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Ah, the beauty of being in a state that allows early voting. No waiting in long lines next Tuesday for your humble correspondent. Which is just as well, because barring any unforeseen disasters, I will be driving to Chicago on election day to visit a friend and – assuming the election goes as current polls suggest it will – to be at ground zero for Obama victory celebrations.

No, I haven’t forgiven him yet for his vote on the FISA reauthorization. But I still voted for him, and I still want him to win.

The alternative seems unthinkable to me.

I honestly do not know that our country would survive even four years of a McCain presidency, considering our current sorry circumstances after eight years of alleged president George W. Bush’s mishandling of literally every matter that crossed his desk. To say nothing of the nightmare that might ensue if McCain died or became otherwise incapacitated (I still think he is showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease) and Scary Palin took over running the show.

In spite of my ongoing fears that there will be some sort of terrorist attack in the coming days by someone seeking to influence the election in favor of John McCain (fears that the recent story about a call for terrorist groups to cause such an attack for just that purpose on a pro-al Quaeda website, did absolutely nothing to ease — honestly, who knew that al Quaeda would have a preference for a McCain/Palin presidency over an Obama presidency?), at this point, I do not believe that such an attack would actually be sufficient to swing the election in McCain’s favor.

Let me say that again, in case any terrorists (foreign or domestic) are actually reading this and got confused by that long sentence and the even longer parenthetical in the middle of it:

At this point, I do not believe that a terrorist attack would be sufficient to swing the election in favor of John McCain.

That window of opportunity has now closed, in my opinion. I don’t know if I could pinpoint the exact moment it slammed shut, but it has definitely done so now.

Back when the race was closer – before the economic meltdown and the McCain campaign meltdown that more or less coincided with it – there was a good chance that a terrorist attack would have swung the election in his favor enough to make a difference. I have explained elsewhere in this blog (over and over again) about why the principles of terror management theory and the research supporting that theory would make such a change in election outcome possible or even likely.

And even now, an attack would likely sway some voters who are still on the fence into McCain’s column. Just as the race-baiting and fear tactics that we have seen so much of from the Republican campaign likely have already swayed some particularly fearful voters.

But I do not think that an attack – even a very large one, even a nuclear attack on a major city – would be enough to persuade voters that McCain was in any way temperamentally suited to handle such a crisis.

Not after the way McCain responded to the economic crisis.

Not after the way the McCain campaign has repeatedly changed tactics and contradicted itself over the past few weeks.

Not after the way that McCain, Palin, and other members of the McCain campaign have repeatedly been revealed to have committed the very same sins they seek to smear Obama with, often to a far greater degree.

Not since the outcome of the Troopergate investigation, which has caused even Republican party loyalists to question McCain’s judgment in his decision to make her his running mate, and has even cause a few of said loyalists to actually endorse – or at least tacitly suggest that they plan to vote for – Barack Obama.

Not since it was revealed that the campaign that has repeatedly tried to paint Barack Obama as an elitist who is out of touch with the American public spent over $150,000 of the Republican campaign budget – money donated by party supporters under the assumption that it would be used to fund advertising – on the Empress’s new clothes.

Not now that McCain campaign insiders have taken to refering to Sarah Palin as “a complete whack job” and “a diva” who has “gone roque” in their comments to the press.

Not since it was revealed that Indiana employees of a robocalling firm walked off the job en masse the other day rather than read the Republican-prepared script smearing Obama over the phone to Indiana voters.

Let there be no doubt about it: not only have the wheels come off the Straight Talk Express, but so have the axles, the transmission, the exhaust system, and various other vital engine parts.

