In the northeast corner of Georgia lies Columbia County. By all accounts a growing economy aided by federal dollars invested by the department of defense with the locality of nearby Fort Benning, and experiencing growth since the early 1950’s and as of this writing maintaining a 6.9 percent unemployment rate. Currently, with a population density of around 300 people per mile, it is a somewhat dispersed and rural county. This type of community is in the twilight, somewhere between the dawn of attracting new industry and the dusk of an aging economy with little tech involvement. Looking ahead to provide infrastructure for growth, the county applied for and won a federal grant of approximately 13 million dollars as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act toward construction of an 18 million dollar fiber network of the ‘middle mile’ variety. It is assumed that the remaining 5 million dollars in capital was raised in a bond, guaranteed by revenues from other county enterprises such as sewage and water utilities. Middle mile projects are proposed as wholesale facilities that are rented out to ‘last mile’ retailers, who in turn provide residential and business services for a profit, taking it upon themselves to connect the fiber to the end user. The projected uptake for these services was estimated at around 1.7 million dollars per year in lease agreements, thereby providing the county government with a revenue from this infrastructure upwards of 1 million per year clear of the estimated 500-700 thousand dollar operating expenses. This ‘uptake’ estimate of profits was based on a business plan concocted by Magellan Advisors, a gypsy like group of wandering broadband consultants specializing in selling infrastructure plans to local governments, like Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man’.
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A mystic cult demands its supplicants to sacrifice unwary visitors to the dark overseers’ ancient rites. Whisked into the presence of these seemingly helpful and friendly guides, the novitiates follow to the inner sanctum, and sign the articles that bind them forever to the will of the master. Small towns seem to be the setting for this occult scenario, as Burlington, Vermont is joined by Dunnellon, Florida in the rogues gallery of cultish tragedies. The cult is the cult of municipal broadband consultancy, and the masters are initially the consultants whose disciples are found in city boardrooms. Who is ultimately sacrificed? Customers, Bondholders, and Banks.
It may be a heartless monopoly, but at least it’s OUR heartless monopoly!
The logic goes something like this: In order to stay competitive in today’s technologically racing world, you must have high speed broadband. Well, cheap public transportation and broadband. Better make it Cheap Public Transportation, High Speed Broadband, and Free Health Care… and how about Free College -well, I digress. Laws favor incumbent providers of these services. These ‘incumbents’ are the providers that first built networks in communities for profit, usually being guaranteed a virtual monopoly to help lure them to the area. You remember the Bell Telephone system? How about the New York Subway? It was one of these favored incumbents in the early years. Consumers have since benefitted from deregulation in the telephone market, and in wireless telephony as well. They haven’t benefitted quite as clearly from a municipal conglomerate takeover by the New York MTA.
In 1912, a famous and long running story began a forty year run as accepted fact, only to be debunked totally as a hoax that spawned and then ruined careers. This was the celebrated discovery of the ‘Piltdown Man’, thought to be the ‘Missing Link’ once and for all connecting the evolution of the modern human to the early apes. The discovery was counted so much as fact, that it was called upon in a court of law in the well known ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ in 1925 by Clarence Darrow as he faced off with William Jennings Bryan over the legitimacy of the theory of evolution as a total explanation for the presence of humanity as we know it today. The trial was centered on the appropriateness of teaching this theory to children, who are not noted for their inherent skepticism. As sociologists note, the age of childhood seems to be expanding as time goes on, indeed, we find children up to the age of 26 living on their parents health insurance policies. We expect skepticism to set in later and later, and so the drove of credulous kids is ripe for another yarn.
In the aftermath of the Virginia gubernatorial election, one thing stands out. The onetime ‘Mona Lisa’ of the www.healthcare.gov website. I love women. I wouldn’t be here without one special individual, and life would be terrible without another one. I feel empowered (to use some ‘issues’ speech) in the current climate to speak of political gender issues, the invitation having been extended by those women who believe that a cabal of men like myself are intriguing against them politically. Peace to you all. I declare an armistice in the ‘War on Women’. I’m taking down my war maps in the situation room and considering the face that once graced the miserable, comic, and concrete embodiment of Obamacare in all its ineffective culture warping fuzzy-headedness.
