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From the Coen brothers:

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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.


By now you may have heard about my new hero, Tim DeChristopher: the University of Utah (my undergrad university!) student who threw a spanner into the works at the recent Bureau of Land Mismanagement oil and mineral lease auction for parcels surrounding Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

If you haven’t, here’s more or less what happened:

The BLM, under Bush’s direction on his way out the door, was holding an auction December 19th in Salt Lake City, trying to sell off chunks of our pristine national wilderness  to people in the non-renewable fuel industries. This has made a lot of people very unhappy, myself included.

It seems my new hero decided to do more than protest in front of the building where the auctions were being held. In a brilliant bit of monkeywrenching, he entered the building and registered as an auction participant, then proceeded to bid on many of the parcels being auctioned off, driving up the prices of the leases and even winning a few of the auctions.

Of course, Mr. DeChristopher (which is very fun to say out loud – try it and see) has no money to pay for these parcels, and has been arrested for his actions. He may be charged with criminal fraud, earning himself a few years in jail.

He has said that if his actions are successful in saving that pristine wilderness, he’s willing to serve the time.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the auctions is tangled up in some legal maneuvering connected to Mr. DeChristopher’s court case.

According to Rachel Maddow, there’s supposed to be some sort of court hearing to resolve the whole mess on January 19th. It’s probably not a coincidence that that’s the day before Obama and his crew take over in D.C.

Still, I have high hopes for this. See, I’ve had my own experience before a Republican-appointed judge in the Federal District Court in Salt Lake City. And he ruled the right way (i.e., in favor of my friends and I in our civil rights-related case), rather than the way that would have been popular with local (read: Republican) leaders.

So there’s still a chance that that pristine wilderness will remain pristine, at least for a few more years.

And in the mean time, Hayduke Lives!

jane doe


…that if certain people on the Christian right are going to claim that natural disasters are their god’s way of punishing certain groups in our society for immorality, they must at least do so consistently?

Say, when not one, but two hurricanes are scheduled to make landfall in predominantly red states during the Republican national convention?

Just asking…

jd


I am in despair tonight, and I should apologize upfront because this is going to be rambling and far less focused than my posts usually are, but I feel a need to vent.

Our country is in a sorry state, and most people seem to feel like it is someone else’s problem to fix. Perhaps it is beyond fixing. I don’t know. It just seems that everywhere I look, I see mounting problems, with more problems lining up behind them. I find myself laughing in that nervous, slightly insane way that is nevertheless preferable to screaming at the existential horror of it all. I literally pull my hair and bang my head against the wall, and I lie awake at night wondering whether our country will survive another 686 days with George W. Bush in the White House.

Why do I feel such despair, you may ask? I hardly know where to begin.

First, above everything, we have the war in Iraq. The war we shouldn’t be in. The war our alleged president manipulated intelligence, manipulated public opinion, and flat-out lied to get us into. It will be George Bush’s legacy to our country, to his and our everlasting shame. Support our troops by sending more of them over there to die, that makes sense.

From this problem stem so many others. Our executive branch’s apparent abrogation of the Geneva Convention (and large portions of the Constitution), the effective elimination of habeas corpus, the torturing of prisoners of war — sorry, unlawful enemy combatants — these are not steps the president should be taking in our names. Once America stood as the bastion of freedom, honor, and human dignity. It was supposed to be a place where all men and women stood equal before the law, where all were treated with respect and one was innocent until proven guilty. That no longer is the case. Instead our officials are resorting to the means and methods of petty dictators, while still trying to claim the moral authority we once had.

Remember those civil liberties that we were always told set our country apart from other, less worthy nations? The liberties politicians say they are protecting when they send our military men and women off to war — in Iraq, in Afghanistan? Gone now, many of them. Fourth amendment right to be “secure in [your] persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”? Gone. Gotta fight them terrorists. Feel like exercising your first amendment right to speak up about that? You’re emboldening the terrorists, you traitor. We must fight the terrorists overseas so we don’t have to fight them here, and the only way to save our democracy is apparently by turning it into an authoritarian dictatorship.

And don’t get me started on the growing intolerance in this country. I want to cry when I hear Christians claiming there is some sort of war against Christianity in this country, just because some people think the ten commandments don’t belong in government buildings. The reason I want to cry is because I am a practitioner of a non-Christian religion, and I feel like I am regularly hit in the face with Christianity everywhere I look these days. Don’t get me wrong — I think people should be able to practice whatever religion they want. And I am cool with the fact that the majority religion in this country is Christianity so they get their holidays as official days off work, even though the rest of us don’t. But I am terrified by people who think they should legislatively impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us. And yes, if you think that stem cell research is immoral, that Intelligent Design should be taught as science, and that park rangers at the Grand Canyon shouldn’t be able to talk about how long it took for the river to carve the geological formations there because it contradicts the biblical timeline for creation, I am talking about you.

