You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Big Brother’ category.


I was going to write a blog post about how the Obama administration appears to be adopting the prior administration’s positions with respect to the illegal warrantless wiretapping conducted by the Bush White House, but Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com beat me to it, and as usual does a better and more thorough job of it than I would.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too shocked. Much to my disappointment, Obama did vote for the FISA “extension” last year that expanded the government’s wiretapping ability and exhonerated the telecommunications companies that violated existing law with respect to wiretapping following 9/11. So why should it surprise me that he wants to hang on to at least some of that power that Bush seized for the executive branch?

But it does upset me. I expect better from Obama than we got from Bush. Perhaps that’s naive. Differences (and there are many) aside, Obama is a politician, just like Bush. Why would he want to give up power?

The Al-Haramain case may well be, as Greenwald says, “the only remaining case against the Government with any real chance of resulting in a judicial ruling on the legality of Bush’s NSA warrantless eavesdropping program.” From the perspective of all who care about constitutional rights, that is reason enough to want it to move forward.

So why is the Obama administration trying to shut it down?

jane doe


So apparently, the Justice Department has just released nine Bush 43 era White House legal memoranda detailing the rationale/justification for various violations of our civil rights. Yay for that transparency thing, guys! This is how our government is supposed to work.

The Huffington Post has an article about it here, and you can find copies of the actual memoranda here. I’m off to read them now, myself, and may comment on them later…

jane doe


The New York Times reports today on the verdict in a rather high-profile cyberbullying case in which an alleged adult (okay, she’s 49, but her behavior was unbelievably immature) was bullying a young teenage girl to such an extreme that she eventually killed herself.

The case is an interesting example of the old legal truism that bad facts can make for bad law.

There is no question that the woman’s behavior was appalling. She set up a MySpace page posing as a teenage boy and positively hounded the poor girl, saying all sorts of horrible things about her. Classic cyberbullying behavior unusual only in that it was an adult bullying a teenager, rather than the far more common peer-level bullying.

And there seems to be no doubt that there was a direct connection between this bullying behavior and the teenage girl’s suicide.

So it is by no means a stretch to think that there ought to be some sort of legal consequences for the girl’s adult tormenter.

What is unusual and somewhat disturbing (for yours truly who, let’s face it, is blogging under the most blatant pseudonym possible) is that apparently the guilty verdict in the court case turned on the fact that the adult violated MySpace terms of service by failing to provide accurate information about herself when establishing the profile. The defendant was not convicted for bullying, but for computer fraud. According to the New York Times:

Ms. Drew’s creation of a phony profile amounted to “unauthorized access” to the [MySpace] site, prosecutors said, a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, which until now has been used almost exclusively to prosecute hacker crimes.

Let me say that again: criminal liability not for the bullying behavior itself but for the provision of false biographical information on a MySpace page in violation NOT of the law itself but of MySpace terms of service.

For those who have never explored the links running down the left column of this blog, let me point one out to you: the link to my MySpace page.

Like my blog, it is under the name “jane doe” – and that is the name I gave to MySpace when I created the profile. I also used a fake birthdate – April 1, 1968. The April 1 was because April Fool’s Day seemed like an amusing birthday for a fake identity, and the 1968 was because that was a much more interesting year from a political and social perspective than 1966, which is the year I was actually born.

So fake name and fake birthdate. Oh, and at the time I created the profile, I was still living in Redstatesville, which is not in Colorado, so I gave fake geographic information as well.

Now, arguably one could say that since I blog under the jane doe pseudonym and may ultimately retain that pseudonym for non-blog related creative projects (art and writing) that I am presently working on, my use of that name for the MySpace profile has some legitimacy.

There is also the fact that I am not using my MySpace page to hound some poor teenager to suicide working in my favor. So one might think the greatest risk to me would be the deletion of the MySpace profile if the MySpace people ever get around to noticing it – though blogger Jon Swift faced a similar problem with Facebook and got the company to reinstate the pseudonynmous profile.

