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Okay, I can’t figure out how to make my blog go completely dark, so this is going to have to do for now. Stop SOPA/PIPA! Fuck censorship!

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Apparently, if you let one administration off the hook for war crimes and for violating our constitution and laws, the next guy to occupy the White House gets to thinking that it’s okay to issue an assassination order against an American citizen.

Hey, it’s not as bad as lying us into a war, right? Or torturing people to force false intel out of them to support a personal vendetta against Iraq. Or killing thousands of Iraqis or Afghanis or Pakistanis (and we’re not even at war with Pakistan!)…It’s just one guy. One American guy.

Apparently, Obama has gotten the impression that presidential performance is graded on a curve, and that as long as he does better than the previous guy, he’s cool.

Except that’s not the way it works. Or at least, that’s not the way it’s supposed to work…

For those who don’t obsessively follow the news but somehow do follow this blog (probably a null set, I will concede), the New York Times reported today:

The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.

The article goes on to remind us that al-Awlaki has been linked to both Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the gunman in the Fort Hood shooting last year, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the famed “underwear bomber” from last Christmas. Clearly, from an American perspective this dude is not on the side of the angels (speaking metaphorically, because hey, buddhist here). He may even be guilty of treason.

Does that mean it’s okay for an American president to order his assassination?

Hell no.

Let me remind you, no matter what activities this guy is guilty of, he is an American citizen. Like all of us, he should be held accountable for his crimes. I am not arguing against accountability.

What I am doing is arguing in favor of the rule of law. Remember, that concept – that fundamental principle of our system of government – that Obama campaigned on returning us to?

In taking this action, the Obama administration has started us down a very dangerous slippery slope. If we’re allowed to assassinate Americans overseas for engaging in terrorist activities, why not assassinate them domestically, as well? So much neater than actually trying and convicting them, after all. No chance they will be released because the prosecution dropped the ball.

But then, why stop there? Why not go after anyone who encourages others to rebel against the government? Again, if someone is truly inciting others to violence, we can lock them up (something Glenn Beck would do well to remember, as some of his rhetoric seems to be skating closer to the Brandenburg standard by the day). But they might beat the charge. A bullet or two would solve that problem right quick.

Sure, we might fuck up occasionally, and kill someone who didn’t deserve it, but it’s all to keep the country safe, right? Just call the innocent victims collateral damage and move on.

What led the Obama administration to believe it could get away with deciding to act to deprive this al-Awlaki character of life without due process of law?

I would argue that it is Congress’s failure, during and since the Bush administration, to rein in the power of the executive branch of government and reassert itself as a check on the authority of the president.

If our national political system were working the way it ought to, Bush and/or Cheney would have had to face the consequences of their various illegal and unconstitutional acts. At a minimum, following the last election, Congress would have imposed new constraints on the executive, or at least increased its oversight activities.

It’s what happened after we got rid of Nixon. It’s what should have happened in 2008. Actually, it should have happened by sometime in 2002 or 2004, but no use crying over spilled milk…

But a curious thing happened in 2008: voters were so fed up with the Republicans after eight years of Bush malfeasance and misfeasance that they voted in powerful Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress as well as the White House.

As a result, Congress apparently perceived very little need to rein in the executive branch. They were all on the same side, after all…the side of the angels (there they are again)…right?

Riiiiiiight…

It is a simple fact of political power dynamics that almost no one in a position of power will voluntarily relinquish that power to another official or branch of government unless forced to do so. Why would they? Even if they don’t intend to use the power to do some specific act (say, torture detainees, or hold them without trial) right now, well, there’s no telling whether circumstances might arise in the future where they would want to be able to do so.

Which is why we haven’t seen some changes that we were promised when we voted for Obama.

Remember habeas corpus? Yeah, I don’t either. Seems like we should have gotten that back by now, though, doesn’t it?

