Archives for category: Politics

While I was sat in my pyjamas at 6am, watching William and Kate single-handedly save the British monarchy and by extension all of civilisation (and giggle at the word “poorer”), I had a sudden, uncomfortable realisation. I missed a massive opportunity to make some cash.

Every single TV channel here was saturated with English voices, most offering almost no insight whatsoever. Stand up, Imogen Lloyd Webber, and your repeated observation that the Prince and his bride were “keeping it real, keeping it royal”. See also cod psychologist *cough* body language expert Judi James, Cat Deeley (really? Why?) and assorted randoms clogging up the breakfast show sofas. I’d mistakenly assumed that as someone with zero royalist credentials, I’d not be wanted. I was obviously wrong. Read the rest of this entry »


Now that the Great Blackberry Famine of 2011 has been averted (and more importantly, my biometrics appointment with USCIS won’t be cancelled next Friday), one’s thoughts turn to other more important things. Like why, in a country that brought us the iPad2 and AMC’s really quite good remake of The Killing, recycled toilet roll is such a disaster.

A couple of weeks back, I hit up Pathmark for a quart of milk (ha, get me with the lingo), and grabbed a 24-pack of Marcal Small Steps, thinking: large pack, less packaging, even more eco points for me when they do my 360 evaluation at the gates to hell. Read the rest of this entry »

Here in New York, the prospect of the federal government shutdown isn’t really going to hurt, unless you’re a tourist or, you know, a federal worker.

If John Boehner keeps chucking his toys out of the pram, forgetting what the 1995 shutdown did for Newt Gingrich’s reputation, then we’ll see a few closures. Anyone who picked this weekend to see the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island is going to be mightily pissed off. We’ll still get our post, we’ll be able to get on planes, people will still get their social security cheques and food stamps, and bicyclists will still get arrested for speeding.

Any New Yorker who does work for the federal government, however, will find their style severely cramped. Because while you’re furloughed, it’s not just that you’re not being paid to work, it’s that you’re not allowed to work, on pain of a $5,000 fine or even two years in prison. And as this excellent story cheerily reported, that means going total cold turkey on email while you’re not in the office. Terrifying.

Seriously, I know that obviously he didn’t write this himself, but this is comedy gold:

Hard to pick a favourite line, but the one about Dick Cheney’s memoirs (How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People) comes pretty high up the list. Or maybe it’s the one about completing his next 100 days in 72. And then on the 73rd, he’ll rest. Or maybe it’s the one about Hillary coming back from Mexico and giving him a kiss.

Anyone who watched the West Wing knows that American politics is full to the rafters with zillions of rituals and customs that even the European political systems, centuries more in the making, don’t even dent. But the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, where the press and media come to be feted with comedy speeches by the President and others, is a particular favourite of mine.

Forget Gordon Brown or David Cameron – is there even a single member of the British political classes who could deliver their lines this well? We’ve got one of the most combative parlimentary systems in the world (Prime Minister’s Questions shocks Americans), but for a British politician to take such obvious pleasure in puncturing their own image… I can’t imagine it for an instant.

There are many excellent reasons to live in America. There are also many uniquely British things you come to miss. Like intelligent, serious news, that occasionally deigns to present, say, the Palestinian’s point of view. Or maybe anything that’s happening outside of the USA and Israel.

That is why we pay an extra $20 a month to get cable TV, which is the only way you can get BBC News America here.

But disastrously, it’s presented by the smuggest man your brain could conjure up: Matt Frei, that gorgeous creature pictured above. He is incapable of resisting a cheap quip, right in the middle of a serious debate. He is, in short, an egomaniac, and one who thinks he’s miles above the competition. Mention his name to any Brit (or Irish) expat in this country and I guarantee that they will start spitting with rage.

Might John Humphrys like a transfer to Washington? Please?

OK, so first of all, yes, rubbish at updating this lately, busy, you know…

Secondly, blimey: if you needed any proof that Americans can and do readily live up to every stereotype we commie Euros believe, how about a week like that one.

Let’s start with guns.

This week, a little boy, 11 year old Jordan Brown of Lawrence Country, Pennsylvania, was arrested and taken into custody on suspicion of shooting his father’s girlfriend. With a gun. His gun. A gun described as a youth-model 20-gauge shotgun. Yes, that’s right: a gun aimed at children, which – and stop me if you can beat me to the punchline – does not have to be registered.

Did I mention she was eight months pregnant?

Now obviously I’m not saying that all Americans just live for weaponry, just in case there are any Americans reading this. It’s just that every time something like this happens, Brits, Canadians, basically everyone except the Swiss, says, well dur.

To raise the tone up from astoundingly depressing (although let’s not forget he’s only been taken into custody – an adult jail, mind) to absurdly uplifting: did you see Obama’s speech to Congress? If ever you needed proof that Americans and Brits are cut from different cloth, here you go.

Because in the House of Commons, if the Prime Minister (or even, let’s face it, the Queen) gets up and makes the biggest deal of speeches, you don’t get 37 standing ovations. And 65 interruptions for applause.

The funnest thing (drinking game maybe? Next time…) was to watch what made the Republicans get out of their seats. Turns out, they agree with the idea that bosses of failing banks shouldn’t be allowed to buy new private planes. Woo hoo. Maybe bipartisanship isn’t just a pipe dream after all…

(Next time, btw, I’m posting some pictures of cats. Honest.)

Spotted on the back of a bathroom door – sorry, toilet door, already my English is deserting me. This, sadly, was not at McDonalds, but instead at the cinema at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, aka BAM, a hotbed of Chekhov revivals, free classical music concerts and earnest movie programming aplenty.

Yep, that's the Bill of Rights where some obscene graffiti should be

Yep, that's the Bill of Rights where some obscene graffiti should be

Obviously we were there to see Milk, the multi-Oscar nominated biopic of the first openly gay man to hold office in the US. A woman set her hair on fire three minutes into the film and then ran out, but that’s another story.

This time last week, it was all feeling a little bit anti-climactic. He’d fluffed the oath, the speech had been a bit of a letdown, and the dancing, while cute, was not quite as good as it could have been.

But the bigger problem was this: now that Barack Obama was finally in the Oval Office, what were we going to do with all that news time? When I voiced my fears about this very situation a few months ago, a fellow Brit expat suggested I get into local politics. I believe I may have scoffed.

How wrong I was. While Barack sets about saving the environment, closing Guantanamo and generally being a goody-two-shoes (yawn), it’s the local politicians who are having all the fun.

Step forward Rod Blagojevich and David Paterson. The former: the foul-mouthed, bushy haired Illinois governor who allegedly tried to sell or trade the Senate seat left open by Obama. Yesterday Blago went on a publicity tour that took in all the most important news media outlets: Larry King, Good Morning America, er, and The View, which is the American version of the UK’s Loose Women. Exactly.

David Paterson, meanwhile, is the governor of New York State, also in need of a new senator now Hillary Clinton is playing with the big boys. (Some background: Paterson got his job after the previous incumbent, Eliot Spitzer, was caught using call girls. See what I’m talking about?)

Paterson decides its important to hire a woman to replace a woman, so ums and ahs over the very liberal Caroline Kennedy for aaaages, before settling on Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat endorsed by the National Rifle Association. (No, me neither.)

See? Brilliant. Boris Johnson has nothing on these people.