And as much as the pundits and politicians may assume otherwise, the American public does not consist entirely of uneducated morons. And even most of those with less education are smart enough to see that the McCain campaign is a campaign not only without a plan for responding to the various crises that currently face our country, but it is a campaign without even a coherent strategy for winning the election in order to attempt to take on those problems.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has continued to take the high road (for the most part, at least) – refusing to be persuaded to openly badmouth either McCain or Palin in the press, speaking instead (again, for the most part) only about differences between the two campaigns plans for the country and their respective abilities to respond to crises. Members of the campaign have not panicked, and are not badmouthing either Obama or Biden (or other members of the campaign team) in the press, and are continuing to work hard to ensure an Obama victory next week.

Obama continues to take his measured approach to responding to questions from the press. He has demonstrated an ability to be thinking about and responding to multiple issues simultaneously. And he has not once, to my knowledge, lost his cool during any of that. Sure, there’ve been a couple of times where he has clearly appeared frustrated by the differences in press treatment of the two campaigns – especially during a couple of the debates. But he has remained cool under pressure, has not made faces when his opponent was speaking, and has stuck to his message – a message that has remained consistent over the course of the entire campaign, not one that changes with the weather.

Of course, none of this is enough to persuade diehard Republican loyalists to vote for Obama. What would be? There are always and have always been members of both parties who would sooner cut off useful parts of their anatomy than consider voting for a candidate from the other party – particularly in presidential races. There likely always will be such voters.

But for most of the voters who describe themselves as independents (with the notable exception of Bill O’Reilly, who, let’s face it, is about as independent as Puerto Rico), the difference between the two major candidates is clear, and those that have taken the time and trouble to listen to what both candidates have to say are showing a lot of concern about what they are hearing coming out of the McCain camp. And with each day that passes, it seems that a larger chunk of those independent voters have made the decision to support Obama.

And I do not believe that a terrorist attack at this point in the race would be sufficient to change that, or to assuage voters’ concerns about the chaos they are seeing in the McCain campaign.

So in spite of being both a Democrat and a Cubs fan, I am actually feeling less and less certain that the Democrats will find a way blow this thing between now and next Tuesday. Though of course, I suppose the election could still be stolen. Sort of like the last two presidential elections…

That’s it for now, my friends. I have to hit the road. I have a long drive ahead of me today.

jane doe

The folks over at the Real News Network have posted a series of videos (three so far) of their interview with historian Howard Zinn that I strongly encourage you to check out.

For those not in the know, Howard Zinn is a very well respected historian, political scientist and activist. He’s probably best known for his book, A People’s History of the United States, 1492 to Present, which presents a real eye-opening view of America’s history for those who only got the sanitized, government-approved version of US history in their journey through our wonderful, crumbling, increasingly more and more children left behind public schools. I’m most familiar with his A People’s History, but I would say that anything written by Zinn is worth checking out at your local library or independent bookseller. He’s like a more user-friendly Noam Chomsky.

In the first segment of this interview, Zinn talks about voting for Obama, the need for people to continue to be active after the election if we are going to see any real, substantive change, and particularly the need for civil disobedience in the face of looming problems like foreclosures.

The second segment focuses on the economic bail-out, problems with the free market and the theory of trickle-down economics, and the concept of “big government” and why it’s not necessarily the bad thing that Republicans paint it as – what’s important is what big things government chooses to do (i.e., social security, public works and infrastruscture, education, public health, and rational spending related to national defense vs. feeding the military-industrial complex and facilitating corporate greed and the interests of the wealthiest segment of America at the expense of the public interest).

The third segment deals with taxes and the concept of class warfare that is inherent in our nation’s tax structure.

It’s all very powerful stuff, and something that those of us concerned about how to fix the problems facing this country after eight years of George W. Bush should keep in mind.

jane doe

Yeah, yeah, I know. Most important election in our nation’s history, and where have I been the last few weeks? Largely absent from the blogosphere.

I’m a bad blogger. No cookie for me.

Well, that’s changing, but first, I guess I owe you all an explanation, my dear non-existent readers.

As some of you may know, I decided this summer to take the fall semester off from my doctoral program, so I could decide if I was really on the right track. See, I wasn’t really happy doing the research I was supposed to be doing, and I had a major case of writer’s block with respect to any academic writing.

