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Apparently this bit of guerrilla theater has been going on for at least a year in various cities around the country, but this is the first time I’ve heard about it, so I thought I’d post the clip (since I seem to be doing that sort of thing lately). From Iraq Veterans Against the War:

I like to read foreign news coverage of domestic events. It provides a different perspective than what we typically get through our megacorporate mainstream media here.

Sometimes you find important stories that somehow never seem to make the nightly news here, because there just isn’t time to cover it, given the public’s apparent demand for minute-by-minute coverage about which tabloid magazine is going to publish the first pictures of Brad and Angelina’s twins (or whatever the celebrity crisis du jour is). The foreign press can also provide insight into how the rest of the world is perceiving and interpreting our various political leaders’ pontifications and bloviations.

Occasionally, getting a foreign take on something can be rather eye-opening.

Through some quirk of the internet, I ended up on a UK-based Amnesty International update list in addition to the material I receive from the US Amnesty International. Not news, precisely, but a newsletter of sorts, so close enough.

Today’s action item for Amnesty International was rather eye-opening:

Since Pakistan became a key ally in the US-led “war on terror” in late 2001 thousands of people, both Pakistani and foreign nationals, have been arbitrarily detained in Pakistan, denied access to lawyers, families and courts, and held in secret places of detention.

Placed outside all protection of law, they are victims of enforced disappearance. Several hundred of them have been unlawfully transferred into foreign, particularly US, custody and many of them have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated. (emphasis added)

That’s right, folks. We’re now officially the bad guys that Amnesty International is rallying its supporters against.

Can we just fast-forward to 1/20/09 before Dubya and his minions do any more damage to our reputation in the international community? Please?

jane doe

Just got back from seeing War, Inc. for a second time. It finally opened in a city that was less than a day’s drive from Redstatesville, so this evening I grabbed a friend who I knew wanted to see it and off we went.

I liked the movie the first time I saw it (my original review of it can be read here), but if anything, it was actually better on the second viewing. For one thing, I could watch for the things that went by too quickly to really catch the first time through. But there were also some more subtle nuances that I just missed the first time I saw it. Scenes that brought up memories of other movies (or specific styles/types of movies) I’ve seen over the years, which added new layers to the film. It makes me wonder what else I’ll see the next time I watch it.

Nearly as entertaining as watching the film a second time was watching the way my friend reacted to it. The friend in question is…well, he’s an interesting guy, one with an…interesting past (about which I know only a little, though I probably know more than most) and some…interesting friends. Let’s just say that he probably identified a little too well with one of the characters in the movie (I’m not saying which one), and leave it at that. At any rate, there were several points during the film where I thought he was going to fall out of his chair from laughing so hard, and he spent most of the drive back to Redstatesville raving about what a great movie it was and speculating on where he might be able to pick up one of the movie posters to frame and hang in his apartment.

I’m not entirely sure whether I should be amused or disturbed by my friend’s reaction. He occasionally reads this blog, though – or says he does, anyway – so I think that’s all I will say on the topic of his reaction to the film.

As for you, my dear non-existent readers, do try to catch this movie if it is showing anywhere within a reasonable driving distance from where you live.

It’s late here in Redstatesville, and I’m tired, so I think I’ll end here.

jane doe

Update: I made a minor, non-substantive change to the wording. Sorry for the repeat post, RSS readers.

I had planned on writing a post today, but my time has been taken up by watching a 2006 program from the BBC called The Century of the Self (h/t to Mike’s Blog Round Up over at C&L).  I literally have not been able to stop watching, and am now only pausing between episodes to post this.

Regular readers of this blog know that I often focus on the intersection between psychology and politics. I have written at length (probably way too much) about how I believe terror management theory is being used by certain politicians and others with an interest in maintaining the status quo in order to manipulate the American public, particularly at election time, but also on an ongoing basis to distract the public from the extremely long list of scandals flowing from the alleged president’s office. I have also written on the nexus between politics and psychology in other contexts.

What a lot of it comes down to is how the people in power (in government and the corporate world) use psychological research as a means of, if not precisely controlling, at least manipulating or occasionally anesthetizing the masses.

The BBC program focuses on similar themes, but starts at an earlier point in time. It begins with the early works of Freud and how those works were used to manipulate people in the early part of the twentieth century, in the then-developing field of public relations. It is both fascinating and disturbing, and I strongly encourage you, my dear non-existent readers, to take the time to watch it.

I’ll even make it easy for you by embedding the first episode (there are apparently four) below.

jane doe

About a week ago, I revisited an old friend of sorts. I re-read Antigone on a lazy Saturday afternoon, something I haven’t done in years. It was Paul Roche’s translation of Sophocles’ version of the tale, a battered copy, older than I am, picked up in some used book store years ago, with someone else’s notes in the margins and single words underlined here and there throughout, seemingly at random and not by me.

It’s a play I really wish someone would update and turn into a movie. I’ll spare you the plot synopsis, beyond noting that Antigone is both the daughter and half-sister of the Oedipus of Freudian fame, so her family dynamics could probably make the annual Thanksgiving dinner of the most dysfunctional family you’ve ever known seem Norman Rockwellian in comparison.

