Sunday, December 23, 2012

Airing of Grievances (Personal and Political)

I have never been and never plan to be a Seinfeld fan. I get it- it's funny, dry, Jewish, even. I'm all of those things and can get behind all of those things. But not Seinfeld. But tonight I'd like to honor Seinfeld: It is, after all, the very important holiday of Festivus, which is the annual occasion of The Airing of Grievances. I complain a lot. I have a lot of #firstworldproblems. If you know me in person or follow me on twitter, you know that themacinator sometimes doth protest too much. So I'm going to take advantage of tonight to do some officially sanctioned airing. (In the spirit of the AoG, I give you permission to air away in the comments. Agreeing with themacinator on the amount of complaints she submits throughout the year is, however, strictly forbidden.)

Let's start with the personal slash #firstworldproblems and get those out of the way. My back hurts. I'm thirtysomething going on 94. Some days I wake up and feel like I understand how my 94 year old grandfather feels. My wonderful house is freezing. Seriously cold. I have already broken the "no heat until January" rule instilled in my by THB at least 5 times this month. Rollie is not Mac. Great, funny, warm (see above), but Not Mac, and therollinator has no ring to it at all, to add to the list of grievances that I want to air every time I see him. None of the last five books I have read have been worth reading. I've been suffering from writer's block for months.

Now onto the slightly more important topics. I'm very sick of the Lake Merritt Dog Park Issue. Let me insert a video that will express to those not interested in Oakland politics what this means.

Why Won't You Die, dog park? Okay, I don't really want the dog park to die, but the truth is that this project has been under discussion for ELEVEN years. I've lost count of how many times it's been in front of City Council this year. The dog park near Astro Park was voted down this summer for what was supposed to be the very last time, then, not surprisingly if you've ever worked with dog people or watched an Oakland City Council meeting was allowed to come back for a final appeal. It has since been voted on again twice more- the first time ending in a tie, and Mayor Jean Quan wasn't there to break the tie, and the second time tying again with Mayor Quan unwilling to break the tie and deferring the decision till next year in the hopes that a solution could be found. Because the 12th year is the charm, I heard.

If I had to pick a side, I'd side with the people now seen as NIMBYs- those who want the park somewhere else. Since this is the official themacinator Airing of Grievances, I will admit that part of me might do this just to play the contrarian. There are reasons, though, and they include things like parking, irresponsible ownership of both dogs and children, lack of enforcement capabilities, and, more importantly, better placement options. Other options do exist, and since it seems pretty clear that this pissing match is not doing much of anything besides wasting time (the last two city council meetings each lasted over 6 hours, much of which was devoted to this farce) and money, it could not possibly be worse to discuss other possibilities.

I will now air a very serious grievance. I don't think I have enough information or writerly prowess tonight to do this issue justice tonight, but I haven't figured out why this doesn't seem to bother more people. So there's serious issue part a, and then part b: no one cares! Part A: Alameda County (my county, folks, maybe yours) wants to buy drones. I've known this since mid-October. Seriously. And they only cost 50,000 to 100,000 dollars, which is in the same range as that dog park, just to put things in perspective. Maybe you don't know a lot about drones, or why people who like them like them: check out this rah-rah-type article from the respectable and mainstream magazine Wired that makes drones sound like something even the blue county of Alameda could get behind. They're just a remotely controlled device with a spot to carry something, it's cool! We can all have them! So what if the police want them?

Even Berkeley decided that they weren't going to add "Drone Free" to their "Nuclear Free" signs. And it turns out that the AlCo Sherriff wasn't even on the up and up about how he was going to obtain or use this drone. From the ALCU:
Controversy has erupted in Alameda County in recent weeks after Sheriff Greg Ahern announced his intent to acquire a drone. We filed a public records act request that produced documents revealing Ahern intends to use a drone for surveillance and intelligence gathering purposes despite his claims to the contrary, and appeared with local advocates before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Without an open and democratic process and privacy safeguards, we noted, the sheriff would be free to engage in dragnet, suspicionless surveillance of area residents. On Nov. 6, the Board agreed to hold an open hearing to address those concerns, but this week we learned of a hidden agenda item seeking the approval of a grant award to the sheriff from the California Emergency Management Agency. We acted quickly and asked the Board to remove the agenda item so that no blanket approval would be given for a drone purchase without public debate. The sheriff then voluntarily withdrew his request. This change of course is good news, but it also highlights the need for continued public engagement with local government when law enforcement seeks out surveillance technology.

Controversy? I'll say. Shenanigans? Bullshit? GRIEVANCE? Yes. And folks, why aren't we on this? Why aren't we at the Oakland City Council meetings telling them to join Berkeley in their entirely symbolic letter to (per Inside Bay Area) Alameda County and its sheriff's office asking them not to take any action regarding drones until Berkeley resolves its drone issue." Unfortunately, it's time for my final grievance. We aren't on this because we're busy fighting over a dog park. City Council is busy allowing Oakland to fight over a dog park.

Happy Holidays, folks. That ham you're eating looks delicious, and the Festivus pole? Genius! I still celebrate Hanukkah, and that drone momma gave me last week has really given me a fabulous view into your living room. Don't worry, I can't see your bedroom, and medicinal marijuana is legal here.


thb said...

Die? When we've got the power? Soooo...chwer up, jerry, chwer up! Actually, there's plenty to be aggrieved about. On other hand, the A's are WESTERN DIVISION CHAMPIONS for at least another 9 months!