Funny thing was, I could write stuff for the blog and creative stuff on the side. So it wasn’t writer’s block in the traditional sense. I just couldn’t write papers for my classes, or things for my assistantship (basically a part-time job that got me tuition waivers and health benefits in addition to a modest stipend). I would stare at the computer for hours, feeling paralyzed. The words I could force out did not flow well, and paragraphs were not connecting with each other. It was a real mess, and not at all the norm for me.

I figured this was my subconscious trying to tell me something.

So I packed up most of my stuff and put it into storage, and put the rest into a U-Haul trailer and hauled it all to my brother’s house in Colorado Springs, where I’ve been living in the basement guest bedroom and trying to figure out what to do with my life.

And while I’ve been doing that, I’ve been getting back in touch with my creative side, which has been largely stifled (aside from this blog) for the last twenty years or so as I tried out various “safe” traditional career paths.

Years ago, at the end of high school, I could have gone one of two ways. College, or art school. I had done a lot of drawing and painting as I was growing up, particularly in junior high and high school, and I was actually pretty good. And I really enjoyed it.

But everyone kept telling me how hard it was to make a living as an artist. I would be much better off if I pursued a more traditional career path. I could always paint on the weekends, right?

Plus, I was (and still am) squeamish about the idea of attaching dollar signs to my art. I want my art to be the stuff I want to create, not something that someone else wants me to draw or paint for some specific commercial purpose.

So I tried the safe route. And it just about killed my spirit completely.

But all that’s changing now. I have decided to hell with traditional career paths. To hell with academia. To hell with collecting any more graduate degrees.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sort of setting up some workspace and acquiring various art supplies. I’m taking a couple of classes at a local art school to refresh my memory for various painting techniques that I’ve forgotten about over the years.

And I’ve been painting. And drawing. And writing.

And it feels wonderful.

It’s also a little scary. I will be working without a net for a while, as I try to put together art and writing portfolios.

On the art side, I’m doing this without any art school degree, and hoping that someone will think my art is good enough to sell. I don’t want to even contact anyone until I have enough pieces that I am satisfied with to show to someone in the art business, and that’s going to take a bit of time.

I’m more confident on the writing side – I have, after all, made my living with words for many years. Still, it will be a while before I have anything outside of this blog ready for publication.

I’m not kidding myself – it’s going to take a lot of work and a fair amount of time. I’ll probably have to describe myself as an artist/writer/barista for a while, because student loans are going to start coming due soon, and I’ll need some form of income.

But at least I finally feel like I’m on the right track.

So last Friday, I contacted my advisor at my doctoral program, and told him I wouldn’t be returning to Redstatesville to complete my degree. And I called my boss at my assistantship, and thanked him for all his support as I worked on the doctoral degree, and told him I wouldn’t be returning.

I feel free.

All of this does raise one question with respect to the blog, of course.

Oh, I plan to keep writing things for it, especially for the next two weeks and probably at least for the remainder of Bush’s term in office. (Remember him? Our alleged president? Seems like you hardly hear anything about him these days, huh?)

But my whole reason for blogging under the name jane doe has now gone away.

When I started the blog, I adopted the pseudonym because my boss at the assistantship expressed concern that if I blogged under my real name, it would limit the projects he could have me work on. We did some work for local politicians in Redstatesville – from both parties – but he feared that clients might Google me to find out about me if I were working on projects for them, and if a Google search would lead them to my blog they might be offended.

And thus, I became jane doe.

At the time, I said that if my circumstances changed, I would go ahead and out myself. After all, I think a person should stand up for what he or she believes in and be willing to sign his or her name to it.

But here’s the thing: I’m kind of enjoying being jane doe.

First of all, it’s kind of cool having a pseudo-secret identity.

