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?

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.

My Transit Union Goon Experience


Lake Transit is run by a contractor chosen by a three government “Lake Transit Authority.” That contractor then contracts with a labor union who represents the rank and file employees. On July 1 the labor contract was to expire. January 1, 2017 the contractor’s contract was to expire. The bus workers chose me to work with the negotiating committee for the labor contract.

Contractors are not like entrepreneurs. They do not have their own capital at risk. They can pack up and leave by not bidding on the next operations contract and have lost nothing. The buses, yard, equipment, and transit infrastructure are publicly owned capital. This reduces the contractor’s incentive to settle labor issues quickly. A contractor can lowball their contract bid and tell workers a raise in pay or benefits is not in their budget. Strike if you want to. We don’t care. This makes unions look ineffective.

This year is a little different. CalTrans, who has the final word on all matters transit, has put the LTA and the contractor on a strict timeline to create a new operations contract. This is due to the many contract extensions that were granted. The first speed bump date is July 11th. This is when the LTA’s draft Request For Proposals for a new operations contract must be sitting on CalTrans’ desk. To write this draft RFP all current costs must be listed, including labor. If there is a union their contract has to be put into the package but apparently is not binding on the new contractor.

I decided early on in the labor negotiations that I would only contribute my document research from CalTrans, my unique experience of going to all the LTA meetings, and quoting its general manager whenever possible. Just mentioning his name causes contractors to avert their eyes. The Union rep would keep the long formal process chugging along. Other bus workers at the table would pound on specific proposals.

After the third negotiating session it was clear nothing else was coming over from the other side of the table. Moving numbers around the columns and changing wording was not even inching us forward. Up to this point, the “progress” was the Union throwing out things from their original proposal. What was left was a few minor changes in conditions and trying to get a raise in some part of the three year contract.

The contractor was adamant that the money drivers got from the Valley Fire disaster funds was our raise for the rest of the year even though they did not pay any of it. At an earlier LTA meeting I pointed out that this infusion only covered most of the new minimum wage increase of one dollar. New drivers got an increase of 86 cents. So they were still further behind the minimum wage gain. The LTA’s manager, Mark (avert your eyes) Wall thought the difference between the minimum wage and starting driver pay should be two dollars.

So now its Tuesday morning, day 5. The Union committee decides that since the contractor wanted to wrap things up today we would oblige by giving our Best and Final Offer. Unlike three years ago when the drivers got their butts kicked, the contractor is under some pressure from the LTA to meet a deadline because the LTA is under pressure from CalTrans to move on their calendar.

So the contractor and Union committees face off across the table. The Union hasn’t budged since yesterday and says “Hey guys, how about your Best and Final offer so we can take it to our members tonight along with a strike vote.” Predictably, the contractors tensed up and asked for a brief recess. When they came back their fake smiles had vanished. Then they alternated between lecturing us as if we were naughty three year olds and accusing us of violating the National Labor Relations Act, without examples, and seemed to be on their way to charging us with crimes against humanity when we decided to break for another Union paid for lunch.

After lunch more trees had been sacrificed at the copy center. The contractor had made progress in wages that they might never pay because they would not start until after the operations contract had been awarded. Starting drivers would still start at $11.34 an hour till January First. On the First they would get $2.50, maybe. If the current contractor does not bid they won’t pay it. And a new contractor would technically have to agree to sign on to the Union agreement.

During break, the Teamster guy asked us what we thought and if the membership would vote for this contract. He thought that since the present contractor did not seem likely to put in a serious bid for themselves that this was probably the best we could get. I thought most would follow his lead but any drivers likely to quit soon, because of the mandatory six-day weeks caused by the driver shortage, probably would vote against the contract. The rest of our committee voiced concerns that the members were too tired to go out on strike. Lucky for low ball contractors, until we get too tired to drive and quit.

Sure enough, that night the members voiced their disappointment with different shortcomings of our thin work but still voted for the contractor’s meager three year contract offer which may end up back on the table with a new contractor. I wonder if the serfs felt this way – new Lord, same field to plow.

