Friday, May 30, 2008

KPFZ has interesting history

I was a guest this week on a local show broadcasting on KPFZ 88.1 FM, our community radio station. Richard Martin, a co-host of the weekly show “Beat Café,” invited me to appear as a local author. It was an interesting experience to read aloud some poems, short fiction and a newspaper column over the local airwaves.

My husband and I have supported public broadcasting ever since we lived in Rohnert Park. I realize that PBS is not the same as community radio but it is similarly a non-profit alternative to commercial or network broadcasting.

When we lived in Sonoma Grove, which is a trailer park down the street from sonoma state university, the Rohnert Park PBS television station was the only station we could pull in. We faithfully tuned in every week to “Doctor Who” and “Masterpiece Theater.” Community radio in Lake County has an interesting history.

If you’ve ever read the Project Censored anthologies of underreported news, you may remember reading, in “Censored 1999,” about Radio Free Berkeley. It was a forerunner in the campaign to bring low-power radio into local communities. In an act of civil disobedience, Radio Free Berkeley broadcast without licensing by the FCC.

Lake County had its own equivalent that broadcast from the north shore on 88.1 FM — the exact same frequency that has been granted to KPFZ. During its brief stint, it provided radio programming that was entirely locally-produced.

The “micropower” radio station remained on the air until shut down in 1999 by the FCC.

Lake County’s community station is a beneficiary of those pioneering efforts that, in my opinion, helped establish connections among like-minded volunteers and helped to harness community involvement.

KPFZ was originally licensed for a low-power radio frequency and was on the air for three or four years at 104.5 FM. I would get out of work each day just in time to tune in to Amy Goodman’s “Democracy now!” I additionally listened in to a variety of music and talkradio programming whenever my car antenna had an unobstructed line-of-sight toward Clear Lake’s north shore.

The local station was eventually successful in obtaining a fullpower license. The process was fairly competitive, with two other applicants vying — but KPFZ had an advantage because it was the only local applicant. The other competitors eventually withdrew, leaving the field clear for Lake County Community Radio.

Obtaining a license was only one step on the road to going on air as a full-power radio station. The group of programmers who make up KPFZ also needed a studio and antenna. Many volunteers and contributors have assisted toward making this possible. Now, whenever I am able to, I try to pull in a signal.

I’ve found that there are still too many hills that interfere with radio signals when I drive on Lake County highways. In the future, I am hoping that I can download MP3 files of local shows or listen via high-speed Internet. no matter what the format, however, this is our community station in which we can all be proud of the time and effort invested.

Published May 30, 2008 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rotenberg Center makes the news again

The Rotenberg Center made news again and has been circulated online by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network ( Responding to this update, I've made the Rotenberg Center a focus in this week’s column for the Lake County Record-Bee.

Almost one year ago, the Rotenberg Center was the focus of an investigative story in “Mother Jones.” Schools and parents in New York and other states are sending "problem" children to this place for one-size-fits-all shock therapy.

The children lug around backpacks that have the chargers inside them and electrodes are fastened to their bodies.

There are no drugs and no psychology to find out what causes their behavior; just the use of what are referred to as “adversives.”

The situation described in this article is truly horrifying and the update this week concerned a seizure of documents by police. Apparently multiple agencies are involved in an investigation.

ASAN circulated word this week of another development that additionally drew my concern: a teacher in Port St. Lucie, Fla. who singled out a student in the class and had every one of his classmates say what they didn’t like about him and then vote him out of the class.

I address both of these appalling situations in my column this week, contrasting them to the advocacy that exists in our local district. The column ran May 27, 2008, in the Lake County Record-Bee and may addtionally run next week in the Clear Lake Observer American.

Originally posted to

Two stories bring focus to school bully incidents

Pomo Elementary School principal April Leiferman has loaned me a marvelous book called “Bully-proofing Your School: A Comprehensive Approach for Elementary Schools” (Sopris West, 2000).

The authors — Carla Garrity, Ph.D; Kathryn Jens, Ph.D; William Porter, Ph.D; Nancy Sager, M.A.; and Cam Short-Camilli, L.C.S.W. — note that victims are often driven to self-destructive or violent acts out of desperate retaliation against bullying. The purpose of their book is to prevent the school environment in which bullying is permitted to flourish.

The crux of their intervention is empowering what they refer to as the “caring majority,” the 85 percent of students who are neither bullies nor victims. The job of the caring majority is to make sure that everyone feels included and to report any bullying attempts.

Having been the victim of bullying, I can speak from personal experience that the absolute worst part was the isolation I felt. I can’t begin to tell you how validated I feel knowing that people in Konocti take bullying seriously. In addition to studying the book, I’ve attended special assemblies at Burns Valley and Pomo schools where the focus was anti-bullying.

Two stories broke this week that embody the complete antithesis of what Konocti schools are striving for. They come to me courtesy of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, to which I am a subscriber.

The first concerns the Rotenberg Center, a place of “last resort” where problem children are sent. Mother Jones published an investigative report almost one year ago.

There are no counselors and no drug therapy at the Rotenberg Center, just the use of “adversives” in the form of electrical shocks. The children lug around backpacks that have chargers inside and electrodes are fastened to their bodies.

The situation described in this article is truly horrifying and a story broke this week concerning the seizure of documents by police. Apparently an investigation involves multiple government agencies and is ambitious in its scope.

If something can be done about this, all the better, I say — because as it is, no one is watching out for these children. If this was Abu Ghraib or the School of the Americas there’d be a groundswell of activism demanding that the place be shut down — but the only groundswell is one of silence where these throwaway
kids are concerned.

Think about the message being sent through electrical shocks. It’s one of fear and intimidation. Contrast that message to the words of Monty Roberts, an ongoing district consultant: “No one has the right to say ‘You do what I tell you, or I’ll hurt you’” (

The second story concerned a teacher at Morningside Elementary School in Port St. Lucie, Fla, who singled out a young student and had everyone in the class say what they didn’t like about him and then led them to vote him out of class.

According to an online blogger, Asperger Square 8, the teacher’s apparent intention was to teach the students about bigotry and exclusion. If so, I would have to challenge the efficacy of her lesson plan. Far from teaching the students that bigotry and exclusion are wrong, the net result was apparently a hands-on lesson in how to practice it.

Let me be first to assure you that students do not need lessons in how to bully effectively; they come by it naturally. It would have been far more effective if the Morningside teacher and other district staff had tried to develop that “caring majority” that I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Instead, her approach seems to have been teaching the students how to bully and conveniently directing their attention toward an all-too-vulnerable target.

The juxtaposition of these two articles prompts me, yet again, to express my appreciation that our own local schools care so strongly to prevent bullying. Yes, it still happens as reports indicate but when it does there are immediate reminders that bullying is not OK.

Published May 27, 2008 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How not to behave with the media

It’s a sadly pathetic sign of the times that people won’t buy a newspaper that has just publicized their group or event; they expect us to give them the paper for free.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Remembering the words of the creative Molly Ivins

There’s a game we like to play at the weekly Toastmasters meeting, 6:15 p.m. Thursdays at Sutton Associates Wealth Management across from Lakeport’s historic Courthouse Square. Somebody brings a vocabulary word and the rest of us try to use it during the course of the meeting. Imagine the flexible and creative thinking that this encourages in us!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Vast numbers of cats and dogs are euthanized

I recently found a missing photo album that had a picture of my cat Elizabeth when she was just six weeks old. Each of Elizabeth’s ears was as big as her entire face. She was so comically adorable! She looked like a fluffy little bat.