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GIP, sort of. I realised that half my icons sucked so I am replacing them with XF ones because it's so dreadfully unfashionable to like it. To which I say bollocks to fashion. I'm watching the season two good crack. Leave me alone.

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Does anyone know of a cheap, reliable webhost (free for preference, but I know that that is unlikely) that permits remote loading? I have some very small pictures which I want to store somewhere but my shite ISP won't let me use the 50MB of space that comes with my account to do that.

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ropo, I listened to your advice and have now watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It was very good. I feel all pop-cultured up and in touch with da kids. Da kids in about 1985, granted, but see above about fashionability, coolness and the lack thereof.

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I'm currently spending most of my viewing time watching The West Wing because the season two DVDs just came out. Perhaps I should say "listening to the West Wing" because I spend very little time actually watching the screen. Instead I just hack away at the embuggery project, prick myself with needles and swear under my breath while listening to that glorious tumult of smartassery at which Sorkin so excels.

Channel 4 have just moved the show to Mondays at 11.35pm, so I infer that its audience is dropping like a stone. This may be an effect of the war and a general dislike of President Bush's White House, or it may be that they're running the third series right now and the wheel's are coming off Aaron Sorkin's tricycle. I'm not sure.

I think part of it is that The West Wing doesn't translate very well and part of it is that Britons simply do not relate to their political systems in the same way that TWW posits that Americans do. You need to know a *lot* about US politics, history and geography to understand TWW.

When Channel 4 bought in the series I think they were expecting it to behave like a cross between ER and The Sopranos, garnering a large, if cultish audience among the chattering classes like The Sopranos, while dragging in the casual punters because of its whipcrack repartee.

In the event, the leftwing chattering classes are so peeved about the war that they'd rather stick needles in their eyes than be reminded of the current incumbents of the White House, the rightwing chattering classes see TWW's liberal Bartlett White House as a smug lefty fantasy and the ordinary punters do not know the difference between the House and the Senate, nor could they *give* a flying toss.

Today I went over to West London on the District Line, a commute of more than an hour, and I was thinking about this on the way. The West Wing may be a show about a group of colleagues working together like ER, but it demands that you know rather more about politics than ER demands you know about medicine.

There's a sense that the governance of the country is a joint project in which every citizen has a stake and therefore that those citizens should have listened in civics lessons. When Josh or Toby or Leo practices partisanship, the plot usually rises up and thwaps them for it.

I was trying to think of other shows and movies that dealt with politics in the US -- there are some cynical entries in the canon, such as Bulworth and Wag The Dog, but there's also Mr Smith Goes To Washington and All The President's Men. Corruption and lust for power are anomalies to be exposed and defied, rather than business as usual.

In British TV shows about pretty much any branch of the government, it's treated as "the great game"-- in which various elite forces do battle, and corruption, repression of the truth and lust for power are pretty much what the game is all about.

I was trying to come up with shows in the last 20 years that have tackled political themes and I cannot think of a single one where the viewpoint was not overwhelmingly cynical. {These are all TV examples, because our movie industry is pathetic and the only film I could think of was "Defence of the Realm", which is so old that the reporters in it are using typewriters.}

(1) House of Cards: Basically honest Commons whip gets passed over for promotion one time too many and lies, cheats and eventually murders his way to No 10. In the second series he clashes with a thinly disguised Charles (by then king) and gets his way. In the last series his wife orders his assassination to preserve his political reputation.

(2) A Very British Coup: Leftwing prime minister comes to power with huge mandate, puts in radical socialist programme, entire country is destabilised courtesy of MI5, MI6 and the CIA, he falls from office.

(3) The Politician's Wife: (which is being made into a US movie I think) Wife discovers politician husband is having an affair, scandal ensues, she shafts him -- with connivance of media -- to get his seat, he is left with nothing.

(4) The Man in the White Suit: a comedy based on real events, in which an independent journalist is elected in place of a corrupt MP and finds himself shafted by his former friends and colleagues alike.

Every single programme reflects and reinforces our idea of politics as a dirty business which is carried out by an elite which has very little regard for ordinary people except in the sense that they vote every five years or so. When there is a popular move towards some kind of redistributive system, it is brought down from within by the forces of the establishment.

I think that in this country we don't really believe that we *own* our political system in quite the same way. Our leaders don't serve the citizenry because we are not citizens, they serve the crown because we are subjects, and no amount of European Union legislation can change that.

The Victorians left us with a thriving culture of local service and civic responsibility but one of the most poisonous legacies of the Thatcher government (and one of the reasons why I plan to visit her grave and DANCE on it) is that it dismantled this network of mutual dependence and obligation, replacing it instead with a mess of would-be MPs running councils as if they were Mediaeval Italian princelings, careerist accountant nobodies making a fast buck out of quangos and endlessly corrupt public/private bidding processes.