Meanwhile, the relentless march of the CalTrans procurement schedule leading to an operations contract award begins July 11 and ends with an award November 9th. The CalTrans approved RFP is released to potential bidders August 5 but I really need to see the draft that CalTrans sees July 11 so I can pitch a fit if a performance clause is not in it. An operation that is on forced six day work weeks for over a year is not fully staffed. When qualified drivers quit due to burn outs and melt downs, the money spent on training and increasing driver experience levels go down the drain.

What would such a staffing clause look like? I suggested a trigger of a three driver shortage over three months. This would be the indicator of a systemic fault. When both of these conditions exist continuously the contract should require a written explanation from the contractor of why this is an extraordinary glitch, how it is being fixed, and why they should not be fined for non performance. Mark Wall is simultaneously planning route reductions based on a grant shortfall. He doesn’t need the additional headaches from another low ball contract. I will now avert my eyes.

Transit Beyond Our Means

Ask any conservative and they will tell you how a market price for a good or service works. In the case of wages, that price is some rate much smaller than whatever American workers are getting now. The reasoning is that unions and bureaucrats have done nothing but force wages up beyond this pristine state of Nirvana called “The Market Price.” But many changes have happened to the work world in the 21st Century.

In theory, people in the American Legion/Chamber of Commerce crowd will agree that prices can also be too low, causing a shortage until prices come up to the market price and eliminate the shortage. In practice, they believe this applies to wages only rarely and temporarily. That is because people in the working class could always work for less as long as they are above subsistence. And let’s not forget the quality and standards issue. You can always get cheaper help if you will compromise on quality.

Lake County has an amazing transit system for a small, poor, rural county. Even though our county is isolated and surrounded by mountains on all sides, we send out a total of 8 buses a day to Napa and Mendocino Counties. Ukiah is the nearest functional city outside the backwater of Lake County and Calistoga is the tip of a direct artery leading right into the SF Bay Area. It’s cheap too. Around the hundred-mile Clear Lake perimeter buses ply the shore until 9pm. Our better heeled Mendocino does about half our rural runs. Our local residents still complain.

Lake Transit pulls this off by not hiring anyone as County employees and putting a grant writer in charge of the whole system who also contracts with a management company. The nominally governing Lake Transit Authority has given the grant writer free reign. Public transit systems are designed to collect 15 to 20 per cent of costs in fares and suck up one quarter of a per cent in sales taxes. The rest is grants grants grants. The problem is grants are political and unstable. They come and go. But the passengers stay and stay and become dependent on the transit system.

At the April 13th meeting the grant writer revealed that from now on he will not be able to pull in as many new grants as he loses. Because of this crises he has asked CalTrans to extend the no bid management contract on a continued month by month basis. The drivers have been on this month by month extension for nearly a year. The structure of the contract dictates that the wages increase according to the management’s CPI increases. But over 9 years the all powerful market has decreed an increase greater than the CPI average, hence a shortage.

The inability to hire as many drivers as we need created a permanent driver shortage and mandatory 6 day burnout workweeks. This has gone on for nearly a year and a half, accelerating the attrition. I hear of drivers on the verge of quitting every day to get some of their life back. The candidates who would fill the gap have had felonies or couldn’t pass a drug test if you gave them the answers. The dream team drivers aren’t going to work for what the contractor is paying. And so the continuing shortage, burnout, and bigger shortage – a chain reaction.

On top of sub market wages workers have had to deal with the perverse incentives of the Affordable Care Act. Most employers have reduced full time employees to avoid the Act’s most onerous provisions. But scheduling flexibility is so critical in the crumbling bus driver roster that Lake Transit has actually increased the numbers of full timers. On the other hand, full time status used to be a carrot employees were striving for but in this case drivers are weighing pros and cons. The 6 day requirement means sections of lives are crashing over time and the company medical plan is weak with a large employee contribution.

In 5 years the shrinking grants will reduce routes and catch up to the dwindling driver pool. Before that time there will be canceled runs due to the driver shortage. With 6-day work weeks and management filling in scheduled runs we are two employee quits away from hanging out the “sorry closed” sign on the least traveled trips. Maybe we can push through an expungement for the more promising felons. Maybe we can borrow a driver from another company unit. But in the long run we will need another source of revenue other than fares, grants, and sales tax.

