On reading about the British scandal involving Owen Paterson, Minister of Parliament (pictured), I yelled “Pikers!” Then I just wanted to pat them on the head, innocents as they are to political grifting: the British are undone with shame by behavior that is the coin of the realm here.

The scandal in a nutshell (but DO read the link): a report found that he was guilty of an “egregious case of paid advocacy… [which] brought this house (Parliament) into disrepute.” The report practically invited voters in his district to recall him. Why? He used his influence to promote two companies, Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods. They paid him…wait for it… 100,000 pounds sterling.

Laugh Out Loud: our pharmaceutical lobby spent $173 million, over just a few months, to keep Congress from voting to negotiate lower prices for the Medicare drugs it (we) pays for (President Trump aspired to that too). Owen Paterson got a couple grand. A wee rounding error for our great grift.

Our politicians spend the majority of their time raising money, which the British (and just about every system in the developed world) would define as “soliciting and accepting bribes.” HNo less a personage than former President Jimmy Carter lamented that the USA has devolved into an oligarchy run by open bribery. We are at the point where connected businesses are being allowed to write their own regulations.

More than a few of our most prominent politicians rival some of our most prominent industrialists in their ability to raise riches.

It was also a rollicking belly-laugh for me when I saw that the British Parliamentary fight was over a censure, and how the parties were in a struggle to address “disrepute.” Our political class are despised deeply, broadly, and nationally (and rightly) to the point where they cannot possibly have even the memory of shame left in their dehumanized husks to censure, and must pour censure onto their morning cornflakes (and sugar them with opprobrium). As John Cleese said about the English: “Do you have any idea what it’s like being English? Being so correct all the time, being so stifled by this dread of doing the wrong thing, of saying to someone, “Are you married?” and hearing, “My wife left me this morning,” or saying, uh, “Do you have children?” and being told they all burned to death on Wednesday. You see, Wanda, we’re all terrified of embarrassment.”

Which reveals another point: much of this is pure political culture. That cultural devolution has been: shame once made the parties police their own (more). An arms race down to shamelessness has developed because the political costs of enforcing standards are higher than the political costs of receiving shame (with the spectacle of the Untethered Orange Id being just the product of that evolution). Embarrassment is simply not a reality for our leaders: they get reelected nearly 90% of the time in the face of endlessly marching scandals of every shape and size (they simply brushed the dust of Middle Eastern misadventures, that have left 49 million people homeless, off their red or blue ties).

That cultural shift is largely because the country has become so tribal. Popular demands for ethics almost always take the form of charges against the other-enemy, with absolution for their own Sachems (the Press, also splitting into partisan factions, was a huge contributor to the problem). Our system values tribal power over ethical values, so bald-faced corruption became an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy. Implementing ethical policies for lobbying would mean the first to move for them would be disarmed in the arms race the other tribe is running in, which would be a losing strategy.

So, ethical politicians are out-competed (mainly) by the unethical ones (but also because they are put on a blacked-out Concord; flown secretly on Samhain night to Stonehenge; where they swear fealty to Baal; eat a sweet-and-sour baby goulash; have their natural (though desiccated) hearts removed by an obsidian blade pulled from the living rock of an active volcano and replaced by a 666th of a pound of Chernobyl’s “elephant’s foot,” kept animate by the inkiest black incantations chanted by castrated virgin choirboys, hung upside down, who have all been forced to watch the Elvis Presley performance on the Ed Sullivan show (unedited version), in Jeffrey Epstein’s Man Cave). There is a reason money was sprayed on Hunter Biden from far and wide. Just as there is a reason our system is vomiting up imps various as candidates.

What to do? I have posted in these pages many articles proposing that impeachment be “normalized.” Though I crave jail for them all, I’d settle for sending them back to their estates. The most powerful men in the world should not have less accountability than a Starbuck’s barista. Many of them (most of them, ok, all of them) should have been relieved of duty (Nixon got drunk and was threatening nuclear war, in a “madman” negotiating strategy, for God’s sake).

Any one of us in the private sector would lose our careers for less than what our politicians do as their normal way of business: Governor Cuomo was fired for sexual naughtiness, when his negligence was responsible for most of our unnecessary COVID deaths . If I cause the death of ONE patient through negligence, even as I tried to cope with Cuomo’s, I am flipping burgers. If I lie about what I did, that’s the stripy hole.

We have tools a-plenty in place for sorting them out, as it is now. But we depend on them to ply them. That they don’t is yet more evidence of political compromise. And that has made our system mostly-compromised (with all evolutions going in the wrong direction), as great political power leads to greater and greater political power.

I just had to take a five-hour class on the new laws vis-a-vis influence peddling (when I could have been learning something usefully medical). I’m not allowed to take a theater ticket from a vendor without declaring it. Yet most of our politicians somehow become multi-millionaires (on a $200,000 salary). The stink of that is not because there is a dearth of disclosure and conflict of interest laws in DC.

Reform might just look like making lawmakers follow the laws they make for the rest of us (in the most lawed-upon society ever extant).

Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


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