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Upside down

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The world's turned upside down and most of America seems not to be concerned.

Iraq is in a shambles; under U.S. control the country has deteriorated to the point that looters are apparently even making off with the remains of Saddam's nuclear program. We wanted empire, now we've got it. But the first month of U.S. occupation (we're now told it's OK to use the word) was utter chaos. We didn't learn the lesson of Afghanistan, where we've wound down our involvement and warlords (and the Taliban) are resurgent. Instead, we're threatening Iran, a country many times larger than Iraq--and one with whom we've been developing a diplomatic relationship. Ariel Sharon is starting to look like a peacenik compared to Paul Wolfowitz.

Economically, the nation is reeling. Tax cuts mainly for the rich are sailing through as the federal budget deficit balloons by the week and the U.S. racks up record monthly trade deficits. Laid-off workers can find jobs that pay only a fraction of their previous wages, if they can find work at all. More than half the families in North Carolina don't make enough money to cover their basic needs, the N.C. Justice and Community Development Center says. The dollar is plunging; not as much a sign that the government is trying to boost exports as one that foreign investors are fleeing a downward spiral. Financial cannibalism has set in: The economy is being held up by people refinancing their homes and spending the equity. How long can that last?

The whole story is told in fits and starts by TV and the daily newspapers, but is never put together. They are much busier covering American Idol. Yet the story of George Bush and Karl Rove's massive PR effort to sell the country on the war goes largely unreported. "This could conceivably be the greatest intelligence hoax of all time," says Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, about the consistent lies about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction. Why is it that The News & Observer has yet to run a word about investigations by the BBC and others that found the story of the rescue of Jessica Lynch was mostly fabricated by the military--not a correction, not a story about the administration's larger campaign of deceit, nothing? How are people supposed to understand what their leaders are really up to without that kind of reportage?

And this is becoming a mantra: Where is the political opposition? Where are the real Democrats?

The upside-down world is little different close to home. We have a General Assembly unable to develop a revenue base that meets the state's needs as it lurches from budget crisis to budget crisis. It can't even bring itself to enact obvious short-term remedies like raising the cigarette tax to make ends meet.

And look inside this week's Independent: While Progress Energy and nuclear power regulators resist ways to make nuclear power plants less vulnerable to terrorists, police posing as FBI agents are giving the third-degree to 17-year-old high school students about their web logs.

Are you feeling more secure in your homeland?

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