The biggest funding problem locally among the movers and shakers is the fact that transit in general is unpopular. There is a perception in places where business people meet and greet that transit serves the wrong kind of people.Transit makes it easier for those wrong kind of people to live here which scares off the right kind of people – high end kind of people that they can make money off of. Getting any funding support for the wrong kind of people from local boosters isn’t going to happen.

Not all identifiable bus passengers are politically untouchable. Trying to pull on the heart strings for the poor and disabled is a non starter if you are looking for votes. That is because there is an assumption that much of their problems are due to heavy drug use and other bad lifestyle choices. However, “veterans” and “seniors” get mostly positive reviews, with reservations that some of the wrong people have infiltrated their ranks. This means that it is possible to get some traction for veteran and senior transit support if it can be isolated from helping those lazy, ex felon drug addicts, hiding under the poor and disabled blanket, in the process.

A current window of opportunity is SB951 by Mike McGuire. This bill would allow all veterans to ride transit for free if local agencies pick up half the tab. If they pass on this they lose out on the State half to local transit systems. Even though Lake County doesn’t have any spare change for veterans it does have thousands of absentee owned lots with bad access. The property assessments on these are low. If our locals invest in infrastructure these freeloaders will benefit. A per parcel tax for target transit riders would include these non residents as part of the community unlike more sales taxes.

The parcel tax would pay for free transit for veterans and, to broaden the appeal of the tax measure, over 65 seniors. I would recommend the tax be the cost of a single weekly pass – 20 dollars. The tax would be the same amount regardless of the parcel’s improvements or speculative value. Multiple lot owners could legally combine their lots to reduce assessments. Renters wouldn’t pay. Developed property owners would hardly notice it. And owners of trash lots and abandoned property would throw some chips in the local game for a change.

Juror 7 Excused

In 1974 I was on my first and last jury. I never tried to get out of jury duty since then. It’s just that either one side or the other doesn’t love me. Maybe I give out powerful vibes about thinking for myself in spite of any sheeple instructions from a judge.

My April 6th call to civic duty included 101 people in a jury pool for a single trial. Remember, you only need 12 for a jury. You may ask, “So was this crowd assembled for a murder, child prostitution ring, or operating a meth lab?” No, it was a consumer crime. A couple were charged with possession of meth and a meth pipe – two misdemeanors that are de rigueur in Clearlake. I looked around at all the high priced help in the room and all I could think about was “What a waste of money in a county that has none .”

I have a problem with meth users. But I also have a problem with alcoholics (which I am borderline myself), people who buy politicians to approve unsafe drugs, cigarette smokers and manufacturers, GMO distributors, and especially, food producers who are destroying Americans’ health by saturating everything in addicting high fructose corn syrup. (Noooo, we’ don’t care about Type 2 diabetes.) Even though they are worthless burnouts, I feel cranksters are popular scapegoats that are entitled to equal protection under the law. We are not the “United States of Health” so let’s quit kidding ourselves.

During the first part of the process, people plead hardship and got dismissed. No surprise there. The next stage dealt with each person’s ability to be fair. Many people suffered a personal loss that disabled their fairness gene and they admitted it. Most of them had a messianic belief in the testimony of cops. Scary. I swear its gotten worse in spite of all the You Tube videos. Fortunately, the judge dismissed them. But the judge did not dismiss one lady who said the court’s instructions had to follow “God’s Law” (Good name for a TV series) for her to accept the judge’s words.

The judge’s next questions dealt with the jurors’ exposure to the criminal justice system – personal, family, and as victims. Other inquiries explored jurors’ personal and family history as employees in the criminal justice system. Shocking! Nearly half the room had family that had jobs in some kind of police or prosecutor work somewhere. I did not notice this in the past. We are now in a police state.

Among the pool survivors a draw of 18 jurors is selected. I am chosen. The defense and prosecutor do a little dance of lecturing and questioning. Then the challenges begin. Each side gets ten juror challenges that they don’t have to justify or they can pass. With all these cop lovers and druggie haters in the pool the prosecutor is pretty happy. He only uses one challenge and passes on the rest of his turns. The defense is knocking off jurors like bowling pins.