Of course, with the war, and all the money that is going straight from the IRS to Halliburton’s coffers (with a little bit trickling out the other end to rebuild Iraq and, oh yeah, New Orleans, remember them?), the economy is now going into the shitter. Market correction, my ass. If China is getting nervous, we all should be putting aside some danger money right now. The corporations have been having their way with our economy for years now, and particularly the past few years with Incurious George in the White House, and we are all screwed.

And the mainstream media, well, now, that’s just another bunch of big corporations, right? And not a very big bunch, either, getting smaller by the year, as mega-corporation merges with mega-corporation. Certain right-wing blowhards like to talk about the alleged liberal media, but it’s mostly a myth. With a few notable exceptions. what you have is the centrist media, which genuinely tries to just report the facts, and the right-wing media like Faux News and talking heads. Yes, there are a few liberals, and thank the deity of your choice for people like Olbermann, Stewart, and Colbert, but for the most part the mainstream media is as conservative as the large corporations that control it. Fair and balanced? Ha!

Our education system is falling apart, teachers are paid a pittance, and yet right-wing pundits act like the education lobby is some scary, fascist organization. You want to know how to fix education? Here’s a start: pay teachers enough money that all the brilliant people who would love to teach but want to earn enough money to own a house and send their children to college can actually do so by becoming teachers instead of going to law school. This country needs more teachers and fewer lawyers.

How about healthcare? Our country is facing a major crisis, in part due to the fact that we have so many people without access to health care. We are going to have a major influenza epidemic (bird flu, anyone?), and millions of people are going to die because when you have large numbers of people without access to healthcare the conditions for an epidemic flourish. Creating tax incentives for people to buy their own health insurance isn’t going to do the trick, because the people who are most likely to be uninsured through their employer are also the least likely to benefit from tax deductions, or even tax credits, because they have the lowest incomes.

Ooh, and speaking of healthcare, and getting back to the supporting our troops meme, how about supporting our troops after they come home? Giving them real healthcare and psychological services, and not make them wade through some sort of managed care phone tree to get treatment approved? These men and women are literally putting their lives on the line for this government’s policies. The very least the bastards in the White House can do is give them the red carpet treatment when they get back stateside and need care. That is how you support troops, Republican Party — by giving them the services they need, not by putting some magnetic American flag on your gas-guzzling SUV.

Which, of course, brings me to the environment. Sure, in the Midwest, in mid-February, global warming seems like a great idea. But come August, not so much. And I don’t imagine the polar bears are very happy about it, either.

And now we have our president, the one who lied to get us into Iraq, making a lot of scary noises about Iran. Pardon my French, but what the fuck? We don’t have the troops, we don’t have the money, and, hey, by the way, we don’t trust anything you’re saying anymore, Georgie-Boy. So just knock it off. We’re not going there. Got it? Let me repeat. We. Are. Not. Going. There.

Of course, he probably realizes we don’t have the forces to do that. That’s why he keeps making all the scary talk about nuclear — sorry, nucular — weapons. How low have my expectations for our government gotten if I say that I will be ecstatic if we can just get through the remainder of the Shrub’s term in office without him exploding a nuclear weapon somewhere in the world?

But really, all of this is only part of the cause of my despair. My real reason for being in despair is because it seems like the reaction of the vast majority of Americans to all of this angst-producing stuff is “Meh. Yeah, it sucks, someone should do something about that.”

Yes, I know, there are demonstrably lots of people out there trying to do something about all that. The blogosphere is full of people who have not for one second turned a blind eye to all the nonsense that is happening (and may the deity of their choice bless them all for that), and there are loads of people all over the country writing letters, sending e-mails, calling their congressional representatives, marching in the streets, what have you. But there are far, far more who aren’t doing a thing, who figure that it is someone else’s problem. ‘

In other countries, if the governments did some of the stuff our alleged president and his minions have done over the past few years, people would be rioting in the streets. Entire governments have been brought down for less. Hell, Bill Clinton got impeached over a blowjob, yet Nancy Pelosi says that’s not on the table right now in spite of all of Bush’s documented crimes against the Constitution, the American people, and — dare I say it — humanity. And we are all going about our business, saying “Yeah, someone should do something about that.”

