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A storm’s moving in here in Redstatesville. The wind doesn’t seem to know quite which direction it wants to be blowing, and there will be lighting and thunder for certain before I go to bed tonight.

I look at the news – the war in Iraq, the reviving war in Afghanistan, the potential war in Iran (if Dick Cheney gets his way), elections, White House scandals, the economic mess, the cost of oil (both in dollars and in human terms), the insanity of our Middle East policy, religious extremism (Christian as well as Islamic), the environment and global warming, our eroding civil liberties and loss of privacy, and the constant, deafening efforts of right-wing politicians and pundits and priests trying to paint scientists, liberals, artists, academics, and anyone else who objects to all this insanity as anti-American and in league with the terrorists – and it’s hard not to think something similar is going on on a national scale, building toward some serious thunder and lighting, and maybe a bit of destruction before the year is through.

It’s all got me feeling a bit twitchy.

It’s not any one thing in particular that has me so nervous. Rather, it is an aggregation of things. Stories glimpsed briefly, often in the non-mainstream news and the blogosphere, that individually would qualify one for a lifetime membership in the Tinfoil Hat Brigade if one were to make a big deal out of them, but when looked at together, begin to seem more than a little ominous, like storm clouds building.

Like this story in the Denver Post about how “hundreds of police, firefighters, paramedics and even utility workers have been trained and recently dispatched as ‘Terrorism Liaison Officers’ in Colorado and a handful of other states to hunt for ‘suspicious activity’ — and are reporting their findings into secret government databases.”

Or this one, from May 2007, about the Bush administration contracting with Halliburton to build “detention camps” within the continental United States for use in the event of a “national emergency.”

Or this presidential directive, also from May 2007, granting the president extensive, extra-constitutional authority over the operations of the government in the event of a “catastrophic emergency.”

Or this story about a plan prepared by the Pentagon for “massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days.”

Twitch, twitch.

It’s like we’re building toward some big, possibly transformational event, and I can’t help feeling that it all comes down to who wins the presidential race in November. The candidate who promises change, or the one who promises only more of the same.

And I’m very much afraid of what may happen if we end up with the latter option.

jane doe


Okay, this should have gone up on Friday, but I was laughing too hard to type when I saw it. Apparently, the Bush apologists over at Faux News dislike the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore (along with a some other people at the UN) for their work to raise awareness about global warming. And really, did we expect anything else from the Faux News people? Of course not. But that’s not why I’ve been laughing so hard I won’t have to do ab exercises for a week.

No, the funny part is who the Faux Brain Trust people proposed as a more appropriate recipient…Gen. David Petraeus!

Strictly speaking, it was apparently NY Sun editor Seth Lipsky who made that suggestion to Faux’s Neil Cavuto, but still…the Nobel Peace Prize? To a general who is leading U.S. troops in a war that has gained nearly universal condemnation, both here at home and among our erstwhile allies? What are they putting in the water cooler over at the Faux Newsroom?

Of course, this is really more a reflection of Faux’s knee-jerk response to anything favorable reported about Al Gore, the man who should have been sworn in as our President back in 2001.

And for those keeping track, Gore has now won an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Nobel Peace Prize, in addition to the 2000 presidential election. Makes you wonder where we would be right now as a nation if he had been allowed to take office by the Supremes, doesn’t it?

And yes, for the record, I still think Bush and Cheney really ought to be impeached.

jane doe


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.


Webb mentions New Orleans, which makes me wonder — I can’t remember whether the shrub mentioned rebuilding New Orleans or not.

He’s making some great comments about the economy and the erosion of the middle class. Nice contrast of CEO incomes with incomes of average workers. Nice comment about the shipping of jobs overseas — that is something that really needs to be addressed soon. I had a huge argument recently with a friend who is doing some consulting to help American businesses ship jobs off to India. My friend feels that it’s not really his problem that jobs are going away, he says he’s helping corporations operate more efficiently…I think it’s everyone’s problem. Ultimately, although corporations are considered legal persons, they completely lack many of the characteristics of people you would actually want to know, like a conscience or a concept of duty to the society. Sure, there are corporations that do good things for their community, but ultimately the goal of a corporation is to make money, both in the short term and the long term. If that is their primary raison d’etre, many of their decisions are not going to be in the best interests of the societies in which they operate.

Ah, now we get to the part where he rips Duhbya a new one over the mess in Iraq. Go Jim!

In calling upon the president to move in a new direction to address the problems facing us, he got in a great line: “If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.”

IMNSHO, a pretty good rebuttal — though he expressly stated that it was not intended to be a rebuttal.

jane doe


Okay, here, in more or less chronological order, are my thoughts as I listen to the SOTU speech:

Goddam smirking chimp…

…grumble grumble…

Madam Speaker — about f’ing time we got a woman in that position.

And who are the morons whistling, anyway?

Teddy Kennedy looks about to cry. Not entirely sure why. I mean, besides the obvious, of course: that we have to put up with this bastard for two more years.

Don’t get me started on his bit about No Child Left Behind. Increasing funds for children who need help — sure, that’s great. Not sure that NCLB currently does that — it’s never been fully funded, after all. NCLB is a statute with its heart in the right place, but the execution has been abysmal.