Plus, I kind of feel that being jane doe is what started me on the right path to where I am going with my life now. Under my real name, I wrote a bunch of stuffy academic articles and book chapters that will no doubt be forgotten amid the sea stuffy academic writing from other people living and working in the ivory tower. Hell, under my real name, I was a freaking attorney for seven years.

But as jane doe, I’ve written this blog for nearly two years now, and have finally figured out what I want to do in life.

So I’m kind of thinking of hanging on to the pseudonym, and seeing where it takes me.

I will have to ponder this for a few days, I suppose.

Any thoughts or suggestions, my dear non-existent readers?

jane doe

For those who didn’t get a chance to see War, Inc., John Cusack’s awesome satire about the corporatization of war that’s a bit too close to the reality on the ground in Iraq for comfort, when it was in theaters earlier this year, now’s your chance: it comes out on DVD tomorrow.

I’ve reviewed the movie previously (see my review and various other mentions of the movie here), so I won’t go into all that again here. But I do want to urge you, my dear readers, to see the movie if you haven’t already done so.

For an awesome double-feature to really get your blood pumping about just how badly Bush and his chronies have screwed our troops, innocent Iraqi civilians, and the American taxpayer, check out Robert Greenwald’s Iraq for Sale, as well. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Naomi Klein’s book on disaster capitalism, The Shock Doctrine, which will provide you with a whole new level of insight into the news not just in Iraq, but right here in post-9/11, post-Katrina, and ongoing-economic-meltdown America.

jane doe

The stock market may be tanking, but my paranoia levels are soaring to new record highs with each passing day. If there were a way to make money off paranoia, I would be richer than Warren Buffett right now.

Sadly, this is not the case.

You’d think I’d be feeling relatively good about how the presidential election is going about now, wouldn’t you?

I mean, let’s face it, it’s rare that one gets to see the complete collapse of a national political campaign with just a little over three weeks left to go in the race. And the McCain campaign’s collapse has been nothing short of spectacular. Between McCain’s ongoing weirdness about the economic catastrofuck and his poor performance in the debates, and Palin’s scandals in Alaska and her appalling performance in interviews, not to mention the almost daily changes in major campaign platform components, the smear tactics that seem to be hurting McCain more than Obama, and the increasingly scary crowds at McCain campaign events…well, it’s been like this:

Yet I find myself unable to sleep, worrying about everything that can still go wrong.

Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been harping on about terror management theory and its implications for our national politics for some time now. My first post on the subject – a rather lengthy primer on terror management theory and how it relates to the political world – was in June of 2007.*

At the time I wrote that post, I ventured into Paranoid Conspiracy Theory Land, where I speculated that persons with a vested interest in seeing that the Republicans retain control of the White House might use the principles of terror management theory to swing a presidential election where the Democratic candidate had a commanding lead in the polls in the weeks leading up to the election to something more to their liking.

The increasingly disturbing rhetoric we are seeing coming out of the McCain campaign, and particularly from Sarah Palin and other McCain surrogates. Attempts to paint Obama as somehow not really American, someone foreign, someone Muslim, someone who associates with terrorists – all of these are tactics one would expect coming from a group of people who are familiar with terror management theory. Ditto all the race-baiting tactics they’ve been using. They want to portray Obama as “other”, because “other” is scary and they want people good and scared.

The increasing ugliness that can be seen at McCain/Palin rallies in recent days – people calling Obama a terrorist or shouting “Kill him!” or “Off with his head!” are evidence that these tactics are succeeding at least with a small portion of their base. This is sad, but not terribly surprising. There has long been that ugly, racist side of America – the side a lot of whites at least like to think we’ve gotten past somehow (though most of my friends who are members of minority groups would tell them otherwise). To see it surfacing in such a blatant manner is very troubling, and points out again how easy it would be for our country to slide into outright fascism of the sort usually associated with Nazi Germany. (Assuming that we haven’t already crossed that line, anyway.)

