You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Dems’ category.



I’ve always viewed New York as the classic “nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there”…but part of me wants to move there just so I could vote for Anthony Weiner in the 2012 election:


Today, President Obama signed the much-fought-over health care reform bill into law.

Almost immediately, a group of thirteen Republican state attorneys-general filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking to overturn the law.* I suppose we should be grateful that their rationale for overturning the statute has nothing to do with alleging that Barack Obama is secretly a Kenyan Muslim and thus not eligible to be president.

While the new law represents an improvement over the current system, and it will make health insurance available to many who are currently regarded as uninsurable due to pre-existing conditions, I do not believe that it will truly halt runaway health care costs.

The main problem, of course, was that the Obama administration and Congress would not look outside the current mostly for-profit health insurance paradigm for more effective ways to provide health care to the people of this country.

Someone please explain to me how insurance companies add any value to health care services? When did adding a middleman to any transaction ever drive costs down? Their role, if they want to be profitable, is to deny and/or place limitations on the health care services ordered by patients’ physicians.

And in exchange for this, they claim a hefty share of every health care dollar.

Yes, if we are doomed to retain the insurance company paradigm, the health reform bill represents a marked improvement over the existing system. But will it truly provide insurance coverage at a reasonable rate to everyone who needs it?

Somehow, I doubt it. Especially since the public option did not survive the legislative process. But the individual mandate did survive the process, so now those of us with no employer-sponsored insurance are at the mercy of all those mostly-for-profit insurance companies.

If we were serious about fixing our broken health care system, Congress would have given serious consideration to moving to a single-payer system. Take the profit-driven insurance companies out of the equation, and you will find that costs drop significantly, while consumer satisfaction will increase (so long as the system is adequately funded to meet public needs, that is). Plus, health care dollars will actually go primarily to providing health care, rather than to driving up insurance company shareholder profits.

Of course, talk of a single-payer system prompts the teabaggers – excuse me, Tea Partiers – and the sort of people who actually believe what they hear on Faux News to panic and scream about socialism and death panels. (Do they really think insurance companies don’t deny care – even though denial will mean a patient’s death – on cost/benefit grounds?)

Call it socialism if you must. I assure you, my feelings will not be hurt if you call me a socialist, as I don’t view it as an insult or a badge of shame the way certain people (cough*teabaggers*cough) do. Heck, while you’re at it, call me a liberal and a feminist as well. No skin off my nose.

But some services should be socialized. We already have a number of services that fall into this category at either the state or federal level: Medicare, Social Security, police and fire protection, public education, road and highway maintenance, and food safety inspections, to name just a few. We have the government provide these services because it is the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure that everyone benefits from these services.

Why shouldn’t health care be in the same category?

jane doe

* A copy of what purports to be the district court filing can be found here, though I question whether it is the lawsuit as filed – the document contains numerous errors that should have been caught at the proofreading stage.


…with this morning’s jaw-dropping announcement that Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter is leaving the Republican party to join the Democrats.

I say jaw-dropping, but really, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see a few more moderate Republicans follow in his footsteps.

With McCain’s resounding loss in November, the Republican Party has been lacking a clear voice and leader, leaving it increasingly vulnerable to the rantings of the more extreme elements within it.

People like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. And let us not forget the extremely scary Newt Gingrich.

And the visibility of those more extreme voices further marginalize the party, causing more and more moderate Republicans to abandon their party for independent or democratic status.

Meanwhile, no matter how much the Faux News people want to holler about socialism, Obama has if anything brought the Democrats closer to the middle than they were before (something that pisses off liberals like yours truly, but whatever).

Given the apparent public distaste for the extreme positions currently adopted by many high-profile Republicans at the moment, one is forced to wonder about the logic of the proponents of such positions.

I have my own theory about this. Regular readers of this blog will not be at all surprised to learn that it relates to terror management theory. But I will save that speculation for a subsequent post … check back in a day or so for that.