:::takes a moment out to calm self and remind self that visceral *loathing* of government and ministers whose careers ended a decade ago is unproductive:::

In TWW, the main actors are motivated by the desire to push their agenda, but it is an agenda born of the belief that it will be right for the majority of the people they serve. Yes, politics is a contact sport for them, but time and time again, Sorkin shows those who pursue power for its own sake being caught out by our heroes and punished for it. Hoynes is the biggest example of that but by no means the only one.

It's the ultimate fantasy: an incorruptible man in the White House, surrounded by incorruptible advisers.

In contrast, shows dealing with politics in this country tend to not to be about the process of governing but the process of winning power and the backstabbing involved. There is never any illusion that these are servants of the people, no matter what lip service is paid to the principle.

Paternalism is seldom far from the surface in UK programmes, whether it's a relatively benign form in which decisions are made and then electoral disadvantage calculated, or the "nanny knows best" of the Thatcher era and its attendant political fantasies.

But then I think paternalism is seldom far from the surface of British politics -- look at the recent scandal over the decision to go to war with Iraq. Tony Blair did not have the backing of the country, the backing of the party or even the backing of his own cabinet to support George Bush's decision to wage war on Iraq. Indeed he had to resort to serious arm-twisting to get the Cabinet to back him, his party staged the largest parliamentary rebellion since Gladstone and if the conservatives had been a proper opposition he would have resigned.

Only Jacques Chirac saved him from a total debacle: when the French said they would veto a UN resolution no matter what the circumstances, the country's latent francophobia rose to the surface yet again, and the opinion polls swung behind Blair as he painted a picture of the UN resolution being scuppered by the cynical French.

In fact the truth was that there was no way that the UN was going to ratify a fresh resolution fast enough for it to dovetail with President Bush's electoral imperatives with regard to the presidential election.

Bush needed a war that would be over fast enough to give him time to concentrate on further stimulating the economy ready for the long electoral campaign, he needed the Dead Saddam Bounce to boost his poll ratings and he needed to scare the pants off anyone else thinking of threatening the US.

I think that Iraq is going to become a radicalised theocracy, there's probably going to be some kind of civil war-like schism between south and north and I bet I know who is going to get the blame, no matter what the faults of the indigenous leaders. It's been the modus operandi of Hosni Mubarak, the Assad family and numerous other Arab near-despots to cosy up to the west while allowing the people to blame America for the faults of their own governments.

I also think that this does not matter to the election strategists at the White House, so long as this does not become clear before November 2004.

I think the plans of the Bush White House for Iraq suck 31 flavours of ass, particularly the one about having US bases in Iraq and letting General Garner govern, as these things were among the grievances that that unholy prick Osama bin Laden cited regarding US presence in Saudi Arabia. An evil wind is going to blow at some point in the future over these decisions.

However, if you were to look at the Bush White House's actions through the cynical prism of the British view of politics, George Bush has had a pretty good war.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 22nd, 2003 08:13 pm (UTC)
Ferris is a righteous dude. I'm glad now you know him!
Apr. 24th, 2003 09:17 pm (UTC)
If you say Ferris Bueller, you lose a testicle.

Apr. 22nd, 2003 08:14 pm (UTC)
Everything I know about U.K. politics I learned from "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister." Mostly under the tutelage of Sir Humphrey. So I'm well and truly screwed.
Apr. 22nd, 2003 08:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Conversely...
duuude--you ever want some fun entertainment, check out if C-Span still runs their tapes of the British Parlement in session. They yell and insult each other! It's highly entertaining, even if you don't quite know what they're yelling about :)
Apr. 22nd, 2003 08:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Conversely...
Yes Minister! Dammit, I knew I was forgetting something!. Anyway, that was Mrs Thatcher's favourite programme and it was universally reckoned that the writers had pretty much got the Whitehall process of denial, obfuscation and cynical manoeuvring dead-on. *g*
Apr. 22nd, 2003 08:22 pm (UTC)
Bwah. That icon is cracking me up.

I'm not sure it's exactly what you're looking for, but www.mac.com has a free sign-up thing for something like 40 days and enough memory, certainly, for a few pictures. It's not perfect, but I used it for my icons and it went very smoothly.
Apr. 22nd, 2003 11:02 pm (UTC)
I think that Iraq is going to become a radicalised theocracy

So do I. And I thought so months ago. How is it that my own government is only now figuring this out? I'm FAR from the most well-informed member of this country, and even I predicted that. WTF?

