access.” This ignores the fact that TV8 has so much dead time that they haven’t even bothered asking for the two extra channels they are entitled to. Although the Counsel gave mundane examples of normal time place manner such as “production standards” and “allocating time among competing users” she seemed to be implying that anything that the PEG Board wanted to add to the list was legitimate. It is not.

The irony of Grant quoting from the Community Media Review article was that it was written by the attorney for the Sue Buske Group. This was the firm that advised the County and Clearlake in the late 1990’s on franchise and PEG issues. Probably these consultants recommended sending out a “Request for Proposals” (RFP) to interested non profits that would get government out of the free speech business. This is how functioning PEG stations operate. Ask Ukiah. Ask Willits. Ask Fort Bragg. Ask Humboldt County. Ask Weaverville (Weaverville!!!!!).

A local government attorney’s job is to reduce the city or county’s legal exposure as much as possible. Transferring public access functions to non profits clearly does this. But trying to convince politicians on boards to defer to citizens’ civil liberties is always a waste of time in the long run.

Channel 8 Pass Thru Fee Shenanigans

The following letter, e-mail, and Channel 8 web page excerpt are in reference to tomorrow’s Board of Supervisors second reading of PUC 5870(n) cable PEG fee ordinance for Lake County.

Lake County Record-Bee
letters to the editor
December 21, 2014

RE: PEG Channel TV8 pass through fee

TV8 is a PEG station in name only. The letters in the PEG acronym represent three separate interest groups with different agendas.

The “P” stands for public access and this function operates on federally defined public forum standards. However, the PEG Board is composed of government representatives and their appointees. It is not surprising that they treat public access as if it were just another local government “home rule” service. It is not. In fact, the PEG Board denies that public forum principles, stemming from Hague v. CIO (1939), have anything to do with their actions.

The ignoring of established free speech guarantees is not a new development in Lake County. When I was the first person to submit a video that was not “government approved”, two members of the PEG Committee organized an unruly mob of PIC members on September 24, 2004 to intimidate me.

Now the PEG Board wants a pass through for a PEG station that, in fact, no longer exists. Sure the “G” part exists but the public access “P” part does not. The new State Franchise Law only allows a forced pass through for a full PEG station as defined by federal law, not as defined by Ed Robey.

Other local jurisdictions have not been sued for a PEG pass through fee because they are not fraudulently calling a government channel a PEG channel. I suggest that a PEG Board that is 100% composed of politicians and their appointees will have a hard time convincing disinterested third parties that they are upholding the public access rights of citizens who are critical of those same politicians.

[e-mail to two County Supervisors and Shawn Swatosh – Mediacom manager]
The key issue regarding TV8’s eligibility for a PUC 5870(n) pass through is its status as a PEG Channel. Only full PEG channels qualify for a pass through as “PEG” is the only type of channel mentioned in 5870. Many former local franchisers in the State only have a government channel for their meetings and designated programming. Those former franchisers do not qualify for a pass through.

The distinction of a PEG channel is that it submits itself to forum analysis as defined by the Supreme Court, notably as described in Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators Association (1983). A 1996 Supreme Court case was the last unsuccessful attempt to have PEG channels declared non public forums.

In public forums, only illegal activity can be outright prohibited. Non content based rationing of a limited public resource is allowed. In the special case of PEG programming, a safe harbor for indecent programming is allowed between 10pm and 6am (FCC v. Pacifica Foundation 1978). No other content restrictions for the public access part of a PEG channel is legal.

The LCPTV website boldly announces a new content restriction approved by the PEG Board in August 2014. This goes beyond any content restriction I’ve found for a PEG channel in the Country. The closest I’ve found is attempts to ban content from “political candidates.” I have not found any PEG channels with a policy banning “producers” with a point of view concerning candidates and ballot issues. In essence, the PEG Board has converted TV8 into a stand alone government channel. Therefore, it is ineligible for a pass through.

The fact that the PEG Board has abandoned its responsibility to Mediacom to fulfill its PEG obligations under the State Franchise Law does not relieve Mediacom of its responsibility under PUC 5870(a) to provide PEG capacity for the local entity with franchise PEG provisions as of Jan. 1, 2007. This means the city limits of Clearlake. Mediacom has no PEG obligations to Lake County as a whole.
[I also sent an online attachment of James Horwood’s article on political speech and PEG]

[from the LCPTV home page]
On August 13, 2014 Lake County PEG TV approved the following amendment to our operations manual concerning election material submissions.

3.5 3.5 No election related programming which favors one candidate or ballot measure shall be broadcast. Candidate forums which are public and give equal opportunity to all candidates may be broadcast. Ballot measure forums which are public and give equal opportunity to all parties may be broadcast