Meanwhile, in other news, I think the Department of Justice should open a war crimes investigation into the activities of the Bush administration. Just sayin’…

jane doe


Okay, first of all, whose brilliant idea was it to have the State of the Union speech on Fat Tuesday?

I didn’t watch the speech live. Not that I was out Mardi Gras-ing, or anything. I just kind of spaced until after it was over. I’ve gotten so in the habit of watching podcasts for news coverage (Countdown and the Rachel Maddow Show, natch) that I don’t turn the TV on anymore…and most of the time, I don’t miss anything except a few commercials with this approach.

So I kind of blew it last night, and missed Obama’s SOTU.

Fortunately, everything is available on the internets these days, so I can watch the speech and Jindal’s response in the comfort of my favorite coffee shop. Following are my thoughts on his speech, in more or less chronological order, along with a few quotes so that the comments aren’t arriving in a vacuum:

  • Okay, did he just say hello to every single person in the chamber before taking his place at the podium? Also, did the Shrub get a standing ovation just for being presented the last couple of SOTUs he gave? I think I would have remembered that…
  • Jeez, could Hillary’s suit possibly be a more vivid color?
  • Also, somebody needs to explain to Nancy Pelosi that she is also on camera during these speeches and needs to not mess with her hair.
  • A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market.” Yeah, Dubya, he’s talking to you.
  • Let the record show that when President Obama said, “And tonight I am grateful that this Congress delivered and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law,” the Republican half (oops, sorry, significantly less than half) of the chamber sat on its hands, while the Democratic side gave itself a standing ovation.
  • “And that’s why I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, because nobody messes with Joe.” Okay, that’s a sound bite that’s going to end up in the history books…
  • “Already, we’ve done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last 30 days than we’ve done in the last decade.” Not that that’s difficult to have done, since Dubya and his minions did exactly nothing on the health care reform front, beyond adding a Medicare drug benefit that was written by Big Pharma. Oh, and vetoed SCHIP every chance it got…which is why the Obama administration can claim to have done so much.
  • Forty three minutes after his introduction before he actually says the word “Iraq”, and then only to talk about the no-bid contracts there… okay, granted I am radically opposed to those contracts and the Halliburtons and Blackwaters running around that country acting in our name on cost-plus contracts (anyone who’s seen my reviews of the movie War, Inc., and my comments on Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine knows my position on this). Just seems like he should be talking about Iraq and Afghanistan more than this…
  • “We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.” Hallelujah! I had a HUGE argument a few years back with a friend who does business consulting who took a gig on behalf of an Indian company trying to get American jobs. His rationalization was that he was helping American corporations operate more efficiently, and couldn’t see or didn’t care that he was sending American jobs overseas. Or maybe he just wanted to remain in denial… (Are you reading this, my friend? You know who you are…)
  • Okay, this is amusing. At the part of his speech where Obama reveals that families making less than a quarter million a year won’t see their taxes go up a dime, all the Democrats in the chamber stood up right away, but initially the people on the Republican side of the chamber remained seated. Then it apparently occurred to some of them that staying seated on this point might not look real good to all the less well-off citizens who vote against their financial interests in supporting the Republican party, and some of them started standing up, too. Out of touch much, Repubs? Remember, if it were just the rich people voting for you, you’d maybe have four or five congressmen and a senator or two…maybe.
  • Ooh, another mention of Iraq and Afghanistan, this time in connection with the budget. They’re including the “full cost” of fighting these conflicts in the budget, instead of doing supplemental things that make it harder to track how much the government is spending…very nice. “For seven years, we’ve been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.” Yeah, Bush, he’s talking to you…again…
  • Ah, 46 minutes into a 58 minute speech, finally we get to actually ending the war in Iraq: “Along with our outstanding national security team, I am now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war.” Yay!
  • “And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Quaida and combat extremism, because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens halfway around the world. We will not allow it.” Um, sorry, does this mean we’re going to be fighting Pakistan, too? Aren’t they ostensibly one of our allies? Or is he just talking about launching raids into the remote areas of Pakistan where the government really doesn’t have any power?
  • At least he is doing more than just mouthing platitudes about “supporting the troops” and talking about DOING things to help them out: increasing pay, increasing recruiting, and expanding health care benefits for vets. That’s something…
  • And 49 minutes in he mentions closing Gitmo, “…because living our values doesn’t make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture. We can make that commitment here tonight.” Yeah, that’s aimed at you again, Duhbya…
  • “New era of engagement”…”cannot shun the negotiating table” … “lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors”…Groovy
  • And of course, something inspiring to close on: “I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far. There are surely times in the future where we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. I know that. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground. And if we do, if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis, if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity, if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then some day, years from now, our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, ‘something worthy to be remembered.’” Very nice.