The central conflict in the play is the debate about whether it is better to obey the tyrant, who has the power to punish one in very unpleasant ways in the here and now, or to remain true to a higher law or moral principles. It’s about the choice between doing what is right and following orders.

When faced with someone in a position of authority giving orders, most people almost reflexively choose what is easy over what is right. It’s rather depressing really.

Certainly, this is the lesson history has taught us. German soldiers were only following orders when they killed millions of innocent people for the simple crime of being Jewish, or communist, or gay, or a member of some other group that a madman had designated a threat to the state. Yes, some of those orders had seemed, well, wrong, but orders were orders, so what else were they to do?

What else, indeed?

Starting around the time of the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, a Yale social psychologist named Stanley Milgram performed a now-legendary series of experiments to assess the general willingness of members of the public to obey authority figures. The results were disturbing, to say the least.

Each volunteer who participated in the study was directed, by a man in a white lab coat with glasses and a clipboard (the scientist), to administer a series of increasingly strong shocks to another “volunteer” (the victim) every time the other person got a wrong answer on a memory task. Both the scientist and the victim were actually actors playing carefully scripted roles. The scientist remained in the room with the volunteer, while the victim went into a different room, where he could be heard but not seen by the volunteer. As the shocks increased in voltage, the volunteer heard sounds of distress from the victim, who also mentioned some sort of “heart condition.” If the volunteer continued to administer the shocks (increasing from a low of 15 volts to a high of 450 volts) long enough, the victim in the next room would eventually fall silent, not responding audibly to either questions or shocks. If the volunteer objected or tried to stop the experiment, he was told the following things, in this order:

  1. Please continue.
  2. The experiment requires that you continue.
  3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.
  4. You have no other choice, you must go on.

(Prompts courtesy of Wikipedia, which also has a more detailed description of the experiments.) The volunteer was only given permission to stop if he continued to object after the fourth prompt was given.

The idea was to identify the point at which people would say, “No, I won’t do this.”

Before conducting the experiment, Milgram surveyed both his students and his professional colleagues, asking them to predict the percentage of people who would continue all the way to the 450 volt level. Everyone thought that few if any would proceed all the way through the experiment as it was to be staged, with the average being 1.2 percent. (Again, details courtesy of the Wikipedia entry.)

As I noted before, the experiment was being conducted in 1961, near the time of Eichmann’s trial. The trial certainly would have received a fair amount of press coverage at the time, so theoretically, participants should have been somewhat sensitized to the problems that can arise from just following orders. One would think, or hope, that the colleagues and students were accurate in their predictions, that most of the participants would have at some point refused to continue to administer the shocks.

In the first run of experiments, sixty-five percent of the participants went all the way up to 450 volts.

Sixty-five percent. For the sake of an experiment.

The participants weren’t happy about doing it. They made their concern about the learner’s well-being clear, for the most part. But when prompted by the serious looking man with the clipboard, they kept right on going.

When the initial study was released, it got quite a lot of attention, as you might expect. And there were some at the time who thought students should be taught to question authority, and not just blindly follow orders that were clearly wrong.

Not much came of it, of course. Because the people who are running the country don’t want a bunch of citizens or soldiers or employees questioning their orders all the time. They want obedience from the masses. They want most people to do what they’re told, when they’re told to do it. And so you don’t hear a whole lot about questioning authority or thinking critically in your average high school classroom. Maybe in college. If you’re one of those liberal arts majors, or in political science, or psychology, or some other field that focuses on how people interact with each other. And even then, the focus is usually on skepticism and critical thinking, rather than outright defiance of authority.

I’ve been on a bit of a defying authority kick lately.

Actually, my mother would tell you that’s been a constant theme in my life since I was about five. Not always defying authority, but at least questioning it. The poor woman was mystified by my tendency to disagree with teachers, often rather loudly and at great length, with examples and the odd footnote thrown in. And that was just grade school. But I digress.

In addition to re-reading Antigone, I’ve also been making my way through Sebastian Haffner’s Defying Hitler, which chronicles the author’s experiences in Germany as the Nazis rose to power there. And last week I also pulled out my copy of Abbie Hoffman’s Revolution for the Hell of It, another used book store find, and have been going through that, as well.

Truth be told, my bookshelves are rather full of that sort of reading material, in one form or another. Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench GangLysistrata. Calvin & Hobbes. Dr. Seuss (that Cat in the Hat was a rebel, I tell you). Heck, even those books on Linux are related in a way, as they are part of my ongoing attempt to escape from the tyranny that is Microsoft and Apple.

But I always come back to Antigone.

She’s been my favorite ever since I read Jean Anouilh’s version of the play back in high school. His version was produced in Paris, in February of 1944, while Germany was occupying France and artists and playwrights there were forced to work under the suspicious eyes of Nazi censors. Anouilh’s version of the play was necessarily more nuanced, the ethical lines less clear than earlier versions of the story. The play never would have opened had it been otherwise, at least not before the Nazis were driven out of France. But it was clear enough to the audience what the story was about.

Antigone was the Resistance, Creon the Vichy government.

