Opinion » Shredder

Hat spat


Are we ready? OK, hold on. I’ve got to put on my Shredder hat before I start vomiting words, otherwise I run the risk of forgetting who I work for. I mean, ostensibly, I work for New Times, but the badass writer-of-the-people truth is that I write for the down-and-out so-and-sos; the can’t-afford-a-$600,000-mortgage, got-a-placard-on-a-barstool-at-McCarthy’s-with-my-name-on-it, salt of the earth sort of people. And I don’t actually need a hat to remind myself, but it helps cover the boils.

The concept of wearing a hat to remind yourself who you’re working for and what you should be doing, while a lovely and useful metaphor, is sort of ridiculous. Which is why it’s completely absurd that a group of scientists needed hats to remember who they represented. They also needed hats so everyone else would know who they represented. Some wore blue hats, some wore white hats, some wore red hats, most were thoroughly confused. But it was a complicated process, and it’s not like they’re rocket scientists; they’re just supposed to figure out whether underwater geologic features might damage a nuclear power plant.


If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about—which would probably indicate that you’re not properly wearing your patient reader hat—the Diablo Canyon Senior Seismic Hazard Analysis Committee, which has an important-sounding title to match its important function, apparently opted to resolve the issue of job functions among scientists by asking members to wear colored hats that matched the scientist’s particular function at any point during the meeting. It’s the best kind of absurdity I’ve witnessed since a roof collapsed on St. Fratty’s Day.

Red hats presented their ideas about how the ground might shake at Diablo Canyon. Blue hats decided which ideas would become part of the final evaluation. Fuschia hats realized they walked into the wrong conference room. The problem is the hats were going on the same heads. Literally. A speaker would address the room wearing one hat before putting on another and continuing to address 
the room.

At one point, a man leaped across the room to throw a hat on a speaker’s head—lest he forget himself and accidentally represent the wrong interest. In the process he almost gave a hat-induced concussion. There’s video of all this, which the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility posted to YouTube. It’s like watching a Benny Hill skit, if at the end Benny died of radiation exposure.

It sounds like the supervisors could also use some fashionable headpieces to remind them who they’re supposed to be representing. A few days back, the supes couldn’t come to an agreement on whether to send a letter asking the FCC to make sure multi-billion telecommunications mergers also include some provisions that ensure cheap Internet for poor people. I know, I know; it’s a real hot-button issue, if your definition of “hot-button” is “no hat, Sherlock.” But even Mr. Holmes’ hat wouldn’t be able to solve the mystery of this vote.

The basic idea is to get the FCC to expand an earlier program Comcast agreed to when it bought NBC Universal five years ago; this time for its acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Way back when, Comcast had to provide poor families with $9.95-per-month broadband access. For anyone who thinks that those families should just go out and get a job, I’d encourage you to try and find a job without using the Internet.

That first agreement didn’t go very far, and only about 14 percent of eligible households were able to sign up. So Supervisor Bruce Gibson asked that 
the county suggest that the new program pick up where the old one left off, plus a bit more.

It’s kind of a no-brainer in the same sense that voting against a non-binding letter in favor of low-income Internet indicates the lack of a brain. Supervisor Adam Hill pointed out that the Internet is an integral aspect of people’s ability to participate in democracy. Gibson pointed out that the FCC requires cable companies to provide a public benefit to make these mergers, and I can only assume that he considers poor people part of the public.

Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton pointed out that poor people can shove it up their ethernet holes because their cheap Internet stands to really ruin Comcast’s bottom line, as well as its shareholders’—though I might be loosely paraphrasing their position.

You might not be surprised to learn which hat Arnold and Compton were wearing. Arnold tried to make the case that the extra costs would trickle down through shareholders to working class people who rely on cable-company investments for their retirement, which is like arguing that consolidating cable and Internet companies is actually really awesome for consumers. Compton didn’t say much, but voted along with Arnold, and she had a twinkle in her eye that told me she also had a new idea for her next poor-people-themed political fundraiser.

Supervisor Frank Mecham only bowed out of the debate because his wife works for Verizon, and totally not because he’d catch a truckload of political bullshit from either side no matter how he voted.

If you’re still having trouble figuring out the hats in this scenario, I’ll give you a hint: Those in favor of converting multi-billion dollar corporate mergers into better Internet access for poor people get pork pies; those in favor of keeping Comcast shares up a few cents get fedoras; Mecham forgot his hat at home.

If you’re wondering which hat I’m wearing, I’m sorry to say that I just threw up in it.


Shredder wears many hats, and all of them are disgusting. Send whimsical hat types to shredder@newtimesslo.com.


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