Obama Administration

Our Scary Technocracy

There are no "top men" and there never will be

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Top. Men.
Lucasfilm/Paramount

Did President Barack Obama and the White House really not know that the National Security Agency was monitoring dozens of world leaders and had been for years? Or is he deliberately shielding himself from uncomfortable diplomatic fallout from angry European peers and from criticism about the extent of America's surveillance activities?

Did the president really not know that hundreds of thousands of Americans in the individual insurance market would lose their coverage as a consequence of the Affordable Care Act's requirements? Did he know that his claim that people would be able to keep their health coverage if they liked it was not true and actually never was? Or was this a planned deception all along in order to reduce resistance by those whose policies were going to be negatively impacted?

Which answer is worse? For the average American, either answer provides good reasons to fear the technocratic bend of our administration. The rule of "top men" has brought to us either a government where unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats are making remarkably significant policy decisions without appropriate oversight, or a government that, because its leaders believe they know best, is comfortable with deceiving the public and even foreign allies in order to avoid dealing with difficult questions and potential objections or roadblocks. Sometimes, we even get both.

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about problems with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, not just with the operations of the exchange site (which was down while the hearings took place) but the anger of citizens getting cancellation notices from their insurance providers. While Sebelius acknowledged that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act exchange site was an unmitigated disaster, she repeatedly deflected any concerns or questions about individual policy cancellations by stating these decisions were made by the insurance companies. While technically true, the cancellations were because the policies did not comply with Affordable Care Act requirements, not just because of some market decision made by the insurance providers. Repeatedly, Sebelius attempted to avoid acknowledging the problem by pointing out the benefits and "consumer protections" of the Affordable Care Act, utterly ignoring whether the benefits the Democrats extol, like mental health coverage, are benefits consumers actually want. The administration sniffed that those insurance policies that were canceled didn't count as real insurance in their eyes, no matter what the customers felt about it. Obama himself spoke out in defense of the tactic Wednesday afternoon, repeating all the same talking points, insisting that the plans that were canceled weren't "real" insurance and that consumers were being duped by insurance companies.

That consumers don't have control over the benefits is exactly the point for the technocrats. The people who don't need mental health treatment help cover the costs of those who do. That's how health insurance works, and so there's a particular level of condescension when Sebelius and House Obamacare supporters try to spin the elimination of bare bones or catastrophic individual health insurance plans as a creation of wonderful new options and benefits that people have never had before. The administration doesn't seem to see these cancellations as a problem. Other people are getting health insurance who didn't have it before. That's what is important. These other people can just get other plans (eventually, when the exchanges work).

Such is the nature of a technocracy. What you want is not as relevant as what select government experts believe you need. During the hearing, when asked her opinion about the state of the individual insurance market prior to the Affordable Care Act, Sebelius declared that she didn't believe there was much of a real market because it wasn't regulated, there weren't enough protections, and consumers were on their own. She is absurdly wrong about the regulation of the individual insurance market, but beyond that, her response illustrates the technocrat's perception of the marketplace. In the midst of her obfuscated answers, there is a shining moment of honesty, and she probably doesn't even think the statement is remotely controversial. It's not a marketplace until the government authorizes it and monitors it.

"Top. Men." It's a reference to dialogue from Raiders of the Lost Ark that has become a sarcastic meme for skeptics of technocratic rule. At the end of the movie the recovered Ark of the Covenant is handed over to military intelligence. Indiana Jones is assured that "top men" are looking over the dangerous artifact. When Jones presses for more information, he's bluntly assured, "Top. Men."

The two words, presented as two sentences, have been repurposed to mock official incompetence disguised as authority. Because the Obama Administration's very foundation is a massive embrace of technocratic progressivism, they're an easy target as pet projects go awry. Who is going to fix the mess that is HeathCare.gov? Top. Men.

On the surveillance front, National Security Agency officials insist everything they're doing is legal and justified, even while condemning Edward Snowden for letting Americans know what the government is doing to their data. Snowden's latest leaks prompted an international scandal over surveillance of foreign leaders and alleged collection of call records of French and Spanish citizens. The behavior has been defended by government officials and surveillance lovers even as the Obama administration claimed ignorance and ordered surveillance of the United Nations scaled back. Since officials claim to be surprised by this news, can we call Snowden a whistle-blower now?

