LUBBOCK, Texas -- I'm back where most of the world is sky, the people are wonderful, and the water tastes funny. We are on Day Five of the Restoration and, ooops, not looking good.

Of special concern out here is the confirmation of Ann Veneman as secretary of agriculture. Veneman worked for both Ronald Reagan and George Bush the Elder on farm issues; she was director of California's Food and Agriculture Department under Gov. Pete Wilson and was most recently an agribusiness lawyer.

According to John Nichols in The Nation, "Veneman has rarely missed an opportunity to advance the interests of food-production and processing conglomerates, to encourage policies that lead to the displacement of family farms by huge factory farms, to open public lands for mineral extraction and timbering, to support genetic modification of food and to defend biotech experimentation with agriculture."

You have probably read about the corporate hog and chicken farms that are transforming agriculture -- huge factory farms where farmers become sharecroppers on their own land, raising hogs or chickens that belong to some giant corporation, under abysmal conditions for both the animals and the people who work there.

Well, it's easier for a giant company like McDonald's to deal with a single supplier rather than several. So, logically, companies like Tyson Foods Inc. are now going into the beef cattle business, and the factory farm is coming to West Texas. (This is not the same thing as a feedlot, for which Lubbock is already famous.)

Also discouraging is President Bush's immediate, in-your-face use of two of the country's most divisive issues.

He has imposed a gag rule on women's health centers abroad that receive any foreign aid from us. If a women's clinic that does not do abortions but that so much as counsels women on abortions that are medically necessary ("If you do not end this tubal pregnancy, you will die"), the United States government will cut off funds to the clinic.

This means that untold numbers of women in poor countries will not get prenatal care, birth control and other desperately needed treatment. For heaven's sakes, why punish them? They didn't even vote for Al Gore.

Bush is also pushing vouchers straight off the bat, an issue he couldn't even get through the Republican Senate in Texas. He says that he ran on vouchers and that this was well-known before he was elected. Yeah. But he didn't win the election.

Here's the deal: If the R's would stop saying that they won the election, the D's could stop pointing out that it's not true, and our political life would become a great deal less repetitious.

I am fully persuaded that Bush did not win Florida; the only thing he won was a 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court. OK, that makes him president. I'm over it. I just think that given the circumstances, it behooves him to behave in a less confrontational and divisive manner.

Speaking of the late unpleasantness, we have heard hilarious spin from the R's in recent days.

Mary Matalin, now an assistant to the president, notes that Bush won the majority of the states (states don't vote) and two-thirds of the counties (counties don't vote, either). Karl Rove, long known as "Bush's brain," sounded exactly like that the other day when he solemnly noted that Bush had received 11.2 million more votes than the last Republican nominee, an impressive gain. Indeed, and if he had received 11.8 million more, he would have beaten Gore. But I'm over it.

Now our own Sen. Phil Gramm has already rushed to introduce Bush's tax-cut plan, which gives a $36 billion-a-year break to the richest 1 percent of Americans.

What's truly depressing is that this isn't even good for the economy. In order to provide economic stimulus, you need steeply progressive tax cuts -- tax cuts that will put money into the hands of people who will rush right out and spend it because the baby needs shoes. You give a tax cut to the richest 1 percent, and they'll look around and sock it away in bonds. As a good little Keynesian myself, I'd favor a quick emergency cut in payroll taxes favoring those in the bottom half.

In one of those moments of Republican surrealism, Bush has also announced that vouchers will no longer be called vouchers but "opportunity scholarships." Just as we no longer have Ronald Reagan's daffy Star Wars proposal; now we have National Missile Defense.

You know what? The first thing the Democrats need to hang onto is the meaning of the language. Goodness knows George W. lost it long ago.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2001 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.