Rural Economics and Network Infrastructure Policies

Today, on facebook, the topic of policies that are so fundamental to our existing economy that we can’t even see them for what they are came up in a since-deleted thread. Rather than revisit the topic directly on facebook, I am going to write here, and then link this to my fb page and see how that goes.

The initial rant, which was truly off-topic for the group and so the deletion was justified, was a common one heard in the streets, literal and virtual here in Porterville, California: That “Obama phones” aka “free phones” are unfair, they are luxuries, and others shouldn’t be forced to pay for them.

There are so many ways to counter this argument. Before I go into my main position today, I want to note for readers that our City is one of the poorest per capita in the country, and people who are complaining are generally at or barely above the poverty line themselves. That’s all I’ll say on that today, but maybe in a future post, I’ll explore that dynamic further.

There was surprising amount of pushback on the thread for these parts, presumably from those who benefit directly or indirectly from the program. But most of it from both sides was of the finger pointing variety by the time I arrived.

I decided to take a different tack. I pointed out that it has been telecommunications policy for over a century that rural areas would have subsidized telephone lines. And that the reason for that was because the nature of network economics is that there would not be any incentive at all to invest in rural areas when profits accrue in areas with dense network connectivity and costs are incurred in supporting a non-dense network as would happen in the vast rural areas of our country.… Read the rest

Spanish as a job requirement in Porterville…thoughts?

This is from a since-deleted facebook thread. A college educated woman in Porterville is frustrated at not getting jobs because she doesn’t speak spanish. This is only part of the thread, but all that survives. the long parts are from me, the quoted parts from her.

I am curious what people’s views are on the issues.


> It is total bullshit that I can’t get a job because I don’t speak Spanish.

You can’t get any job, or you can’t get some particular job? I think the latter might be true, , but are you saying there are no jobs that you re qualified for without speaking Spanish?

> If I moved to another country I would have to learn the language in order to get a job, not the other way around

that is the point I was making earlier – this is NOT true. I have worked with translators in probably at least 30 languages, I have worked in countries as foreign as Japan personally, and I can assure you there is no requirement anywhere that keeps English-only speakers from working in very good jobs. Maybe not every job, but English is definitely seen as s desirable skill, and accommodations are made for not speaking the local language if you are otherwise qualified for something.

> I may be very liberal when it comes to people’s rights, etc., but this is one thing that irritates the crap out of me.

I can see it irritates you. I have heard it from plenty of people before. My point is, what evidence is there that, for example, Spanish speaking immigrants don’t learn English and assimilate at the same, if not faster rates than prior generations of immigrants, or other current immigrants of other ethnicities?

I have almost always dated in immigrant families of various ethnicities, including currently, and my observation in those communities is that this pattern across generations pretty much repeats itself every time.… Read the rest

Business model options for small local daily papers

Claudia Elliot, ex-Editor of the Porterville Recorder, our local paper, and current Editor and General Manager at Tehachapi News joined a facebook discussion on the Recorder’s page today. The discussion is regarding the usefulness, appropriateness, and value of online news delivery of news vs. sticking with traditional print distribution and she asked the insightful question:

Have to wonder, what would a person be willing to pay for such a service — people who go out and gather news and take photos and develop and maintain an infrastructure for others to be able to access? What would most people be willing to pay?

I responded:

One that has not been asked here before!

My own sense is that there are a couple of suppositions in that question that should be considered:

1) Do people in Porterville read local news at all? Clearly many don’t. That’s kind of a shame. I (and probably you) wish it was 100%. But it isn’t, and there are a lot of socio-econoimic reasons for that mostly beyond the control of the paper.

2) Whether people read local news or not, they increasingly get their news online, and the demographic of folks still wedded to the print edition are probably older and so it won’t last forever.

3) The idea that people have paid for “news” in the past is an open question in the industry, as you might know. Some posit that people paid for the ads, the gossip, the entertainment, the comics, the puzzles, and that the news was incidental. At least after say ~120 years ago when comics and modern advertising were invented.

4) So it may well be that adverting as a sustaining source of revenue may not ever support a news-only site. And as for those other categories of information online, it is already clear people won’t be looking ot newspaper sites for them in any appreciable amount.… Read the rest

In other words, Tulare would be Porterville

Man speaks with reporters about Tulare, competing with Visalia:

“It’s bad enough they tried to steal our outlet mall 10 years ago. If they had succeeded we wouldn’t have that sales-tax money, or a movie theater. We’d be a city with a Target, a Walmart, dollar stores and screaming sirens, and that would be sad. I want us to be more than that,” he added.

In other words, it would be Porterville.… Read the rest

Moorish-American identity politics

Interesting discussion breaking out on facebook on one of my friend’s pages regarding what is being signaled by those who describe there identity as “Moorish-Americans”…might take a while to develop fully, but an interesting take on identity politics from folks who feel the lack of a legal identity.… Read the rest

How did “Separation of Church and State” get into the US Constitution anyway?

