I hate to say this, but the US is a third world country right now--a really powerful one, but 3rd world. I was in the Dallas area a few years back for a conference, and took a hotel van to the place where we were conferring. The van drove on a private highway. Beautifully maintained. When we had to get off that and go on the publicly owned highway--what a mess! I live in what used to be the poorest city in the country (we've lost that distinction, so we aren't even bad enough to be # 1 any more), so maybe my perspective is a bit off kilter. Still, what I see around me, and not just in my town but all around, when I drive to Philly or to the City or to DC, is the same. There's an area of my town where the relatively affluent live (and some of those folks are very very affluent, I can tell you). Well, for them the city does all sorts of things that it doesn't do for the rest of us suckers. We're stuck with dirty streets and dirty sidewalks and leaves piled up in the fall and so on and so on. Up the hill in rich-land, the city picks up leaves, scrubs the streets, sweeps the sidewalks.

Some of the mess I live in has to do with the carelessness of the people who live here. We're a mess not just because the city serves the rich and ignores the rest of us, as they would in a good banana republic. But the behavior of the people around me is also evidence that we're in a 3rd world country. There's almost no civic consciousness here, another sign of banana republic ways. The schools in the city are floundering. The school board is an open joke. City council is an open sewer, with so much hanky panky, mismanagement, malfeasance, even open graft that it makes you wonder where you have to deposit the baksheesh.

Between Christmas and New Years my wife and I left town and took a week or so in a nice hotel in Philly, right on the Parkway, for those of you who know the city, across from the Public Library, and very near the Franklin Institute and the new Barnes Foundation and the Philly Museum of Art (with Rocky statue in front). Everything was hunky dory. My wife and I have spent a lot of time in libraries, so we decided to take the brief tour of the Public Library's rare book holdings. You've met me in meat space, Steve, so you know I'm not an especially impressive looking person. I don't dress "up." I'm pretty relaxed, take things easy, and can easily be taken for a peasant. I use that word because the hoity toity librarian who took us on the tour treated us exactly as if we were peasants. The impression I got, deliberately and almost insultingly given by the woman, was that we were really too inferior for her to bother with. That's the way the upper classes treat the rest of the people in the 3rd world.

In government, we are absolutely in that ball park. What happened in the 2000 election is exactly what I'd expect from a 3rd world country. The Citizens United case is exactly what a 3rd world court would have ruled. The naked buying of congress is right up the 3rd world alley. The demagoguery of some, lots, or politicians is Dear Leader territory.

MACTECH ubi dolor ibi digitus