Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hold It Now

Two utterly insane bits of Americana today. The first of which is the "secret hold". America's senate was set to vote on a move that would pander to the nation's worst habit - spending scadloads of money while pretending not to. It would marry American persistence to American skills in information technology to create a single website that explained exactly where federal grant, contract and earmark money was going.

The website, the front door for a huge database, is described as "like google", which I think just means that you can search it. With luck it will be up to the standard of the SEC's EDGAR database, which is a criminally underused resource. I suspect, though, that implementing this database will be a bugger, if only from my observations of the comedic comings and goings of America's immigration machinery.

Still that shouldn't stop my lawmakers (yeah, that's right, I pay 'em, even if I don't choose 'em) from chasing after what should be a fairly obvious political plus for both of the country's parties.

But then, in a manouevre that would make Robert Walpole proud, an unnamed senator has decided to a secret hold on the proposal, which allows them to anonymously prevent it from seeing the light of day. The grounds for doing this seem rather hazy, almost the product of a country without a constitution. Which means we don't get our EDGAR of pork, unless the nameless scrooge steps forward.

The first really rather odd thing about this is that I thought the whole point of this pork barrel politics stuff was that politicians could boast of how much money they'd robbed from effete non-resident New York tax-payers and spent on Poulty Security or whatever for the boys back home. I'd think it would be a rather handy campaign tool, instead of spending precious campaign material acreage on listing these stupid projects they'd lured to inappropriate locations, they could just say "go to www.porkedgar.gov and watch me earmark the shit out of anything that moves."

But the stupidest thing I've seeen in connection with this is a post on the website of a political action committee run by Senator Bill Frist, the man to whom, in his capacity as senate majority leader, the senator with the secret hold would have had to apply. Here's what he said:

It is deeply ironic that bipartisan legislation dedicated to transparency in government has been obstructed by the least transparent possible means.

As far as I can tell, if it was a democrat Frist would have been perfectly within his rights to tell us it was one of them. Either way, he either knows it was a democrat or knows who it is. But instead of clarifying this situation, without, I might add, even needing to identify the senator, he retreats into nonsensical pieties. Follow the hunt for the delinquent legislator here.

The other insane thing for today is how New york city managed to create their own version of London's Chelsea, only, and this boggles the mind, worse. Undergage rich girls? Check. Psychotic bouncers? Check. Gangs of marauding tow-trucks? Check. Guards barracks? Alright, you've got me there. Anyhoo, the centre of New York nightlife, at least the more glamorous and high-octane bits, is a couple of blocks of the far west side of Manhattan, conveniently close to New Jersey, and nowhere near where I'd ever like to go.

Next time a visitor from overseas asks me why we're going drinking in Fort Greene, or maybe Ludlow if I'm feeling very edgy, gets this quote from Rob The Bouncer:

On any given night, the clubs of West Chelsea admit literally thousands of subhuman degenerates of well-below-average intelligence -- lacking any degree of common sense whatsoever, even when sober -- liquor and drug them up until they're incoherent, then let them all out into the streets of Manhattan to fend for themselves and be hemorrhoids up the ass of every decent human being within a twenty block radius.

That's why I'm very glad to be much too old.


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