Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A NEW Look for Short Current Essays

The folks at BLOGGER have offered some appealing new "canned" templates for blogs like MeanMesa. After sorting through an impressive number of various possibilities, this one was selected for two principal reasons:

1. The old format was beginning to look a little "seedy" with its "conservative" [at least graphically "conservative," perhaps...come on, maybe?] 1980's image, 


2. this new format makes MeanMesa content much easier to read -- an improvement welcomed by these old eyes while managing things.

Rest assured, NOTHING else has changed! I hope the blog's visitors approve of the change.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The State of Health Care: Two Riveting HMO Part D Epics

Part D Is What We Got,
So, Part D Is What We'll Use
A great opportunity for the old and sick to trot 
out the flag of their American "can do" spirit

When the sold out Republicans finally got enough Senators to pass Part D -- with Dick Cheney's 3 AM tie breaking vote as then Senate President -- they had already packed the poor bill with plenty of mischief. MeanMesa isn't sure whether there were 100's of Big Pharma lobbyists in the Senate Chamber with them or if there were just little, barely visible headsets plugged into all those old grey haired white guys to deliver their orders.

Not surprisingly, all these old reprobates, under Dick Cheney's "spiritual leadership," of course, ultimately "created Part D in their own image." Naturally, the final product was not only an embarrassingly awkward sell out to Big Pharma, but also grotesque in a manner of other ways, too.

This blog has posted plenty about both Part D's savage process and its weird product in the past, so there's little reason to "dig up old skulls" right here just because we might need some pistol targets. However, for Short Current Essay visitors who may happen to be relying on Medicare and Part D for health care now, and for those visitors who, thinking ahead to when they, too, will be in this crowd, are already interested in the "moving parts" of the monstrosity, MeanMesa will share a couple of fascinating first hand experiences in this post.

Now, at some point perhaps you have overheard a couple of old men complaining to each other endlessly about their health problems -- and probably about their doctors, too. This post has just a little of this, but, hopefully, just enough to "frame" the real issue being presented here.

That "real issue" has to do with attempting to "do business" with the tormented, convoluted disaster which was left in the old Part D legislation when Dick Cheney and his pack of trained Republicans had finally finished dissecting it for the salivating pharmaceutical company and corporate insurance lobbyists waiting for them in the hall way outside the Senate Chamber.

What the same crowd did to the Affordable Care Act didn't help much, either.

Here are a couple of true tales -- nothing particularly outrageous, alarming, provocative or even revelatory -- which "paint the picture" of what's still going on now as every day Americans try to shoe horn the bizarre rules of these benefits into something they can afford.

Riveting Medicare Epic Number One
Androgel and Part D

Now, when we touch on testosterone therapy, many of us immediately flood our "mind picture" with the image of a sun glasses bedecked, rotund fifty year old sporting an open chested hula shirt and gold chain trying frantically to outrun his "mid-life crisis" in his red Corvette Sting Ray convertible. 

Although that probably happens often enough, in the case of MeanMesa we see an ancient Social Security guy with "abnormal kidney function" and a few other geriatric maladies who doesn't even own a car. You know, even if MeanMesa did still own a car, that "mid-life crisis" is now already so many years in the past that it would no longer be visible in the rear view mirror.

Well, one of things that a good endocrinologist prescribes for old guys like MeanMesa is testosterone therapy. It makes all the difference in the world. Some of the benefits are not getting obese, having enough energy to still move around quite a bit [MeanMesa likes lots of fresh air, good healthy food, sunshine, gardening and bike riding...], and keeping a fairly sharp mind instead of drifting into the common, foggy "old folks home" territory.

However, even with the possibility of using this modern medicine, a "fly still lands in the ointment," more specifically, a "Part D fly lands in the Androgel ointment" The "fly" amounts to the conflict between the price of the Androgel and Part D's "doughnut hole."

Androgel costs roughly $300 per month. A little arithmetic extends that to around $3,600 per year -- or about $1,000 more than the maximum coverage offered before Part D dumps one into the doughnut hole. For years, MeanMesa has bought the Androgel monthly -- along with everything else -- until the doughnut hole hit, then quit -- the Androgel and most everything else, usually around September or October. 

This turned MeanMesa's Part D "insurance coverage" into a "nine month policy." After it, quite dependably, routinely "cratered" every year, the last three months went ahead on a no coverage "cash basis." Since there was almost never enough extra cash for a "cash basis," this meant cutting back on prescriptions and toughing it out until the next January when Part D came back.

Well, this year MeanMesa had simply had enough, and that meant that it was high time to do some serious geriatric complaining. All of that sound and fury pretty much went no where until it finally reached a little known agency of MeanMesa's massive HMO called "Medication Management." That guy actually called back, and he had a plan!

It was clear that he was serious. He spoke with the troubling, inauthentic, forced enunciation -- frequently interspersed with kindly expressed, condescending inquiries as to whether his words were "understood." A, shall we say, "experienced" senior such as MeanMesa right away spotted as a young man's very best effort at sincerely communicating.

Here is the content of the "follow up" letter he sent a day later.
MeanMesa's letter from Medication Management Systems

Well, aside from a monthly encounter with alternating bruises on corresponding sides of MeanMesa's gluteus maximae, the new plan was rolling along "roses, simply roses," until the particular event occurred which was to become the very "essence kernel" ultimately inspiring this part of the post.

What the contractor from Medication Management Systems offered was, in fact, the case. Right away, the $300 per month cost of Androgel which had been draining MeanMesa's Part D coverage, ceased! The cost of the injections, because they were being administered by a very nice nurse in the Pres. [Presbyterian Senior Care -- a non-profit, HMO Medicare provider] doctor's office, now became a Medicare Part B expense, and, as such, they were covered without brutally pounding MeanMesa's Part D coverage into the doughnut hole.

There wasn't even a co-pay required because she was a nurse -- not a doctor!

The very interesting "particular event" appeared a couple of weeks later. A thoroughly mechanical, automated system used by Pres. to "recover" little bits of billing from here and there which might have otherwise "slipped through the holes," detected a "balance due" hidden deep in the depths of all this clever Medicare maneuvering.

No doubt only a few mere seconds later this dedicated little piece of software had dispatched a letter with a 40 cent postage to MeanMesa warning that a bill might soon be issued to collect this balance due. The "business end" of that letter is posted below.

Amount billed: $4.97 / Amount allowed: $4.47 / Amount postage: $0.40

This is NOT a bill -- just a WARNING

 Clearly, the "monster" is after the fifty cents.

None of this should be considered a complaint on MeanMesa's part. Medicare has in the past - and is currently -- keeping this old bird alive to keep pounding out on this blog. However, all this is posted here to illuminate the almost insane contortions the program has to routinely make in order to fulfil "the letter of the law."

There may be all manner of minor little "things" about Presbyterian which can be quite irritating, but what is shown here comes directly from the Federal Medicare program.