It is fall, the season of changing colors, crisp air, and the time for laughing at our unnamed fears during Halloween. Children trek through the dark town dressed as legendary monsters and whimsical parodies, the two connected as reminders to not regard peril too seriously in life. The greatest peril of all has always been the future itself and the unknown, but in Vermont, land of maple syrup and the most beautiful autumn days, Mayor Miro Weinberger of Burlington has declared the town ‘future proof’. Does this mean that the place will no longer be subjected to the unforeseeable and unknowable? Does Burlington now have a dome of static quo guaranteeing impenetrability that covers the city limits? It turns out that the force summoned to ward off the monsters of job loss and foreign competition rising from the pumpkin patch of the government imagination is non other than The Great MacGuffin.
Rate hikes are in the air! Apparently bad weather or very good weather define the boundaries of sustainability for the Chattanooga EPB. In a recent article appearing here – the Chattanooga News Free Press quotes Chief Financial Officer Greg Eaves saying “Hopefully we’ll have a long, consistently cold winter”. Bottom line: we need you to pay us for more energy.
Our national executive branch has recently had its spokesman, Barack Obama, compare itself to Apple Computer. This came about because the administration fancies itself technically elite as it attempts to roll out the Obama Care website. This is perhaps the largest and most piquant example of the phenomena we call ‘Government Entrepreneurism’. If anyone ever believed that these so called entrepreneurs were operating at the level of the late Steve Jobs in vision and execution, this episode should kill that assumption deader than a 1958 Ford Edsel (deemed by Time Magazine as one of the worst cars of all time). I’m afraid I’m insulting the Edsel, however, since it at least rolled along the ground under its own power like a car should. This healthcare.gov web fungus doesn’t actually do anything other than simulate how oligarchies masquerading as technocracies work.
Here’s how it goes: A lot of people who are habitually congratulating each other over snappy power point presentations begin to think that they really are innovative geniuses. This is reenforced by the way their paychecks, voted unto themselves, look. Bear in mind that Federal CGI, the benighted bunch of glorified grant writers presided over a 634 million dollar open bar that was supposed to be a technical project. Oligarchs such as these types, Booz Allen types on the belt way, think that they are doing something important when they write boilerplate that comports with the thousands of pages of procurement regulations. This boilerplate grant writing is so all encompassing that the endless loop of regulation and answer compliance sucks all the air and money from anything that could resemble real world effectiveness.
The absurd comparison by the President of the United States, Apple IOS 7 release and the Little Rascals version of a national website, is such an eye roller that everyone should now know the difference between a man with no real skills other than teleprompter harangues and community organizing and a man like Henry Ford, or Steve Jobs. This is disgusting, but illuminating. Government grant writing jockeys really do think that they know how to produce things. The level of self delusion contributes to the perpetual false economy of a million government gerbils perpetually running in their exercise wheels and awarding each other peanuts for proper running.
Actual talent shies away from the Government, not because they don’t pay well – they certainly do, but because you can’t measure your life in real world success there, only by how well you comply. I know this sounds harsh, but government jobs are mostly useless appendices to the world of accomplishment . At its best, the Government serves to lay the groundwork or set the conditions of human freedom. Freedom allows innovation, innovation cannot be evoked or planned by psuedo technologists calling themselves entrepreneurs.