On Facebook today, a Conservative was discussing the typical Conservative positions regarding separation of curch and state, then took the dramatic and unexpected turn of asking if anyone knew the actual history or not from source documents, as he him self  did not.

I wrote the following in response, off the top of my head, so it may contain minor errors to the most detailed scholars. Still, the information below is something every American should know and internalize, and we will all be better off for it.

@Tim – I wonder how you came to your position without knowing the history of the First Amendment and the rest of the Constitution?

This lesson is going to be necessarily brief, but all supporting original documents are available online and in print, owing to their age and freedom from copyright.

The Constitution did not simply fall out of thin air. It was not even the first form of government for the United States. In fact, the first form was on the verge of failure and collapse and recognition of that by the public and the Founding Fathers is what spawned the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia.

During the Convention, the Constitution itself was created by all the signers over a period of many months. James Madison kept voracious notes of the debate during the entire era. So you can see for yourself who said what, and for what reasons, and when.

If you deign to read this important document, you will find that the Founders sought to create a government that was radically different from what they (and individually and collectively they were scholars of history of government and philosophy) knew of in the world prior.

In particular, you can see that they were quite concerned that the combination of a state government with religion could be pointed to as a weakness of both.… Read the rest

Tickets scalpers are making profit off Vampire Weekend concert at The Cellar Door in Visalia

Whenever a popular show is in town, music promoters say, someone always takes advantage by selling tickets for more than face value.
That’s what’s happening with Monday’s sold-out performance by indie band Vampire Weekend at The Cellar Door.

The Visalia show is promoted by the local nonprofit Sound N Vision Foundation, whose goal is to bring top-notch musical groups to Visalia. Tickets are $20 — significantly less than they might have cost through a for-profit promoter.

But the tickets now are listed for as much as $150 each on Web sites such as

“There’s really no way to battle the scalpers,” said Aaron Gomes, president of Sound N Vision.

Tickets scalpers are making profit off Vampire Weekend concert at The Cellar Door in Visalia

Well, in an economic sense, this is what happens when a promoter “leaves money on the table”. Someone else will sniff the opportunity to pick it up.

I understand the motivation to keep prices low, but at the same time, there is nothing other than habit that keeps prices based uniformly, either over time, or acoss other variables, or even across shows. Locally, nearby Orange Blossom in Exeter understands this pricing dilemma.

I once worked with a similar club in another city that wrestled with similar issues. In time, they realized, and accepted, that for some shows, they could charge more, and no one would object.

I remember it took quite a leap of faith personally for the club owner to invest in expensive acts and then announce the shows would cost double or even triple the going rate. He was takng a real risk that few tickets would be sold and he was very anxious for many weeks, right up until show time. Then he was a changed man when the crowds showed up anyway.… Read the rest

Rodger Doxsey, one of space telescope team’s first leaders, dies at 62 —

Roger Doxsey, one of the earliest employees of the Hubble Space Telescope, passed away yesterday.

Roger was responsible for the science operations of the Telescope both prior to and during its entire productive lifetime. As a young pup, I was involved in creating the earliest software in support of many aspects of the plan he developed.

Along with Barry Lasker, who was my direct supervisor for most of that period, Roger is now another star to be cataloged and studied and memorialized in NASA history.

The Hubble Space Telescope’s science team in Baltimore has lost one of its original leaders, a physicist whose comprehensive knowledge of the complex observatory helped keep its science operations running smoothly, and astronomers’ discoveries rolling in.

Rodger Doxsey, head of the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Hubble Mission Office, died of cancer Tuesday after entering an area hospice over the weekend. The Towson resident was 62.

“Rodger was the heart and soul of Hubble here at the Institute,” said STScI’s director, Matt Mountain. “He … knew everything about the space telescope, from the smallest anomaly to the breadth of the extraordinary science delivered by the telescope he had worked with for over 28 years.”

via Rodger Doxsey, one of space telescope team’s first leaders, dies at 62 —

Read the rest

Sharp Debate At High Court Over Cross On US Land

Debate Mirrors Ongoing Porterville Controversy in Murray Park

“I have been in Jewish cemeteries,” Eliasberg continued. “There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.”

From: Sharp debate at high court over cross on US land – Yahoo! News.

This case mirrors a  current situation in Porterville,  one of many that our City has managed to generate in attempts to skirt the First Amendment’s Establishment clause.

Here in Murray Park, we have a Christian Cross, where Easter Sunrise Services are annually helped on City-owned and run parkland.

