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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s see what we have:

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

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

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

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

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

I hope I’m wrong.

I’m probably wrong.

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

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

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

jane doe

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

Mr. Emanuel –

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

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

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

No, to both.

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

jane doe

You’ve probably already heard this, but MSNBC has finally gotten smart and is giving Rachel Maddow a show of her own, which will follow after Countdown on weeknights.

Allow me to add my voice to the thundering chorus of liberal bloggers, and say, “Yay!”

She’s smart, she’s witty, and she knows her political history. And she does not hesitate to call bullshit when some neocon goofball starts spouting talking points or lying outright.

For some time now, she’s been the only thing that would keep me watching any MSNBC panel discussion that also featured Pat Buchanan or Tucker Carlson. I’ve even endured Chris Matthews’ incessant talking over other people on the rare occasions when I’ve seen her on his show,* just to hear what she has to say.

She’s like, the AntiCoulter.

Anyway, congratulations to Rachel. I’m looking forward to seeing the new show.

jane doe

* For all I know, Rachel has been on Matthews’ show lots of times. I just don’t watch it very often because I really can’t stand to listen to that man. When he and Keith Olbermann are doing coverage of political events together, I mostly hit the mute when Tweety starts in. Awful, I know. But his voice is loud and harsh, and don’t get me started on his laugh. And he just can’t seem to stop himself from interrupting every single person he has on. Seriously. Once in a while, interruptions are okay – maybe even appropriate or necessary – but he does it all the fucking time.

Hello, all. I’m more or less back online now, and trying to get caught up on everything that’s been happening over the past week while I’ve been living in a “news-free” zone. (Don’t ask.)

I’m working on a couple of pieces which I will post over the next few days. In the mean time, I thought I’d pass this along. It’s the first of a series of three short video clips put together by an Iraqi journalist who apparently works for the Guardian. (h/t C&L) These were filmed outside the Green Zone in Baghdad earlier this year. The other clips can be found here and here.

Can we please just impeach Bush and Cheney now?

jane doe

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.

It occurs to me, as I look back over the past few posts, that I’ve been spending a lot of time complaining about Hillary Clinton lately, instead of going after the people who really deserve it: Bush, Cheney, McCain, and all of their little minions. Obviously, I am not alone in this, as anyone who has watched a news broadcast in the mainstream media lately can attest.

In a way, Hillary Clinton has recently been the best thing that could have happened to our alleged president, his lackeys, and his would-be successor. Because if we’re all in a tizzy about what Hillary is doing, it leaves them freer to continue their crooked activities. Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain, folks!

Well enough of that. As of now, I am back in my usual mode of going after the corrupt bastards currently running the show in DC. I may not get another post up before tomorrow, but I promise to get back to fighting the good fight instead of complaining about Hillary.

After all, I still believe that Bush and Cheney really ought to be impeached.

jane doe

No, wait. They’re all connected. I promise.

See, I was checking out the blogs this morning, and I came across a couple stories in rapid succession that seemed to me closely related.

The first was this story in the Denver Post about someone who claims to have video of a space alien peering into the windows of his home. The story includes a copy of the video — dark and somewhat grainy, but seeming to show a face with enormous eyes peering into a window, which the story helpfully tells us is eight feet off the ground. The story also informs us that the homeowner had set up a security camera because he suspected peeping Toms of looking in the windows at his teenage daughters, and instead caught footage of a space alien.

The second was this story on (h/t to HuffPo) about Bill Clinton’s “enemies list”:

With Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign on the verge of defeat, Bill Clinton has been placing blame on enemies including a brazenly biased media that tried to suppress blue-collar votes, a powerful anti-war group that endorsed rival Barack Obama and weak-willed party leaders unable to stand up to either of these nefarious forces.

Now, I know what you’re saying, my dear, non-existent readers. “How can these two stories possibly be related?” But trust me — there is a connection in my warped little brain.

Let’s start with the space alien story, shall we? As you read the story, you find out that the guy who got the video was trying to see if there were peeping Toms looking into his house (thus explaining the videocamera pointed at a window). And you might think, “Okay, this seems unlikely, but the video isn’t obviously faked, so I’ll reserve judgment for the moment.”

But then, if you read a bit further into the article, you find out that the homeowner who captured the video images also “claims to have had more than 100 encounters with aliens” and asserts that he was abducted by extraterrestrials.

Suddenly you find yourself thinking, “Maybe this guy didn’t see any aliens. Maybe he’s just a complete nut[1].”