Here’s the thing that troubles me, though. As previoiusly noted, we are seeing legal liability – apparently misdemeanor-level criminal liability – that is hinging not on the law but on MySpace terms of service.

Which kind of has me wondering what would happen if one of the politicians I have criticized over the past two years were to take issue with my opinions? Could he or she make the case that I should face criminal charges for exercising my first amendment right to criticize government officials, simply because I used my pseudonym to create a MySpace profile which I link to from the blog that I also write under said pseudonym? Hell, for all I know, I’m in violation of WordPress’s terms of service, too – I honestly don’t even remember what information I had to give when I established the blog. I think I just had to provide an e-mail address. But of course, my e-mail address for both the blog and the MySpace page is also – you guessed it – under the name jane doe. So I may be in violation of Inbox.com’s and Gmail’s terms of service, too. I could be looking at a life sentence here.

Does this seem improbable? I hope so. Certainly it seems less likely to happen or be tolerated under an Obama presidency than under the current alleged president.

But as I said at the outset, bad facts make for bad law. Here, what the woman in the cyberbullying case did was so clearly inappropriate, and the outcome so drastic given the girl’s eventual suicide, that prosecutors and jurors alike would want to impose some sort of punishment. And they likely would not be considering the potential ramifications for the way they got that punishment imposed.

And now we all have to live with their decision.

According to the Times, the defendant will be appealing the lower court’s decision. But appellate judges, and Supreme Court judges, for that matter, are nearly as likely to fall victim to the “bad facts make bad law” truism as the lay people serving on a jury would be – and some would say they are even more likely to.

There are a lot of reasons why people create fake identities for online use. Some, like me, create a pseudonym in order to avoid problems at their place of employment. Some merely want to reduce the risk of identity theft. And sometimes, a fake identity can literally mean the difference between life and imprisonment or death – ask the bloggers in Burma who wrote about the protests by Buddhist monks and the government’s efforts to stifle same. Assuming you can find any of those bloggers, that is. Assuming the Burmese government didn’t get to them first.

Oh, but that can’t happen here, I hear you say.

And to that I say – consider how many different ways the Bush administration has violated the laws and constitution over the past eight years. Consider the various tactics they used against political opponents – we’re talking about an administration that outed one of its own covert CIA agents, endangering not only her but her entire intelligence network in foreign countries. Consider the fact that they ordered individuals tortured, and authorized the program of “extraordinary rendition” in which they essentially kidnapped individuals and sent them to other countries for “interrogation” – interrogation that included torture.

Can’t happen here? Hell, I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t already happened here.

At least as far as we know.

jane doe


I missed this from the Denver Post last week because I don’t subscribe to any Colorado newspapers (I have no bird cages and thus no use for the local news), but I saw a post about it in my new favorite blog, No Blood for Hubris (another Buddhist blogger – yay! plus, gotta love the title). It’s the account of a protester who was arrested last week by the Denver PD for exercising his first amendment rights. A quick exerpt:

“The first thing I really noticed was at Civic Center Park when I was in the ‘Food Not Bombs’ area. The police seemed to be ready for conflict. They walked through the ‘Food Not Bombs’ crowd, which was a peaceful group, holding their weapons out and looking at people, really intensely, trying to intimidate everyone. It made us all a little worried.

“I was planning to march with the group that night. We all had different reasons for being there. I was marching to make people aware that they should be worried about our civil rights being stripped systematically right now, and show people that habeas corpus is six feet under. I just think the time we live in has so many deep-rooted problems that I don’t understand how people can NOT protest. I’d never been arrested before, and I have no criminal record or significant run-ins with the law.

“Everything happened really fast. We knew there were police behind us, and that presence was growing larger, with more police, but then suddenly there were police in front of us at the other end of the block. Shortly after that, the police encircled us. A lot of people were able to escape before they closed the circle, but the rest of us were inside, along with a journalist from Brooklyn, and a woman who started writing on her laptop about what was happening, and some photographers. There were many people who weren’t protesters, just citizens, who were in the encircled group.