The technocracy scares regardless of whether it's competent or incompetent, because no matter which, the rest of us are not in control of our allegedly free country. On Wednesday, while Sebelius was trying to present taking control away from people as though the government were actually giving them more, The Washington Post unloaded Snowden's latest info: That the NSA has broken into Yahoo and Google data center communication links around the world and is collecting ever more data, outside of the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. If true, those revelations do not inspire us to believe leaders at the NSA and Congress when they tell us to trust their secret oversight system.

The technocracy is additionally scary because we frequently realize that even the people who think they are in control of the machine are not. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was one of the biggest supporters of NSA and is one of the program's "overseers" in her role as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Yet, she claims she did not know about the snooping on world leaders, and now she's calling for a full review of our surveillance programs. The Department of Health and Human Services clearly didn't grasp that the HealthCare.gov was not ready for launch. To be a technocrat is to be susceptible to failure because of the mistaken belief in one's own elite knowledge and control over markets and social progress. Calling somebody an "elitist" is not an insult because of an animosity against intelligence, but rather the term is used to imply somebody who thinks he or she is smarter than he or she actually is.

The real punchline in the "Top. Men." meme is actually in the next scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The movie cuts to a large government warehouse where the Ark is boxed up with orders "Do Not Open!" stenciled on the side. The implication is obvious: Those "top men" in the government realized they were in way over their heads in dealing with the artifact and decided not to meddle with it. That's how you know the movie is a work of high fantasy.

NEXT: Doctor Loses Challenge to Pa. Fracking Gag Rule

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  1. Top Men hid the alt-text in a giant warehouse in D.C.

    1. Oh, there it is.

      DON’T LOOK AT IT, MARION!!

      1. The legendary Ark of the Free Shit!

        1. Only the High Priest Bernanke can chant the monetary spell which releases the insuperable power of free shit.

    2. This is one of the few images on H&R that doesn’t need alt-text.

    3. Alt-Text is not of this world.

  2. What kind of cruel joke is it that Dianne Feinstein is chair of the Intelligence Committee?

    1. Can’t remember if her being chair is closer to being irony or an oxymoron.

      1. I think Intelligence Committee is an oxymoron.

      2. Could we change her into a footstool? Or just make the fact that she is a stool more obvious?

    2. War is peace, freedom is slavery, intelligence is stupidity…

    3. It’s the Peter Principle

    4. Spot on , the oxymoronishness of this comedy is hilarious and a downer at the same time…at least we get a few laughs while the ship sinks.

  3. In Feudal Japan, the emperor did not even speak in the court during meetings of state. It was said that his voice was too pure to be heard within the chambers of mere mortal men.

    This was undoubtedly a trick conjured by technocrats who wielded the actual daily powers of the court and could keep the emperor out of the daily decision-making, while at the same time exalting his greatness.

    Our government is too big for any president to know what’s going on in every corner. That’s by design.

    However, there’s nothing stopping a president from declaring that once he/she knows that something is going on, that it will be shut down and any opposition to his directive will be met with swift termination and possible criminal charges. All those “Top Men” still serve at the President’s pleasure.

    1. All those “Top Men” still serve at the President’s pleasure.

      All the Presidents serve at the pleasure of “Top Men”.

      1. If that’s true, why do these “Top Men” keep picking total pillocks?

    2. It was said that his voice was too pure to be heard within the chambers of mere mortal men.

      So…he was talking, but they couldn’t hear him?

      *Mental image of Japanese Emperor resorting to charades to tell his staff to get him a beer*

    3. First time most Japanese heard the emperor’s voice was when he announced the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII. The speech started something along the lines of, “The war has not exactly progressed in Japan’s favor…”

      1. I thought it was “You pay me now!”

        1. Nice

      2. There’s no sugar coating it, the war is not being won.

    4. ha ha ha ha ha….oh my god I’m peeing my pants! Do you really believe that crap or are you being facetious?
      If the NSA wants to keep doing whatever they want, how will the President, the Congress, or the Courts know? The ywill just say, “OK, we will stop”, and then just keep on rolling.
      No, the only way to regain control of this mess is to kill the beast, dead. The NSA must be completely abolished, all of it’s data banks destroyed (not turned over for analysis to another organization!), and all the contractors who worked for it must be audited and have their physical property inspected to make sure that there is no BS going on.

      1. They simply took a page from the CIA playbook and recorded everyone’s (including congress, the judiciary and Executive branch) phone calls. No need to actually produce any of the calls that the politicians might not want made public, just the mere fact that they exist is enough to influence behavior.

