Monday, February 22, 2010

The Great Derangement Part 2

I’ve gotten deeper into Matt Taibi’s book and finished chapters related to the ways things really work in Congress, a religious retreat for a fundamentalist Christian Church and his stint as an embedded reported in Iraq.

The chapters on Congress and Iraq are guaranteed to piss you off. The first takes you through the process of a bill working its way through the House of Representatives. No, not how you and I think it works, but how it really works.

According to Matt, nothing happens in the open on the House floor; rather everything occurs behind closed doors and after hours in the committee meetings where the primary objective is to insure that the corporate sponsors get what they paid for.

The bill Taibbi uses as his example is a bill put together in the wake of Hurricane Katrina supposedly to help insure adequate supplies of gasoline by enabling the building of new refineries. The only problem being there is already a surplus of refinery capacity in the U.S. and most of the gas companies believe money could be saved by shutting some down.

So what’s the point you ask? Apparently the point was to sneak through additional exemptions to environmental controls and establish a legal mechanism for turning government land, free of charge, over to the gas companies. To make matters worse the bill was touted as an “emergency measure” in the wake of Katrina to guarantee it an express route through Congress.

In Taibbi’s example it was the Republicans forcing a bill through despite the helpless protestations of the minority Democrats but I’m sure it works both ways.

According to Matt, under the Republicans bills went from the Rules Committee to the floor for a vote, usually in a completely rewritten state and, by being tagged as an emergency measure, with not nearly enough time for evaluation. If this is true, then I have to correct myself with respect to the Tea Party idea of all bills made public for 7 days before a vote. I agreed with the idea anyway but didn’t think it was such a big deal. If Taibbi is right, then it is a big deal.

The Iraq segment will get your blood boiling with Taibbi’s description of soldiers having to buy their own equipment because politicians like to raid the military equipment budgets for their earmarks while leaving the big military spending contracts untouched.

I believe this has sort of been addressed. By law the army MUST repay soldiers for equipment they had to purchase. A law, I might point out, sponsored and pushed through by DEMOCRATS.

Of course the shortages were a disgrace to begin with. If it wasn’t criminal to send troops into an unnecessary war, if it wasn’t criminal to send them in insufficient numbers, then it certainly was criminal to send them without the necessary equipment.

Unfortunately neither of these two chapters surprised me.

The chapter on the church group however shocked the hell out of me. I’m now about halfway through the second chapter on the group and its getting worse.

I understand that there is a range but Taibbi’s descriptions scare the hell out of me. He is describing people who live in a demon haunted world of superstition and have long ago lost, assuming they ever had it, any ability to apply critical thinking to the crap coming at them from the pulpit.

These are people who have serious discussions about what is, and is not, idol worship and how to prevent opening the door for demons to take possession of you or your family. A world where Harry Potter books in your house can lead to demons taking possession of your children.

In other words, these people are as crazy as loons.

That such idiocy can be taken seriously in a country that possesses the largest thermonuclear arsenal in the word is truly frightening.

Hopefully we’re talking about a really small percentage of the population here but I can’t help getting the feeling that I’m in a fortress and outside the darkness is spreading and, slowly but surely, closing in upon me.

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