“We moved to the sidewalk – a few people stayed in the street – because we didn’t want a confrontation, but it didn’t matter.

“People started pleading: ‘Let me go,’ ‘I want to go home.’ The police started using the pepper spray. Some of the police on horses were whacking people with their batons. I was told later that the police were telling us to disperse, but I didn’t hear them say that. And where would we go? The police were all around us, not letting us leave.

So it’s not just the St. Paul police, though obviously the SPPD have been much more…what’s the word I’m looking for…brownshirt-ish?

It’s a curious thing, though.

In St. Paul, the police seem to be sweeping up everyone who looks at them cross-eyed, without regard for group affiliation, and it looks like the Denver PD had its moments with the lefty-leaning protesters, as well.

But both days that I was in downtown Denver during the convention, I saw groups protesting against gays (and the whole GLBT spectrum) and against abortion, right on the sidewalks where people were trying to walk. These protesters were a little intimidating and in-your-face (because, after all, they were telling everybody else on the street that they were going to burn in hell).

And all the Denver PD did was keep people out of the street. That’s it. No arrests. No intimidation tactics. No hassling the right-wing protesters.

Who do they go after?

Not the anti-abortion people, in spite of the violent tactics often associated with their movement. Not the people preaching hatred and intolerance.

They went after the peace activists. The journalists. The bloggers. The people calling for health care reform. The people calling for economic reform. The people who usually make a point of being non-violent in their protests. Sure, they’re uncooperative, but they are not violent or destructive.

And yet the police are treating them as if they were throwing bricks and molotov cocktails.

America is getting scary.

Make no mistake about it, my friends. We are now living in a police state.

And the worst of it is that the people who are running the show don’t seem to understand that they are creating the conditions that are more likely to lead to open revolt against the status quo.

If you allow people to protest, they tend to think, “Okay, things are fucked up, but at least we can still say that they’re fucked up, and protest, and march, because we have our constitutional rights to free speech and assembly. We can work with this.”

But when you stifle dissent…well…

In a way, society is like a pressure cooker. You need a way to vent pressure when it starts to build up to dangerous levels. Right now, certain factions within our society are trying to tighten the lid on the cooker, to prevent that venting from occurring. Protests are the steam valve that allows some of the pressure to bleed off.

Oppression breeds subversion. Rebellion.

Revolution.

Just sayin’…

jane doe

Update: I edited this post to give the source for the quoted text (the Denver Post).


Well, my friends, I was unable to get myself to St. Paul for the Republican National Convention this week. It just wasn’t in the cards, financially.

I don’t know whether to be bummed or relieved.

See, the blogger/activist side of me really wants to be there with cameras rolling, documenting what’s happening outside the convention. Because there is a lot of shit happening that really ought to be documented. More on that in a minute.

Then there is the self-preservation side of me, that wants to remain unbruised, unhandcuffed, unpeppersprayed, and un-arrested-on-ridiculous-trumped-up-charges.

Though you can’t tell it from the coverage in the mainstream media, the St. Paul police (and, according to at least some of the reports, the FBI) have been totally out of control for the past few days, trying to round up anyone who might have an opinion before the Republican convention gets started.

They’re not just arresting the activists. They’re also arresting journalists – they got Amy Goodman Monday afternoon, and also AP photographer Matt Rourke. And anyone who might be trying to document the police behavior. I read one report that said one or more of the lawyers who have shown up to represent activists have also been arrested.

Sorry, I can’t remember where I saw that one. I’ve been reading blog coverage – since the mainstream media has been totally fucking ignoring this – more or less continuously since I saw subMedia’s early Saturday morning report about the first police raid Friday evening. They’ve done two more since then, and both are must see. Lots of other people have been writing and posting videos about what’s going on in St. Paul. Here’s a few worth checking out.

Here’s the thing that’s got me nervous:

Regular readers of this blog may remember that back in early July, I had a pretty severe attack of paranoia. I was expecting some sort of faked terrorist attack (or a foiled fake terrorist attack) around the Fourth of July.