        After all, look at what happened to Anthony Wiener. No matter what you think of the guy, someone had to produce the images for the press. We’ll likely never know who did it, but I’ll bet everyone in Washington does.

  4. Most Americans are blissfully ignorant about the size and bloat to which we have allowed the federal Leviathan to grow. To help convey this size in terms other than spending, deficit and debt I’ve created a web page (thefrogpot [dot] com) that shows the bureaucratic structure of each of the cabinet-level agencies and the EPA.

    That warehouse is just a teeny part of the Big Bloat!

    If American taxpayers see the bloated beast they are supporting it may help open their minds to the libertarian message of a smaller government that lives within its means and obeys the Constitution. Maybe.

    1. This is the most sophisticated spambot ever.

      1. Not sure if it is a spambot if the site offers information relevant to the article.

        Not gonna click on it, though.

        1. Where’s your sense of Adventure!?

          Look, here’s your fedora, your whip, and your leather jacket; now click on that link!

          1. Look, here’s your fedora, your whip, and your leather jacketUbuntu LiveCD; now click on that link!

  5. Duck, Dodge, Dip, Dive and Dodge…

    1. Joanie loves Ciaci!

      1. Chaci, rufus,chachi….lol

  6. Sebelius declared that she didn’t believe there was much of a real market because it wasn’t regulated

    What the fucking fuck? I don’t think the word “market” means what that dumb cunt thinks it means.

    1. To be fair politicians cant even agree on the meaning if “is”…

  7. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was one of the biggest supporters of NSA and is one of the program’s “overseers” in her role as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Yet, she claims she did not know about the snooping on world leaders, and now she’s calling for a full review of our surveillance programs.

    IOW, Feinstein (Cunt-Calif.) is perfectly fine with the NSA spying on us proles, but as soon as she “discovers” (yeah, right) that they’re spying on other TOP. MEN. she wants a full review. Because Fuck the Little People, That’s Why!

  8. “During the hearing, when asked her opinion about the state of the individual insurance market prior to the Affordable Care Act, Sebelius declared that she didn’t believe there was much of a real market because it wasn’t regulated, there weren’t enough protections, and consumers were on their own. She is absurdly wrong about the regulation of the individual insurance market, but beyond that, her response illustrates the technocrat’s perception of the marketplace.”

    That’s such a cuntish statement to make.

    Man, these people ARE truly scary.

    I remember when I had to apply to get a daycare permit (more like beg to Top Women and Men) the bureaucrat in front of me kinda read into my body language. She said, “I know. We ask for a lot. But it does ensure a quality of service and life.” She then went on to , I kid you not, use the example of Africa being a mess or some shit.

    I was stunned. They actually believe they are the givers and custodians of civil progressive society.

    Right then and there I knew I made a big fucking mistake going into this field for I was dealing with communists.

    Three years later my opinion hasn’t changed. They’re damn commies.

  9. So you’re the one doing all this stuff “for the children”!

  10. But seriously, when did they start requiring permits to open a day care? It was fairly recently in most places wasn’t it? And yet, back in the old days (before licensed day cares) I don’t remember a bunch of kids dying from daycare related accidents. These kind of people truly believe that they are the thin line between order and chaos.

    1. Daycare in Quebec became obscenely political when they began subsidizing them. I can’t get into it here but it’s been one gigantic, corrupt mess that distorts the industry and creates layers of unfairness among not just operators but parents as well.

      Yet, the jerk-offs in the PQ go out and claim WITHOUT FACT that subsidized daycare is of higher quality – which I contend is unfounded. In fact, a private non-subsidized daycare can absolutely obliterate any subsidized one on quality for a number of reasons.

      Obviously, if you are one of the lucky ones to have been bestowed a subsidy, you can provide “quality” but to me quality is subjective and all in the culture you create in your daycare. I can say with a fair amount of confidence (and with some feed back from parents as well as educators) I have one of the finest daycares North of Montreal. Our values is what makes us.

      You don’t necessarily get that on the subsidized side where people tend to strike and put people’s lives on hold. Did you know they get six weeks vacation? It’s obtuse.

      And that’s exactly it: It was never about safety (as they sometimes claim) and about affordability. Quebec simply believed it was to expensive and so, like the free shit zombies that infest our lives, they decided subsidizing it was a swell idea.

      Anyway. I can go on and on and on.There’s much more to the racket.