Bear this example in mind if you ever need to defend the "single payer" proposal that Big Pharma slaughtered in the "debates." The sold out GOP dumped the "single payer" idea for a policy that runs like this.

 Riveting Medicare Epic Number Two
Treating the Gout with Part D

So, having decided to "open the sleeping robe" to show two things normally obscured by what are widely considered contemporary "good manners or social protocol," MeanMesa has led with the "expose'" with the brasher of the two revelations, that is, the testosterone therapy, and now follows up with the slightly less awkward issue of the two, that is, the gout.

Happily, although the point of the arising for these old bones was deep in the SW Kansas Bible belt, they were never, subsequently, infested by very much of the irritating common malady which is commonly called "false modesty."

The gout has suffered an onslaught of cultural ridicule -- particularly as a cinematic script mechanism, often portraying it comedically as one of "the wages of sin" for individuals with an appetite to eat and drink in excess. Before the first camera was invented, it was tacitly accepted as one of the perils -- and retribution -- for being a member of the nobility or simply over indulging the in the "pleasures" of wealth as viewed by the poor.

Ollie has the gout - Them Thar Hills 1934 [source: image and quote]
Ollie has a severe case of gout and is ordered by his doctor (Gilbert) to take a vacation up into the mountains to get some fresh air and relax. Of course Stan comes along to make sure that he receives neither!
Doctor: "That's the worst case of gout I've ever seen"
Ollie: "What causes that, doctor?"
Doctor: "Too much high living"
Stan: "Well maybe we should move down into the basement"

MeanMesa first encountered the gout a year or so ago. Although not life threatening, the frighteningly painful experience was, well, shocking. The first time through it, the decision was taken to employ every "urban myth" and "old wives' tale" remedy -- an agonizing mistake. Since then, at the first whimper of symptoms MeanMesa heads straight for the doctor.

This brings us to the second "epic" Part D story in this post. It actually has almost nothing to do with the gout, and it has almost everything to do with Part D.

MeanMesa has episodes of gout because of "abnormal kidney function." That's the phrase a Medicare nephrologist will use to "kindly" tell a patient that "You are probably going to die from kidney failure, but just not particularly soon."

The second time MeanMesa had gout, the trip to the doctor worked wonders. It was "classical gout" -- meaning that it was in a foot, and the Doctor's prescription, Prednisone, literally ended the blinding pain by the next morning and completely knocked out most of the swelling in two days.

However, the next time the gout attacked MeanMesa's right elbow. In no time it was a "screaming pain factory," but it was not recognized as gout! It wasn't in a foot! Although there was a fresh, full prescription of Prednisone stored away in the medicine cabinet for just such an outbreak, MeanMesa didn't "connect the dots."

So, predictably, MeanMesa headed for the Doctor again. The elbow was the size of a grapefruit. Here's where the story gets interesting.

The Doctor carefully examined the elbow, even taking iPhone photos of the swelling with a little measuring tape laid along the offending arm. Then, he prescribed Prednisone. Except, for convenience, he prescribed Prednisone in what is called a "medi-pack."

Prednisone in a pharmacy vial and Prednisone in a "medi-pack"
The "very convenient" $10 "medi-pack"

The Doctor probably thought the "medi-pack" idea was a good one because he wanted MeanMesa to take five of the little Prednisones the first day, four the second day, three the third day, and so on for five days. This was not MeanMesa's usual Doctor, and more than likely, he was being more cautious in insuring that his medication protocol would be followed.

MeanMesa's usual Doctor would have been quite aware that MeanMesa has a degree in mathematics and is, consequently, capable of handling such a dosing regime with the 20 mg tablets he prescribed.

The "medi-pack" contained 21 foil wrapped, 4 mg doses of Prednisone. It cost $10.

The pharmacy vial contained 20 lose tablets of 20 mg each. It cost $1.66. 

Further, both that $1.66 price and the $10 price had no part paid by Part D because MeanMesa is in the doughnut hole [thanks to the Androgel...]. Both prescriptions were filled with generic pharmaceuticals.

Wait! You might say. The "problems" with Medicare and Part D deal with hundreds of billions of dollars. This example is describing a difference of only $8.34!

Yes, but...

Tens of millions of American Seniors are navigating through this thing every day. In plenty of cases the "difference" is incredibly greater than $8.34!

Hundreds of thousands of elderly men are wrecking their Part D coverage every year with medications like Androgel prescriptions because they -- like MeanMesa -- had never heard of a "Medication Management System" available in their HMO.

What in the hell are we doing? Why is a health insurance company writing a letter to warn that someone may be getting a bill for $0.50 sometime soon?

Why are we making all of this so incredibly hard and so incredibly expensive?

These are two pharmaceuticals being used by one guy. Scaled up to the national size, this is insanity.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

2014: Koch World America

Not What We Might Have Been Expecting
Making this movie wasn't supposed to be that hard...

When the Koch brothers dropped their $100,000,000 "rig the election" check [Read more here - NATIONAL JOURNAL] on the American electorate 59 days before the mid-term [One part of the election laws left after the Supremes massacred them was the legal duty to disclose contributors within 60 days.] MeanMesa's doddering geriatric brain immediately launched into "writing the script" for the nightmare super spectacular extravaganza "block buster" which would have its Grand Opening in January.  

"Writing the script?"  Just think of it as desperately grasping some arcane, literary catharsis  in hopes of buffering the tangible pain when the thing began to unfold in reality.

The "cast of characters" for this seedy cinema was to be anything but exciting. In the castle were the dour brothers, a geminal duo of Citizen Kanes, but in the world -- particularly in the Congress -- the faces would be sinister unknowns. MeanMesa's fantasy had populated those halls with strangely threatening types who had been ruthless, blood drenched, racketeering hedge fund managers only hours earlier.

These "lower minions" among the brothers' "ground troops" would be able to wrangle, finagle and re-sculpt the most innocent looking legislation to their bosses' advantage so slyly and smoothly that no one would ever suspect a thing. They would be the terrifyingly competent "men in black," the "fixers" so clever and diabolical that no one could ever so much as touch them, much less interfere in their "plans."

Think of the quiet, well dressed fellows -- always standing in the shadows -- who were the accountants for the Mafia.

Of course, each of these faceless, dark characters would arrive in Washington innocuously resplendent, obscured by opaque black sunglasses and sporting a thin black tie. All the wicked technology representing the "evil gizmos" from the movie would be hidden below cheap looking black suit coats -- including, importantly, the "special gun" that caused complete memory failure in an unsuspecting victim.

After all, inducing a massive -- and, apparently permanent -- "memory loss" in the brains of the electorate had always been a central requirement for the brothers' coup d'etat plans.

Fact Stranger Than Fiction
Probably even stranger than fantasy...

Now that MeanMesa's fantastical expectations concerning the nature of this dark conspiracy have been accounted, reality -- as usual these days -- has "stepped in" to roust the tale with the chaotic disregard of an angry wife wielding a fry pan. In fact, given the headlines [and the article above] hardly any of the exquisite original nightmare remains. Perhaps the dark foreboding of that first effort has survived this violent "re-write," but just about every other detail of the earlier script has landed on the editing room floor.