My understanding of terror management theory (see more that I’ve written on this subject here) and my beliefs about certain corporate and ultra-right-wing interests had me quite concerned about one or the other scenarios happening, because frankly, the Republicans actually need a terrorist attack at this point if they hope to win this thing using their fear tactic (since obviously Mr. Get-Off-My-Lawn-You-Damn-Kids’ charm isn’t doing the trick).

Well, my paranoia’s back, and lately it’s all centered around the city of St. Paul.

Let’s see what we have:

  • A Republican convention that most of the Republican “all-stars” (Bush, Cheney, Schwarzenegger, etc.) have backed out of due, allegedly, to hurricane Gustav
  • A Republican candidate with all the charm of Oscar the Grouch – one whose Senate colleagues think is too hot-tempered to be trusted in the Oval Office
  • A Vice-Presidential candidate who is already under investigation and an embarrassment to her party due to her family, um, situation

Plus, a whole lot of liberal/left-wing activists who would serve very nicely as scapegoats if anything…unfortunate…were to happen during the convention.

Am I being overly cynical if I say that somewhere out there is someone with enough money (and no moral compass), someone whose interests would be adversely affected if the Democrats take control next year, or even maybe someone who just wants to help Jesus come back to earth now — and that that someone may try to take a bunch of lemons and make lemonade for himself?

Now, once again, I want to emphasize that I am not accusing Republican leadership of planning a terrorist attack on American soil. I really believe that most Republicans who hold public office honestly believe that what they are doing is best for the country, even though it is really only what is best for their country club buddies.

But their there (jeez, jane, proofread once in a while, will you?) are some sharks out there who lack all conscience, and have a kill or be killed mentality, who would think nothing of a little “collateral damage” if it served their bottom line.

I hope I’m wrong.

I’m probably wrong.

But I’m not going to stop worrying until the current bastards are literally out of the Oval Office and back on the ranch in Crawford.

Or better yet, cooling off in a nice federal penitentiary for their various high crimes and misdemeanors.

But that’s probably too much to hope for, isn’t it?

jane doe

P.S. I still wish I had managed to find a way to get to St. Paul.


Mr. Emanuel –

Today, you posted an article at the Huffington Post lamenting the fact that the cable news networks are covering the Democratic National Convention as if it were a sporting event. “This is Real News,” moans your headline, “Don’t Cover it Like a Sport.”

I’m sorry, but where did you get the idea that either of the party conventions are real news?

Did anything unpredictable happen? Will the convention settle anything that wasn’t settled back when the Obama camp announced that it had enough votes to secure the nomination?

No, to both.

Frankly, watching the conventions is a bit like watching a televised awards show, but with longer speeches.

Meanwhile, the Denver police are pepper spraying and using their batons on peaceful protesters. Wars rage on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush and Cheney want to start another war with Iran. The economy is in the toilet. Gas prices are so high they’ve finally done what all the screaming and yelling about global warming hasn’t been able to do so far – get Americans to drive less. High energy costs are driving up the cost of everything else, further harming the people at the bottom of the economic ladder. Political corruption is rampant. Companies like Blackwater and Halliburton are getting risk rich on our task dollars, at the cost of countless Iraqi lives, due to a war we never should have started in the first place. Our health care system is a mess. No Child Left Behind is wrecking our public schools. Our constitutional rights and any semblance of the personal privacy that was once considered our birthright as Americans are now in tatters. We seem on the verge of becoming that which we all profess to loathe – a fascist state. And nobody in the Bush administration has been impeached yet, despite numerous high crimes and misdemeanors.

To be perfectly honest, I think the cable news shows are giving the conventions about the level of respect they deserve. The only actual newsworthy event inside the Pepsi Center so far (that I’m aware of) has been Hillary’s speech, and that’s only because some of her fangirls just can’t let go and accept that she isn’t going to be the president come January 1, 2009.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize that the ultimate outcome of the elections come November is vitally important.

I’m just saying that most of what’s been happening inside the Pepsi Center for the past two days isn’t.