      1. Yes. I do it for the children.

        1. Having been a child in a subsidized daycare, I can tell you without hesitation I preferred the lady next door who charged my mom under the table.

          1. Carolynp, I’m not surprised. The incentive to give high quality service in subsidized daycare is just not there. It’s a formulaic factory house. Yes, they have the money to pay higher salaries thus attracting better “quality” educators as defined by the government and fancy equipment but I find they come up short on intangibles like quality food and care.

            We can never replace a parent’s love for their child but our goal to is to come as close to that as possible. I define quality in this business by having a truly caring staff. For example, my girls are constantly looking out for one another and the kids in the groups. If one child has a fever, he or she is not plumped in the corner of room – they’re being held. My sister, as a director, always has a kid in her arms at some point because she can’t stand seeing a child in distress.

            In my case, I have two Evangelicals as my senior leadership and lemme tell ya…people notice.

            Unfortunately, I can’t compete with subsidized daycare so when they’re spots open up, I lose. I’ve been lucky in the sense a few parents calculate my service is worth the price but overall, it’s hard to compete against $7 dollar a day.

            The government loves it. Government: Incapable of providing values. It teaches people the cost to everything and value of nothing.

            Just my take.

            1. their.

  11. I don’t believe those supporting the ACA really know how free market health insurance and health care is supposed to work. There hasn’t really been a free market in health insurance since, probably the 1940’s and certainly the 1960’s. The changes in insurance have driven the ship into the ground.

    No one has a right to health care. Saying so is the same as saying you have a right to someone else’s property.

    Insurance is a bet. Both the insurer and the insured take a risk. If the consumer doesn’t understand this risk, then they can’t possibly know how to price and purchase insurance. And if they generally are oblivious or ignorant of most of the costs they have no incentive to know this. How many people add up the total cost of their health care service from the past, try to predict their future needs and then balance premium costs against deductibles when shopping for health care? How can they when the price structure and transparency has been destroyed? How many people know that their are true free market, cash only health care providers giving service for a fraction of typical costs?

    These politicians could care less about the uninsured. In fact, I doubt they care what the solution is as long as the get to decide it and can get reelected doing it.

    1. But health insurance only pays a fraction of the actual bill.

      Like 35 cents on the dollar or so.

      So people who pay their own medical bills pay 100% of the cost, but the health insurance company only pays a fraction. And the government only pays a smaller fraction.

    2. Oh, it’s much worse than saying you have a right to someone else’s property; the claim to “universal health care” is the claim to the universal slavery of doctors and medical professionals; it is the slavery of the mind.

      For details, read Atlas Shrugged.

      1. Yeah, it’s funny in a lunatic way when you think about it. Progs are basically saying that health care is so important and so fundamental a right that anyone who chooses to provide it for a living should lose the rights that any hotdog vendor has with regard to business.

        Health care is a vital resource that you have a right to by virtue of your own need. Therefore, anyone who becomes a health care provider loses the right to earn a profit or even decide with whom they will or will not contract, because they have become the thing which stands between you and the health care to which you have a positive right; health care is too important to be distributed according to the whims of doctors, and far too noble a thing to be tarnished by considerations of profit or property rights. And health care providers, being the only people capable of providing professional health care, immediately obligate themselves to do so at the behest of anyone with need, in the manner most convenient for the needy.

        All of which should serve as a huge incentive for people to spend the enormous amount of time and money it takes to become a doctor or nurse, of course.

  12. He’s got a two day head start on you, which is more than he needs. Brody’s got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he’ll blend in, disappear, you’ll never see him again. With any luck, he’s signed up for health insurance already.

  13. “Trillian: You idiot! You signed the order to destroy Earth!
    Zaphod: I did?
    Arthur: He did?
    Trillian: Love and kisses Zaphod? You didn’t even read it, did you?
    Zaphod: Well, I’m president, I don’t have a lot of time for reading.
    Trillian: My whole planet destroyed because you thought someone wanted your autograph!”

    1. I’m in love Susan, I can’t help it, will you marry me. The woman of my dreams.

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  15. I think our government is too big for any president to know what’s going on in every corner.

    1. And you are too stupid to know the difference….so fuck off and return to fluffPo, idiots like you abound there.

  16. Boy that really makes me angry

    http://www.PlanetAnon.tk

  17. The last two sentences were a great flourish. Spot on.

  18. Just get the Zeitgeisters to “solve” things. They’ll put a communist HAL 9000 in charge that will babysit everyone. Like Obama 4.0!

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