Wow. My pulse is still racing. A nice man from Pasadena on the way to Mammoth fell asleep at the wheel and plowed into the fence and then a tree in front of our historic newsroom in Independence. Fortunately, he was okay. The frightening reality hit. If Caltrans moves ahead with its four-lane plans and removal of almost 100 trees from both sides of the highway north of Independence, that tree the man hit will not be there. If it hadn’t been there, that SUV would’ve crashed right into the house and newsroom where John Heston and I cooked up Eastern Sierra News Service 30 years ago.

We will all stand vulnerable to careening cars and, God forbid, semi-trucks. Yep, folks, that’s Caltrans’ plan. We have found out that dozens of Independence residents never knew that the four-lane plans included sidewalks and big shoulders which would uproot nearly 100 of the last trees standing in southern Inyo. Now, there’s a bureaucratic tragedy.

A tragedy of a different sort continues in Washington, D.C. The Los Angeles Times media columnist, Tim Rutten, opened our eyes wide over the week-end. You might have heard all the fuss about’s critical ad about General Petraeus and Rush Limbaugh calling our troops “phony soldiers.” Good grief. Then, to add further grief, Congress and the Senate censured MoveOn, and others want to crush Rush. Columnist Rutten revealed that beneath what seems like a Congressional assault on the First Amendment is a political fight over something called the Fairness Doctrine. It’s something the Federal Communications Commission abolished in 1987. This may be the single reason why so many obnoxious and alleged newscasters and talk show guys add ugly to the airwaves.

Seems our politicians in Washington privately argue over media – that a large percentage broadcast conservative fare, with a small number that dish out progressive thought. In search of “fair and balanced” (where have I heard that before?) broadcasting, some officials want more diversity in radio ownership to assure a wide variety of views. Now, big corporations swallow up stations and spit back the same message.

The Fairness Doctrine, deemed by a 1986 Supreme Court to stifle free speech, did, at least, call for opposing views and equal time. Thing is – if media ran their business in a fair way, who needs a doctrine? And, if the FCC and Congress made sure the limited airwaves were spread around fairly -not just for their big fat cat friends, diversity would come naturally.

The way things look and sound these days, seems like someone created the Sensationalism Doctrine, but as columnist Rutten put it, “The sad irony is that the only voice that isn’t being heard in all this talk over talk is that of the public, which, after all, owns the airwaves over which this struggle is being waged.” To the big shots in D.c., we’re a mere inconvenience, and, no, we won’t be calling them for their opinion about that.

Speaking of calling and feeling like a mere inconvenience, more stories about the ordeal of a need for service and the only recourse – a blasted voice menu system over the phone and then clueless people. Oh, we truly live in the hells of Dante!

Another Bureaucrat Beat listener, who had for some 20 years paid for service agreements with Sears turned up with a problem of the freezing kind . The listener searched for ways to bring the frig back to life and then tried the phone. She said it took 4 afternoons, about 3 hours each time “playing the telephone game with various voices (mostly courteous, but one very rude) before I finally got one who knew how to schedule the house call I was requesting.” She told us that not one of the people she spoke to “knew anything about a maintenance agreement and kept passing her back and forth between idiots who knew nothing and none would connect me with a supervisor, as requested.”

The listener went to the Sears website to complain about this situation. She did get a response, but the demands on her to provide information made interrogation by Bush’s CIA appear to be a Birthday Party.

What is going on? We’ve decided, here in the Bureaucrat Beat Newsroom, to call it Confusion Infusion. Is it just us and a few listeners, or do the rest of you feel this confusion that seems to have infused every imaginable organization and alleged service. Maybe when we weren’t looking, these companies and governments said, “Okay, now, our priority is to get money. So, do whatever you have to do to get it and more of it.”

Awaiting Caltrans’ axe to our beautiful trees and the next careening vehicle, we have posted armor outside our newsroom, this is Benett Kessler signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your views on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.


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