Fri, Apr

A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On.  Then Nothing, Zip, Zilch, Nada


GELFAND’S WORLD - January 17, 2024 was the 30th anniversary of January 17, 1994. The place started shaking up and down at about 4:30 AM. I remember saying, "This is an earthquake." 

In keeping with the conventional wisdom of the time, we scrambled to the hallway and sat under the door frames. I was joined by two furry collie-like dogs, my wife, and a teenager. The yellow lovebird remained in his cage, but communicated his annoyance with a loud "CHIRP!" 

We have learned many things about earthquakes and emergency response in the interim, but the city still fails. Here's one tiny tidbit from that 30th anniversary morning. 

At around 8:30 AM, a truck collided with the building where I live, shearing off the end of the balcony in the floor directly beneath me. What made this less of a surprise was that it was the third time there had been such a collision, this being at the intersection of two rather narrow alleys. But the rest of the story involves the fact that the truck -- presumably a trash truck on contract with the city -- left without exchanging driver information. A hit and run, in effect. 

It seemed like a good idea to get the police involved. A multi-ton truck going around running into occupied buildings seems like it ought to be of interest. 

On the other hand, this was no longer an emergency, as the truck was long gone from the scene. Instead of taking up 911 operator time, I did what we had been advised to do, and called the number 877-ASK-LAPD. This is the non-emergency number to get hold of the police. 

And I waited. And waited. And waited. 

Thirty minutes later, I gave up. The interim involved a lot of recorded messages inviting me to do things on the internet. Being that I was standing in an alley on a chilly morning, none of this was either relevant or desirable. It was a brush off. 

I should point out that the recordings that looped through did, in fact, tell me repeatedly that there was no promise or guarantee as to when an actual human being would come on the line. I guess the people who program the ASK LAPD loop understand their own inability to respond in a timely way. 

The failure of the City of Los Angeles to provide enough dispatchers is an old, chronic complaint. When the City Council throws salary raises at its donors (i.e.: municipal employees), this is the predictable result. There just isn't enough money to provide for the everyday needs involved in running a city government. 

It is an example of the predictable consequences of having elected politicians who have sold themselves to those who help them get elected. Every few years, there is a contract negotiation that results in huge salary increases for the police, fire, and other salaried employees of the City of Los Angeles. In practice, this means that other needs and desires get short shrift. We never seem to have enough people available to pick up the phone. 

I should point out that I have reported on this problem before. You can view my previous article, titled City of L.A.: Pick up the Damn Phone here. That one was published back in July of 2020. 

Here is a hint to the elected officials of Los Angeles. Your constituents interact with the city government in various ways, among them trying to contact the city by telephone. How about holding back on one-half of one percent of the proposed salary increases in order to fund telephone operators so the people who vote for you can get at least minimal services? 

The Phone Company and its attitude towards consumer service and protection 

I still have a landline. That means a phone that is plugged into the wall and when you pick up the handset, gives you something called a dial-tone. It is a sort of buzzing sound. 

And one morning this week, one of the boxes associated with my landline started beeping. It beeped every few seconds, and it never stopped. You could hear it down the hall and out the door. 

That beeping represents the sleezy attitude that ATT takes towards its customer base. Those who find any interest in this, read further... 

When I moved into the present location, I needed internet access and a telephone connection, so I contacted ATT, as I had used them previously. It turns out that in spite of all the advertising which invited me to step up to fiber optics and thereby achieve remarkably better internet service, there was no fiber to be had. ATT has simply ignored this end of town when it comes to installing the next level of technology. 

Still, it was possible to get some level of internet and a digital version of landline service. So one morning, a technician came out and installed a couple of devices, one of which is some sort of internet modem, and the other being some sort of gray box. I continued to pay ATT's astronomical fees over the years, expecting service every time the internet connection failed. Most of the time, the service people would tell me to reboot the modem. 

This time, rebooting the modem didn't help one bit. The gray box kept beeping at me. 

I eventually got through to an ATT representative who figured out that the beeping was coming from a battery backup that had been part of the stuff back when the internet and phone connections were first installed. I have been paying ATT for this service ever since. 

Well, it turns out that ATT will not fix or replace the failed device. Apparently, the management at ATT figures that I should do without battery backup or buy it myself from some outside supplier. 

Why is this important? 

It turns out that -- back in the old days -- telephone lines carried their own voltage. When the regular electricity failed, the telephone would still work unless the telephone polls and the wires had been ripped out of the ground. Nowadays, I'm getting my phone service as an internet option. As you all know, the internet is subject to breakdown, and it requires a working electrical connection. My phone service depends on having an electrical supply, and that's what the battery backup is supposed to be about. 

One reason for keeping landline services is to provide an extra level of protection from power failures. That protection has now been killed off by the corporate leadership. 

So why does ATT now refuse to fix my battery backup? 

Because they can. 


Afterthoughts on the Iowa Caucuses 

One reader, commenting on my previous story, said, "To your dismay, Trump just won in Iowa. I bask in your misery." 

Perhaps the term would more properly have been "revel" instead of "bask," but my complements to reader Ron B in any case. My digital thesaurus suggests "exalt" and "luxuriate" as possible synonyms, but also includes "bask" along with "wallow" or "glory." 

But he did get "misery" right. 

The left side of the aisle has predictably tried to point out that Iowa was not the triumph that Trump would like to pretend. After all, the total turnout would not have added up to one congressional race in these parts. (Ted Lieu got 194,000 votes in a district which produced over a quarter of a million votes total, and my own congresswoman Nanette Barragan racked up 100,000 votes out of a total of more than 138,000.) The naysayers also like to point out that the turnout was relatively light even for the Iowa Caucuses. 

But the real issue is that Trump got a majority (or microscopically close to it) of the vote without even bothering to join one of the many debates. The dominos are falling, and the nomination will be wrapped up in a few weeks, absent some black swan event. 

One thing to notice: Trump continues to be especially sensitive about allegations that he is beholden to Putin. It is a fair claim, considering the foreign policy record he racked up. The other point to keep reminding ourselves is that Trump finds it necessary to tear down all of the law enforcement agencies (such as the FBI) along with prosecutors (federal and state) and, most of all, judges. This is not a law and order candidate. 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)