She’s a difficult character to warm up to. She’s a bit overbearing in her righteousness. And she’s also a bit defiant merely for the sake of being defiant: in the play, the second time she covers her brother’s body with dirt was unnecessary as far as the religious rites were concerned. His spirit would have already moved on. No, the second time, she buries him to make a point: that tyrants should not be obeyed when their edicts are unjust. And she is willing, even proud to sacrifice her life in order to make that point. You kind of have to think, is it really worth your life just to make a political point, when other lives aren’t hanging in the balance at that moment?

But when it comes down to standing up for one’s ideals, very few can hold a candle to her.

It’s just that I can’t help thinking how different the past few years might have been if various people in the upper echelons of our government had been a bit more in touch with their inner Antigone.

Like when Bush and Cheney were trying to start a “preemptive” war with Iraq based upon manipulated intelligence findings.

Or when someone suggested that torture should be made a part of official US policy.

Or when someone decided to run our Constitution through the shredder.

Or…well, you know, this could end up being an awful long list, now that I think about it.

On the other hand, would any one person have been able to make much of a difference at the time? It’s hard to say. Consider how more moderate voices in the executive branch were gradually forced out of their positions by the hard-liners. Or how the whole “Plame-gate” scandal got started because former Ambassador Joe Wilson spoke out publicly about his findings regarding administration claims that the Iraqis were attempting to acquire “yellowcake” uranium from sources in Africa. Or how U.S. Attorneys who refused to institute prosecutions against Democratic officials on flimsy pretenses were replaced by ones willing to take the case. Or…well, I guess this one could be a pretty long list, too.

So maybe there were plenty of people who were in touch with their inner Antigone, but they weren’t able to get the word out widely enough, or weren’t taken seriously by the media.

Our wonderful, consolidated, corporate-controlled, authoritarian-enabling mainstream media.

Where am I going with all this? I’m not really sure, to be honest.

Over the past few months or maybe years, my own inner Antigone has been reawakening. Stretching and rubbing the sleep out of her eyes after a long slumber. And I think that very soon, she’s going to be ready to take her act back out on the road.

I’m going to be making a few big changes in my life over the next few weeks, so my posting here will be a bit erratic for a while. I’ve decided to take fall semester off from my graduate studies, get out of Redstatesville for a while, and see what kind of trouble I can get myself into in the last few months before the November election.

It should be fun. Or at least interesting, which is often nearly as good as fun, and sometimes even better.

I’ll keep you posted, my dear non-existent readers (and also the one or two of you who have been leaving comments lately), when my plans are a bit clearer. For now, however, I have a six-year-old’s birthday party to attend one state over, so I need to be hitting the road.

And lest there be any doubt in the matter, I still think Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.

jane doe

* I used the masculine pronoun throughout my description of Milgram’s experiment instead of making it gender-neutral because back in the days when the study was being conducted, nearly all human psychological research used only white males as study participants.

For many years, the field of psychology, like the field of medicine, treated white males as the norm for the entire population, and everybody else who was not a white male was considered merely a deviation from the norm. The fact that most of the early psychological and medical research was also being conducted almost exclusively by white males is probably just a coincidence.

This lead to a lot of situations where the psychologists and doctors trying to apply the results of research to their patients found that the treatment or intervention (whether psychological or medical) did not work as advertised when dealing with patients who were not white males. This was particularly problematic on the medical side of things, as there were patients who actually died or suffered serious complications because their bodies did not respond the way a white male’s body would to the medications or dosages their doctors prescribed.

Often the most dangerous assumptions are the ones we don’t even realize we’re making.

What does this have to do with the rest of the post? Nothing, really. I just thought I’d mention it.

Ever get a song stuck in your head?

One that cycles through over and over and over whenever you aren’t actively using enough of your attention and working memory on other things to keep it suppressed?

It’s a pretty common phenomenon, actually. Happens to most people occasionally.

Lately, it seems like it’s happening to me nearly every day.

Ordinarily, this doesn’t bother me much. It’s just one of those things my brain seems to do. And it usually does it with long enough segments of the song in question that at least it’s not the same line from the chorus being repeated endlessly on a loop. One day last week, for instance, I had about forty seconds of Lost in the Supermarket running through my head. There are worse things in life.

Sometimes, if I concentrate, and if it’s a song I know well enough, I can actually get the complete mental playback, start to finish. Complete with guitars, drums, and backing vocals. I find that the process of doing this often works to help my brain finally put the song aside.

Actually playing the song on the stereo or my computer can also work to get it out of my brain, if I sit and listen to it attentively.

And then there are the times when the song that is stuck going through my head is some sort of novelty song. These can be particularly bad.

Once, several years ago, I had a three day stretch where I couldn’t get the chorus of Nellie the Elephant out of my head. It was awful, particularly when I was trying to fall asleep. It was just, “Nellie the elephant packed her trunk/and said goodbye to the circus,” over and over and over until I thought I would go mad. I still cringe when I think about it.

That’s kind of where I am today.

Today’s song has been Roy Zimmerman’s song about Dick Cheney. Just a few lines, over and over. It’s very disturbing.

I actually really like Roy Zimmerman’s music. He is kind of a present-day Tom Lehrer, which is nice, since the real Tom Lehrer doesn’t find the news funny enough to be writing songs about it any more. I’ve even purchased several of his albums from iTunes.