So far as the Koch's oligarchic coup d'etat goes, our view of this mess now, officially, presents a picture as confusing as the one the Germans saw after the Munich Beer Hall Putsch when the smoke cleared in 1923. The cadre of super efficient plutocratic "looting teams" entering the Congress which populated MeanMesa's dark imaginings bears no resemblance whatsoever to the collection of gasping derelicts actually dispatched from the clown car after the mid-term.

For a "tea bag sampler" we can turn to the following DailyKOS article. [Note: links are left enabled. Read the original article here - DailyKOS]

Daily KOS

Meet Your Craziest New Republicans
November 5, 2014

Rep. Jody Hice, the face of New Republicanism. He'll be defending his Georgia district from the Gays, Muslims, and women who enter politics without their husbands' permission.

Tuesday's elections brought both a rout of Democrats and a new standard for just who can be a national Republican these days. That's not good, but let's have a quick look at the new House and Senate conservatives most likely to rise to (unintended) prominence in the next two years. It's time for Meet Your New Craziest Republicans.

Glenn Grothman, WI-06: Any list has to start with new Wisconsin Representative Glenn Grothman. Grothman is a finely tuned gaffe machine, if by "gaffe" we mean "saying the things Republicans are not supposed to say out loud." He is a fervent believer in stopping The Gay Agenda, which he believes exists in our nation's classrooms, but it's the full scope of Grothman's bizarre statements that have led us to predict that he will quickly rise to challenge Texas Republican Louie Gohmert for the title of America's Dumbest Congressman. Does he have the stuff? We'll soon know.

Jody Hice, GA-10: Another beneficiary of a hard-right conservative district, Georgia's Jody Hice can't be considered a gaffe machine. He's just plain mean. A tea party Republican right out of central casting, Hice is a preacher, a conservative radio host, a gun-toter, and the district's replacement for Paul "Evolution and embryology and the big bang theory are lies from the pit of Hell" Broun. Hice's most recent hit has been the assertion that Muslim-Americans are not protected by the First Amendment because Islam is not a true religion; he also is frothingly anti-gay and is for women entering politics only if it is "within the authority of her husband." Look for Hice to be a loudmouth Steve King type; not dumb, but meaner than a bag of rattlesnakes and a whole lot louder.

Mark Walker, NC-06: An also-ran compared to the more reliably soon-to-be-infamous Grothman and Rice, Mark Walker will nonetheless make a solid addition to the members of Congress that you will shudder to think have actual power. His highlight reel is topped by the time he proposed "we go laser or blitz" Mexico in order to teach them a lesson about immigrants crossing our southern border. He's yet another tea partier that sallied into Congress while Republicans were proudly proclaiming they had tamped down on all that nonsense this time around. He also says he'd vote to impeach Obama.

Honorable Mention: Mia Love, UT-04: A female black Republican, Love has been a party darling groomed for success. She'll go to Congress this year to prove that she's got what it takes to move on to even higher office. She sports the endorsement of ultra-right anti-abortion extremists, but her unimpressive win even amidst an otherwise-solid Republican wave may have given her GOP poster child status a bit of a hit. Like Bobby Jindal, she's an ambitious state Republican who will either make a big splash in the party or look very silly trying.

Joni Ernst, IA-Sen: When it comes to the Senate, all connoisseurs of train wrecks in the making are expecting great things from the Sarah Palinesque Joni Ernst. A far-right conspiracy theorist who coasted through the election on reporter fluff pieces and stories of pig castration, Ernst will join—and perhaps top—the Senate contingent of Republican believers in all things conspiratorial and insane. Think Michele Bachmann, but in the Senate. Think your crazy grandpa and his forwarded chain letters, but in the Senate. Think that person who accosts you at lunch one day with their theories of how Agenda 21 will be allowing cows to vote and forcing humans into tent cities—but in the actual Senate. Think Ted Cruz, but—well, think Ted Cruz. Ernst's campaign showed two and only two settings, either ducking the press like a hunted submarine or engaging in word salads that rival the best Palinisms. We expect great things from her.

Honorable Mention: Tom Cotton, AR-Sen: He won't be a Joni Ernst, primarily because Ernst has squirrelled away too much crazy for anyone but Ted Cruz himself to challenge, but Tom Cotton will prove a reliable Craven Liar Republican in the tradition of our finest intentionally insincere leaders. Why the Craven Liar title, as opposed to challenging in either the Sweet Jesus this guy is dumb or the Mean Bastard categories? Because Cotton's campaign showed a level of straight-up bullshit and pandering that had previously been seen only in satire bits about what Republicans might think, as when he supposed that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels would be teaming up to attack us across our border, a conservative wet-yer-pants claim seemingly hand crafted in the belief that Tom Cotton supporters were among the dumbest people on the planet. Unfortunately for Arkansas Republicans, he had them pegged. Cotton was also the most notable user of ISIS-produced terrorism films in his own ads, a move both meant to invoke terror in Americans so they would vote his way and one that likely earned the gratitude of the terrorist group for boosting publicity of their snuff films as they had intended. Perhaps we'll call him the ISIS senator, as it's a good bet ISIS already does.

On the Republican crazy beat, those are the top faces to watch. They'll all be appearing very, very often on the satire shows, and probably more than a few times on the Sunday shows (but I repeat myself). We'll also have the usual Steve Kings and Louie Gohmerts and, always, Ted Cruz, but if you're looking for the next national leader who will either make a total fool of his or herself, make a fool out of his or her whole state, or accidentally shoot someone in the face during a hunting trip, here are the names that should feature on your new bingo cards.

What Were the Koch Brothers
 Buying, Anyway?
Did they really want these crazies in Congress?

First impressions can be deceptive.

The Koch's $100,000,000 certainly went to promote insinuations based on the prevailing mythology and it certainly went to further inflame the incendiary rhetoric already in play thanks to the media. The Koch check picked up the tab for endlessly broadcasting false dichotomies such as "the makers and the takers," rancid sermons bemoaning "entitlements" and bitter wing nut pundits obediently decrying "regulations stifling innovation and investment."

However, none of these issues matter a bit to the Kochs. All of this was no more than a carefully choreographed 2014 version of a video taped, made for television  "Oberammergau Passion Play." Every one of these outlying "topics" held only a single importance to the Kochs -- "Would one of these 'hot button' items spur a Republican voter to the mid term polls?"
The answer was, clearly, "yes."  As we listen to the oft repeated lament "How did all these voters cast ballots against their own interests?" -- this is the answer.

These are the losers the Koch brothers so carefully "hand selected" to suddenly snatch control of the country?

Are we to suspect that all the nonsense about a "return to that dark, cultural, medieval orthodoxy" which emerged in the heavily financed campaigns is really the priority which compelled the brothers to write that half a billion dollar check? And -- if so -- these are the drooling toadies the brothers picked to "lead us back to the path?"