This wasn’t nearly as much fun as blogging Bush’s SOTUs, which were so damn mockable…still, it’s a nice change having a president who is capable of speaking without completely mangling the English language. Which is actually damning with faint praise – Obama is one hell of a public speaker.

Jindal’s response next…

jane doe


The end of any year is often a time of reflection. Looking back to see what went right, what went wrong. This year, we could perhaps benefit from such retrospection more than other years.

I was going to refer to 2008 as “a kidney stone of a year,” but I was almost certain I had heard that phrase elsewhere, likely in something by Hunter S. Thompson. A quick Google search of the phrase didn’t reveal the original source, but it did show three other people describing 2008 in those words, so at least I’m not alone in thinking of it that way.

On a national level, we saw a further…what’s the word I want? crumbling? eroding? collapsing? disintegrating?…let’s go with… deterioration of: our civil rights, our privacy, our status overseas, the situation in Iraq (notwithstanding all the neocons rushing to claim the surge has been a “success”), the situation in Afghanistan, the economy, the health care system, our schools, our infrastructure (Rachel Maddow’s favorite word), the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip, the environment, and…well…it’s a really long list, actually.

So maybe we should think of 2008 as the year when the whole house of cards we’ve all been living in fell to the floor.

There was the presidential election, which filled up our ears for way too many months with noise and lies and distortions and endless debates and oh the spinning and spinning and spinning and stop the world, please, I’m getting dizzy.

Before that, though, we had the primaries, and the caucuses, and the conventions, and the polls, and the protests and…well, you were there. You heard it.

There were a lot of lows, but there were a few highs, as well. Particularly toward the end of the year.

For a nice change, we had a presidential candidate that appealed to our hopes, rather than hammering at our fears. We dodged the bullet of a McCain/Palin administration, four more years that would most likely have looked like the last eight, except less organized, and instead managed to elect the smart guy over the guy people would like to have a beer with. Thought I suspect Obama would be way more fun to have a beer with than McCain, anyway.

And there was the nice bit about finally electing someone who isn’t a white male to the highest office in the land. That part was pretty cool.

But the economy is bad, and likely to get worse before it gets better. People are losing their homes, their jobs, and their retirement investments. We’re probably going to see a lot more people moving in with other family members to save money, and we’re already seeing more people living on the street.

It’s a scary situation.

And yet, with the new year comes hope.

In twenty days, we will be rid of alleged president George Walker Bush.

We will have strong Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress.

Let’s hope they use their new power for good. Let’s hope they actually use their power, instead of allowing themselves to be conned by Republicans into thinking they don’t dare use the power we gave them to change things.

Let’s hope.

Hope is good.

I have some ideas for a new project for myself in the new year…something that will involve this blog – or perhaps a separate blog created specifically for the project…more on that soon. But I think some more changes are coming in the life of yours truly, that I hope will be interesting for you all, and ultimately, perhaps profitable for me. We shall see…

In the mean time, happy new year, everyone!

And stay safe.

jane doe

p.s. And lest there be any doubt about it…I still think Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.


