Franklin, the state that sort of was

In 1784, before Tennessee’s slender shape had ever been imagined and drawn on a map, there were rumblings of discontent in three counties in western North Carolina : Washington, Sullivan, and Greene. These small counties were isolated from the rest of North Carolina and their governing representatives, separated by the formidable Southern Appalachian mountain range. Residents were all too aware of how the mountains they lived in and around disenfranchised their lives.

~ Madelyn Brown from,

Today, from the wait-wat?! department: There was almost-sort-of a fourteenth original state—except the Continental Congress never recognized it. Oh, geo-politics are complicated. *wry smile*

More seriously, Atlas Obscura is a terrific web site ticking off an endless list of amazing, surprising or simply interesting places on this magnificent marble we call home.


Our federal government has failed

The problem is not the problem.
The problem is your attitude about the problem.
Do you understand?

~ Captain Jack Sparrow

I think we need to reframe the problem so more people understand.

Civics 101: Are we on the same page?

I’m not going to discuss political parties. I’m not trying to sneak in the idea of “republican” to later make a case for a particular political party.

A federation is a government composed of several independent states. Each of the 50 current members of The United States of America are sovereign states which, through the process of their joining the union, have agreed to pass certain of their powers to the federal government. We, the individual people, are not members of the federation; The states are members of the federation. (May I recommend Wikipedia’s article on Federation?)

The distinguishing principle of a “republic” is that the activities of the government are public. To be a republic, the government cannot be arranged below a monarch, dictator (benevolent or otherwise), or some other (for example, a secret inner circle of corporations) inscrutable font of authority. (May I recommend Wikipedia’s article on Republic?)

The distinguishing principle of “democracy” is self-determination of the governed. To be a democracy, we need features that derive the government’s power from the governed people and that foster equality of each participant’s contribution. (Again, may I recommend Wikipedia’s article on Democracy?)

A pure democracy is one where the governed people may be fully involved in all decisions. A pure democracy of 300+ million people is absurd. But from the absurdity of pure democracy springs the idea of “representative” democracy. In this form of democracy, representatives are empowered to participate in the democratic process on behalf of the governed people.

The United States of America is a federation.
The United States of America is a republic.
The United States of America is a democracy.

By the way, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”, is the original 1892 wording adopted by Congress.

The Federal Government Has Failed

Yes, exactly! Craig, I know what you’re going to say…
Our military is too big! (nope.)
The 1% is getting all the benefits! (nope.)
Too many people live in poverty? People can’t afford health care?! (nope and nope)
Look at the national monuments being closed!
…the IRS tax system?!
…immigration reform?!!
(nope nope and nope)

My definition of, “the government has failed” is: When I am expending increasing amounts of my time “on” the government. We, the governed people, are spending increasing amounts of our time on our federal government, and I put it to you that this is the ONLY thing on which every single American can immediately agree.

I want to be very clear: I’m not talking about spending more time interacting with the government. I’m not talking about time spent filing your federal taxes, or waiting in line at some federal agency. I am talking about time spent watching news about the federal government, reading posts, (including this one,) and debating federal policy, activities and programs with other people. Wouldn’t you rather spend your time doing, well, anything other than spending time on the federal government?

Some people have “tuned out” of the whole thing. This saves their time in the near future, but turns them into freight stored in the cargo hold of the ship; Their future remains coupled to the success, or failure, of the country.

As a democracy, a distinguishing feature of our government should be that it enables self-determination. If I’m spending increasing amounts of time on my self-determination, then I have decreasing amounts of time to enjoy the fruits of my self-determination.

Is this definition of failure useful?

If we can agree that the government has failed, then I think we can start a new discussion.

Instead of discussing any of the topics on which we’ve recently focused, we could instead discuss the very nature of our government. It would be a discussion which we – those of us alive today – have never actually had.

At some point, you were told where to register, and were told to “do your civic duty” by voting on certain days. But aside from a wee bit of civics required in high school, did you take the time to learn and care about the nature of our government? (I admit that I did not.)

If only we could agree on the nature of our government.

My hope…

My hope is that you’ll try to change the topic of discussion the next time some hot political topic comes up.

The current discussions are an endless train of political topics. Last year it was [this topic], before that it was [that topic], and next year it will be [this other thing.] You must know by now that in 5 minutes at the water cooler, you are not going to convince that other person to fundamentally change to your view of the current political topic. So you are clearly wasting your time “on” the government by participating in political discussion of the current topic.

Change the topic.

Talk about the nature of our government. Talk about why our government exists. Talk about the origin of its powers. Talk about what specifically are those powers.

…and if you don’t feel comfortable discussing the nature of our government, then why are you comfortable being governed by it?


Fuel cells

Two leading fuel cell manufacturers, Massachusetts-based Nuvera and Albany, N.Y.-based Plug Power Inc., will each receive $650,000 from DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The companies will provide matching funds and labor of their own. A PNNL team led by Brooks will oversee and evaluate the two-year program.

Industry officials estimate that approximately 300,000 refrigerated trucks with auxiliary power units are on the road in the United States. By replacing the small diesel engines with the more efficient fuel cell, users will see fuel savings of approximately 10 gallons a day per unit, in addition to reduced emission of pollutants and significantly quieter operation.

~ from,


Non-violence Versus Non-existence

Why is this? How has the United States become so saturated in slaughter?

There are, of course, many reasons, but three stand out, one of which is deep and longstanding and the others of more recent vintage. The deep reason lies in our competitive individualism. … The second reason is the decline of our ability to control events in the world. … The third reason is economic.

~ Todd May from,