"Freeing" Iraq will likely result in a nation run by radical theologians who loathe the US and who control huge oil reserves. Or we won't hand over power, or we'll hand it over only to hand-picked successors who will retain control by force. I don't see a good resolution here, only bad choices.

In the best of all possible worlds they'd start rebuilding Iraq from the grassroots level but no one will be willing to invest the time and money that would take. Instead they'll cobble together a "coalition", hand off power (retaining the oil rights and contracts), and skedaddle. And then? And then I don't want to see what'll happen. Imagine the Taliban, with lots of cash.

::sigh:: I look longingly at Vancouver, some days...

Apr. 23rd, 2003 05:43 am (UTC)
Did you make up that subject line or is it a reference to a pop-cultured bit that I do not know? That would upset me because it came from the girl who saw Ferris Bueller for the first time one day ago. *g*

Speaking of Ferris, I'm glad you finally watched that movie. Now I just need to get you to try a corn dog and everything 1985 will have fallen into place. (Yes, corn dogs are universal but they became ambrosia to me in about 1985. No, they're not really ambrosia anymore, but, you know, they're tasty treats on a stick.)

Apr. 23rd, 2003 11:32 am (UTC)
Nah, it's not in FBDO. It's random; it's a drive-by subject line.

I knew I should have tried that corndog in Potosi.
Apr. 23rd, 2003 06:56 am (UTC)
I think that Iraq is going to become a radicalised theocracy, there's probably going to be some kind of civil war-like schism between south and north and I bet I know who is going to get the blame, no matter what the faults of the indigenous leaders. It's been the modus operandi of Hosni Mubarak, the Assad family and numerous other Arab near-despots to cosy up to the west while allowing the people to blame America for the faults of their own governments.

Suela said it already-- we were predicting this six months ago. Of course that's what's going to happen. That's what happens every damn time and we (and by "we" I don't mean the people, because that asshat in the White House represents NOBODY) still play right into it.

I loathe this administration with every bone in my body. Grrr. Just a few weeks left until we can start volunteering for Dean, which at least will give us a way to utilize our rage for once...
Apr. 23rd, 2003 07:59 am (UTC)
That ICON! So fantastic! I shall use my own Mulder icon in solidarity.
Apr. 23rd, 2003 08:13 am (UTC)
Excellent icon! Come join us at the unfashionable table, where we swoon over XF, and watch 80s movies all day long. *g*
Apr. 23rd, 2003 08:37 am (UTC)
I think the difference in what we make into entertainment about politics is all about the myth we have here in America about "one man making a difference" rather than any attempt to deal with political reality.

(See also "Dave" and "the American President")

Our political reality has been all about patronage and corruption and cronyism just as yours is. However, we occasionally get guys like Paul Wellstone in Minnesota and Jesse Ventura and Ross Perot popping up to maintain the illusion of the popular mandate. And the guy in Vermont who told all the parties to fuck off and went Independent. And sometimes the popular mandate actually wins. (And sometimes people die and you have to wonder if someone killed them.)

And once they're in, no one can really fuck with them until election time. And if the PEOPLE rebel and don't vote the way the Party wants them to, the Party still has to suck it up and tolerate the upstart. It's biding its time and waiting like a vulture, but it can't do anything at the moment.

That's why we're stuck with such a bad President right now. But come election time?

We have a long history of not being content with the status quo. So we get new political powers rising up from time to time and shaking up the system. That's actually a really good thing, even if the one that's on the rise right now is the Neocons - because their days are numbered unless they can somehow force a change in the Constitution.

We're lucky here in the US. We don't have the weight of history and custom on us so much. We can "throw the bastards out" because we believe we can. We also really believe some people who seek public office are actually non-bastards and are public servants who want to help people. And, amazingly, some of them actually are. I think our belief in that is what allows it to happen, even as it blinds us to real corruption.

So what you see in Sorkin and the movies, even if it's wish-fulfillment, is based on the fact that if a Politician can get the belief of the people, he CAN actually do something if he's so inclined. Even if it's just yell a lot so people will see him yelling. And the other people in power can't stop him from doing that.

The media also used to be helpful in actually rooting out corruption, patronage and out and out illegalities. I don't think they can now, with the corporate ownership. But some web folks are on the rise, so hopefully they will eventually take up that mantle.

Maybe our belief that some people are actually public servants instead of self-servants is naive, but if we can sell that to the people in power, or even some of them, it helps everyone. Even if they're total hypocrites, having to pay lip service to public service helps keep them in line. Because they just plain won't get voted back in if they fuck up too badly.t
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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