MeanMesa is calling that proposition a "non-starter." Instead, we are looking at a somewhat bleaker picture of what's planned for this time.
Looting has never been a practice subject to the normal criticism of "efficiency" once it's been completed. For example, the during the Bush autocracy the "free range" oligarchs drained around $6-$7 Tn dollars from the economy -- a good deal directly from the General Fund, yet, should one laboriously thread through the "income" increases of the top one percent during those eight years, the amounts would "add up" to only a fraction of the "missing" six trillion.

Sure, as Senator Sanders said, the "top 400 income earners" pocketed $600,000,000,000 [$600 billion] during that period, and their eagerly complicit underlings -- clinging to the rush of stolen booty -- no doubt "absorbed" billions more, but the visible total would not amount to much more than $2-$3 Trillion.

The rest would be waste -- evaporated away, here and there, as the clumsy pillaging and larceny progressed in the rampaging Maelstrom's barbarity. Reducing the "life equity" of hundreds of millions of Americans by 40% in a period of a few months left such a mountain of "cash on the table" that even the sloppiest looters did, well, just fine.

A Shocking Revelation
After the onslaught, have these Visigoths ignored the gold?
No. They don't care about the coins and trinkets 
-- they want the mine.

When we mention "waste" in the section above, we may need to temporarily "leave" our usual contemplative mental process to fully understand how this works. Visitors to this blog would never consider pulling a multi-trillion dollar heist, stealing enough to fill our truck and simply setting fire to the remainder, leaving trillions smouldering into ashes behind in the wreckage of the bank vault.

However, such common sense logic is not necessarily so "common sensible" when we realize that, even after leaving trillions "un-stolen," we would still be leaving with our own pile of money so huge as to be, frankly, unimaginable.
The Kochs don't care a bit about the country of the United States. They probably don't even particularly care about raiding the General Fund [which they now control after the election...]. They don't care about how righteous or faithful American citizens might become thanks to the empowerment of a few dozen, drawling Southern "politics church" Dominionists. They don't care about poverty, racism, veterans, wars or anything else that almost all the rest of us care about.
In fact, the Kochs are probably laughing at the catastrophe they have embedded into the democracy by purchasing the election. None of that catastrophe will ever penetrate the gates protecting their mansions -- or the assets column on the bulging chart of accounts listing their inheritance. More than likely, not even this would have mattered much to them even if had happened.
The reason?
None of these things or issues was included in the loot that had caught their eye in a way so alluring that it made the $100,000,000 look like a good investment.

But -- quite clearly something caught their eye and fired their appetites.

A Wee Bit More About "Waste"
We should probably include "short sightedness"

First, let's spend just a minute "sizing up" what $100 Mn dollars actually looks like if you are starting with $80 Bn, the rough estimate of the current Koch fortune. We'll picture this is terms of "pocket change."

Amount in pocket = $80
Amount of "investment" = 10 cents.

From the view of the brothers, the "ante" for "purchasing the election" was a gamble in the neighborhood of 50 cents, leaving them with $79.90 -- in real life, $79 Bn, $900 Mn. Further, we must remember that all the wide ranging "veins" of the Koch Industrial Dynasty are, more or less automatically, constantly "refilling" the McDuck money bin, anyway.

Estimates for the amount of profit the Koch brothers might reasonably expect from selling all the tar sands crude they own in Canada range from a modest $40 Bn to as high as $100 Bn. Given the brothers' estimated $80 Bn wealth as they roll their dynastic ambition into this "enterprise," their $80 Bn could expand to between $120 Bn and $180 Bn over the ten years petroleum experts anticipate the shale crude reserve will sustain enough production to keep Keystone slowly gurgling.

So, averaging the estimates between a high and low return on the Canadian shale oil reserves, we see a fairly credible pile of about $70 Bn on the poker table, waiting for the brothers.

Now, to the "wasting" part.

Wasting the Democracy

History shows us that democracies can fail for all sorts of reasons. There can be military take-overs in coup d'etats, invasions by neighbors, revolutions - domestic or imported and so on. Apparently, once thoroughly spoiled by a long period of economic luxury and made adequately cynical by propaganda aimed at poor governance, democracies can terminally falter as a result of simple disregard.

In the case of super powers such as this one, the agonizingly slow demise of the democracy may as well be simply attributed to a well crafted sense of hopeless ennui. The Kochs, along with their fellow travellers, obviously crafted a strategy which would result in the extraction of the Keystone pipeline and a few other favors -- primarily deregulation of banking and environmental issues along with tax reductions probably best described as "loop holes" -- at the expense of the democracy.

There is no telling whether or not these "masters of the universe" accepted the possibility of a permanent destruction of the Republic as any sort of particular problem. Their current positions of power and wealth would only be amplified in the wreckage of whatever might replace the United States if their scheme were to fully obliterate its remaining fundamentals.

A review of the newly elected miscreants described in the article above reveals precisely how much concern for the democracy is flowing in the brothers' blood. The country will not -- and probably cannot -- operate with this toxin perched in the Congress. These little creatures have been "given life" for one purpose -- to deliver wealth to their sponsors.

Once that task is completed, the oligarchs will have little interest in whatever else they might do. Afterwards, it will resemble a Capital inhabited by Sarah Palin clones.

Wasting the Republican Party

The mid-term ruthlessly demonstrated what the Kochs have planned for what's left of the Grand Old Party.  

Not much.

The GOP's entire usefulness as a "mechanism" for the oligarchic take over has pretty much been exhausted. The Kochs, somewhat surprisingly, weren't all that interested in micro-managing the entire country into suffocating compliance with the toxic ideology of their father, after all. [Daddy Koch set up the fascist John Birch Society in his own hey day during the darkest hours of the Cold War.]

Now that the brothers have begun to think that they can actually take possession of their pipeline, MeanMesa predicts that their strange, obsessive interest in other right wing trinkets such as the Heritage Foundation and the like will gradually fade like a shiny toy a week after Christmas.

Amazingly, this growing lack of interest leaves an awkward constituency in its wake. The tea party heavies will still retain their blindly committed base while the actual GOP's last tatters of credibility are being "cashed out" -- gutted by the lesser billionaires [the banksters, coal mine magnates, hedgies and fellow travellers] who will -- even in the absence of the brothers' creepy obsessions -- be left owning every political office holder, hack and hanger-on, lock stock and barrel.

The lumbering, drooling tea bag "movement" is about to be missing its head and not as the result of a well deserved "date with a guillotine." Instead, David and Charles will simply be ignoring the wretched spawn they invested so heavily to create, fecklessly shifting their "ten digit" attention to their next extractive adventure somewhere in the world.

Even lifelong Republican Chris Ladd sees this eerie new neglect rapidly approaching the GOP in 2016 -- accompanying a vengeful electoral pogrom. He expresses his own concerns in this article, posted on MeanMesa. [This is very good reading. Spend a minute with it, then come back here.]