What I do not like, is having the chorus of the Dick Cheney song going through my head.

So on the theory that misery loves company, I’ve decided to do something I don’t ordinarily do in this blog: I’m going to try to post the YouTube video of it here, so the rest of you can suffer along with me.

If this works the way I think it’s supposed to work, the video should appear right below my signature. Wish me luck.

jane doe

I’m going to say right up front that this post is aimed at the women among my non-existent readers.

Guys are welcome to stay around and read the rest of the post if you want to. I’m not planning on talking about chick flicks, or shoes, or any of the other things men seem to think women talk about when no men are present. It’s just that the things I have to say will more likely be of concern to women than men.

I want to talk about John McCain and women today.

Perhaps, I should be more specific, though. I don’t want to talk about the fact that he cheated on his former wife with the woman who is now his wife, or the fact that he divorced her after a serious car accident apparently left her not pretty enough for him. Though I think both of those facts say rather a lot about the kind of man John McCain is.

Neither do I want to talk about McCain’s positions on women’s issues, atrocious though they may be. Although I would caution any Hillary Clinton supporters who are thinking about voting for McCain because they are angry that she didn’t get the Democratic party nomination to look carefully at his positions on matters like abortion, family planning, and equal pay before revenge voting in November.

No, I don’t want to talk about McCain’s position on women’s issues. I want to talk about his issues with women.

This past week, a story surfaced about a joke McCain told back in 1986. A wildly inappropriate joke regardless of the setting, involving a woman and a gorilla.

It’s hardly the first wildly inappropriate joke the man has told – witness his singing of “Bomb, bomb Iran,” and his comment about the cigarettes the United States is exporting to that country being “one way to kill them.” But this one is part of a subset of his inappropriate jokes and comments that suggest some troubling things about McCain’s character.

I think that John McCain is a bully.

More specifically, I think that he is the kind of bully who gets off on making women feel powerless. Vulnerable.

Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

We’ll start not with the story that surfaced this week, but rather a joke the man told during the Clinton presidency. I don’t feel like googling the thing to get the exact words, but the gist of the joke – and here I am stretching the word joke well beyond its definitional limits solely because that is how others have described the remark –  was that Chelsea Clinton was ugly because Janet Reno was her father.

What a breathtakingly cruel thing to say of a teenage girl.

Having been a teenage girl at one time in my life, I feel comfortable in saying that there was probably very little he could have said of her that would have hurt her worse than that casual remark. Most teenagers, and particularly most teenage girls, are insecure about their appearance. It comes with the territory. They are in that awkward transition between childhood and young adulthood, when hormonal changes and social pressures and the process of growing into independent individuals separate from their families tend to combine to produce a perfect storm of angst.

To have someone, some senator, say she was ugly in such a public way just to get a laugh could not have felt good. Even if she could shake it off, and shrug to her friends and say, “What an asshole,” that sort of comment initially hits you like a punch in the stomach and can linger to eat away at your confidence for years.

So, strike one against John McCain.

There have also been reports that McCain called his wife – his current wife, that is – a cunt.

Guys, if any of you are still reading this, let me give you a hint:

Never, ever call your wife or girlfriend a cunt.

Just, don’t.

It’s okay, if crude, to use the word to refer to that portion of her anatomy if you find the term vagina too clinical. (“The gynecologist sticks this thing into your cunt? EWWWW.”) And it’s not completely off-limits during an argument (“What crawled up your cunt and died?”), though its use will probably have you sleeping on the couch for a few nights. Used judiciously under the right circumstances, the word can even be arousing. (“When I touch you like this, can you feel it down in your cunt?”)

But when you call a woman a cunt, when you say the words, “You are a cunt,” or “You cunt,” you are verbally reducing her to nothing more than that portion of her anatomy. Not a human being, a person with complex hopes and fears and dreams. Not a partner in your life, someone to walk through the world beside you, to share your laughter and sorrows. Just a receptacle for your sperm, to be used when the urge hits and otherwise ignored, unimportant.

Some might argue that calling a woman a cunt is no different than calling a guy a dick, but I strongly disagree. It’s about power dynamics in society. The men are the ones who have most of the power in the world. They build war monuments that are really nothing more than huge phallic symbols, and don’t even get me started on the whole Freudian thing with guns and missiles and other weapons. So to call a guy a dick doesn’t carry the same simultaneously devaluing and threatening overtones toward the guy that calling a woman a cunt does toward her. If anything, a guy who is a dick would be more of a threat to the people around him.

But when you call a woman a cunt, you are reducing her to that one function. Something that exists solely for a man’s pleasure, something that is interchangeable with some other cunt should the man tire of this one.

When you call a woman a cunt, you remind her that in a world full of men who are dicks, she is vulnerable.

Men are the conquerors, the invaders, the destroyers. Not all of them, maybe not even most of them, but enough of them that we know that they are there, a threat to us. Our bodies are literally open to the threat of invasion against our will.

Which brings me around to this week’s revelation about that “joke” that McCain told, back in 1986. The one that his campaign staffers are trying to shrug off with statements about McCain’s “bad boy” side.

