Just so we have this straight: You are not paying taxes merely to fund torture and bomb-dropping and the killing of countless innocents in Iraq in a futile and lost war that's not really a war and is far more of a massive fiscal, tactical and moral failure which will end up costing the nation an estimated $3 trillion, burn through any remaining sense of national dignity and leave repercussions that will last for generations.
Ha. You should be so lucky. Because your tax money is right now also funding the Fed's unprecedented and rather shocking multibillion-dollar bailout of rich bankers and fund managers who have, through their greed and excess and with the implied blessing of former Chairman Alan Greenspan (whom many consider the architect of the collapse in the first place), helped bring about what is shaping up to be the worst fiscal crisis since World War II.
There now. Don't you feel better? Isn't it a good time to be an American? And is it not, despite the notorious dishonesty of the players involved, still a bit hard to believe?
Yes, I know it's George W. Bush. I know its Dick "Satan Loves You" Cheney. I know it's Wall Street. Hence, I know expectations are at rock bottom. But as far as torture is concerned, it's still profoundly disturbing to watch the world's most powerful leader, the president of what was once considered the most reasoned, humanitarian nation on the planet and the one that ostensibly set the ethical bar for all nations, actually veto a bill that would've banned some of the most brutal forms of torture known to man, techniques we know for a fact do not work.
Repeat: Torture does not work. Waterboarding does not work. It merely coerces the tortured into telling you what you want to hear. The CIA knows it. Torturers know it. God knows it. No matter, because America is apparently still being run by inbred white collar thugs who would blind their own mothers for an uptick in Exxon share prices.
By the way, it has also come to pass that this same president, amid an appalling laundry list of scientific and environmental abuses, has actually worked firsthand to worsen the quality of the very air itself.
It's as true as it is disgusting. It turns out that Bush himself stepped in to force the already troubled Environmental Protection Agency to defy its own mandate, its own scientific recommendations, ordering it to raise the limits for allowable ozone (it was about to recommend the exact opposite), all for the benefit of his pals in Big Energy.
No president ever dared such a move before. In fact, Bush's action was so unprecedented, so galling, so against the very structure of government itself that an army of White House lawyers had to scramble to rewrite the legal justifications for the lower air standard. Do you smell that? That's the scent of the most shamelessly foul leader of the free world. Breathe deeply, because it ain't over yet.
So then, torture, pollution, more war, Wall Street megalomania, incompetence like some sort of satanic mantra. If you had any lingering doubt that Bush was an arrogant and petulant man-child with the mind of a violently overpampered 10-year-old? Please abolish it now.
Ah, but wait. It's not all bad. After all, Congress - with the eager support of the infuriatingly mindless Democrats, by the way - just rushed through an economic stimulus package, costing even more billions of dollars we do not have just so the IRS can rush you a check for a few hundred bucks, presumably so you can race right out and make a down payment on that foreclosed three-bedroom two-bath hunk of shiny tract home hell in Antioch - "The Finest Slum this Side of Stockton" - with enough left over for a burrito and some vodka. Voila! Economy saved. Or maybe not.
Do you feel stimulated? Do you feel reassured? Oh wait, I'm sorry, gas is now $4 a gallon and therefore by the time you actually made it to your tract slum and back, well, your stimulus has evaporated into a gassy vapor, just like your shares in Bear Stearns. Whoops.
Maybe now is when the real dark period begins. Sure the last seven years of the inept Bush regime have been miserable and shameful, sure we've been humiliated, mortified a thousand ways from Sunday by an administration that would yank the legs off a dog if it meant a thank-you note from Dubai.
But now Bush is in his final year. This is both the good news, and also the very, very bad news. Because we are now in the death throes of the worst administration in modern history, entering the period of serious consequences, of economic collapse, environmental impact, record oil prices, international recoil, rashes, boils, inexplicable vomiting. Fun for the whole family.
Know this for a fact. Bush does not care. He is detached, supercilious, viciously ignorant of anything but how beautifully he has served his corporate masters, of how he has raked in billions of dollars for Halliburton and Lockheed Martin and Exxon and the coal industry, mercenary armies and military manufacturers and his dad's Saudi friends. He is on no one's side but theirs, and he always has been.
Some say this pain, this fiscal crisis, this enormous instability will last a few years. Some say no way, it will be at least a generation or two before we can right this ship of state again, so deep are the wounds and so insane is our national debt and so violent the damage to our reputation, our identity, our enfeebled infrastructure.
But I'm more with those who say, no, the truth is we will never truly recover, that America's former ranking as Gilded and Irreproachable Empire No. 1 is dead and gone. India and China are dramatically changing the game, peak oil is nigh, fresh water is the new gold, the planet itself is in paroxysm, Mother Nature is quickly revealing her hand - or rather, maybe just that one big, stormy middle finger.
But maybe this is the best news of all. Because the sort of gluttonous empire Bush so disgustingly represented was doomed to failure. The center could not hold. Dubya may not have hastened the apocalypse like the evangelicals desperately prayed he would, but he certainly is hastening the end of the bloviated American ego.
So maybe the real question is not can we return to our former ill-gotten superpower glory, insular and unparalleled and reckless and arrogant, or even peaceful and defensive and ironclad. The true question is, do we have the slightest clue what we want to become instead?
Thoughts for the author? E-mail him. Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section of the San Francisco Chronicle.
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