When God brought Adam to the center of Eden in order to observe the manifold creation, he had a purpose in mind. In Genesis, God asks Adam to name the animals, and in the text we read that he did this ‘to see what he would call them’. In the origins of man’s relationship with the world sticks the question; ‘What is that to me?’. Humans related the world and each other to themselves by naming things. Confucius, to rely on the observations of one safely outside of maligned western history, noted that “where names are incorrect, statements do not accord with fact”. It is not just Judeo-Christian dogma concerning truth telling that haunts this house of language, but language’s usefulness as a way of bringing things to pass hinges upon its descriptive powers, its transitive effectiveness in doing things to us as it transmits the power of one idea to another. Many people are exasperated with the current political impasse as I write this in early October of the year 2013 in New York City, which is still a part of the United States. Health care, a problem of the living, all of whom inherit a fatal condition, is necessarily occupying us as a political body, and not just as the living and eventually dying flesh of the individual. Why can’t people agree on this fundamental thing? It exists for everyone except the dead, who aren’t healthy, and certainly aren’t political – at least according to the voting laws. The problem is slovenly language use, and in particular, incorrect naming. Health Insurance is one thing, Health Care, is another, and Health is a universal attribute of the living, not of those yet to come and those passed away.
This isn’t new in politics, an activity that is more than usually susceptible to linguistic decay. War is hell, and politics as war has casualties that litter the field of language and ideas. The Department of War once was the body that prosecuted organized violence against the enemies of the republic. This arrangement of semantics was uncomfortable, like War itself. It stings a bit to declare War. In 1947, the War Department became the Department of Defense. In the old world of clearer language, activating the Department of War usually happened in the locality of a Declaration of War. In the post World War Two global situation, many incidental conflicts swamped the political reality in the United States, a war weary nation. People didn’t want to hear the word anymore in the bloody twentieth century, and some wanted desperately to believe that this thing ‘war‘ would never happen again. New unavoidable conflicts were deemed Police Actions, and people were relieved not to hear that dread word ‘War’. Oddly, the word War still maintain virile potency as a noun to be wielded politically against other incorporeal nouns. Disembodied threats like poverty and hunger, and now terror bore the assault of war. The department of defense has nothing to do with most of these, and even the misguiding and incorrectly named enemy ‘terror’ had to waft into the jurisdiction of that defense department through the vents, and not through the assault on the nation itself by very solid Islamic Jihadists, deemed misleadingly ‘Extremists’, an adjective converted to label service to cow enthusiasts of all types. This incompatibility with fact was primly named ‘Man Caused Disaster’, a resort to faulting the entire genus of man, which is more politically fruitful to people bent on controlling masses of humanity. To my knowledge, there is no agreed upon war against any specific incarnate enemy going on even as bombs and bullets and drones remain some of America’s only manufactured goods. War: a word too potent to leave in the hands of warriors, but finding service on the bloody fields of politics where bravery means breaking with the party line. Brave new world indeed.
The decay of the word War as a useful name has consequences, and disputes between the executive and congressional branches can be stupefied into silence as the plain truth finds no expression. This represents an advance of tyranny by default, as the representatives and the President never have to say, declare, or authorize that ugly word which would disturb the ‘folks’. The same business is going on with the Affordable Health Care act. Terms that are losing all useful meaning in this argument are: Insurance, Mandate, Tax, Marketplace and many other words that have the misfortune to find themselves in sentences with these verbal victims.
Let’s talk common sense words for the next paragraphs. The word Insurance has stood for the idea of a financial arrangement intended to guard against risk in the possible future. In the future, I may lose my ship in a storm, therefore I’ll pay someone an agreed upon amount to accept that possible risk on my behalf. The odds are, that among all of the possibilities, that particular possibility won’t come to pass. If the insurer is accepting many of these fractional risks from many clients, the odds of complete failure are minute, and the spread load of risk floats all boats, if you will pardon the metaphor. When we are told that everyone will now have access to insurance, even if that person to be insured has a pre -existing condition, we have effectively made the word Insurance itself meaningless. Understand- existence now of the risk makes it no longer a risk to be guarded against, it isn’t even a risk but a catastrophe or even a mishap to be recovered from. We have created in effect a relief fund, not insurance. This misnaming of what is proposed fools people into thinking they are receiving something by the adjustment of a ‘fair’ law that was unjustly denied before. This is intentionally false because of the function that language has in sharing meaning with other human beings. In times past, insurance was made politically by tax breaks given to companies that insured people in order to compensate them for favored activities. We have discovered that holding the health of a person in your political hands is fruitful, but you don’t want to make that person nervous by direct extortion. You may have ‘insurance’ coming out of your mouth in a political speech, but you are talking about something else. The effect, like the extinct declared American War, will be the removal of insurance (the thing itself) from our lives, and its replacement by something vague and worse.