And tomorrow morning, I will get up, and brush my teeth, and head to my office, before I go to classes in the afternoon. And I will think to myself, I should be doing something more. And I will come home in the evening, and watch Countdown, and The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report, and get my righteous indignation on, and then I will do my homework, and lie awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, and worry about all of this some more. And I will fall asleep, only to wake and repeat the whole cycle again. Maybe I will send an e-mail urging my senators to take some urgent action, to be logged and dutifully ignored by some senate staffer. I toy with the idea of starting a guerrilla political theater group on campus — maybe in the fall…

I know that I have broken no new ground with this post. Everything I’ve said here, has been said elsewhere, probably better than I could, already. But I needed to get it out of my system. If only so I can sleep a little better tonight.

So what’s the deal with the title of this entry? It’s from a recurring nightmare I had when I was younger. I was trapped in my house, which was full of spiders. Thousands of the eight-legged menaces, everywhere you looked — they spun their webs across the doors and on chairs, so you had to cut a web if you wanted to sit down, or go into another room, or do anything. And I would, understandably, be freaking out about the spiders in the dream, but I would be the only person who was. Everyone else just took them as a given. “Well, of COURSE there are spiders. Why are you letting it get to you?” And I wonder, is this — everything I’ve written about in this post, everything that’s troubling me about our country right now — the same sort of thing?

Questions? Comment?

jane doe


So many truly appalling things have happened over the past few weeks, I hardly know where to begin. Shall I rail about the hypocrisy of Republican politicians who proclaim that the only way to support the troops is to support the war but ignore the appalling conditions in housing for wounded members of the military who are being treated at stateside facilities until the condition of said housing becomes a segment on the prime time news?

Should I mock political candidates (even ones I like) who have begun campaigning fully a year before the first primary will actually be held?

Shall I snort in derision about remarks by the First Lady that refer to “the one bombing a day” in Baghdad, implying that (a) there is only one bombing a day (which would be an improvement), and (b) a mere one bombing a day is not a big deal (imagine if it were a bomb a day in NYC, Laura, and see if you would still feel like things were going pretty well)?

Or perhaps I should lampoon the allegedly neutral think tank (apparently a spin-off of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute) that made much of the Gores’ high utility bill but ignored the fact that part of the reason it was so high was that the Gores were paying a higher rate in order to obtain their energy from renewable sources?

Decisions, decisions…

jane doe


Just read a post over at Crooks and Liars about how Exxon and the evil right-wing belief tank American Enterprise Institute (I don’t call them a thinktank because that would imply actual thought rather than just unvarnished greed and rationalization) are offering scientists who speak out against global warming a ten thousand dollar bounty. Although there may be a few scientists who take them up on this — there are a few bad apples in every barrel, as the saying goes — I hope that it is only a small number. I think the issue has gotten to the point where very few scientists are willing to speak out because it would seriously call their credibility into question.

We have only to witness visible changes in weather patterns over the last thirty-five years or so (maybe longer, but I am speaking from my own memory) to realize that climate patterns have been shifting and shifting rapidly. If we don’t act soon to change our behaviors, it may very well be too late. Sure, global warming may seem like a good idea when you are in the midwest in February, but come July or August, it’s not so fun…

I propose a consumer-based response to Exxon’s move: let’s all stop buying gas from them. That is, if you were buying from them to begin with — personally, I have avoided their gas stations since the whole Exxon Valdez thing. But really, money is the only form of communication that these bastards understand, so let’s hit them in the pocketbooks where it will hurt the most. That ought to get their attention.

Better yet, hit all the oil companies: take steps to reduce your gasoline consumption! Drive less, use public transportation, carpool, ride a bike, whatever you can to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. If it’s too much hassle to do it all the time, do it one or two days a week. Ditch your SUV and get something more fuel-efficient. Demand better fuel efficiency from auto manufacturers. Write letters to Congress asking them to fund research into alternative energy sources. Sign petitions. Whatever you can think of that might help. Not only will it help fight global warming, it can help reduce our dependence on foreign oil — which in turn will reduce the incentive to certain moronic politicians to embark on ill-advised wars in the Middle East. Everybody wins!

Let’s all do what we can to keep the earth livable — because there’s really nowhere else we can go to get away from it all.

jane doe

Update: Just checked my e-mail and saw that the top story in yesterday’s New York Times was about how the evidence for global warming due to manmade causes is now “unequivocal” — you can see the article here if you want more information.

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