A Cynic's Guide to Modern Politics
by Tom Robins
American politics enough to make you cry? Laugh instead, with the aid of A Cynic's Guide to Modern Politics, a biting, funny tour of our everything-for-sale political system.
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About the Book
Intermediary for political payoffs, so-called because bagmen used
to carry cash payoffs in brown paper bags.
The bagman, as such, has pretty much gone the way of the TV repairman.
Not that money has disappeared from politics, not hardly. But the
bagman himself has been reshaped, reworked, revamped. Gone are his
frumpy clothes, replaced by expensive three-piece suits and gold accessories.
And the bagman doesn't skulk in the shadows anymore, waiting for an
unobserved chance to hand over some cash. Instead he openly calls
on the most powerful congressmen and attends all the best parties.
And no more brown paper bag, thank you. Instead he's got a fine leather
briefcase. And no more cash bribes, instead he hands out checks and
calls them campaign contributions. And don't call him a bagman, he'll
be insulted. Instead call him a lobbyist.
The player has changed. But the game remains the same. Only now it's
banana Republicans: As the globalizing economy erodes the great
American achievement of making this a middle-class society, and works
to turn it into two countries, one rich and one poor, separate and
unequal, there are some Republican politicians who are doing as much
as ever they can to speed this baleful and potentially destabilizing
process along. These people I call the Banana Republicans.
You'd think history would have taught them better. But that presupposes
that any of these bright people ever cracked a history book or stayed
awake in class.
corruption: The unauthorized use of public office for private
gain. Try as we might to stamp it out, corruption is like mud between
your toes: stop it from squeezing out one place, more will squeeze
A new favorite form is the "book deal", wherein a powerful public
official gets a huge advance for a book from an outside party interested
in beneficial government regulation/legislation over which the officeholder
has much say and control.
The public official pockets his dirty coin, a ghostwriter pens the
boring book, and it goes on to sell a big thirteen copies nationwide.
Who cares? The briber gets his regulation/legislation, worth maybe
billions. The bribee gets his take, perhaps millions. And you get
screwed. But hey, that's what corruption's all about in the first
country club: In the Banana Republican view, this is where
all virtuous white people end up.
As a member, at club dinners, between the lobster bisque and the porterhouse
steak, and after some talk of summer homes and exotic cars and stocks
and bonds, you will be required to complain loudly about how taxes
are simply KILLING you. Against all reason, expect a highly sympathetic
!!!EVERYTHING FOR SALE!!!: Big garage sale-style signs that in the
interest of intellectual honesty should be placed in front of both
the Capitol Building and the White House.
first branch: The U.S. Congress, and so-called because of the
three branches of government it is considered closest to the people,
and so the most representative thereof.
That's the theory. But today, standing between you and your congressman,
is an appointments secretary, myriad other staffers, lobbyists and
other fixers, agents for foreign governments, wealthy contributors,
the sheer complexity of governing, and 620,690 other citizens for
each representative, 2,700,000 for each senator.
Divide it all up and your congressman has a nanosecond a year for
you. Providing you call early for an appointment.
g-men: What a gangster in the 1930s called out to FBI agents
who had him surrounded and dead to rights. The exact words (this may
be apocryphal) were, "Don't kill me, G-men." And the term G-men stuck
as a nickname for FBI agents then and now.
Naturally (What would you expect?) they made a pincushion out of the
guy. And have been coyboying it ever since.
Not to worry. For the G-men to turn you into hamburger laced with
bone chips you've got to be involved in criminal activity. Or at least
they've got to think you are.
Harry and Louise: Made-for-TV couple that almost single-handedly
torpedoed President Clintongate's national health care plan before
it ever even got a hearing in Congress, much less came to a vote.
Harry and Louise labored, of course, for those wonderful people who
work eternally to fool enough of the people enough of the time to
make Abe Lincoln look like a naive bumpkin.
Job's over now for Harry and Louise. And they've been pink-slipped
and are on unemployment. Naturally they lost their health insurance
into the bargain.
So they spend their days looking for work. And their nights praying
to God that neither of them gets really sick before they can find
employment that offers health insurance coverage.
lobby: On one side you've got the politicians, desperate for
long green either to run their next expensive election campaign or
retire debt from their last one.
On the other side you've got the fat cat$, ready and willing to spend
thousands and millions for government favors worth millions and billions.
In the middle is the lobby, a collection of people able to bring the
two sides together for a cut of the action.
In Washington these people are called lobbyists. In a more honest,
if ruder setting, they'd be called pimps.
national parks: Natural places of great interest and beauty
set aside by the government for use of and by the people.
At least that's the definition until the Banana Republicans get their
way and sell the parks off to the giant entertainment conglomerates.
Then they'll become wilderness theme parks with names like Disneyland-Yellowstone
and the Grand Canyon--presented by Time Warner. And you'll pay through
the nose for a looksee at Old Faithful, the roiling Colorado River,
or even the shining sea.
privacy: When your bank and credit card companies, which know
almost everything about you except your date of death, won't give
that information out except for a substantial fee.
Second Amendment: The amendment to the Constitution that provides
for the freedom to keep and bear arms.
This was an important right in America's frontier days when many people
killed animals for a living. You would think we could rethink it now
that we've got animals (cleverly disguised as people) killing people
for a living.
stars and stripes: The flag of the United States. Once just
a flag, now also a burning political issue over who gets to desecrate
it and to what purpose.
Better not set it ablaze at a protest meeting to make a political
point. But its A-OK to carve it up and put it on a hat or a shirt
or on a can of deodorant to make a buck. Probably, if the point is
to make a dollar, it's even OK to put it on poop paper.
How we figure such things out is beyond me.
White House: Famous former national landmark, under developers/managers
Bill and Hillary Clintongate now the world's most expensive and exclusive
small hotel. (Please see our advertisement below--B&H.)
|About the Author
Tom Robins is a teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon. He has an abiding interest in American history and politics.