Is it bad that Wars are no longer declared? Ask the soldiers who fight multiple deployments and are never mentioned in the papers back home. Ask the politicians who no longer have to answer for aggression or cowardice. The one who actually used the noun in day to day life suffers, the politician wins by weakening the speech. Is it bad that health insurance disappears? Ask the people around the world who have depended on American advances in medicinal technology. The behemoth risk sharing structure and attending profits that insurance represent allow powerful research occurring in our country. I am not an insurance salesman or executive, but I like language for its powers to create. I don’t like language when it aids in decay, as demagoguery does. Insurance as a word is enlisted to heighten the argument of haves and have nots, and has nothing to do with the health of the people other than as a useful political lever. Unrealistically, I ask leaders to be clear in their speech, not merely to repeat over and over ‘let me be clear’. I’m not stopping them. I would answer ‘I don’t have to let you be clear; just be clear’ . This is a tick of the empty manipulator, like the liar who habitually says ‘to be honest,’ as the preface of every saying.
The Mandate hangs in front of this year’s to do list. The Mandate whereby all must become ‘insured’. Caesar Augustus was a mandator, with proclamations coming from his ‘mani’ or hands. Mandate refers to an authority, as in something given (dat) from the hand (man) of authority, and authority to an author. The bill was passed as a Mandate. The commerce clause, sadly another name leaking clarity and meaning by the moment, was our supposedly just authority for this dictation throughout the debate and ‘passage’ (another poor name for what happened – remember Senator Scott Brown?). The US Supreme court arbitrated this assumption – an assumption that turned out to be even too wide of the mark for today’s debauched English speakers – as they writhed their way to a renaming of the Mandate as a Tax. Now we are told that this Mandate cum Tax is settled Law. In this country, courts don’t or shouldn’t originate laws. Law itself as a meaningful word is now sliding down the scale of language toward gutteral grunting. For a land that considers itself under the rule of law, this is disaster. We are approaching the reality of simple compulsion, whereby the people of America are forced to do things, and there is no longer room for simple compassion and charity.
Now, as we move to fulfill the Mandate, we are encouraged to participate in Insurance Exchanges, called Markets. The word Market, like the President’s favorite word for the people he serves, ‘folks’, evokes an aura, but does not get to the truth. The Market or Exchange preserves an illusion of choice for the simple. Folks, we hear, are encouraged to Shop at the Insurance Market Exchanges. These words are meaningless, or very near it. They only survive as what George Orwell described as prefabricated phrases, used to build rhetorical chicken coops. The baldly bad job of engineering the opening of these ‘Markets’ is the only thing that could have come from an effort that incorrectly names what it is about. Really, this fact of basic and universal bureaucratic incompetence is the only hopeful sign standing against outright tyranny and malevolence in this ongoing story. Think back, and you will see the same syndrome accompanying every Government effort that relies on political phraseology instead of individual words chosen for their meaning. Getting back to ‘War’, think of the police action in Viet Nam, and our War against Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan – both doomed by phrase based inception. In the case of Vietnam, and, come to think of it, the current wars, the truth was too unpalatable to be named, and so failure was guaranteed. People who can’t name something shouldn’t attempt to do it, and when they try, the simple factual world will always reward them with failure, as in the case of the contrafactually named ‘People’s Republics’ that have sprung up and spectacularly collapsed with stupid gouts of murder and malfeasance in our immediate past.