Because one chance unexplained occurrence from someone with no history of such claims might be legitimate, or at least worth exploring. But when you see someone who claims repeated encounters with aliens — when no one else of your acquaintance can make similar claims — you have to think that it’s a bit improbable, and that there is likely some other explanation, probably involving psychotropic meds.

It’s like the stranger you meet in a bar, who is ranting and raving about his ex-wife who (according to him) was a psychotic bitch-monster from hell.

Now, if you talk to this stranger for a while longer, he may provide evidence to support his claim. Maybe she really was a psychotic bitch-monster from hell. It happens.

On the other hand, a longer conversation may reveal that not only was his ex-wife a psychotic bitch-monster from hell, but so was the girl he was dating before he met his wife. And the girlfriend before her. And his mom. And his sister. And his secretary. And his boss. And his third, fourth, seventh, and tenth grade teachers. And…well, you get the idea.

You kind of have to start thinking, “It’s not the women who are the problem. It’s you, buddy.”

Which brings me back to the Clintons.

Throughout the race, they seem to have done nothing but blame and complain. It’s the media. It’s It’s black voters. It’s white males. It’s young voters. It’s sexism. It’s the caucus states. It’s the right-wingers. It’s the talking heads. And did I mention the media?

And I can’t help thinking, “Bill, Hillary, maybe it’s not the media. It’s not It’s not the Obama supporters. It’s not even the vast right-wing conspiracy.”

Hillary started out as the media-anointed candidate, considered all but a sure thing to win the Democratic nomination. For a long time, all the other candidates, Obama included, were being covered by the press as “also-rans”. Because who could possibly conquer the Mighty Clinton Fundraising Machine(tm)?

But at the end of the day, there were just more people backing Obama where they were needed, netting him more votes, more delegates, and more donations. And those people had a lot of different (and legitimate) reasons for backing Obama. Reasons that may have had little or nothing to do with the media, or, or whatever.

Game over for Bill and Hillary.

If Bill and Hillary are smart and willing to be honest with themselves (if not anyone else), maybe, just maybe, they’ll take a long look in the mirror, and think, “What could we have done differently, that would have turned the nomination our way?”

But I doubt it. It’s much easier, after all, to blame everyone else than to admit that maybe you could have done something differently to win more voters.

On an only marginally related note, I still think Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.

jane doe

[1]”Complete nut” being the technical, psychological term, of course.

Yup, it’s another Keith Olbermann Special Comment.

This one is largely a rehash of his January 31st Special Comment, updated in light of the House of Representatives’ refusal (despite Bush’s efforts to scare them into submission) to pass the FISA extension today in a form that Bush would be willing to sign — that is, one that includes immunity for the telecoms who have helped the White House illegally spy on Americans.

The key point of the comment: assuming Bush is correct that extending the FISA statute as soon as possible is critical for our nation’s counterterrorism efforts, Bush’s repeated threats to veto any bill that doesn’t include telecom immunity is putting the financial status of the telecom companies above the lives and safety of American citizens.

Oh, there is one significant amendment from the previous special comment. Keith Olbermann calls George Bush a fascist, subject-verb-object. He even suggests that Bush have a t-shirt made up with the word fascist emblazoned on it.

About time someone in the mainstream media had the guts to say it.

As usual, I’m sure Crooks and Liars will get the video up quickly. Go watch it, especially if you missed the earlier Special Comment on this subject.

It all points out, once again, why Bush and Cheney really ought to be impeached.

jane doe

…and entertaining if untrue: At least three web sites are reporting (in identical language) that:

Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fled France [Saturday] fearing arrest over charges of “ordering and authorizing” torture of detainees at both the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the US military’s detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unconfirmed reports coming from Paris suggest.

US embassy officials whisked Rumsfeld away yesterday from a breakfast meeting in Paris organized by the Foreign Policy magazine after human rights groups filed a criminal complaint againsgt the man who spearheaded President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” for six years.

Under international law, authorities in France are obliged to open an investigation when a complaint is made while the alleged torturer is on French soil.

Major disclaimer: I have absolutely no way of knowing whether any of this is true.

Of the three places I found this story, the only one I have any prior experience with is AlterNet. They seem to be attributing the story to IPS News (Inter Press Service News Agency), which I have never even heard of before. I cannot find the story on the IPS web site, and therefore am uncertain whether AlterNet’s attribution is correct.

One of the three sites reporting the story seems to be based in Iran, although it is an English-language site. Given the current state of relations between Iran and the US, I am likely to be skeptical about anything one of those country’s media report about government officials (or ex-officials) from the other country. (And yes, that works in both directions, given all the untrue things the US mainstream media reported about Iraq back in 2002 and early 2003.)

