Bureaucrat Beat: Bloviators, verizon Torture and a Letter

Read a great word the other day – bloviator. Guess what it means? Someone who discourses pompously or boastfully at length. In short – Blowhard!

We in the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom talked it over and decided that anyone – citizen or muckety-muck – who bloviates as if he were the only truth and puts down all others, should, well, shut up and listen for awhile.

We’re still hearing about the Wilderness meeting the other night in which citizens, unstopped by officialdom, yelled obscenities at fellow citizens trying to express an opinion. We’ll read a letter to the editor later. Hey, we support those who want access to public lands, but we support those who want to protect our lands into the future, too. It’s such an enormous issue. It’s probably too big to handle in the public process. Let’s face it. Lots of other people around the nation feel they have ownership here. We do live in one remarkable place. A place with national status. It’s complicated, but the answer is not to yell vulgarities at our neighbors.

Hey, let’s reserve the profanity for… Verizon! Yep, we’ve got one more phone company story. Ran into a very nice lady the other day. Her husband had told her that Bureaucrat Beat detested Verizon possibly more than she did. It’s a tough call.

verizon.jpg Here’s her story. Seems the local woman had an issue with her phone bill, called for help and was told Verizon would look into it. Then she signed up for a better phone plan only to later find out that Verizon signed her up for something more expensive because her bill was “overdue.” In fact, the bill was not overdue. It was under re-consideration! Oh, double and triple ouch! You know what has followed. Some of those nonsensical conversations in which Verizon points fingers at rules, other offices and, “Gosh, they just can’t help it.” Meanwhile, the customer has to spend what can amount to hours to untangle what feels like fraud. As this woman put it, “They know they can just wear us down and we’ll pay their darn bill – right or wrong!”

We’ll try to stop hyperventilating. It will just make us sick. We feel your Verizon pain.

Here’s more real pain. Seems that our esteemed U.S. Senate failed to approve a Medicare bill that would have held off cuts in reimbursements and given more coverage for medical and drug costs for those on fixed incomes. Bush said, no, the insurance companies need the money. As the Medicare Rights Center put it, it’s the Medicare Racketeers. Their latest update says, “It’s as if the Medicare program had been taken over by Mafia goons.”

According to the Govrnment Accountability Office, in 2005, “insurance companies pocketed as profit $1.14 billion in subsidies that the companies had told Medicare would go toward medical benefits.”

Medicare, as the center said, belongs to the American people. It is not a racket for the insurance industry.

And, now, a lengthy letter from Mike Prather of Lone Pine on public attitudes, generally, and the Wilderness Bill, specifically:

Dear Editor,

There should be no surprise at the firestorm of personal attacks at the June 18, 2008 Bishop wilderness hearing. It is modeled by the members of the Inyo Board of Supervisors at their meetings in Indy on any given Tuesday. I fully believe that these five citizens do represent the people who elected them, but that they consistently do not represent anyone who may disagree with them. Whether a local citizen or a representative of a conservation organization you had better prepare for a roasting that spreads far beyond the issue listed on the agenda. Agencies such as the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and Department of Fish and Game receive the same.
This climate of open hostility and absence of any reasonable level of civility by the Inyo County leaders encourages their local surrogates from our communities and from outside the area to carry the torch into public meetings where an open microphone is irresistible. And there the attacks on persons and groups with differing viewpoints becomes the politics of intimidation. Its goal is to drive these citizens away from the public forum and leave only the local elite with a narrow inerrant agenda – whatever that might be. Instead of inclusion, only divisiveness prevails. The lure of a frothing audience that might have votes to be mined for use at the next election is irresistible to our supervisors. But how well does that serve Inyo County?

That sort of leadership during the Desert Protection Act ‘s 10 year battle resulted, without doubt, in a larger bill being passed than would have if Inyo County had the wise leadership to understand that talking, not posturing and drum beating, is how legislation is dealt with in Congress. This knowledge is taught in high school government classes – but its use is voluntary. With the intransience of Congressmen Thomas and Lewis and locally by the Inyo Board of Supervisors, compromise was not permitted. Opponents of the Desert Protection Act stuck to the strategy of no compromise and chose to not ever sit down with proponents of the legislation and explore a settlement. The eventual result was a large bill with little change in size and scope. What was learned? Sound familiar?
The current Inyo Board of Supervisors holds the position of zero new wilderness acres – where do you go from there? What benefit can they gain for their constituents if they do not negotiate? If you have no dialog then you have no voice in the process. You cut off your nose to spite your face. Voters didn’t elect drum beaters and promoters of a shrill voice. That is not leadership, it is incompetence.
The ‘train is leaving the station’, as Congressman McKeon’s Wild Heritage Act whispers in a soft Republican voice of rare moderation. Join in the process Inyo County Board of Supervisors and serve the people who voted for you – sometimes even those who didn’t. This public land is not MINE and it is not YOURS. It is OURS – EVERYONE in America. When I travel to Florida I am thankful for Everglades National Park. I’m glad that local city developers and agricultural interests didn’t destroy it. In Texas I’m thankful for a healthy Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for our whooping cranes that is free of local pressures and in Idaho just knowing that Frank Church Wilderness exists is enough even if I never get there. The lands are owned by all of us and not just a few local elite who want THEIR public land THEIR way. Our laws say – and we are a country of law – that citizens can help decide land designations and that they will work through Congress, if they choose to do so.

In Inyo County the critical land issue is, and has always been, with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Our towns are landlocked and growth is suffocated. Only the Inyo County Board of Supervisors can deal with that challenge. Conservation groups have forced water back into the Lower Owens River sooner rather than later after decades of hard work. Does that deserve some credit? They negotiated $1,500,000 matching funds from LADWP for the control of salt cedar to be used by Inyo County. Does that deserve recognition? They brought several million dollars in fines from LADWP to Inyo County for use on the Lower Owens River Project. Should thanks have been given? It hasn’t. Service projects with thousands of hours of volunteer work are led by conservation groups up and down this valley and countywide. Isn’t that worth something? Where were all of the 700 ‘anti’ voices when the battle was for a 62 mile warm water fishery and hundreds of acres of waterfowl habitat, improved grazing programs and land management on LADWP lands and the protection (and use of) the major wildlife resource at Owens Lake? Leaders in ‘anti’ groups and the Inyo County Board of Supervisors have thrown rocks at conservationists or been mostly silent.

For the record I am not a Communist, Socialist, Nazi, traitor to my country, arm chair granola eater or from east of the Mississippi River. These are labels, and worse unprintable ones, that were hurled at those of us who merely stood and spoke in support of the legislation at hand. I have no linkage of issues and will to continue work on other projects with Inyo County as a partner. That’s what citizens do and I enjoy it. If I disagree on one issue that doesn’t mean that I refuse to work together on any others. As Jesse Unruh said, “If I killed all my enemies today, who would I have lunch with tomorrow?” In fact, the votes of my wife and I helped our neighbor, Supervisor Cervantes, to avoid a runoff in the recent election by one vote.

My comments are my own and do not represent those of any conservation groups that I am a member of or associated with at this time.

Michael Prather
Drawer D
Lone Pine, CA 93545
[email protected]


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