The Broken House

Just how buggered is the United States Senate? George Packer in the New Yorker offers up some depressing reading on an institution utterly ruined by its own labyrinthian structures – both the physical building and the arcane rules and customs – and the increasing ways Senators, rather than doing their actual job of representing the interest of the citizens, spend little time on actual legislation and more on fund raising, publicity or goodness knows what else in their various cubby holes secreted around the building. And when they do troop into the chamber they spend inordinate amounts of time and effort to utilise obscure rules to ruin their opponents’ bills. Democratic choice said your party doesn’t have the majority? No problem, just use arcane old rules to wreck possible legislation by procedural means. Meanwhile important matters simply do not get discussed and dealt with. And they wonder why so many people don’t bother to vote?

And before you think hey, you’re not American, what does it matter to you that they can’t actually deliver the Great Democracy that they like to tell us all they do better than everyone else? Because some of those possible acts that get screwed up affect other nations – financial reform, foreign policy and aide, environmental protection. And because this sort of nonsense goes on in pretty much every parliament and senate in the democratic world to a lesser extent – and there’s that old worry that it will only get worse both here and there. And it doesn’t help anyone who believe in democracy if the institutions meant to serve it turn out to be full of self serving arseholes with no interest in representing the people and doing a good job. And you thought Mr Smith had a hard time when he went to Washington? (via Nick Smale)

Books alfresco

I was looking at my ever-growing Woolamaloo Flickr site today and was a bit puzzled as to why a fairly simple B&W photo of some books in the garden which I posted months ago had suddenly had 60 odd viewings in one day:

Books alfresco
Don’t get me wrong, its an okay pic but not one of the best ones on there and its been up for months, so why the sudden flurry of interest in it? Turns out that the Book Bench blog of the New Yorker had spotted it, liked it and re-posted it. How very cool to get a mention by fellow book folks involved with such a cool journal! In case you are wondering, the book on the table is Guy Delisle’s excellent piece of travel literature in comics form, the Burma Chronicles (published Drawn & Quarterly in North America, Jonathan Cape in the UK) and on the chair is Kurt Vonnegut’s fascinating take on human evolution, Galapagos, which I was reading for my Book Group that month. One of the nice things about posting so many pics on Flickr is you can never tell when someone will come along, see them and enjoy one in particular. Which is part of the reason I do it and part of why I’ve always liked the web for so many years. (click the pic for the larger version on Flickr)