More fears seem to float about these days--some serious, some superficial, some founded, others not. But the collective national impact is a sense of uncertainty, an uneasy mental summer haze that keeps us from seeing as far as we'd like.
It's not 1929, but stock market investors see mounting irregularities and wonder what to believe. So they exit the market, which frightens others, who exit too or stay away. Not that many of us swapped kilowatt-hours with distant power systems, but the Enron sham and Andersen shredding cause us to doubt once-trusted systems. Wall Street analysts advise investors about stocks they, too, hold; guess what, they advise buying them. Outrageous earnings packages for unsuccessful executives make lucrative free agency for pitchers with 8-14 records seem downright parsimonious. Like spotting Titanic officers donning life jackets, finding out that corporate executives have been selling their own firm's stock doesn't inspire tons of confidence.
Whatever happened to the hunt for the Mr. Bigs of terrorism overseas? Now, predictably, Washington's perennial players hunt each other, leaking daily dirt and offering the latest I-told-you-so memo about 9/11 warning signs. The CIA and FBI, those dark-suited folks who were to protect us, now seem to have been secretly not talking to each other and not protecting anything but their bureaucratic behinds--not an ideal symbol of team spirit.