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 Salon.com (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


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 MyBarackObama.com 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


Glenn Greenwald, over at Salon.com, has been following the whole FISA fiasco carefully with a lawyer’s eye. He has a great post from yesterday that rather neatly lays out exactly what the Democrats are caving in to, and I strongly encourage anyone who is concerned with privacy and the rule of law to check it out. You’ll have to watch a brief ad before you can read the column, but it is worth it, as he explains the problem far better than I have or likely could.

jd


U.S. News and World Report reported today about the large number of international travelers who have been having their laptops and/or USB drives “temporarily” seized by US customs officials when entering or leaving the country. According to the article:

The extent of the program to confiscate electronics at customs points is unclear. A hearing Wednesday before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution hopes to learn more about the extent of the program and safeguards to traveler’s privacy. Lawsuits have also been filed, challenging how the program selects travelers for inspection. Citing those lawsuits, Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, refuses to say exactly how common the practice is, how many computers, portable storage drives, and BlackBerries have been inspected and confiscated, or what happens to the devices once they are seized. Congressional investigators and plaintiffs involved in lawsuits believe that digital copies—so-called “mirror images” of drives—are sometimes made of materials after they are seized by customs.

The security value of the program is unclear, critics say, while the threats to business and privacy are substantial. If drives are being copied, customs officials are potentially duplicating corporate secrets, legal records, financial data, medical files, and personal E-mails and photographs as well as stored passwords for accounts from Netflix to Bank of America. DHS contends that travelers’ computers can also contain child pornography, intellectual property offenses, or terrorist secrets.

Excuse me, but what ever happened to probable cause? I agree that it makes sense to check electronic equipment before boarding a plane to prevent explosives from being smuggled onboard the aircraft. This is an entirely different level of intrusion, however, and one that I find difficult to justify.

When customs officials open a suitcase chosen at random from a group of incoming travelers, the intrusion is over within minutes if no contraband is found, and the person is free to go on their merry way.

But confiscating someone’s laptop for a few weeks? That can disrupt someone’s travel plans or completely defeat the purpose of taking the trip. And making a mirror image of the hard drive? That’s the general equivalent of making photocopies of every single page in a person’s planner. Think about all the personal information someone might have jotted down in the typical Franklin-Covey binder: credit card numbers, medical information, bank account PIN numbers, computer passwords. They can also find all your internet search history, so give a thought when you Google in foreign lands. Mirror imaging the drive can even give them copies of documents you think you deleted that haven’t been overwritten on the disc yet.

The good news, I guess, is that Congress is apparently holding hearings about all of this. The bad news? That doesn’t mean things will change any time soon. The Democrats have been showing a rather distressing lack of spinal material when it comes to standing up to the executive branch.

I’ve written before about disturbing things the government is doing in connection with our ability to travel freely to other countries. Things seem to be getting worse.

And I just don’t understand the relative lack of outcry over all this.

Actually, I do understand: people are scared of making themselves targets for this sort of treatment if they make waves. Just keep your head down, don’t make noise, and everything will be fine.

Too bad that’s a lesson I never learned. I wonder how thick my folder at the Department of Homeland Security is?

I find this all very troubling. Especially since I’ve got this real yearning to go elsewhere. See the world a bit, you know, before it’s all destroyed by global warming, war, and corporate exploitation.

Oh, well. It’s not like I can afford to travel, anyway, what with increasing fuel prices, the decreasing value of the dollar, and my mountain of student loan debt. Ah, the glamorous life of a grad student!

Just add it all to my list of reasons why Bush and Cheney really ought to be impeached.

jane doe


Finally got to see War, Inc., last weekend when I was in Chicago. The showing I saw was on Sunday afternoon, and at that hour, unfortunately, the theater was more empty than full. Still, a fine time was had by all, I think.

Looking around on the net, one sees that War, Inc., has gotten rather mixed reviews from mainstream sources, and I can only conclude that those people don’t get it.

Me? I loved it.