And how does he plan to do all the things he claims he is going to do without raising taxes? That is not entirely clear, but if you read between the lines, his approaches aren’t going to really change things.

For instance, talking about helping Americans afford health insurance through tax incentives doesn’t really help the people who are living at the lowest income levels — not coincidentally, the group most likely not to get health insurance through their jobs. After all, their incomes are often so low that their tax bill is low to non-existent, so tax incentives really don’t affect their bottom line enough to allow them to go out and purchase individual insurance coverage (which is generally more expensive than purchasing as part of a group due to the tendency of people to self-select — that is, to forego insurance if they believe they are not likely to need it, and purchase it if they view themselves as more likely to incur significant health care costs).

As another example, consider this translation: when he says he is going to ask the states to “use existing funds” to pay for something, that means he’s not going to allocate any additional money, just ask the states to do more with the money that they’ve already got — money which most states will tell you already is insufficient for their needs.

“For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil.” Hasn’t he said this every single year? And yet we are even more dependent on foreign oil than we used to be. Ooh, but he’s final admitted that “global climate change” is a real issue — still didn’t say “global warming”, but I’ll accept climate change if he actually agrees to do anything. Some nice talk about energy, too — let’s see if he follows through with meaningful changes in the coming months.

And here comes the talk about Iran. (shudder, wordless cry of horror)

Condi Rice was just on camera — she looks like she’s on Thorazine.

Okay he just mentioned the word victory in connection with Iraq, which got a standing ovation from parts of the chamber in spite of being laughable in light of current events, though the camera angles are making it hard to see exactly who was applauding and who wasn’t. Plus, your humble correspondent was typing when he was saying this, and missed some of the details on camera.

Blah blah blah…rehash of his Iraq speech from two weeks ago…Biden looks like he’s trying to work on a sudoku puzzle…Ooh, when the camera pulls back, you can sure tell where the Republicans are sitting, can’t you? They’re the ones standing up for Bush’s Iraq plan. Once he switches to supporting the troops, of course, everyone stands up.

Okay, he’s asking for Congress to authorize an increase in the size of the armed forces — but how that’s going to happen when the military currently can’t meet its recruiting targets is a mystery to me.

And what is this whole thing about a civilian force that can be sent into other parts of the world during times of conflict? WTF? You mean, like Halliburton and Blackwater? I have to go back and listen to that over again, because that didn’t make any sense at all.

Dick Cheney looks like he is glaring at someone off over to the left of the alleged president. At least Pelosi looks like she is listening to Duhbya.

Damn, Dikembe Mutombo is tall.

Okay, that’s about it for initial comments on the speech. Webb’s speech is in a couple of minutes.

jane doe


So the Supreme Court is looking at the issue of global warming for the first time, in an interesting case in which California and about a dozen other states, plus some cities and environmental groups, are asking the court to force the federal Environmental Protection Agency to do something about regulating carbon dioxide levels in automobile emissions. The New York Times has a good article on the case today, which I am summarizing parts of in this post.

The case raises some questions that are interesting to lawyer-types, and perhaps mind-numbing to the rest of the population. First, is carbon dioxide an air pollutant within the meaning of the federal Clean Air Act? An interesting question, because if it is, that means that you, me, and every other person on the planet are regular polluters, simply by the act of breathing.

Second, do the states, cities, and environmental groups even have standing to bring a suit against the government in this matter at all? One rule in litigation is that the party bringing the suit must have what is known as legal standing, that is, “sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged.” (Quote is from linked Wikipedia entry.) That is, are they truly the appropriate party to be bringing the action? One wonders who would be, if not the states as representatives of their citizens — you know, the people who will ultimately be harmed by global warming? Still, according to the NYT, this issue seemed to be the focus of many of the justices’ questions, with Scalia, Roberts, and Alito in particular troubled by the standing question.

Of course, the right-wing trifecta of Scalia, Roberts, and Alito would like nothing better than to rule on this case as a standing issue, rather than on the interpretation of the Clean Air Act and EPA regulations. Why? Because then they wouldn’t have to evaluate the scientific arguments, which could well put them in a position of disagreeing with their buddy Dubya as a matter of law. That would certainly be embarrassing.

All of this relates to the question of whether states should have to sue the federal government to enforce its own statutes to begin with? This is not really one of the questions posed by the NYT article, but I want to raise it because I think it goes to something that is a recurring theme with the present administration. Our alleged president has been (justly) criticized recently for issuing a large number of “signing statements” when he signs bills into law that would purportedly allow him to ignore the laws if he felt like it. I know of no legal or constitutional authority for such signing statements, nor am I aware of any reputable legal scholar endorsing such signing statements. (Perhaps not surprisingly, I do not consider Alberto Gonzales a reputable legal scholar).

At the heart of the Executive Branch’s constitutional authority is the responsibility for executing the laws enacted by Congress. Our alleged president seems to believe he can enforce (or obey) the laws he likes, and ignore the rest. Congress and the Supreme Court should not be allowing this. Our governmental system was conceived as a system of checks and balances for a reason, and it is high time that the other branches of government started asserting their authority in response to this administration’s more questionable activities.

Perhaps in 2007 we will finally see some movement in this area. Or is that just wishful thinking?

jane doe

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