Wasting the American Economy

The US economy was never designed to simply funnel tens of billions into an oligarch's "nest egg."  The idea here was that American wealth would flow throughout the system rather than disappear "down the gullet" of super powerful economic parasites -- and stay there.

We can hardly expect someone like the brothers to even think about what they were doing to the overall economy. They never worked a day in their lives, never received a pay check an never had to figure out how to make a pay check last for an entire month. These concepts are alien to them.

Further, there's also the quite unpleasant prospect of more oil wars. Even with Keystone firmly in hand, the Koch brothers' profits depend on high oil prices. If the prices drop below the "profit level," the brothers can "inspire" the square dancing bumpkins they installed into the Congress to jack prices back up again.

Measure your son's boot size so he'll be ready to go.

How could this be done? A little bombing would probably turn the trick -- especially if the bombs are landing on Iran. Driven by the desperately frantic Chinese, per barrel prices would sky rocket in a week. MeanMesa also suspects that this particular crowd of addle minded Congressional hill billies could pretty easily be goaded into doing something really stupid with the Russians.

"Wah'll Ah'll be durned. Wea'h shore din't figger thet wuz gonna happen..."

2014: Exploiting the Opportunity of the Moment
They worked very hard to instil enough hopeless disgust

The Kochs' think tank managers did some very respectable analysis as they looked over the probable election statistics for the 2014 mid-term. The predictions for a low voter turn out looked very credible. The right wing had invested heavily and maintained the constant flow of rhetoric for years. Attacks on the President came daily, and "innuendo-style" agitation of primitive fears regarding every minority were a continuing, incendiary goal for the scheme.

When November finally arrived, 38% of the registered voters emerged for the election. The Kochs' $100,000,000 contributions "produced" a block of Republican loyalists representing 19% of the electorate, but this was sufficient to place all the crazies [mentioned above] into the position of controlling the Congress.

Interestingly, both Boehner and McConnell have, since then, continuously indulged the somewhat disingenuous phrase "representatives of the people" -- something like "...once the representatives of the people arrive to take over in January.." -- as they describe their respective plans to exploit the unconvincing "19% mandate." Naturally, both speak of the Keystone approval as an "immediate Congressional priority."

Well, the drooling crazies in the DailyKOS article are, now, the representatives of the people.

We're in for a tough couple of years.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mid-Term: Republicans Complete Plans for 2016 Disaster

[MeanMesa had originally intended to place a link to this article in "soon to be published" post about the Koch brothers' interference in the 2014 mid-term election, but this message is so shockingly prescient -- and, frankly, comforting -- that it merits a post dedicated to it alone. Enjoy.]

Which way is right? With Chris Ladd
The missing story of the 2014 election

Posted on November 10, 2014 | By chrisladd

[Links are enabled. Visit the original article here.]

Few things are as dangerous to a long term strategy as a short-term victory. Republicans this week scored the kind of win that sets one up for spectacular, catastrophic failure and no one is talking about it.

What emerges from the numbers is the continuation of a trend that has been in place for almost two decades. Once again, Republicans are disappearing from the competitive landscape at the national level across the most heavily populated sections of the country while intensifying their hold on a declining electoral bloc of aging, white, rural voters. The 2014 election not only continued that doomed pattern, it doubled down on it. As a result, it became apparent from the numbers last week that no Republican candidate has a credible shot at the White House in 2016, and the chance of the GOP holding the Senate for longer than two years is precisely zero.

For Republicans looking for ways that the party can once again take the lead in building a nationally relevant governing agenda, the 2014 election is a prelude to a disaster. Understanding this trend begins with a stark graphic.

Behold the Blue Wall:

The Blue Wall is block of states that no Republican Presidential candidate can realistically hope to win. Tuesday that block finally extended to New Hampshire, meaning that at the outset of any Presidential campaign, a minimally effective Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even trying. That’s 257 out of the 270 needed to win.

Arguably Virginia now sits behind that wall as well. Democrats won the Senate seat there without campaigning in a year when hardly anyone but Republicans showed up to vote and the GOP enjoyed its largest wave in modern history. Virginia would take that tally to 270. Again, that’s 270 out of 270.

This means that the next Presidential election, and all subsequent ones until a future party realignment, will be decided in the Democratic primary. Only by sweeping all nine of the states that remain in contention AND also flipping one impossibly Democratic state can a Republican candidate win the White House. What are the odds that a Republican candidate capable of passing muster with 2016 GOP primary voters can accomplish that feat? You do the math.

By contrast, Republicans control a far more modest Red Fortress, which currently amounts to 149  electoral votes. What happened to that fortress amid the glory of the 2014 “victory?” It shrunk yet again. Not only are New Hampshire and probably Virginia now off the competitive map, Georgia is now clearly in play at the Federal level. This trend did not start in 2014 and it will not end here. This is a long-term realignment that been in motion for more than a decade and continues to accelerate.

The biggest Republican victory in decades did not move the map. The Republican party’s geographic and demographic isolation from the rest of American actually got worse.

A few other items of interest from the 2014 election results:

- Republican Senate candidates lost every single race behind the Blue Wall. Every one.

- Behind the Blue Wall there were some new Republican Governors, but their success was very specific and did not translate down the ballot. None of these candidates ran on social issues, Obama, or opposition the ACA. Rauner stands out as a particular bright spot in Illinois, but Democrats in Illinois retained their supermajority in the State Assembly, similar to other northern states, without losing a single seat.

- Republicans in 2014 were the most popular girl at a party no one attended. Voter turnout was awful.

- Democrats have consolidated their power behind the sections of the country that generate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth outside the energy industry. That’s only ironic if you buy into far-right propaganda, but it’s interesting none the less.

- Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last. Eventually Democrats will help people get the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new requirements. The whole “voter integrity” sham may have given Republicans a one or maybe two-election boost in low-turnout races. Meanwhile we kissed off minority votes for the foreseeable future.

- Across the country, every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.

- Every personhood amendment failed.

- For only the second time in fifty years Nebraska is sending a Democrat to Congress. Former Republican, Brad Ashford, defeated one of the GOP’s most stubborn climate deniers to take the seat.

- Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy. Total coincidence, just pointing that out.

- In Congress, there are no more white Democrats from the South. The long flight of the Dixiecrats has concluded.

- Democrats in 2014 were up against a particularly tough climate because they had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states. In 2016 Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats and at least 18 of them are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics. Democrats will be defending precisely one seat that could possibly be competitive. One.

- And that “Republican wave?” In Congressional elections this year it amounted to a total of 52% of the vote. That’s it.

- Republican support grew deeper in 2014, not broader. For example, new Texas Governor Greg Abbott won a whopping victory in the Republic of Baptistan. That’s great, but that’s a race no one ever thought would be competitive and hardly anyone showed up to vote in. Texas not only had the lowest voter turnout in the country (less than 30%), a position it has consistently held across decades, but that electorate is more militantly out of step with every national trend then any other major Republican bloc. Texas now holds a tenth of the GOP majority in the House.