War, Inc. is subversive, rebellious, twisted, and, most importantly, funny. The filmmakers made their political and social points without being heavy-handed, and clearly had fun doing so. This is what a good satire should be like.

The film stars John Cusack (who also co-wrote and co-produced it) as hitman Brand Hauser. Hauser is hired by Tamerlane, a US-based corporation run by a former Vice President (Dan Aykroyd) which has just successfully invaded a country called Turaquistan in the first-ever entirely corporate-fought war, to kill a competitor who has the temerity to build an oil pipeline in his own country in competition with Tamerlane.

Whew. That was a lot of info to fit in one sentence.

Tamerlane is a rather deliberate hybrid of Halliburton and Blackwater, and any resemblance between Iraq and Turaqistan (or between Aykroyd’s character and Dick Cheney) is purely intentional, I’m sure.

Hauser’s cover on this assignment is that he has to act as the trade show host for Tamerlane, which is showcasing all the wonderful products the company makes to help rebuild the country…sort of…most of the products seem to be things like inflatable prisons, weapons, security devices, and artificial limbs. Does any of this sound familiar?

While on assignment, Hauser is aided by his super-efficient assistant, Marsha Dillon (played by sister Joan Cusack). The relationship between these two characters seems very reminiscent of the roles the two Cusacks portrayed in Grosse Pointe Blank, but it works in this movie, too.

Hauser also finds himself interacting with lefty reporter Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei), an about-to-be-married 18-year-old Middle East pop star named Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff), her piggish husband-to-be, Ooq-Mi-Fay (I’ll leave it to you to figure out the piglatin translation), their entourage, and the voice of an OnStar-like guidance system (Montel Williams).

Mayhem ensues.

I’ll refrain from detailing the storyline more than I already have, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Suffice it to say, there is sufficient plot excitement to keep the film moving along at a good pace, but probably no huge surprises as the story unfolds.

The performances from all the major actors are great. Cusack is again wonderful in the conflicted hitman/everyman role. Marisa Tomei, Ben Kingsley, and Dan Aykroyd all nailed their parts. And much to my surprise, Hilary Duff was great as Yonica, the Middle East’s Britney Spears. I’m not familiar with her earlier work, and I’d kind of assumed that her acting talent would be about on par with Britney Spears, as well, but she showed a great ability to disappear into the character – I really wouldn’t have recognized her if I hadn’t already known she was playing the role.

There’s a lot going on in this movie at any point in time, beyond the main focus of the scenes. The advertising signs scattered all over the place in Turaquistan were hilarious, and there was a lot of funny stuff that you would miss if you blinked. I’m really looking forward to getting this movie on DVD, so I can figure out some of the things that went by too fast on the screen to be appreciated.

The soundtrack is good, which is no surprise since Cusack has shown a real talent for pulling together nice soundtracks in earlier movies where he’s been involved in the production (e.g., the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack, which is awesome). A fitting selection of tunes for the big scenes, plus some original songs written by Paul Hipp for Yonica’s performances in the film, like her trade show number, I Want to Blow You…Up, which, as you might expect from its title, is heavy on the innuendo, hold the subtlety.

My overall recommendation on this movie is this:

If you are a neo-conservative, don’t bother. Either you won’t get it, or it will piss you off. Of course, from the absence of badly-spelled troll-like comments I receive on this blog, I assume not many neocons are reading this, anyway.

For everyone else: If you are sick of the Iraq war, if you are tired of the way the Bush White House is running this country for the benefit of its corporations instead of its citizens, go see this movie.

Make a little noise.

Get rowdy.

And don’t forget to VOTE in November.

jane doe


This evening, I had originally planned to post a nice review of War, Inc., which I finally got to see when I was in Chicago last weekend. It really is wickedly funny, and all the more topical given yesterday’s announcement about certain American and British oil companies going back to work in Iraq on no-bid contracts (read about that here). I’ll have to write that review tomorrow, though. Sorry.

The simple fact of the matter is, I’m too angry at the moment to write a good review.