We are being ordered to register for health care plans. This is the plain idea, and the usage of words from another world of possibility is only dooming an effort that was not clearly articulated. Let me articulate this in Subject, Verb, Object scheme: The Government Orders that You Register (or face a fine(alternate tax)…even the word fine is incorrect!). Compulsion, pure and simple, brutish and faceless. If you took the time recently to visit the internet version of this new bureaucratic apparatus – healthcare.gov – you would see a monument to extreme waste perpetrated by government contracting looters. These subgrade technicians, whom only the government would hire, spent over six hundred million quantitively eased dollars building the equivalent of a cardboard simulation of a real enterprise, with the sole ability to waste a citizen’s time while providing information to the IRS, the only somewhat efficient part of the government besides the military. This seems to be escaping much comment from the cultivated progs of the media.
Aside from the well known technical incompetence of our political class, could this effort have been articulated and successfully accomplished in our political world? This is a question of ethics and competence. The rising costs of health care are a real problem for consumers, especially in an aging demographic. The aging aspect of our population in general has a moral component that comes from the incorrect naming of ‘Family’, now largely a meaningless word that once pertained to the perpetuation of the race of humans. With the removal of Family as a socially viable idea, we are left at the mercy of apparatchiks who view the citizenry in the way a farmer views crops. The farmer shovels on the manure, and tries to keep his land productive; our politicians shovel on the manure, and concern themselves with gross domestic product. Cities ban smoking and excessive soda drinking, but encourage bars because of the anesthetizing effect and tax revenues associated with alcohol. For the emerging people who associate themselves anonymously by social media and not by enduring family ties, this arrangement has the appearance of ‘belonging’. The only belonging that is occurring with the Affordable Health Care Act is that the bodies of people are seen to belong to the state. When I served in the Marines, the shock of a phrase ‘now your ass belongs to Uncle Sam‘ had startling impact because most of us knew that this was the difference between a free citizen and one who had sworn mortal obedience to the state. Our identity as Marines was peculiar in a democracy because we were forcibly associated together and compelled to obey. This is lost on the new ‘crop‘ of social activists who cheer victories in courts over what had once been private matters, and join social activist community organizations in order to subvert themselves in group identities, these for the express purpose of being useful to political manipulation. Psychologically, I can only observe that this reflects emerging loneliness in coming generations and hunger to belong, and along with the utter commonality of tattoos, symbolizes overwrought anxiousness to be important. Who are the emerging leaders of these empty people? Most of then cannot articulate original ideas, and this not because of some biological barrier, but because they are not encouraged to. It is not fruitful to the people who would organize and lead them.
Can you take leaders seriously who can’t or won’t tell you what it is exactly that they want you to do? When they can jail you or speciously control your ability to freely associate and engage in commerce, you must take them seriously. Whether or not their words mean anything at all, their actions of constant centralizing and eradication of tradition are poison to individual liberty. More importantly, in a representative democracy like our federation, when the truth cannot be told in daylight, the fault lies with the people themselves in their lack of curiosity and appreciation of language. In a recent Democratic convention, Government was touted as the ‘only thing we all do together’. This is sad, and is a poor replacement for the thing that really makes human beings more than mere beasts. After all, buffalo associate as do ants. The thing we have in common is language itself, the reality that we make available with the use of words whereby we share ideas. This activity of language, written, symbolic, and audible, is the foundation of our shared experience. When we settle for phrases, assuming our ‘betters‘ know what they are saying, we deserve what we get. We appoint with a vote, a personal declaration, representatives to our government for the purpose of elevating our voice. Your voice must be your best shot at understanding and communication, not hotheaded sloganeering based on hero worship. Shouldn’t those representatives that we elevate also bring to the discussion clear articulation of their constituents’ desires? Empty phrases versus empty phrases make no debate worth having, hold these people to account by asking them simply “what do you mean?”.