- Keep an eye on oil prices. Texas, which is at the core of GOP dysfunction, is a petro-state with an economy roughly as diverse and modern as Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela. It was been relatively untouched by the economic collapse because it is relatively dislocated from the US economy in general. Watch what happens if the decline in oil prices lasts more than a year.

- For all the talk about economic problems, for the past year the US economy has been running at ’90’s levels. Watch Republicans start touting a booming economy as the result of their 2014 “mandate.”

- McConnell’s conciliatory statements are encouraging, but he’s about to discover that he cannot persuade Republican Senators and Congressmen to cooperate on anything constructive. We’re about to get two years of intense, horrifying stupidity. If you thought Benghazi was a legitimate scandal that reveals Obama’s real plans for America then you’re an idiot, but these next two years will be a (briefly) happy period for you.

This is an age built for Republican solutions. The global economy is undergoing a massive, accelerating transformation that promises massive new wealth and staggering challenges. We need heads-up, intelligent adaptations to capitalize on those challenges. Republicans, with their traditional leadership on commercial issues should be at the leading edge of planning to capitalize on this emerging environment.

What are we getting from Republicans? Climate denial, theocracy, thinly veiled racism, paranoia, and Benghazi hearings. Lots and lots of hearings on Benghazi.

It is almost too late for Republicans to participate in shaping the next wave of our economic and political transformation. The opportunities we inherited coming out of the Reagan Era are blinking out of existence one by one while we chase so-called “issues” so stupid, so blindingly disconnected from our emerging needs that our grandchildren will look back on our performance in much the same way that we see the failures of the generation that fought desegregation.

Something, some force, some gathering of sane, rational, authentically concerned human beings generally at peace with reality must emerge in the next four to six years from the right, or our opportunity will be lost for a long generation. Needless to say, Greg Abbott and Jodi Ernst are not that force.

“Winning” this election did not help that force emerge. This was a dark week for Republicans, and for everyone who wants to see America remain the world’s most vibrant, most powerful nation.

Friday, November 14, 2014

ALEC and the Internet: A "Net Neutrality" Chattanooga Primer

A Couple of Internet Questions
Painfully woven together like fine silk...

MeanMesa exists on the internet. Everyone reading this post is either reading it on the net or reading a hard copy of it prepared by someone who accessed it on the internet. The ideas presented in these Short Current Essays meander around, here and there, travelling by wispy links to places where no one has ever heard of it before.

That's the magic.

Question One: Should unregulated corporate internet providers be free to direct system advantages to "profit centers?"

The terms used in posing this question are intentionally general. All sorts of "the...uh...details" about just how the corporations would be able to accomplish this -- including the wide variety of the "advantages" which could be manipulated into the process and the disparate collection of "profit centers" which would benefit from it -- are not really the point here.

Instead, the "point" here is that allowing this to continue -- it's already well under way -- will represent a "replacement" of traditional, dynamic market pressures with a new market which imposes artificial corporate "profit priorities" on the variety of products offered for consumption, that is, one where market forces are eliminated from the equation. 

Although we are all most likely quite tired of the expression, this describes a "supply side" economy replacing a "demand side" economy. Not surprisingly, the voices clamouring for this unregulated dystopian paradise are precisely the same ones which have so eagerly clamoured for similar changes in just about every other market since Ronald Reagan "turned up his toes."

"Net Neutrality will hurt private sector job creation"
"Regulating the internet threatens entrepreneurial freedom. It's like ObamaCare for the net."
"...will stifle innovation and concentrate more power in the hands of Washington bureaucrats..."
Among all the gush of talking points being broadcast today, it may be hard to settle on a single "fear generator" which might account for this drive among the billionaires and corporatists, but we can speculate on a "likely suspect."

The "fear side" is anchored to the admittedly flimsy idea that our government might extend its "control issues" into the process to prohibit this latest gang of "free enterprisers" from "picking winners" by eliminating competition. What has been, traditionally, considered the "fair competition" in an open market where consumers "vote" with their pocket books turns out to be a little too intimidating for the castrated version of our contemporary -- and vacuously corporate -- "captains of industry."

The corporate communications magnates who penned this financially enforced "business plan" as their latest wet dream have lost the old, bold confidence that they could possibly "compete" their way to success. It's not that competing is so much more laborious than this alternate business idea of "quiet suppression." It is that the suppression and manipulation of the terms of competition seems safer to these suddenly timid, modern, corporate media types.

It's hardly surprising that "owning Congress" might represent an essential requirement for those wishing to transform the freedom of expression on the internet into a nearly suffocated, sterile, corporate wasteland where consumers are left choosing exclusively from a thousand utterly mediocre, mind numbing, commercial options. 

For a recent example of this think of the orgasmic, halcyon days of Rush Limbaugh's rather grotesque ascent in the beginning of his career. The billionaires, organically attracted to usefulness of the folksy nihilism surgically embedded in his retrograde political messaging, had already purchased literally hundreds of broadcast stations around the country while Rush was still a back woods nobody in the business. 

Almost statistically disconnected from the actual base of listeners who might be interested in listening to the old gas bag based on their own appetites, his radio show was "force fed" to hundreds of stations. In no time -- because the show was bellowing forth from all these hundreds of radio stations -- the corporate image managers were very comfortably claiming that "listener ratings" clearly showed that it was "what people wanted," when it was actually pretty much "all people could get."

"Free market?" MeanMesa's ass.

[This blog is usually far better behaved than to thoughtlessly add such a "low class," utterly pedestrian epithet to these, otherwise, usually "high class" missives. In this case, the selection of every one of those four words was stridently intentional.]

Still another example of "oligarchic meddling" also bears down on the internet control issue. The last election established beyond any doubt that the oligarchs have purchased the media. The invisible Democrats found themselves -- although not without other, substantive defects, of course -- utterly unable to employ the traditional media model in presenting their platform [that is, if they actually had one they weren't too frightened to discuss...] because the "editorial policy" of the obedient networks simply didn't include them as relevant.

The effect was that the huge media buys made by the oligarchs' wing nut Super PAC's roamed freely through the halls of public opinion without ever being contested or contradicted. The effect of "net non-neutrality" on the internet offers a sinister, although similar, prospect for the anti-democracy interests.

Although already cursed with a genetic abhorrence of paying decent union wages, the oligarchs also obsessively hate unions because they cannot control or counter the political influence created by large numbers of people in an opposing campaign's "ground game." 

For the billionaires the net's practically effortless ability ["effortless" in the sense that such a project doesn't require millions of dollars from a Super PAC] to aggregate huge numbers of voters to an issue just as threatening as the image of thousands of union hands arriving on buses for ten thousand "door to door" visits with a target constituency.

The think tank psych masters undoubtedly look at the daily political content of something like MeanMesa's Face Book page and shudder.