I’m not sure why one would even call it a joke, or find it funny. It apparently involved a woman who was beaten and then raped repeatedly by a gorilla. The punchline is that when she wakes up after the attack, the first thing she asks the doctor is, “Where is that marvelous ape?”

As if a woman who was beaten and then raped repeatedly (and apparently those were the terms McCain used when telling this wonderful joke) would ask longingly about her attacker.

As if this were matter worthy of a few chuckles over dinner.

Women don’t generally find much to laugh about when talking about rape.

For one thing, far too many among us have been raped. It’s hard to say how many, because so many go unreported, for a variety of reasons. Date rapes, girls who get too drunk at parties and wake up with memories of things they would never have consented to when sober, things that fall into a gray area where the woman or girl is afraid of reporting it because people will somehow say or think that they deserved it, because they wore short skirts, or got drunk, or went to a guy’s apartment, or let themselves be alone with the wrong guy.

And before you ask, no, I have not been raped. I consider myself rather fortunate in this respect because there were a couple of situations in my undergrad days that could have turned ugly for me but didn’t. I have many female friends who were not as lucky.

A friend from law school once posited, as we sat around a table eating horrible fast food between our classes, that in our society, every woman, or nearly every woman, has some experience, some moment in her life that forces on her the awareness of her vulnerability on a physical level. When that moment comes (usually in one’s late teens or twenties, though it can come earlier or later), it is a very shocking awakening for the woman or girl who previously felt relatively safe or protected in the world.

My friend wasn’t talking about the kind of awareness that one gets when one hears lectures on the subject of date rape at freshman orientation, that abstract sort of awareness that, yeah, okay, this is something that can happen, but it probably will never happen to me.

She was talking about the kind of awareness that grabs hold of one with an icy fist and says, “You are vulnerable. You can be beaten, or raped, or killed, and there’s not much you can do to defend yourself, because they are men and you are a woman. You are weak, and they are strong.”

Sitting at that table on the day when my friend talked about her theory were perhaps seven or eight other young women, myself included. All well-educated, mostly self-assured, secure in our knowledge that we could do just as well as our male classmates when we went out into the business world. All women with the sort of forceful personality it takes to even consider entering the field of law. We were ready to take on the world, and no one was going to stop us.

And every single one of us started nodding when she finished telling us her theory.

Each one of us had some definite moment in time that she could point to, some event that happened or very nearly happened, and say, “This is when I knew.”

And every woman I’ve discussed this theory with since that day has had that moment experience at some point in her life.

After that moment, the little reminders are there, popping up in random places as you go about your life, just in case you should forget your vulnerability. Little things that say, “You are weak.” And no matter how much you work out at the gym, or how many self-defense classes you take, those reminders never quite lose their power.

There are men in the world who play on that vulnerability. I don’t mean the obvious ones who do it within the context of intimate relationships, though certainly there are plenty of those running around.

I’m talking about the type who wear business suits, and spend their days working on business deals, negotiating, trading, bargaining, arguing, walking the corridors of power and getting stuff done, who welcome women into the board rooms and conference rooms and offices because the law requires them to, but still use their physical presence as a way of asserting their dominance over women. They are particularly likely to use it when it gains them a business advantage, but also sometimes when it doesn’t, just because they can.

You usually see these men, and they are usually among the taller men in the room if they are playing this particular game, looming over the women who are present. One I knew of would stand nearly toe-to-toe with a woman when negotiations became particularly heated, forcing the woman to tilt her head back and look up at him, trying to take advantage of that feeling of vulnerability.

Sometimes this works rather well for the men. They get concessions in the negotiations as the women both literally and metaphorically back away from their original position.

Sometimes it works…less well. I ran into a few guys back in my lawyer days who tried to use this tactic on me. The thing is, I am 5’9″ – six feet tall in heels (and back in my lawyer days I almost always wore heels). Relatively few men are able to truly tower over me, and a good percentage of the ones who can play basketball professionally. More often what happened was that they would stand up to start the game, and then I would stand up and look them more or less directly in the eye, no head tilting required, which led to a few priceless facial expressions when they realized they weren’t going to win that particular game.

But I digress.

Men who lack the physical presence to play these power games so blatantly in the business world often find other ways to remind women of their vulnerability, however, as a way of asserting power in social situations.

Some of them tell off-color jokes, or at least say words in a voice that suggests that they are joking. Sometimes those jokes are about rape or physical violence directed at women.

Which brings us back to Senator McCain.

His staffers have tried to play off the gorilla joke as something that he doesn’t remember telling, but certainly might have said, and claim that it’s just a reflection of his “bad boy” side.

Because he’s a maverick, that McCain is, no matter how many times he’s supported Bush’s proposals over the past eight years. You just can’t control a maverick. It’s part of his charm.

News flash, guys. Picking on teenage girls, calling one’s wife a cunt, and making jokes about rape don’t make one a maverick or a bad boy.

In my book, things like this say bully. And that’s what I think McCain is.

There are other examples of this sort of behavior from the man, abuse directed at people less powerful, that I could have cataloged here but chose not to. A little googling would turn up several of them within minutes. But I think that, at least for my own purposes, the three incidents I’ve written about are sufficient for me to draw the conclusion that I have.