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

‘Kay. Going back to bed now.

jd


Yeah, yeah, I know. I haven’t posted anything in days in spite of having several posts at various stages of the drafting process. What can I say? I’m a horrible person.

I’ll blame part of it on the fact that I am gearing up for the Democratic convention in Denver next week. Denver is within fairly easy driving distance of where I am living at the moment, so I plan to go see what kind of trouble I can get into outside the Pepsi Center, where it’s being held.

I’ll be driving up there one day this week to scout the terrain and see what kind of WiFi I might be able to poach in the neighborhood, so I can decide if it is worth the trouble (and potential for damage) to bring my laptop for a little live blogging. I’ll be taking my camera, and am trying to arrange for a video camera so I can maybe interview a few people or document any police abuse of protesters.

Speaking of which, here’s a scary thing: apparently, the Denver police have set up some warehouse with chain-link fenced-in pens for holding protesters who are arrested. No restrooms, no chairs, no telephones, no meeting places to talk with lawyers. Just these cages that look eerily like what one sees livestock herded into on their way to the slaughterhouse. And here’s some fun: according to a local news report (be sure to watch the video), there are signs up in the facility warning that “electric stun devices” are in use there. These are intended as a “temporary holding facility” while people are being processed (which also sounds rather slaughterhouse-like, come to think of it). According to at least one account I read, they don’t anticipate anyone being held there for more than 2-3 hours.

Still, two or three hours is a long time if you really need to use the restroom.

Apparently, they’re already referring to it as Gitmo on the Platte.

Personally, I am hoping to avoid the place. I don’t want to spoil my perfect record of evading arrest for my political activities. I’ve come close a few times. There was this one time, back in my undergrad days, where I was driving one of the getaway cars after a bit of political vandalism…but I digress. Plus, I really can’t afford to hire a lawyer right now.

And frankly, until George W. Bush and his buddies actually turn over the keys to the next president, I’d rather not do anything that will make it more likely that they will send me off to the real Gitmo.

Things are getting scary here, people. Can we please impeach Bush and Cheney now?

jane doe


NB: Updated at bottom of post. -jd

Hey everybody, lookit what I just found:

It appears that some Political Science professor named Marc Turetzky, of Gavilan College (in Gilroy, California, home of the always fragrant Gilroy Garlic Festival) has set up one of those “Rate My ______” sites.

There are a whole mess of these things. Rate My Picture. Rate My Life. Rate My Date. Rate My Rack. The one I’m most familiar with is RateMyProfessors.com, because hey, grad student here. This one is new, though:

It’s time to play Rate My Congressman!

It’s set up in blog format, one blog post per Representative. Visitors to the site are invited to rate their Representative in the Comments.

At least, that’s what I assume we’re supposed to do. It looks like the professor has been setting it up this weekend. He seems to be going state-by-state, with each state being it’s own blog category. As I type this, only about twenty states are up. But hey, lookee here…it appears that he’s already added all the California representatives.

And here’s our beloved House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

No one’s left a comment yet.

How could I possibly resist?

To Professor Turetzky:

It looks like you are still setting this blog up. I don’t know if you are doing this in connection with a course you are teaching, or if this is for general public consumption, but I stumbled across your blog and really couldn’t resist.

jd

——-

When Nancy Pelosi rose to the position of Speaker of the House after the 2006 elections, a lot of people, myself included, thought that we would finally see an end to the Bush administration’s illegal and unconstitutional actions at home and abroad.

Surely, with the Democrats now controlling the House of Representatives, we would see some real oversight, some investigation into the many, many scandals that seem to have become business as usual over the past few years.

Surely, Ms. Pelosi would use the powers granted to her by the Constitution and laws of this country to at the very least ensure that no further damage was done to our civil rights, our dignity, and our reputation among other nations.

Surely, she would guide the House of Representatives along a course that would rein in the worst abuses of the Bush administration.

Surely, you jest.