Only jurors in seats 1 to12 can be eliminated so jurors 13 to 18 can be moved up into the hot seats. After 6 eliminations I am still there so another 6 jurors are called up. Seven is gone. Eight is gone. The defense has questioned some jurors personally but runs out of time before they get to me – too bad. The defense uses challenge number 9 – I am gone. Big mistake. The defendants are screwed, for I am not against mere possession of anything short of nuclear weapons. And I can’t be intimidated by large majorities against me.

This was my short day at work so it wasn’t much of a reprieve. Still, I got to listen and talk to a few normal people for a change. My bus passengers tend to dumb me down. But I am not going to waste my time playing it “Middle America” next time I get called for a jury. Their early warning system is sharp and I don’t smell like a peasant.

Some time in the future I will get called for another jury. When that happens I will shift up to performance mode early and try to pollute the jury pool with my creative answers to judge and prosecutor questions. Maybe I can plug this blog. Maybe I can jar some damaged citizens into thinking for themselves. If nothing else, I will be able to show that not everyone who shows up for jury duty is a card carrying member of the establishment. I want to be persona non grata on the class war stage. Maybe they will charge me with contempt and give me a show of my own at a future trial.

Pot, Police, and Pirates

Beware of getting news from articles that only quote the police. In the March 25 Lakeco News there was an article about the first big bust under Clearlake’s new marijuana regulations. The problem is one fact is wrong and the interesting half of the story is missing. The police embellishment about all the alarms at the grow is a lie. The alarms are all on my property 4 parcels away from the grow. I marked off the distance to the grow to look up the street number. No alarms went off as I got near the grow’s fence.

There was indeed a marijuana grow on 6089 and 6109 Vallejo in Clearlake. Ho hum, it happens all the time. But Officer Celli did not mention that the big bust swept far beyond the scope of the newly fenced in compound, and I’m certain, the narrow confines of their search warrant. Specifically, the police bounced over three heavily wooded lots and continued their eradication mission uphill to my knoll, starting with 15787 Yankee and 6009 Vallejo. But there was nothing to eradicate at this second location. That is because this is where I have been building experimental video and theater sets for nearly 20 years. I’m also creating a research library in a cargo container, which doubles as a video set.

Before I arrived on my knoll the officers apparently got bored with the professionally fenced in yard and turned their attention on the interlocked Manzanita branch barricade and heavy steel no trespassing sign at my entrance. One officer confided in me that they thought a branch barricade is typical of marijuana grows which is why they unceremoniously tore it down, breaking the interlocking structure.

Of course, a Manzanita branch barricade could also be the product of artistic sensibilities and having been the victim of 16 devastating burglaries and numerous perimeter penetrations on foot and dirt bike. But the police were not thinking anything except marijuana on this day and were not taking the time to learn that this was the very same site they had been to on numerous occasions in 2010 on harassment sorties directed by City Hall. They were on a roll…or is it a frenzy. It must be a frenzy because they tore out my driveway alarm and it disappeared.

When I rode up on my bicycle before work the police were staged on my neighbor’s illegal dump site. They were naturally curious who I was. I gave them my ID and answered all their questions. Why not? I figured they were there about the grow 4 lots downhill from my knoll. If I had known they had already ransacked my property, soiled props, and impounded my dog Ruby from her run I would not have been so friendly and cooperative. In the course of our conversation when they realized I was not a pot grower and had intelligence equal to the entire Clearlake Police Department they admitted they “moved” some of my upper perimeter barriers. For reasons that totally baffled me, the more serious cop seemed annoyed that I even had any kind of intrusion deterrent.

I left Clearlake’s finest to survey my now ignored knoll. It was a mess. Theater hats were thrown around and storage bins left open. I noticed one hat from a set of pirate hats in a bush. Then I realized that Ruby was gone. Did she break her chain defending her territory? Did the police shoot her but not tell me to maximize my cooperation? A two page notice from animal control was posted – “protective custody”, Section blah blah “mandatory spay”, Section blah blah “rabies shot”. Bullshit! She’s been spayed and has a current rabies shot. And who is being protected from who? I’m going to have to rescue Ruby tomorrow from her alien abductors. Today I have to go to work driving a bus.