John McCain is a bully.

And if there is one thing this country does not need right now, after the last eight years, it is to have another bully in the White House for the next four.

jane doe

Update: I wrote this post yesterday, but found this site today. It’s a much lighter take on John McCain and women’s issues.

David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Dear David –

It feels a bit odd addressing you by your first name, since we have never met, nor are we ever likely to. To you, I am just another name in the somewhat disturbing Obama campaign database that reported on yesterday. Someone you are soliciting campaign funds from, as you have before and undoubtedly will again. Still, your e-mail to me today addressed me by my first name and was signed David, just David, so we’ll go with that, shall we?

You wrote to me today to tell me the exciting news: that the Obama campaign had raised $52 million in donations during the month of June, much of it coming from, to use your words, “hundreds of thousands of ordinary people.” Money donated to your “campaign for change.”

Well, good for him, then.

Yet still, you say, it is not enough. We must give more in order to ensure victory against the Republican party. To quote you again, you say:

It’s going to take everything we’ve got to defeat John McCain and the Republican National Committee in November. And we can’t do it without your continued support.

And so you ask me yet again for $100.

I went through my records and that $100, when added to the donations I have already made to the Obama campaign over the course of the past year, would come close to paying my rent for a month here in Redstatesville, where I live.

A drop in the bucket to you. A month of shelter for me.

If you had asked me for the money before the FISA vote last week, I might have been more favorably inclined toward your request. Oh, I wouldn’t have given you $100. I can’t afford that at the moment, because, hey, grad student here. But I probably would have tossed in some money. Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five dollars, maybe.

Because I do believe that we need a change of course in this country. And I hope that, if Barack Obama is elected in November, we will be able to start making those changes, and undoing some of the damage the last eight years have brought.

But here’s the thing: I’m not happy with Senator Obama’s vote on the FISA/telecom immunity matter last week. It was an opportunity to stand up for the constitution and the rule of law. And yet somehow, the fourth amendment just kind of fell by the wayside, and Senator Obama was one of the ones who voted to allow that to happen. How is that a change for the better?

And for what? I still don’t understand what possibly could have motivated him to vote the way he did. Or perhaps, I do understand, but don’t want to believe it of him.

Can he really believe that this expansion of the power of the executive branch is warranted? That we should have no right to privacy anymore? That the telecom companies should receive immunity from suits arising out of their violations of the law – a law that was put in place to protect citizens from unwarranted intrusions by the government – without Congress so much as holding hearings to determine just what exactly was done in the name of “keeping us safe from the terrorists”?

No, I am not happy with the Senator at the moment, David.

I’m a grad student, David, so I am on a tight budget. Especially with food and fuel costs going through the roof. My discretionary income is limited. There’s only so much that I can give to political campaigns I support each month.

I would imagine many others who have contributed to the Obama campaign would say the same.

So tell me, David, why I (or they) should give those dollars to someone who didn’t stand up for the constitution, for the rights of Americans, this month?

Others did.

Hillary did. Maybe I should go to her website and give the money to her. Help her pay off some of that campaign debt.

Maybe I should give the money to Kucinich, or Dodd, or Wexler. They seem determined to at least try to stop some of the rampant corruption and decay in the executive branch.

Maybe I should give the money to the local women’s shelter for domestic violence victims, or to the Red Cross, or to some homeless vet who’s living on the streets. They all have far greater need than any politician.

But I do not think I will be giving my money to Senator Obama this month, David. I’m mad at him at the moment, and likely will continue to be for some time.

Again, I would imagine many others who have contributed to the Obama campaign would say the same.

Check back in a month or so. By then McCain or Bush will almost certainly have said or done something so appalling that I may be more inclined to pull out my debit card and send some money your way.

But right now, I’m just going to be mad for a while.

Best wishes,

jane doe

On July 5th, I posted one plausible reason why the Democratic leadership in Washington has been so reluctant to institute impeachment proceedings against a clearly corrupt White House. Basically, I suggested that they were waiting until Bush was out of office to begin any prosecutory action in order to avoid any attempts by the alleged president to pardon his minions for their criminal wrongdoing.

I’d like to retract that post, along with anything nice I may ever have said about the Democratic congressional leadership.

The always excellent Glenn Greenwald certainly shot my theory down yesterday. (Not that he was actually taking aim at it or anything. I’m sure he has far better things to do with his time than read my humble little blog.)

In his column at (which I strongly encourage reading in full), Greenwald very neatly summarizes the evidence that in fact the principal reason for the Democrats’ inaction is that key members of the Democratic leadership (including Nancy Pelosi) were briefed early on about two of the biggest scandals to come out of this administration: the torturing of detainees in Gitmo and elsewhere, and the illegal wiretapping program that our Democratic-controlled Congress so graciously granted Bush and the telecoms immunity for last week.

Suddenly, the reason for their willingness to roll over on these issues becomes clear: because any investigation in conjunction with impeachment proceedings (or any other prosecution) will inevitably reveal that these key Democrats knew what was going on, and yet said and did nothing to stop it.