Eliminating "free range" communication like this is also part of what they have in mind for the internet, and, by the way, the billionaires already own the corporate internet providers. Happily, MeanMesa is such a small blog that it is safely -- at least for now -- under their radar.

The MeanMesa title for this section of the post mentioned two questions. Let's have a look at the second one.

Question Two: Instead of "privatizing" the internet provider industry with total deregulation, why not "publicize" it?

We need a little background to appreciate the full ramifications of such an unusual question. However, our first stop will be in the EU for a very quick look not at internet service, but at cell phone service plans. The following excerpts are from an article on the DIGITALTRENDS site. [Read the entire article here - DIGITALTRENDS]]

In other parts of Europe, prices are cheaper, too. Orange in France sells a wireless plan with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 2GB of data for $64 a month. Orange is no small fry, actually serving nearly as many customers as Verizon and AT&T combined. A major carrier in Spain, Telef√≥nica, also offers a fairly reasonable plan with 500MB of high speed data, unlimited texting, and 500 minutes for about $65 a month.


But let’s not forget about Hong Kong and Japan. In Hong Kong, Hutchinson (also known as ‘Three’) will give you an 5GB high speed wireless plan with plenty of minutes for just $59 a month. A similar deal goes for Softbank  in Japan, which will set you back just $55 for unlimited data, SMS, and free calling to Softbank other users between 1AM and 9PM.

Do any of these numbers even remotely compare to the monthly bill for your US cell phone plan? Although enterprises in the EU are routinely classed as over regulated "socialist disasters" in the US domestic media, this service and pricing schedule is evidence to the contrary. Whether a result of regulation or simply more open competition between service providers, the conclusion is unavoidable.

MeanMesa's answer to this second question doesn't deal with "net neutrality" in the sense presented above. Instead, this question deals with the fundamental "business plan" of domestic US internet service providers and their punitive, "supply side" relationship with the "rules writing" Congress -- which they now happen to own.

 New York Times
[Excerpted. Read the entire article here.]

US Plan for Internet Fast Lanes
 Contrasts with European Rules

By Mark Scott
April 24, 2014
LONDON — The battle over whether Internet content should be treated equally is heating up.

A proposal in the United States that would allow Internet providers to charge companies for more powerful transmission of web traffic stands in contrast with new rules in Europe.

Late on Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission said it would propose new rules that would allow American Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to charge companies like Google and Disney for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers.

The proposals, which will be released for public comment on May 15, are unlike new rules in Europe that outlaw attempts by telecommunications or cellphone carriers to charge for improved access to their data and mobile networks.

The decisions put American and European policy makers on different sides of the debate about the future of so-called net neutrality — the idea that telecommunications companies and other Internet service providers cannot discriminate between different services that run on their data networks. Last month, European lawmakers approved new, tougher rules aimed at guaranteeing equal access to the Internet.


After intense lobbying from telecom companies and consumer advocacy groups, European politicians inserted last-minute amendments intended to provide a strict definition of net neutrality. Other countries are also considering adopting similar protections. In Brazil this week, lawmakers approved a net neutrality provision that bars telecom companies from charging higher rates for access to content that uses more bandwidth.


“The F.C.C. wants to recognize that innovation is the very essence of the Internet,” said Luigi Gambardella, chairman of the European Telecommunications Networks Operators’ Association, a trade body. “Such approach is in sharp contrast with the hyper-intrusive rules that the outgoing European Parliament recently voted on.”

Regardless of who comes out ahead in the current debate, it is likely that customers worldwide will see price increases for surfing the web.

In the United States, analysts said companies like Disney and Netflix would eventually seek to pass on to customers whatever they have to pay for speedier Internet lanes.

In Europe, telecom operators could charge customers more for their monthly cellphone and cable contracts to cover the additional investments needed to upgrade their mobile and fixed-line networks.

Americans are accustomed to "banding together" to improve conditions for life here. We've done this over and over through our nation's history with good results. However, the last few paragraphs of this New York Times article could be a right wing discussion of the Affordable Care Act with the replacement of a few terms.

The corporations serving as internet service providers don't like "banding together" idea at all when they are asked to "cooperate" with it. Instead, they immediately go to their usual litany of complaints about "having to pay for something someone else is using" to serve as their latest "excuse" for arbitrarily raising rates anyway.

You know. "Whatever the market will bear."

[MeanMesa suspects that some of the caustic, faux-ideological Congressional wing nut talking points mentioned above may have come directly from this edition of the paper.]

The Chattanooga Horror
Throwing entire decades of suffocating internet capitalism
... under the bus

So, what exactly terrified all the magnates of the internet provider industry so much? Only a few months ago it must have looked pretty much "safe and serene" lounging in those palatial conference rooms high in the sky perusing a consumer market completely "under control" as far as the eye could see. 

After all, who could live without the internet? And, perhaps more importantly, who could possibly have enough muscle to ever wreck this perpetual dream?

All that was necessary in order to maintain that beautiful -- and bountiful -- "gold plated" scam was to continue piping GOOGLE and YAHOO through the television cable and phone lines to millions of captive consumers, raising prices every few months and constantly suckering suckers away from each other with phony "bait and switch," temporary, introductory start up "bargains."

As it turns out, a "horrible" -- at least for them -- community funded, free enterprise nightmare was floating their way from an unexpected direction.

Have a look at the following New York Times story. [Visit the original article here - NYTimes There is a fascinating slide show at the original site.]

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — For thousands of years, Native Americans used the river banks here to cross a gap in the Appalachian Mountains, and trains sped through during the Civil War to connect the eastern and western parts of the Confederacy. In the 21st century, it is the Internet that passes through Chattanooga, and at lightning speed.

“Gig City,” as Chattanooga is sometimes called, has what city officials and analysts say was the first and fastest — and now one of the least expensive — high-speed Internet services in the United States. For less than $70 a month, consumers enjoy an ultrahigh-speed fiber-optic connection that transfers data at one gigabit per second. That is 50 times the average speed for homes in the rest of the country, and just as rapid as service in Hong Kong, which has the fastest Internet in the world.

It takes 33 seconds to download a two-hour, high-definition movie in Chattanooga, compared with 25 minutes for those with an average high-speed broadband connection in the rest of the country. Movie downloading, however, may be the network’s least important benefit.

“It created a catalytic moment here,” said Sheldon Grizzle, the founder of the Company Lab, which helps start-ups refine their ideas and bring their products to market. “The Gig,” as the taxpayer-owned, fiber-optic network is known, “allowed us to attract capital and talent into this community that never would have been here otherwise.”

Since the fiber-optic network switched on four years ago, the signs of growth in Chattanooga are unmistakable. Former factory buildings on Main Street and Warehouse Row on Market Street have been converted to loft apartments, open-space offices, restaurants and shops. The city has welcomed a new population of computer programmers, entrepreneurs and investors. Lengthy sideburns and scruffy hipster beards — not the norm in eastern Tennessee — are de rigueur for the under-30 set.

