On government by politics

I figure I haven’t been accused of hating America(ns), lately. Following on from the previous post on why your/our governments are happy to have us as dysfunctional gambling addicts with nobody to blame but ourselves, and having dealt with a day in which my wife and I were thrown some $1,000 worth of bullshit charges – which, I insist, in my other two countries of reference, would not happen. Yes, one of them is health-insurance related-and, yes, I can assure you that the procedure would most certainly have been undertaken in both countries.

Why does this happen? Is it as simple as Billy Bragg’s anti-Thatcherian complaint about when the great and the good gave way to the greedy and the mean? Yes, frankly. Probably. Here, since even before the Gingrich revolution, with its K-street acceleration of politicisation of government and access therein for every asshole with a chequebook, we have suffered a burgeoning culture of shenanigans, forgiven if they are gotten away with. Tom DeLay can write an autobiography called No Retreat, No Surrender, for Cliff’s sake, and not be stoned in the street for the insult. Bill Frist can pretend his family’s fraud against Medicare never happened. Anybody who points out that this goes as far back as the US government itself just plain misses the point, and badly.

It just never ends, and it is one thing that, truly, trickles down. Via the so-called “beltway”; via Fox News and CNN; via the Iraq war and No Child Left Behind.

The message we send is that we’re circling the drain, and you’d better get what you can while it’s there, because sharks are all that is left. Since your first day in school, the flag and that bloody hateful pledge of allegiance is shrink-wrapping your brain into believing this is all there is.

In England, it’s the silent-majority superiority of an ageing middle class; in Australia the snivelling, racist insincerity of 10 years of John Howard. Countries have their own varieties.

In the US? Here is what set me off (it was not, believe it or not, my afore-described day. I came here with my eyes wide open, and I’ve yet, honestly, to be all that surprised, by the Warren Ellis-like proportions of what I see going down). In the space of sitting down with a cup of tea I wandered across the following. I was reminded the next few stories as well – all from the last few days.

All while Presidential candidates joke about protection from aliens, but while we can’t even educate or invest in the health of our children, or build a decent highway system.

Political television advertising to reach $3 billion

The cost to try to influence the 2008 election could exceed $3 billion, according to TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN’s consultant on political television advertising.

This is nearly twice as much than what was spent in 2004 when political and issue-advocacy television advertising rang in at $1.7 billion. In 2006, $2.3 billion was spent on political and issue-advocacy TV commercials.

I Can Get Your Kid into an Ivy

Hernandez may well be the most expensive college coach in America, charging as much as $40,000 to get a student into an elite college. As one of this fast-growing industry’s most visible practitioners, she uses methods that are publicly scorned by rivals but are nonetheless becoming part of the profession’s standard operating procedures. She is a divisive figure in an already controversial field, regularly drawing condemnation from admissions officers who say she is selling advantage to people who least need it.

You should absolutely read that one – especially if you have kids. I don’t know what that sinking feeling is that you have, no.

Getting Around Rules on Lobbying

Despite New Law, Firms Find Ways To Ply Politicians

In recent days, about 100 members of Congress and hundreds of Hill staffers attended two black-tie galas, many of them as guests of corporations and lobbyists that paid as much as $2,500 per ticket.

Because accepting such gifts from special interests is now illegal, the companies did not hand the tickets directly to lawmakers or staffers. Instead, the companies donated the tickets back to the charity sponsors, with the names of recipients they wanted to see and sit with at the galas.

The arrangement was one of the most visible efforts, but hardly the only one, to get around new rules passed by Congress this summer limiting meals, travel, gifts and campaign contributions from lobbyists and companies that employ them.

Will Private Equity Stay With K Street?

Private equity firms and K Street lobbyists have spent this congressional session in the throes of a beautiful romance. With the Democratic majority publicly considering a major tax hike on record private equity earnings, private equity ramped up a previously anemic lobbying presence, spending more than $5 million so far this year to defeat the proposal.

Today, The Washington Post reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the proposal probably won’t make it to the Senate floor because of a crush of complicated proposals competing for floor time. So what does that mean for K Street? Will the Private Equity Council, The Blackstone Group, The Carlyle Group, and other big private equity interests cut back on their lobbying contracts and slow the flood of money that has poured into K Street?

VH1 Presents Little Beauties: Ultimate Kiddie Queen Showdown

Move over Miss America! The Little Beauties are coming to town! They’re gorgeous, they’re talented, they’re six-years old and with the helping hand of eager moms, determined pageant coaches, fabulous spray tan artists and “flipper” (fake teeth) makers, not to mention a couple of Pixie Sticks for energy, these girls are taking the stage at pageants all over the Southeast U.S for the chance to win cash prizes and crowns!

A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila

MTV debuted its new bisexual dating show this week, “A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila”, in which 16 straight men and 16 lesbians compete for the chance to move into the MySpace star’s mansion. The show featured MTV’s trademark casual racism, like “I’ve never been with an Asian chick before, but I love Chinese food.” Classy.

And on your news, tonight?

cnn screen

Fox News

So if/when/as you wonder whether something might not be quite right. Here, this always cheers me up:

UPDATE: before I’d even finished this post, my wife sent the following email:

I also received in the mail a “gift card” for the value of $100. I called up the activation number to see what it was about. A man answered the phone, and the first thing he said was that it was a misprint, and actually the value is for $300. He then proceeded to tell me that I can redeem that money if I provide an online testimonial for his company, after I consolidate my school loans with his company. And it’s that simple!

Everything is, in the famous words of Moby, wrong. Anybody who tells you otherwise either hasn’t had to face a single problem, or can’t see around the corners of that wonderful flag enough to realise that the rest of us don’t live like this. We don’t live in fear. We aren’t made victim by a ‘system’ whose very purpose is to make us feel so overwhelmed that, even if we could get our own heads around the sheer scale of all that is stupid and corrupt, here, we’d never manage to explain it to another person, still less organise a resistance to it. We don’t need to police every law our government passes on our behalf.

Don’t get me wrong (oh, hell. Go nuts. Why not?). Wander around this blog – I clearly know, and engage with, the problems of at least my own country, as well as the one to which I plan on returning. I don’t hate Americans. I hate this America, though. I hate that America is so far from its potential, while parading around as though it has surpassed it. I hate the cruelty. I hate the hypocrisy.

It’s all so unnecessary. It’s all such a fucking waste. We’re so busy being Red-State-Blue-State we don’t even notice that our governments simply don’t give a shit who we think we are – we’re all paying for their abuses, and they’re making more hay than even the shining sun thought was possible.

And I’m what? 500,000th in line, 30 years, 50 years running, saying we need to wake up? We’re not going to wake up. Hardly any of us, in real terms, realise (or can be convinced) that there’s even a problem.

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