by E.C. Fish on August 3, 1995

FISH LOGOIn my dreams, I see an old column of mine reprinted in this space or the work of whatever ringer Rubin and Wolfe can come up with in my absence, followed by the magic words “E.C. Fish is on vacation.” Instead of sitting here writing this, I see myself at a backstreet café in some country whose dairy products remind one why “cut the cheese” is a euphemism for farting, drinking the local brewer’s finest and thanking my lucky stars that the local papers are all in a language I don’t understand.

Nice dream. In reality, E.C. Fish is yet again stuck in Iowa City for another long, hot summer, buying cheap, off-brand twelve packs and breaking into a shirt-ruining sweat every time he steps outdoors. The papers are, unfortunately, all in English, and contain the usual barrage of infuriating bullshit, to wit:

COLOR BLIND, COLOR DEAF, COLOR DUMB: The anti-affirmative action bandwagon continues to roll, leaving decency and logic in its wheel ruts like so much roadkill. The movement continues to wrap itself, absurdly, in the banner of fairness. In separate (but equal– sorry, couldn’t resist) statements, anti-affirmative action heroes Pete Wilson (whose handpicked Board of Regents recently ended all affirmative action programs in the University of California system) and Newt Gingrich have both spoken at length of how affirmative action programs undermine “the ideal of a color blind society.”

One should always beware of opportunists speaking of ideals. While the ideal of a color blind society is one I definitely share, it has as much to do with American life, and particularly African-American life, as the ideal of a world where it rains Dom Perignon. Racism continues to pervade this society at every level, and ample statistical proof exists for the notion that race plays a decisive role in many hiring and educational admissions decisions, even with affirmative action programs in place. While this fact alone is enough to bring those programs into question, the notion that ending them somehow furthers the cause of racial equality is completely ridiculous. The end of affirmative action will mean the transfer of opportunity from members of minority groups to white males. If it didn’t, Wilson and Gingrich, both of whom owe their positions to white male voters, wouldn’t be bothering with this issue at all.

HEARINGS WITHOUT LISTENING: After two weeks of hearings, a Senate committee investigating the Whitewater land deal has turned up exactly nothing. This is the same nothing previously turned up by prior congressional hearings and two special prosecutors. The cost of all this nothing so far? Twelve million dollars.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on Capitol Hill, a joint subcommittee has been staging hearings on the federal handling of the Waco siege. The results of these hearings so far has been every bit as valuable as those of the Whitewater hearings. While no estimate of the cost of these hearings is available, I imagine that it’s more money than most of us will go through in the next decade or so.

Odd that a party that came into power promising massive cutbacks of expenditure and greater efficiency in government would be spending multiple millions of taxpayer dollars for the sole purpose of embarrassing an administration that very handily embarrasses itself nine out of ten tries. While I don’t often agree with the solution of privatizing government functions, in this case I think it would be entirely appropriate. Since these hearings basically amount to nothing more than partisan fishing expeditions and media exposure opportunities for the majority members, I think it’s only fair that the Republican National Committee pick up the tab– they’re pretty much the only people in the country who stand to benefit from these dog and pony shows.

GOOD NEWS/ BAD NEWS: The good news is that the Unites States Senate has passed unanimously both a measure requiring Senate lobbyists to fully disclose exactly whom they are working for and a measure limiting the total amount of gifts any Senator can receive from any one lobbyist to $100 (roughly the price of lunch in downtown DC). The bad news is that the jolly junketeers of the House of Representatives, where the real lobbying action is, are unlikely to approve any similar measures before the ice rinks open in Hell. The worse news is that neither house is likely to even approach real changes to the way campaigns are financed, a/k/a the way Senators and Congresspeople become wholly owned subsidiaries of business interests.


Believe me, after trying to pick your way through all this crap, you’d need a vacation, too.
This piece originally appeared in the Iowa City weekly Icon.

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