“This is a small city that I had never heard of,” said Toni Gemayel, a Florida native who moved his software start-up, Banyan, from Tampa to Chattanooga because of the Internet speed. “It beat Seattle, New York, San Francisco in building the Gig. People here are thinking big.”

But so far, it is unclear statistically how much the superfast network has contributed to economic activity in Chattanooga over all. Although city officials said the Gig created about 1,000 jobs in the last three years, the Department of Labor reported that Chattanooga still had a net loss of 3,000 jobs in that period, mostly in government, construction and finance.

EPB, the city-owned utility formerly named Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, said that only about 3,640 residences, or 7.5 percent of its Internet-service subscribers, are signed up for the Gigabit service offered over the fiber-optic network. Roughly 55 businesses also subscribe. The rest of EPB’s customers subscribe to a (relatively) slower service offered on the network of 100 megabits per second, which is still faster than many other places in the country.
Some specialists say the low subscriber and employment numbers are not surprising or significant, at least in the short term. “The search for statistical validation of these projects is not going to turn up anything meaningful,” said Blair Levin, executive director of Gig.U, a high-speed Internet project that includes more than three dozen American research universities. Mr. Levin cited “Solow’s paradox,” the 1987 observation by Robert M. Solow, a recipient of the Nobel in economic science who wrote that “you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

Such is the case with many new technologies, Mr. Levin said. No one is going to design products that can run only on a one-gigabit-per-second network if no such networks exist, he said. But put a few in place, he added, and soon the supply of applications will drive a growing demand for the faster connections.

Chattanooga’s path to Gig City is part of a transformation that began long before most Americans knew the Internet existed. Named America’s most-polluted city in 1969 because of largely unregulated base of heavy manufacturing, Chattanooga has in the last two decades cleaned its air, rebuilt its waterfront, added an aquarium and become a hub for the arts in eastern Tennessee. In more recent years, an aggressive high-tech economic development plan and an upgrade of the power grid by EPB moved Chattanooga toward the one-gigabit connection.

In 2009, a $111 million federal stimulus grant offered the opportunity to expedite construction of a long-planned fiber-optic network, said David Wade, chief operating officer for the power company. (EPB also had to borrow $219 million of the network’s $330 million cost.) Mr. Wade said it quickly became apparent that customers would be willing to pay for the one-gigabit connection offered over the network.

Chattanooga has been joined in recent years by a handful of other American cities that have experimented with municipally owned fiber-optic networks that offer the fastest Internet connections. Lafayette, La., and Bristol, Va., have also built gigabit networks. Google is building privately owned fiber systems in Kansas City, Kan.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Austin, Tex., and it recently bought a dormant fiber network in Provo, Utah.

The systems are the leading edge of a push for ever-faster Internet and telecommunications infrastructure in a country that badly lags much of the world in the speed and costs of Web connections. Telecommunications specialists say that if the United States does not keep its networks advancing with those in the rest of the world, innovation, business, education and a host of other pursuits could suffer.

Even so, few people, including many who support the systems, argue that everyone in the country now needs a one-gigabit home connection. Much of the public seems to agree. According to Federal Communications Commission statistics, of the households where service of at least 100 megabits per second was available (one-tenth as fast as a gigabit), only 0.12 percent subscribed at the end of 2012. In Chattanooga, one-third of the households and businesses that get electric power from EPB also subscribe to Internet service of at least 100 megabits.

But just as few people a decade ago thought there would be any need for one terabyte of data storage on a desktop computer (more than 200 million pages of text, or more than 200 movies), even the most prescient technology gurus have often underestimated the hunger for computer speed and memory.

Fiber-optic networks carry another benefit, which is the unlikelihood that a potentially faster network will come along soon. Fiber optics can transmit data at close to the speed of light, and EPB officials say the technology exists for their network to carry up to 80 connections of 10 gigabits per second at once.

Those who use Chattanooga’s one-gigabit connection are enthusiastic. Mr. Gemayel, the Florida native who moved Banyan here from Tampa, first passed through Chattanooga in 2012, when he heard about an entrepreneurial contest sponsored by The Company Lab with a $100,000 prize. Banyan, which was working on a way to share real-time editing in huge data files quickly among far-flung researchers, won the contest. Mr. Gemayel returned to Tampa with his check.

But once there he discovered that his low-bandwidth Internet connection was hampering the development of his business. By the beginning of 2013, he had moved to Chattanooga.

Other companies have become Gig-related successes. Quickcue, a company that developed a tablet-based guest-management system for restaurants, began here in 2011 and over the next two years attracted about $3 million in investments. In December, OpenTable, the online restaurant reservations pioneer, bought Quickcue for $11.5 million.

Big technology dreams do not always pan out, of course, and Chattanooga is familiar with failed experiments. The city spent millions of dollars in the last five years to build a citywide Wi-Fi network, known as the “wireless mesh,” intended for use by residents and city agencies. It sits largely unused, and its utility has largely been usurped by 4G wireless service.

Few people here would say that the Gig has even begun to be used to its fullest. “The potential will only be capped by our selfishness,” said Miller Welborn, a partner at the Lamp Post Group, the business incubator where Banyan shares office space with a dozen other start-ups. “The Gig is not fully useful to Chattanooga unless a hundred other cities are doing the same thing. To date, the best thing it’s done for us is it put us on the map.”

For all the optimism, many boosters are aware there are limits to how far the Gig can take the city, particularly as it waits for the rest of the country to catch up.

“We don’t need to be the next Silicon Valley,” Mayor Andy Berke said. “That’s not who we’re going to be, and we shouldn’t try to be that. But we are making our own place in the innovation economy.”

Finally, It's Time for the "ALEC Part"

One second after the Chattanooga system had delivered its first "gigabyte per second" gigabyte somewhere, the "red telephone" at the central ALEC anti-democracy bunker began ringing frantically. The voice on the other end was repeating -- in a desolate, panicked voice -- "Make it stop! Make it stop! This is going to ruin everything!"

Now, MeanMesa wasn't there, so guessing whether it was Verizon or ComCast on the line would amount to nothing more than sheer speculation. However, as fast as raw lightening at dinner time in Kansas, the ALEC "emergency legislation authorship" team was ordered into action. Dozens of otherwise incompetent state legislators all across the nation in red state Houses and Senates must be supplied with bills which could stop this Chattanooga travesty in its tracks!

You know, before it spreads!

This is what we're supposed to say, right? [cartoon - Daily KOS]

As soon as they received the emergency ALEC marching orders, the sold out national Congressional reactionaries also immediately jumped into the suppression's "counter insurgency" operation in Washington. By the time the tea party had fumbled Marsha Blackburn to the microphone to wail about the "injustice of it all," secretaries and administrative assistants all across Wall Street were desperately snatching their snivelling, whimpering CEO's off the suicide ledges atop the lavish net providers' skyscrapers.

National Journal
[Visit the original article here - National Journal]

House Votes to Save Bans
 on City Internet Service

Republicans want to stop the FCC from preempting state laws.