How about basic privacy protections? Like being able to trade e-mails or IMs or texts without thinking about how some computer was storing the information just in case someone got it into his head to use that information to build a federal case against you. Or maybe sell it to the tabloids. Whatever.

Remember how President Obama talked about Due Process back when he was candidate Obama? I miss that.

I could go on. And on. About the powers that Bush 43 grabbed that Obama hasn’t relinquished. About how wrong it is for our government to be targeting American citizens for assassination, no matter what those individuals are accused of doing. About what a freaking disappointment Obama is for progressives (no matter how much the Republicans may scream “Socialist!” about the man).

I could. But as usual, Glenn Greenwald has done a much better job than I could of explaining just how fucked up the whole thing is. Spencer Ackerman has some good thoughts on the subject, too.

Seems like this would be a good time to flood the White House e-mail servers with messages expressing concern about this change in policy.

We need to remind the Obama administration that if Congress won’t hold him accountable, we will. That we voted for him based on certain claims about what he would do if and when he was elected, and we can vote him out if he doesn’t at least try to live up to the hype. That he works for us, and has a duty to uphold the laws and constitution. And not some convoluted John Yoo interpretation of same, but an interpretation that would likely persuade a few Supreme Court Justices if it ever came down to that.

Speak up. Speak out. Do something.

jane doe


Okay, credit on this one goes to, I’m guessing, a Rosie O’Donnell reader. At any rate, this is posted on her site, and the context suggests that it came from one of her readers. I don’t ordinarily do reposts in this space, but in this case, I’m making an exception — if nothing else, maybe my mom will see the source and give it some serious consideration instead of dismissing it out of hand because I said it:

We had eight years of Bush and Cheney, Now you get mad!?

You didn’t get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn’t get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn’t get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn’t get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn’t get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn’t get mad when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.

You didn’t get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn’t get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn’t get mad when we gave a 900 billion tax break to the rich.

You didn’t get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.  Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all okay with you, but helping other Americans…oh hell no!


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.


If you’ve been watching Glenn Beck much lately – something I generally try to avoid, but I inevitably see clips on Countdown, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and/or just about every blog on the liberal side of the blogosphere – you know that the man has been bandying about terms like “Nazi” and “fascist” and “Hitler” pretty freely in connection with progressives generally and President Obama in particular.

Not that President Obama is particularly progressive, but that’s another rant for another time.

Anyway, Beck has been engaged in a lot of ranting and raving and name calling, including some odd combos like “communist fascists,” which apparently is what happens when someone moves so far to the left end of the political spectrum that they end up back around at the extreme end of the right side of the spectrum.

Apparently no one’s ever explained Godwin’s Law to Mr. Beck.

Now, just yesterday, I ran across the following photo from the Washington Post (h/t @chrislhayes, link takes you to the original photo in context):

Glen Beck addressing the crowd at CPAC in February 2010

THIS guy likes to bandy about Hitler comparisons?

I ask you, who does this photo remind you of?

Here’s a hint. Change the flag behind him with another historical flag. One from, say, Germany. Late 1930s – mid 1940s era.

Seriously, dude. Glass houses. Pot. Kettle.

Mind, I’m not calling Glenn Beck a Nazi. Because, hey, I am familiar with Godwin’s Law.*

I’m just saying that, well, if there was a photo of me looking like this floating around on teh internets, I’d really want to avoid mentioning the H-word. Or the F-word. Um, fascist, that is, not the other F-word (which I manifestly have no problem with using when the occasion seems to call for it).

Just a thought.

jane doe

* I will concede that there comes a point where the comparison to fascism as a system of government may be appropriate, despite the emotional valence of the term. I drafted a couple of posts for this blog during the Bush administration where I speculated about where we as a nation were along the slippery slope leading to fascism, though I don’t remember if I actually posted any of them. I was not alone in speculating about this – see for instance Joe Conason’s It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush.