Can we just impeach all of them? Now, please? Do we really have to wait until November to throw these people out of office?

jane doe

Had a mellow Saturday. Stayed away from the news for a day, for a change. Gave myself a break. Re-read an old book, an even older play; my old journal from my undergrad days, the days before blogs, full of memories and old letters pressed between its pages filled with sketches and bad poetry and the musings of my twentysomething self.

It was a good day. A day to re-connect with old thoughts, old ideals, old friends.

It took me back to Reagan’s second term. A time that seemed so dire at the time, yet now seems almost quaint in comparison to the troubles we currently face. Or perhaps things were just as dire then, but memory has softened them.

No, actually, I think they are far more dire now.

This madness of indifference, cynicism perhaps, seems to have infected so many it has become pandemic, impossible to stamp out. People think, “I am only one person, and one person cannot change the world,” and go on about their business, leaving only a few to try, so little changes.

I don’t think all have given up all hope of change. Perhaps this helps account for the Obama phenomenon. People see him as representing change, a new direction. Because change is something we desperately need.

Yet I find myself wondering this past week, after his reversal on the FISA matter, when he joined his Senate colleagues in their betrayal of the people and the constitution, will he really change all that much if we don’t force the change to happen?

We voted for change two years ago, and where has that gotten us so far?

We are still fighting an unwinnable conflict in a hostile land to protect the interests of Halliburton and Exxon-Mobil. Still killing. Still torturing prisoners and logic as we try to justify that which cannot be justified under any rational understanding of how the world should be.

Still sliding down a slippery slope toward a de facto dictatorship, an increasingly authoritarian society, run for the benefit of large corporations and the already sickeningly wealthy, with a president who ignores the laws of congress, the rulings of the highest court, and the will of the people while smirking for the cameras and mangling his prepared words beyond all recognition.

And we continue to think, “I am only one person, and one person cannot change the world.”

Can one?

Can you have a revolution with just one soldier, one rebel fighting for the cause?

Can one person be a revolution, freeing one’s mind so that one can perhaps help others free their own, until revolution spreads like a virus, a contagion of freedom?


Perhaps not.

But I bet it would be really fun to try.

jane doe

Surprising, I suspect, its distributor and a lot of reviewers in the mainstream media, War, Inc. is opening several more cities today, and apparently expanding to a few new theaters in cities where it was already showing.

There’s been none of the traditional marketing hype surrounding this movie. In fact, aside from an appearance on Countdown by John Cusack (the film’s co-writer, co-producer, and main star), I think all of the promotion of this movie has taken place online, either at the MySpace page set up by Cusack and the War, Inc. team, or in the liberal part of the blogosphere, where a lot of people (myself included) have been raving about it.

I’ve said a lot about War, Inc., here because I think it’s a film more people should see (just like I think more people should read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine and watch Robert Greenwald’s Iraq for Sale). It focuses its satirical eye on what Klein calls disaster capitalism, a disturbing practice that has exploded and flourished under the current administration’s policies (though it’s been around longer).

Disaster capitalism is what happens when large corporations descend on a country or region in the wake of a disaster (natural or man-made) and start making sweeping changes in the way business (particularly local industry or natural resources) is done and governments are run while the people who live in the region are still in shock from the disaster itself. Of course, these sweeping changes tend to be of a nature that is extremely profitable for said corporations. And often disastrous for the local population.

We’ve seen aspects of it here in America, particularly in the wake of 9/11, when all sorts of appalling legislation that has turned out to be very profitable for certain corporate backers of people in the Bush White House was rushed through Congress. It’s been seen in post-Katrina New Orleans, and it’s probably happening right now in the parts of the Midwest that were affected by the floods a few weeks back, as well. And what some of these corporations (Halliburton, Blackwater, KBR) have done in Iraq is enough to leave one mortified that one shares a common country with the people running them.

It’s a phenomenon I haven’t talked about much in this blog, and which frankly I should probably talk about more. Because once you look at the economic angle, at where the money is actually going, the driving force for a whole lot of otherwise bizarre policies coming out of the White House suddenly becomes very clear. And very disturbing.

But I digress.

The point of this post was supposed to be to alert my you, my dear non-existent readers, to the fact that War, Inc., a movie that satirizes the disaster capitalism process, is opening in a bunch more cities today.

Cities like San Luis Obispo and San Diego in California; Portland, Oregon; Scottsdale, Arizona; Bethesda and Baltimore in Maryland; Philadelphia; Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Plano in Texas; Lexington, Kentucky; Frontenac, Missouri; and Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, in Colorado. (Info about theaters here.)

I have to admit, that last city kind of caught me by surprise. I have family in Colorado Springs, so I’ve spent some time there, and I have to say, it’s a pretty conservative town. It’s the home of Focus on the Family and about a dozen other right-wing evangelical organizations, for one thing, and there are a lot of current and retired military people there. They have the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, and the Cheyenne Mountain NORAD people there. There may be an army base somewhere around there, as well, now that I think about it. These are the people who voted overwhelmingly for Bush in 2000 and 2004. If you’ve ever wondered where the 28 percent of the population that still approves of George Bush is hiding, well, a disproportionate number of them can probably be found in the Springs.

