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Wednesday, November 06, 2002

I am in a bad mood. I don't have answers tonight. If you want answers to anything, please ingore this.

There will be a sober post-election analysis here tomorrow. Or Thursday. Or maybe Friday morning. I promise my next column will be about something frivolous and fun. Like Loverboy. Or the BCS. Or some movie. Or maybe some observations on the Jukebox From Hell. I think I'll take a few of those web quizzes so this will scroll down quickly. Anyhow...

I'm stunned.

The idea that anyone would trust John Ashcroft with their civil liberties, or Harvey Pitt with assuring that our markets run transparently, or Gale Norton with protecting our natural resources, frightens me.

The idea that the foreign policy of our country is being set by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of that scary cabal in the Pentagon scares me. At the risk of repeating myself, we are about to start a stupid, reckless, cowboy war in Iraq that is essentially guaranteed to cause more harm than good even if Saddam Hussein is driven from power easily. That this aforementioned war is wildly popular and without effective opposition in this country suggests that perhaps it is now the United States that is the single biggest obstacle to world peace.

The idea that so many of our policies are written by religious fanatics who would be laughed at almost anywhere else in the world, save the most backward Islamic theocracies, irritates me. I bet if you took the speeches of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson or Pat Buchanan even Bill Bennett, took out any references to the Bible, Christ, or Christianity, replaced those with references to Allah, Islam, and the Prophet Muhammad, and translated them into Arabic, one would find it hard to distinguish them from al-Qaida anti-American propaganda. If these self-appointed guardians of virtue were merely tiresome and boring, I wouldn't much care, since beyond the ocassional abortion clinic attack, they're not committing terrorist activity. But they insist on trying to give their own prejudices and hatreds and interpretations of religious dogma the force of law. And even if it's not necessarily fair to blame everything they say or do on Bush or his adminstration, well, they have a lot of pull with him as Bush fills our judicial benches and scientific panels and little-known regulatory boards with people who's main qualification is acceptability to the tent revival crowd.

The notion that government needs to do more on behalf of special interests to this degree annoys me. They want to revamp the tax code in a variety of interesting ways and - surprise - every last one of them in effect raises taxes on folks living paycheck-to-paycheck in order to line the pockets of the sort of people and corporations who lavish fat campaign contributions on politicians. It started with an intellectually dishonest (and that's putting it generously) campaign against the "death tax" but it will not end there. (Remember all those competing schemes for "flat taxes" and "consumption taxes" and other efforts to saddle working and middle class Americans with a bigger burden while letting the plutocrats off the hook that followed the 1994 Republican landslide and were quickly forgotten about two years later? They're back again, apparently.)

The idea that Americans have seen what it looks like to have the foxes guarding the henhouse for two years, and then deciding what we really need to do is to give the foxes "the tools they need to get the job done" or some nonsense like that, by removing any checks on their power, frankly, flabbergasts me.

And yet the voters are rewarding this*? It boggles the mind.

Or perhaps they haven't really seen it and need to see in order to comprehend it.

Well, there is a silver lining, if you want to call it that, in all of this. The country is messed up and the Republican "solutions" aren't going to improve anything for most folks. In two years, like clockwork, there will be another set of elections. The Republican Party will not have anyone else - Democratic Senators, Bill Clinton, al-Qaida, Saddam Hussein - to point to when the question "Who messed all of this up this badly?" comes up.

I can't believe I'm still awake.

I'm taking my first trip overseas next week. I'm sure I'll have at least one conversation with a non-American about some of this stuff. And I wish I could say I was an American without feeling at least a little embarrassed about our leaders, our worst impulses, and most of all about what is being done, in part, my name.

*Yes, I know - it's a few random races in a few random states. But it's a reward nonetheless.


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