Posted on November 2, 2006 at 4:20 pmDespite all the fussin’ and feudin’ that resulted from Jack Abramoff’s wheeling and dealing in Congress, we think it is fair to say that the United States no longer holds full title to Mark Twain’s cynical observation, “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress.” It seems we have been imitated, equaled and perhaps even surpassed, all around the world.

Today, we went cruising on the web, for something different. We chose Ha’aretz, sort of The New York Daily News of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, perhaps the New York Times equivalent, and Yediot Ahronoth, more like the Washington Times, a conservative, pro-government paper.

The particular scandal that caught our eye was one surrounding Ya’akov Borovsky, the chief anti-corruption adviser to State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss. Apparently, during the investigation of bribery and political money laundering charges against Omri Sharon, the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s son, Mr Borovsky wanted to move up in the world, to become Israel’s top cop, in fact. He met, we are told, with senior police officials, and representatives of Omri Sharon, and suggested that if he were named, and confirmed at the Chief of Israel’s Police Force, he might be able to change the roster of the people investigating the younger Sharon’s bribery charges, to make them more amenable to ‘discussion’ with the principals.

The three newspapers differed greatly in their coverage. Ha’aretz had the story as a page one, above the (electronic) fold story. The Jerusalem Post didn’t have the story on page one, or in any of the first-tier story links, and the only references to Borovsky at all were buried in articles about shady dealings in the privatization sale of Bank Leumi, Israel’s largest bank. Yediot Ahronoth had a lot of references to Borovsky, linked through stories generally about corruption scandals related to Ehud Olmert, the Kadima party Prime Minister.

Olmert is in trouble for influence peddling, and his president, Moshe Katsav, is in court over a laundry list of allegations, including two counts of rape. Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, and the generals who are his division commanders, are in the public spotlight for alleged incompetence, inadequate logistical preparedness, and a series of blunders and widespread systemic failures in the prosecution of the July war in Lebanon.

We can read newspapers from all around the world, and see the same trends; incompetent leaders, corrupt politicians, government ministers and bureaucrats in collusion with venal businessmen and corporations operating at the very edges of the law, if not beyond it. Truly we are living in a world of global synthesis, global leveling, a world where all the soured and clabbered cream is coming to the top, but we, as citizens, have no way to scrape it off, or to stop the further spoilage and contamination of our cultural ideals and traditions.

Next time you want to bash a politician for his lack of honesty or ethics, you needn’t look just within the Good Ol’ US of A. You can take potluck almost anywhere in the world, and get the same stories, perhaps with minor variations.

We might describe the moderately well-informed man on the street this way, “His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools — the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans — and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, “You can’t trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so let’s have a drink.” — Terry Pratchett


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