Almost immediately, she made it clear that impeachment – the most powerful tool granted to Congress to control illegal acts by the executive branch – was off the table.

The reason for doing so has never been clear to me. If ever there were a president deserving of impeachment, it would be the current Decider in Chief. His crimes against our constitution, against our laws, and against humanity are almost too numerous to itemize at this point. Failure to impeach such a man under these circumstances would itself be a failure by Congress to uphold its responsibilities under the constitution.

And yet, the president has not been impeached, despite efforts by Kucinich and others, despite widespread public outcry.

Because Speaker Pelosi declared that impeachment was off the table.

Furthermore, she has repeatedly caved in to Bush’s craven demands for yet more power, yet more authority, and has allowed yet more money to be poured into the pockets of corporations like Halliburton, KBR, and Blackwater as part of his unending war on Iraq.

The Democrats have a strong majority in the House of Representatives. It is not like the Senate, where they can only be said to control the chamber because Lieberman is still caucusing with them.

It should have been relatively simple to prevent Bush from shoving through measures that were antithetical to our nation’s governing documents. Measures like the revised FISA bill that passed recently.

What was it Nancy Reagan always used to say? Just say, “No.”

And yet somehow, Pelosi did nothing, or next to nothing. And we are now faced with an even graver situation, both domestically and internationally, than we were in 2006.

And while we are rating Speaker Pelosi’s performance, let us not forget that recent weeks have brought the revelation that Speaker Pelosi was among the Democratic House leaders who were briefed on the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that have been used by Americans against others in recent years. She knew we were torturing prisoners as a matter of federal government policy, yet she did and said nothing.

To be fair to Speaker Pelosi, she has managed some good things during her tenure as House Speaker. There have been times when she and her colleagues have stood together to pass important legislation opposed by the president, or to block legislation he tried to force through.

But many of those victories seem to have been only temporary ones. The House initially held strong against the FISA expansion and telecom immunity provisions, for instance, yet when faced with repeated demands from the Bush administration, the Democrats eventually caved.

Is it fair to blame Pelosi for that? Maybe not. But I can’t help thinking that Tip O’Neill wouldn’t have let some of that crap through.

Looking around the site here, I cannot find any rating metric for rating our representatives, so I guess it is up to me as the first commenter to propose one…

Hmmm…this is actually trickier than it sounds. I have several ideas, actually, but the WordPress restrictions on HTML don’t seem to allow for inserting little icons in one’s post, which rules out a couple of my ideas. For instance, I was going to go with little pink pigs, because, well, our representatives in Washington are feeding at the public trough, and also there’s the nice Orwellian tie-in with Animal Farm.

But that’s probably overly cynical, isn’t it? After all, I’m sure there are people who want to say nice things about their representatives. I mean, not me, because I’m in Redstatesville, and my representative is a rubberstamper who votes however Bush wants him to. But surely there must be SOME people who actually like their representatives, no matter how low the approval ratings are for Congress these days, right?

How about this: we can use the symbol for dollars ($) as the rating icon. It’s perfect, because it can carry so many meanings — the tax dollars that they waste (or occasionally use wisely), the campaign contributions they receive from the lobbyists and heads of major corporations, the federal dollars they are able to direct to their home districts via earmarks, the bribes they receive…the possibilities are endless.

So, using a one ($) to five ($$$$$) scale, with five representing the best one could possibly hope for in a congressional representative and one representing pond scum:

My overall rating for Nancy Pelosi is: $$

Though to be fair, I would have given her two and one half dollar signs, if I could just figure out how to get half a dollar sign to appear.

Ah, well, maybe someone else will come up with a better rating system.

jane doe

Update: It looks like the person running the blog is moderating the comments – unmoderated was too much to hope for, wasn’t it? I thought they were unmoderated because I could see my comment after I submitted it, but I found out no one else could. So if you follow the links in this post, you won’t see my comment over there – at least not yet.


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.


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.

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
March 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031