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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Take Me to Your Leaders

I haven't written much lately. I tried to write down why, but it sounded whiny and trite, which is coincidentally how I feel about most of what I write lately, and that's probably why I haven't been writing.

So I'm going to try a different tack. I'm sad because I'm bored and I'm bored because I'm apathetic. If I become interested in something, I will hopefully have something interesting to say eventually.

Chris has suggested politics. I like that idea. If anything is going to light a fire under my ass it's going to be researching and finally understanding the insane bullshit the people we pay to lead us do and get away with.

See, I know very little about the nuts and bolts of the American political machine. I know that I disapprove of 85% of what comes out of both partisan ends, but I don't always understand the mechanisms by which these charades come to pass. That's why I haven't written about it, because I don't think I have anything intelligent to add to the conversation. And that's what needs to change.

Even Jon Stewart probably didn't know much about the specifics of the nation's political machine when he started on his way to becoming my generation's Walter Cronkite. Paying attention to current events, though, has a way of turning thinking people into politics junkies. And I believe, as did Uncle Hunter, that there is no better way to approach a subject than complete immersion and attachment.

Step one, therefor, is going to be familiarizing myself with the abominable cast of the soap opera that dictates our country's public policy, one member at a time. If you're interested, I'd like to welcome all of you to follow me down this rabbit-hole of horrible bummers. Maybe we'll find a few decent souls among them. Maybe, together, we'll both give a little bit more of a shit the next time these assholes run for re-election, and we'll be better informed on how to tell them to fuck themselves. Maybe that'll make a difference. Or maybe I'll go down in flames of rage and eat myself alive if I spend as much time as I'm likely to reading about what these sociopaths are up to.

And so we begin. I've arbitrated to start with the Senate party leaders and committee chairmen, and kind of skip around as people find themselves in the news. We'll see how this goes. Hopefully I keep it up and by next year, I'll have enough information and context to start commenting on the people who hope to run.

President pro tempore: Orrin Hatch

Started with this guy because I honestly had no idea what the position was. I'm sure my high school
Government teacher tried to implant the information in my brain, but somewhere between the Federalist Papers and the New Deal I must have stopped paying attention. And I'd wager many of you did the same. The President pro tempore is the man who runs the Senate when the Vice President isn't around. He's forth in line for succession of the Presidency, after the Speaker of the House, and he's elected by the Senate itself.

In fact, that's one thing I noticed just glancing at the list of committee chairmen: They're all Republicans. And if there was a Democratic majority, they'd all be Democrats. So regardless of how slim a majority either of these biased, insane, groups of ideologues have, every few years, the entire energy of America's political engine is redirected in line with the contrarian policies of one or the other - like some doomed cruise ship, doing donuts in the middle of an ocean, while the belligerently drunk passengers scream at a terrified, hostage crew how to most quickly find land. Maybe that's just my perspective. I just started learning this stuff. I could be wrong. Maybe everything's fine.

Senator Orrin Hatch (R - UT), by all indication, seems to think things are working OK on Capitol Hill. In fact, everything he does seems to be the kind of contradiction that makes me foam at the mouth when I realize that thousands of people voted for someone who thinks like this.

Hatch was first elected in 1976, when his basic platform was that his predecessor had been in office for 18 years, and this was a long time to spend away from one's constituents. He argued that Frank Moss, in his nearly 2 decades in office, had grown out of touch with the people he was elected to represent. Hatch himself has now been in that position for over twice as long, and won't be up for re-election until 2018. I'm just gonna let that sentence sit there.

Hatch's main problem with Obamacare was that he felt the insurance mandate was unconstitutional. This of course didn't stop him from favoring such a measure 20 years earlier, when Republicans proposed the same thing in the process of torpedoing the Clinton health care plan in 1993. None of these people believe in anything unless it's winning the sick game of monopoly they've started with the elected positions we pay them to execute.

The man is a polarizing belligerent. The speech he gave in response to Obama's request for Authorization of Use of Military Force was essentially just further fear mongering of the sort that keeps stupid people voting for whoever promises to keep them safe from enemies they themselves actively go into the world seeking. Throughout his time on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hatch has taken pride in the fact that he has dedicated himself to advancing the selection of judges that in his own words, "counteract President Obama’s aggressive efforts to stack the federal courts in favor of his party’s ideological agenda." ... by stacking the federal courts in favor of his party's ideological agenda... He even told the guy who authorized torture in Guantanamo Bay, "I've seen a lot of people around and a lot of judges and I don't know of anybody who has any greater qualifications or any greater ability in the law than you have." He voted against limiting (and later for reinstating) filibusters during judicial confirmation hearings, which is the political equivalent of taking your ball home because you don't want to play any more.

Hatch is now the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and he's devoted much of his career to keeping the government from collecting and spending tax money. It's one of the few aspects of his platform that Hatch seems to genuinely believe in. Over the course of his first decade and a half in office, he also went to great lengths to secure compensation to citizens of his state who were affected by radiation poisoning from government testing of nuclear weapons in Nevada. However in order to secure those funds, he held hostage a treaty that would have promised $100 million in similar reparations to residents of the Marshall Islands that exhibited similar (much more extreme) symptoms.

And that's the basic conclusion that I fear I'm going to come to a lot over the course of my investigation into the gears of our government, regardless of the party affiliation or tenure of the subject: These people basically only care about twisting the system to give them what they want. They want to keep their jobs. They all want to stay on the public teat as long as Senator Hatch (currently the most senior Republican in the Senate) has. He's proof that it can be done.

The irony that this man got in the Senate by pointing out that only a bullshit system allows politicians multi-decade terms is horrifyingly tragic. Orrin Hatch is a classic example of someone who perhaps at one point believed in things like small government, helping business develop (and not just consolidate wealth), and the convictions he learned from a silly book of superstitions, but the only thing he believes in now is the game he's playing with his colleagues, at our expense.

This is obvious when you look at his connection to the pharmaceutical lobby; his son working for a major lobby firm, founded by two of his closest friends and former political associates. Money is pumped into Hatch's pet charities and the regulations and red tape new drugs have to go through to be approved are cut.

But that's business as usual. And Orrin Hatch and friends would like to keep it that way.

Up next, I pick on a Democrat: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

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