If you’re on Twitter (which I just joined a couple days ago in light of the Iran situation – @janedoe_tcm), I recommend following @persiankiwi for English-language “tweets” from someone on the ground in Tehran.

Intense and disturbing.

jane doe


Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or with my family), you know that there is some serious badness happening in Iran at the moment, as the public reacts to highly questionable election results.

The best English-language coverage I’ve seen so far is courtesy of Nico Pitney, who’s been liveblogging since the election results came out at Huffington Post. Definitely worth checking out.

He’s posted a music video put together by one of his readers. The music is Rage Against the Machine, but the images are all recent photos and videos coming out of Iran:

jane doe


Ordinarily, I focus on national politics in this blog.

There’s a good reason for that. See, I am currently living in Colorado Springs. Mecca for evangelical Christians and right-wing hotbed. Looking at local politics is just too damn depressing.

So for the most part, I ignore it, and focus on the national issues.

Every now and then, though, something from local politics intrudes on my consciousness, and I feel like I have to say something.

This is one of those times.

Our local embarassment of a state senator, Dave Schultheis, cast the only vote against a measure that would provide for HIV testing of pregnant women. The idea behind the bill is that it would allow doctors to take appropriate steps to prevent an infected mother from passing the virus on to her child during delivery (which is when infection of the child usually occurs).

Now, there may be good privacy-related reasons to argue against mandatory testing in other circumstances, though I think the health and safety of the child should trump privacy concerns, since knowledge of the mother’s infection status can allow doctors to take steps to prevent transmission of the disease to the child.

But Schultheis wasn’t making a privacy-based argument.

He was making an “AIDS is punishment from god for immoral behavior, and if the child gets the disease the mother will feel guilty” argument. In his own words:

What I’m hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that. The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior. (Quote courtesy of the dead-tree edition of the Colorado Springs Independent.)

Nothing like condemning a child to life with an incurable and ultimately fatal disease in order to teach his or her parents (who are already similarly condemned) a lesson.

Forget the fact that many women with HIV were infected with the virus as a result of their husbands’ cheating. We have to PUNISH these women and make them feel GUILTY for their husbands’ behavior.

How utterly appalling.

The good news is, Schultheis was the only state senator to vote against the bill. It passed. Pregnant women and their doctors will have the information necessary to prevent HIV transmission to newborns, in spite of Schultheis’ moralistic myopia.

If you’d like to let Schultheis know what you think of his position, you can e-mail him at senatorschultheis@gmail.com

jane doe


Like everyone else, I’ve been watching the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip. And I’ve been horrified by the loss of life. But I’ve been hesitant to comment on it.

Much to my shame, I really don’t know what to make of the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

I get that Israel is surrounded by a lot of people who don’t acknowledge its right to exist as a nation. And that wouldn’t be a pleasant situation to be in. It would make one want to have the best damn military possible, and it would tend to give one a rather itchy trigger finger.

At the same time, I think the Palestinians have some legitimate grievances against Israel. Really legitimate grievances. Grievances that could make one want to fire rockets into their territory, maybe, after decades of frustration in the face of those grievances.

But I don’t approve of bombing civilian targets. Something both sides have been doing to some extent, but Israel far more than Hamas in recent days.

I think Israel’s reaction to Hamas has been disproportionate, but at the same time, I realize that I haven’t walked a mile in Israel’s moccasins. It’s hard for me to know what I would do in their shoes.

I think they’re trying to get their licks in before Obama takes office, knowing that Bush won’t do anything to stop them.

And I think this is only going to make us look worse in the eyes of the Arab world. Where we already look quite bad enough.

I just don’t know what to do about it.

Any suggestions?

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.


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

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

The alternative seems unthinkable to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not after the way McCain responded to the economic crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jane doe


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

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

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

jane doe


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

Sadly, this is not the case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It could cost the lives of Americans.

It could change the outcome of the election.

It could get us involved in a war.

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

And it could work.

jane doe

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

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