Still, the poll numbers suggest that most voters are more focused on the economy – an area where McCain’s behavior has been truly erratic and unreassuring to most voters –  and thus have not been swayed by the fear tactics employed by the McCain camp. Likely all that McCain has managed to do is stir up a bit of a hornets’s nest among those who already were likely to vote for McCain anyway, while scaring off independent voters and more moderate Republicans.

This still raises the scary specter of assassination – as Frank Rich pointed out so ably in his column in the New York Times this weekend. (edit: hat-tip to jc on the column, btw) But let’s be frank, that’s been a threat with the Obama campaign from the early days of this campaign, and the Secret Service is all over it. All we can do is hope that they continue to do the excellent job they’ve generally done in protecting presidents and other important officials since the days of the Kennedy assassinations.

It would take something much larger than innuendo and subtle race-baiting to swing the kind of voter shift that McCain needs at this point. This is, in fact, consistent with terror management research. The stronger the “death prime” that induces mortality salience – that is, the awareness of one’s own mortality – the larger the reaction you will get in a population, in terms of number of people who will change their positions or be swayed to take a position they wouldn’t ordinarily.

In other words, as long as the economy is what most voters are most concerned with, all McCain’s fear tactics are unlikely to sway enough voters to tilt the election his way. He either needs to convince the voters that he can handle the economic mess – something that will be difficult for him to do given his behavior over the past few weeks – or he needs a very big BOOM! somewhere in the world, preferably (from his standpoint) somewhere in the U.S.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe for one moment that McCain would take any steps to engineer a big BOOM! that would endanger the lives of Americans. Despite all his nasty rhetoric lately, I still believe that McCain is a man who loves this country and sincerely believes that he would be a better leader for it than Barack Obama. I don’t agree with him on the latter point, but I most definitely acknowledge the former.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t others out there – people with the money and connections and lack of moral conscience necessary to make these things happen – who wouldn’t do so on his behalf. There are probably a lot of people – people in or associated with the current administration, people in the business world – who have a very strong interest in making sure that Republicans retain control of the executive branch of government. And some of those people I wouldn’t trust further than I could comfortably throw them when it comes to a choice between the lives of innocent Americans and their own pocketbooks.

Which is why I’ve been feeling so paranoid lately.

I think that there is a very high probability of some sort of attack somewhere on American soil in the next two weeks – particularly the next week. And this worries me a great deal.

It could cost the lives of Americans.

It could change the outcome of the election.

It could get us involved in a war.

And it could all be instigated not by foreign terrorists – Bin Laden and his groupies – but by Americans hoping to secure a political and economic future to their liking.

And it could work.

jane doe

* My other posts on the subject of terror management theory can be found here.

…or is McCain completely blowing it on the debate?

Just askin’


Okay, so maybe it won’t be one. Rachel Maddow said last night that Palin might do okay based on her past performance in debates – she’s apparently good at answering the question she wants to answer instead of the one she’s asked, and her folksiness is supposedly going to be a big plus.

I don’t know.

What I do know, is that tonight’s debate is definitely must-see TV.

And wouldn’t you know it, I have a class this evening at the time of the debate. And it’s not the type of class where I can slouch in the back and watch the debate on my laptop, either. Nope, it’s an art-type class – a workshop on making mandalas – one I like, and one that only meets about a half dozen times, so I don’t want to miss it.


So I’ve set the VCR to record MSNBC’s lead-up to the debate, the debate itself, and the after-chatter. And I will be watching the entire thing, train wreck or not, once I get back from class.

On the Palin side, they’ve set expectations so low that if she manages to pronounce her own name correctly the Republicans will declare it a win.

On the Biden side, the main concern is not looking like a bully as he rhetorically eviscerates her. I’m not sure what will constitute a win for the Democrats in this debate.

I know I’m looking forward to staying up late to watch it all, then parse the reactions.

Pass the caffeine. It’s going to be a late night for this political junkie…

jane doe

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October 2008
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