No doubt you’ve heard that the House of Representatives passed the $700-plus billion bailout of the U.S. financial system, thus shackling American citizens into an abyss of debt unprecedented in history. Unfortunately, it hasn’t helped the stock market, which continues to fluctuate to an alarming degree. Americans are bracing for an unknown economic future.

But on the bright side, you’ll be happy to know that Britney Spears is planning to launch a new line of fitness videos capitalizing on her amazing physical recovery after having kids.

European markets are being impacted by the widening economic spiral. (Iceland is close to bankruptcy.) Stocks worldwide are free-falling. Investors are taking an understandably bleak view of the future because no one sees an end to the crisis.

But all this fades in importance when we consider that Kim Kardashian got booted off “Dancing with the Stars.” I consider this much more shocking than the potential for another Great Depression.

The Bush administration is considering taking part ownership of certain U.S. banks as an option for dealing with the global credit crisis (socialism, anyone?), but I’m relieved to learn that Beyonce’s marriage to Jay-Z is real. “It’s not about interviews or getting the right photo-op,” she assured Essence Magazine. “It’s real.” Phew.

Honestly, it’s the most incredible disconnect imaginable. I’ll log onto the Internet, concerned about the state of the economy or the presidential election … only to be faced with screaming headlines about some Hollywood twit’s latest personal meltdown, scandal, serial marriage or wardrobe malfunction.

What is with us, anyway? Why do any of us really give a rat’s rear end about Brangelina or Madonna or Britney or Lindsey or whomever?

Now, I realize that nothing but a constant diet of sobering domestic and international bad news could result in a serious case of mental depression, but on the other hand Americans seem obsessed with the fluff and blather of celebrities to the exclusion of serious issues.

If you stop someone on the street and ask them about Barney Frank’s role in the stock dives of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, they’ll probably reply “Barney who?” But if you ask them about Ashlee Simpson-Wentz’s white-trash birthday bash, you’ll probably get a diatribe worthy of Bill O’Reilly.

It can get embarrassing, really. Back in November 2007 it was noted that Yahoo Internet searches on Britney Spears outnumbered searches on Saddam Hussein by six-to-one. On the Lycos search engine, this ratio was 600 times in favor of Spears to Hussein. Crimeney, folks, do people really care what Britney does? I know everyone has different interests, and frankly my eyes often glaze over while listening to a politician’s promises, but I just don’t understand America’s obsession with Hollywood.

“The notoriety of the entertainer and the almost religious fervor of their most dedicated adherents is a symptom of self-imposed dissatisfaction with one’s own predicament,” writes Makena Walsh, runner-up of the’s fall 2006 essay contest about celebrity obsession. “Star-worship is a religion of self-deception, one requiring its participants to continually deceive themselves into believing the next product they purchase will be the capstone on their hodgepodge of useless materials, enabling them to finally start living a meaningful existence.”

Maybe that’s it. Decades of advertising have convinced us that perfection lies just on the other side of the latest anti-aging skin-care product, miracle weight-loss pill, or Botox injection. You, too, can look like Anne Hathaway or Brad Pitt if you (pick one) lost 50 pounds / surgically altered your entire facial bone structure / were born decades later than you actually were.

Get over it. You’ll never be anyone but you. You’ll never star in a movie opposite Tom Hanks or Gwyneth Paltrow. You’ll never win the Emmy or the Golden Globe Award. Accept reality.

Now, I suppose this fluff-love might be understandable if Lindsay Lohan brought some comic relief and a ray of bubble-brained sunshine into what sometimes seems like a dark world, but she doesn’t. She’s just a twit.

If I wanted to enter the realm of deep, dark conspiracy theory, I would say that our obsession with celebrities to the exclusion of serious concerns is encouraged. It’s so handy, after all, when the American sheeple are anesthetized into complaisance by the latest news of Ellen DeGeneres’ love life or Amy Winehouse’s sobriety issues. That way we’re too preoccupied to object when the government fetters our great-grandchildren with trillions of dollars of debt and sells our American souls to terrorists. By filling our brains with Jennifer Lopez and Tom Cruise, we don’t notice Wall Street bailouts or congressional peccadilloes.

Even schools encourage (or at least surrender to) celebrity obsession by assigning essays based on sitcom viewing rather than, say, classic literature. Wonderful.

So, while the government (once again) ignores the wishes of 70 percent of the population and unconstitutionally grabs more power than at any time since the Great Depression, at least our school kids can sharpen their rhetorical skills by discussing Heather Locklear’s DUI.

But don’t worry, everyone. It’s time to gear up for Paris Hilton’s new MTV reality show in which 16 women (and two gay men – why the heck not) compete for the privilege of becoming Paris’ “best friend forever” (BFF). The requirements for her BFF is someone who is “hot, loyal and has the energy to keep up with” Hilton’s hectic lifestyle.

Me, I think I fit the bill perfectly. Since Paris has lived the “Simple Life,” I’ll gladly invite her to spend her free time with us on our farm. I know this isn’t a new milieu for you, Paris honey, but I urge you to give it a try once more. I suggest a hasty shopping trip to expand your wardrobe (don’t forget an appropriate church dress for Sundays). I’m sure you’ll fit right in bucking hay, canning tomatoes, milking cows, shoveling manure and chopping firewood.

Can’t wait to see if you have the energy to be my new “best friend forever.”

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