I wonder if it occurred to any of these mental giants that with my barricades torn down, alarms stolen, and guard dog impounded my property is now completely vulnerable in one of the highest crime areas in Clearlake. As I went by the damaged Manzanita I spotted another one of my pirate hats on a branch. Why is it down here? I push my bike by the dump site and there’s three more pirate hats in a garbage pile. Nothing else from the knoll, just my pirate hats. I asked the cops, “Why are these here?” They just said, “Take them.” The serious cop walked off. I told the younger cop, “I’m on a mandatory 6 day work week due to driver shortage. I don’t have time for all this.”

I worked my shift very distracted. Is my dog suffering? And what were the police doing with all my pirate hats? Were they milking the clock playing pirate with my hats? After work I called my girl friend Lorna about my police invasion and Ruby’s abduction. She offered to come by in the morning. We didn’t know what documents animal control would require to release my dog. I went to the vet to get copies of her records. I knew where the dogs are held but where is the person in charge? We stopped in for coffee and a policeman in line offered to call animal control. No one answered but he was sure he saw her earlier at City Hall.

I called on the phone outside of the police department. Two women came out. The one in charge generously offered to wave the 50 dollar abduction fee and would call the kennel keeper to release Ruby. The boss’s back-up said another reason they came on my property was because I was uphill from the grow area so I must be a look-out. What?!! I’m a suspect because of something going on 200 feet downhill from my property? Are properties uphill from me responsible for what I do deep in the brush?

Oh yes, and she brought up the barricade again. I said, “Look, the reason it looks like a white supremacist compound is because I keep on getting hit again and again. And I’m planning to do a lot more starting with trail cameras that I bought.” If nothing else, next time it should keep the cops from mincing around in my pirate hats while they make each other walk the plank. Unless of course they steal the cameras.

We picked up Ruby at the lock down and Ruby squealed with delight. Lorna got us home and I got to work. It was another distracted day but not as distracted as the day before. I feel violated. I want some answers. And I want to see some paperwork from the Chief of Police. Anyone know a good 4th Amendment lawyer?

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.

North Shore – The Short Attention Plan

To put some zip in the has been resort towns on Clear Lake, Lake County made all of their Highway 20 communities a “Redevelopment District.” As part of this plan to siphon money from schools and other special districts, they would make each town on the strip a themed tourist destination.

The Lake County planners rolled out meticulously designed facade concepts to create a new look for these whistle stops. Upper Lake was to become a “Wild West Town.” The town of Nice would transform into a “Tuscan Village.” Lucerne, home of a castle style resort from the 30’s, would be remade into an “Alpine Village” without snow (except for the kind produced by Redevelopment). Clearlake Oaks would focus on their network of oversized drainage ditches behind track homes, that they call “keys”, and become known as a Portuguese fishing village. Businesses on the Highway were encouraged to get with the program and invest in building these County facades.

However, new businesses and remodels were required to include these local themes in their building permits. Otherwise, why would existing businesses waste their money.

Then Redevelopment backed off when corporate money showed up. Franchises were scouting locations. These brand names had a brand look. They weren’t interested in local themes unless someone put their foot down. Lake County wagged their tail and rolled over so nothing was ever said about the theme plan to save North Shore again. Someone said they saw the County’s theme designs in a yard sale.

Often these out of County cookie cutter franchises plopped right down next to local businesses with paint still wet on their facades. The locals trusted government planners to follow through. The planners probably said they would call them in the morning too. I guess we can’t expect planners, paid for by money skimmed from special districts, to have the same level of commitment as people spending their savings on a shared vision.

The sick irony is that when someone does do something different to create tourist interest with their own dime its a code enforcement issue. The County never wavered in their zeal to destroy the Bat House, featured in movies, and the plans to turn Glenhaven into a gay tourist destination.

Maybe the ultimate redevelopment project would be to bust up this back water Gooberstan of Lake County and stick the pieces on to Napa and Mendocino Counties. Then our residents would be part of counties that work and our good-old-boy planners would have to find work.

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