If only our City could devote as much energy to innovative thoughts and solutions to real civic issues, such as:

  1. Poor use of information technology (IT) by City Hall
  2. Abysmal education rate
  3. The lack of a strategy for marketing Porterville as part of an economic development plan
  4. The lack of a sense of place and purpose in the new General Plan

Perhaps if we are all lucky, the Supreme Court will rule sensibly in this case and it will serve as a wakeup call to City leaders to find what makes Porterville best and competitive and to nurture that instead of the anti-First Amendment, anti-science, anti-equality hate they focus on so much.… Read the rest

13 Cities Post Unemployment Above 15 Percent

Porterville-Visalia makes the Top 10- Again!

Bureau of Labor Statistics releases monthly metropolitan-area data,

via 13 Cities Post Unemployment Above 15 Percent – Yahoo! Real Estate.

First, a little explanation of the chart in the link, then a comment or two.

Although the chart says “Visalia, CA” at 15.4, it actually means VISALIA-PORTERVILLE METROPOLITAN STATISTICAL AREA (MSA).

I wondered, with so many nearby locations on the list (in particular Hanford, but also Fresno, Modesto, and Stockton, how did Porterville manage to escape? Could it be just below the Top 13?

The answer turns out to be yes and no. I went in search of the raw data to see what it said for Porterville. First I found City Specific data for Tulare County in the form of a spreadsheet.

From that we learn that the data for Porterville and East Porterville (listed separately for some reason I don’t know, the areas are contiguous):

Monthly Labor Force Data for Cities and Census Designated Places (CDP)
April 2009 – Preliminary
Data Not Seasonally Adjusted
LaborEmploy-UnemploymentCensus Ratios
Area NameForcementNumberRateEmpUnemp
East Porterville CDP4,0003,20080020.4%0.0176150.024856
Porterville city22,00018,9003,10014.1%0.1050030.095011

So, depending on if we average E. Porteville in or not, Porterville would indeed be on the list. If we don’t average it in, Porterville would in fact be just below the Top 13, probably easily making the Top 20 in the Nation.

But I noticed in the same spreadsheet that the data for Visalia did not match the article above:

Visalia city57,00051,5005,5009.6%0.2863660.167197

So this must not be the same source of data.

Further searching led to this file (pdf) which does match the 15.4 for Visalia-Porterville.

(Tulare County)
The unemployment rate in the Tulare County was 15.4 percent in April 2009

So there you have it.… Read the rest

Let fury have the hour, anger can be power

D’you know that you can use it?

It’s the best years of your life they want to steal

No man born with a living soul
Can be working for the clampdown

I will have more to say in this space soon regarding yesterday’s Prop H8 decision, I am still gathering my thoughts.

But these lyric from a song I know have been blasting in my head since the news broke (very slightly paraphrased):

What are we gonna do now?
Taking off his turban, they said, is this man a Jew?
’Cos working for the clampdown

They put up a poster saying:
We pray more than you!
When we’re working for the clampdown

We will teach our twisted speech
To the young believers
We will train our blue-eyed men
To be young believers

The judge said five to ten but I say double that again
I’m not working for the clampdown

No man born with a living soul
Can be working for the clampdown

Kick over the wall ’cause government’s to fall
How can you refuse it?

Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
D’you know that you can use it?

The voices in your head are calling
Stop wasting your time, there’s nothing coming
Only a fool would think someone could save you
The men at the factory are old and cunning
You don’t owe nothing, so boy get runnin’
It’s the best years of your life they want to stealRead the rest

Porterville Vets Well Over Capacity, Sick Dogs Suffer Needlessly

Last night we noticed a lump under Thunder’s jaw, a lump the size of a doggie golf ball. This morning we called all the vets in town, starting with our regular vet, to take her in.

No one can see her before Tuesday, a full 6 days from now, and some not until Thursday, one week from today.

This has happened before when we try to schedule an appointment when one of our dogs falls ill, but I hoped it was an aberration last time. Apparently it was not. We should have a magic ball to know when our dog will take ill so we can schedule well in advance I guess.

There are 4 vets in town, and they all work bankers hours. No service in the evenings, little to no service on weekends, for emergencies during that time, Visalia 30 miles away is the closest possibility.

I am sure the doctors are doing yeoman work, and I also know as a volunteer for the new Porterville Animal Shelter, we are asking them to make time in their busy schedule to spay and neuter the strays we take in.

Still, it must be nice to be so busy that all of the vets in town can afford to project an uncaring image to responsible and loving pet owners who come in with an ill pet and are regular customers, and to give priority to abandoned dogs instead.

No advice is offered for keeping the pet comfortable during the delay, no explanation about why time can’t be made available in the evenings or weekends to meet demand, just sheer callousness on the part of front office staffs, the very staffs we trust with our pet’s health and lives. This is not the kind of image a health service should be projecting.… Read the rest