So I was a little surprised to see that War, Inc. would be showing there.

But then I thought, well, there are a lot of soldiers living in Colorado Springs who’ve been in Iraq and seen how things are. They know what’s going on over there. What companies like Halliburton and Blackwater are doing, mostly on taxpayer dollars.

They’ll get it.

Anyway, if you haven’t already seen War, Inc., and you live in or near one of the cities where it’s just opened, you should check it out. Because if you’re the type of person who reads this blog on a regular (or even irregular) basis, I suspect you’ll get it, too.

jane doe

Ever since the Senate vote on the FISA POS yesterday, I’ve been trying to puzzle it out, and I still don’t get it.

Why did Barack Obama vote for the bill?

What could possibly have motivated him to vote the way he did?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m plenty ticked off at all the other Democrats who caved to pressure from either the White House or (more likely) campaign contributors associated with the telecoms. They’re all on my shit list at the moment, and the Day of Retribution shall come, when they shall be Mocked Most Thoroughly for their total lack of backbone, intestinal fortitude, and/or principles.

I write a mean poison pen letter.*

But Obama’s decision to vote in favor of the bill completely mystifies me. I really cannot come up with a single rational explanation for his decision to support this bill.

It was a foregone conclusion that, no matter how he voted on the matter, McCain (who managed not to vote on the bill) will criticize his vote during the campaign. If he voted against it, he was soft on terrorism. If he voted for it, he was flip-flopping. (And by the way, McCain: Hello? Pot? Kettle? Glass houses?) So I’m not seeing much gain there.

Some have theorized that this is part of his effort to move a bit toward the center, since he is currently being portrayed by some on the right as being the senator who is furthest to the left on the political spectrum. But aside from those of us on the left who are active in these matters, my sense is that this issue hasn’t drawn a huge amount attention from the middle-of-the-road crowd. So the way I see it, he alienated his base on the left for very little potential gain in the middle.

And boy, has he ever alienated his base. From today’s Wall Street Journal, we have this little tidbit:

Obama’s own campaign Web site has become a hotbed of debate over his support for the compromise bill, spawning four groups in which opponents of Obama’s position vastly outnumber supporters—22,957 to 38. The “Get FISA Right” group blog on was flooded with disappointed supporters after Wednesday’s vote, with more than 60 writing in within 90 minutes of the vote.

“Christopher from Cleveland” wrote, “All those people saying that we should relax, and take it easy, since it’s only one issue, are wrong because Barack is breaking his promise to us!”

“Dan in Holland,” said he was a Michigan voter who would no longer vote for Obama, adding “I just lost an enormous amount of respect for Mr. Obama and his vote on the FISA bill and the amendment to strip telecom immunity.”

Certainly, the blogosphere is up in arms about how he voted. Promises of no further campaign contributions and refusal to vote in November abound. (But really, are these people likely not to vote? Hell, no. When it comes down to it, I think we can all agree that what we do not need is for the next four years to look like the last eight years.)

Perhaps he fears a terrorist attack will take place on US soil between now and November. If there is one, a “no” vote on this measure really could hurt him in the polls. (See my previous posts on terror management theory for why.) So that might explain it.

There’s another possibility, and it’s a disturbing one. Maybe he actually wanted the measure to pass. Maybe he wanted to have that warrantless wiretapping ability should he win the election in November.

For the record, I think that the last option is pretty unlikely. I don’t believe we’ve all misread him that badly. I don’t want to believe that.

Still, with his vote on this issue, I think he’s changed the dynamic in the race a bit. It was nice having a candidate we could get excited about, instead of feeling like we were voting for the lesser of two evils. And now, I think a lot of us are going to be asking the question, “What else is he going to change his position on?”

Hopefully, by this November, he’ll have reassured us all a bit in that regard. There’s plenty of time between now and then to convince us that he’s still the leader we saw in the primaries.

But we’re not going to forget about this. He voted to betray the constitution, just like everyone else who voted yes on that goddamn bill. He sold us out like the rest of them.

jane doe

* Hey, I’m a graduate student of limited means, living in Redstatesville, which is a drive of approximately thirteen and two-thirds cassette tapes** from Washington, D.C. (if you allow for traffic). My response options are somewhat limited. Sometimes a Strongly Worded Letter is the best I can manage.

** Some people measure travel distance in miles. I measure it in music. Though that’s becoming more difficult, because lately, on long drives, I listen to my iPod instead of cassette tapes, and that’s just not very convenient as a measure of distance, because you have to count actual songs which is kind of a pain. On the other hand, with gas prices going up the way they have, long roadtrips will soon become a thing of the past, so the methodology for calculating distances becomes kind of moot.

Surprising no one, the Democrats in the Senate caved on the FISA warrantless wiretapping and telecom immunity measure today. They pretty much gave Bush everything he had been asking for.

All the usual suspects have been writing about it, but I can’t right now. You see, I have to go pound my head against this brick wall, here. Maybe if I do it hard enough, I’ll effectively lobotomize myself. That way, when we finally cross the line completely to become a totalitarian fascist regime, I will neither understand nor care anymore.

jane doe

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janedoe.tcm [at] or follow me on Twitter: @janedoe_tcm
July 2008