The House Democrats sold us out today, folks. There’s no other way to describe it. And in doing so, they’ve pushed us a bit closer to that blurry, indistinct line that separates our democracy from fascism.

That’s assuming we haven’t crossed that line already. I’m really not completely sure, since it’s never been precisely clear to me what the defining characteristics of fascism are. There certainly seems to be a lot of debate about that on the internet. And it’s not like any modern government or political party will announce that it is hoping to institute a fascist form of government anymore, not since World War II. Still, we’ve seen the Bush White House use a lot of tactics that seem to come out of the Hitler playbook. Yes, I know that remark is likely to bring comments about Godwin’s Law — or it would if any of you, my dear non-existent readers, ever left comments, anyway. I don’t care. Sometimes, the Hitler analogy is appropriate from a historical perspective, and it has been increasingly so as this administration’s tenure has progressed.

But I digress.

The Democrats have a controlling majority in the House of Representatives. It’s not like the Senate, where they can only claim to have a majority because Joe Lieberman is still caucusing with them (even if he doesn’t vote with them on anything). So they didn’t have to cave.

They didn’t have to give in on the so-called compromise FISA measure. which grants the president expansive powers to spy on us without warrants — our phone calls, our e-mails, our internet surfing habits.

They certainly didn’t have to give the telecoms immunity. How the fuck does that make us any more secure, I ask you?

Yet this is precisely what they have done today. In doing this, they are giving us government not of the people, by the people, and for the people, but of, by, and for the major corporations. And for Big Brother.

In doing this, they betrayed us. The American people.

And it’s leaving me wondering what to do now?

See, here’s the thing. I used to be this corporate attorney. Big law firm, big business deals, big money. Well, big money for the number of years I was out of law school, anyway — lots of people were making a lot more money than me. I wore designer suits, I ate in nice restaurants, and I had a lovely office in…well, you don’t need to know which city, and I don’t want to make it too easy to identify me, for reasons I’ve already discussed elsewhere in this blog.

At first, the work was real easy to rationalize. Most of the clients I did work for were non-profit corporations performing essential services. So there I was, on the side of the angels, right? But the reality was, they were in competition with for-profit corporations, and in order to continue their operations, they had to engage in some of the same practices that the for-profits did just to remain financially viable.

This was very disturbing to me.

I tried going in-house at an organization that I believed then and still believe now to be very ethically run, but the business aspects were still getting to me. And when I have trouble believing in what I’m doing, I do not perform at my best.

Seven years out of law school, I was completely burnt-out.

I decided to go back to grad school to re-tool for a new career. I figured I would get my PhD, and then I could start working with certain organizations to educate legislators at the state and federal level about what scientific research was telling us about the field, and what the implications of that were for making policy applicable to that field.

Seems like a good fit, right? See, I already speak lawyerspeak, and politicianspeak and bureaucratspeak are both really just dialects of that language. So I thought I could help translate the scientific research (another language of its own) for the people making the policy, so that we don’t end up with policy that is so at odds with what all the research is telling us about certain things. (And yes, I’m dancing around the field I’m studying in, as well as the field I concentrated on in law. I’m trying to remain anonymous, remember.)

But then I watch things like what happened today, with the Democrats caving in to the President and the telecoms, instead of upholding the constitution. And I think about how the Democratic leadership has made it clear that impeachment is off the table. And I look at all the ways that the Democrats could have stood up for us since the 2006 election — on the Iraq war, on the economy, on our civil rights, on health issues, on torture and habeas corpus and corruption and no-bid contracts and the use of the Department of Justice for political ends and… the list just goes on and on and on.

And I wonder, am I fighting the wrong fight?

Should I be working within the system to bring about change?

Or should I be trying to change the fucking system?

I just don’t know anymore.

Any suggestions?

jane doe

Comment Policy

Thoughtful comments from all viewpoints along the political spectrum are welcome. Abuse and ad hominem attacks are not, and may be deleted. Got a problem with that? Start your own damn blog.

Contact

janedoe.tcm [at] gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @janedoe_tcm
May 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031