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A Cynic's Guide to Modern Politics by Tom Robins

A Cynic's Guide to Modern Politics

by Tom Robins

180 pages
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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Category: Politics
About the Book
bagman: 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 all 'legal'.

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 out another.

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 place.

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 audience response.

!!!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.



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