The third site is something called world news, which looks like a blog and seems to include stories from a variety of reputable sources, including the New York Times, Reuters, and BBC News. However, it does not list any source for this story, either.

None of the stories include an author’s name, though the Iranian site does have some initials at the end of the story (“RZS/BGH”), which might signify a staff author or authors — other stories on the site include similar strings of initials at the ends of the stories. The end result is that we have zero accountability on this story. (Yes, I realize that sounds ironic coming from someone who blogs under the moniker jane doe. But I’m all about irony. Plus, I usually cite sources for any factual assertions I make, unless they are being widely reported already by multiple mainstream sources.)

On the assumption that this might have actually happened but been ignored by our beloved corporate mainstream media here in the US, I did a little searching on some European news sites. Guardian (UK) and the BBC are both silent on this story, and the former of those, at least, would probably mention it if they had heard about it.

All-in-all, I have a lot of doubts about the truth of the story, but I thought it deserved a mention, if only in the hopes that someone who has the ability to investigate whether any of it is true picks up on it.

So my question to you, my dear non-existent readers, is this: has anyone else heard anything about this? Is this story true? A distortion of a true story? An outright hoax?

I don’t know. If you do, please post a reply in the comments.

And by the way, whether this story is true or not, it does not change my position that Bush and Cheney really ought to be impeached.

jane doe


In my previous post, I outlined some of the principles of terror management theory, and described the theory’s implications for American politics. But despite the length of my post, I left out one very important point that I really wanted to emphasize.

You see, I am aware of anecdotal evidence that awareness of terror management theory can actually change individuals’ reactions to those lovely death primes the research relies on. Certainly, I have found that my own awareness of the theory has changed the way I watch the news, and in particular it has changed the weight I give to various political assertions by members of the current administration.

But I am not drawing solely on my own experience in making this assertion, even though I am unaware of any published study that would support it. Rather, I am relying in part on unpublished whisperings among the graduate students at one of the academic institutions where much of the research into terror management theory has been conducted.

First, you must understand that much of the research in this field (as is the case with nearly all psychological research) is performed on undergraduate college students, usually those enrolled in undergraduate psychology courses. There is a very good reason for this, of course: undergraduates are a convenient research population, and they will usually participate without pay in exchange for a few extra credit points in their psych classes.

On at least one of the campuses where much of the research into terror management theory takes place, the graduate students who collected the data complained that they had gotten reputations among the current crop undergraduate psychology majors for always working on terror management studies, and the students participating in the studies would be looking for the death primes as soon as they saw the graduate students conducting the research. Suddenly, the researchers had trouble getting statistically significant results, even in cases where all previous research suggested that the present study should produce such results. In other words, awareness of terror management theory at least partially nullified the effect of the death prime. As a result of this, the grad students had to start going to other college campuses in the area to seek research participants.

It is for this reason that I have devoted so much time researching and writing my post on the politics of terror management. (Though the post ostensibly responds to Olbermann’s recent piece on the nexus of politics and terror, I have actually been working on it for some time and only made the changes that address his piece in the last two days.) I hope that my post on the subject, and a few others I have planned, will spark a discussion of terror management theory in the blogosphere, and that that discussion will eventually reach the mainstream media. It is my hope that, by increasing voter awareness of terror management theory and its implications, the ability of politicians to manipulate those voters with fear will be reduced.

Please note that I am not claiming there is no reason for us to be concerned about future terrorist attacks. The events of 9/11 made it plain that we are vulnerable to attacks on American soil, and it is appropriate for our government to devote significant resources to preventing future attacks. My point (and hope) is that voters should be able to make their decisions about which candidate(s) would be best to lead our country into a post-Bush future and undo the damage he has done to our country and our standing in the world arena free of the sort of emotional manipulation that we have been subject to in the recent past. Knowledge is power, and in the present instant, knowledge of terror management theory confers the power to resist manipulation by those who hope to use the theory to manipulate us with fear tactics.

And furthermore, I believe that Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.

-jane doe

So apparently our alleged president, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to begin a covert campaign to destabilize Iran. Obviously the fiasco in Iraq, the re-emerging war in Afghanistan, the Justice department scandal, the World Bank mess, and his battles with Congress aren’t enough to occupy his time, and he has decided to go looking for additional trouble on another front.

And how do I know about this covert campaign, you may ask? Because it was very helpfully reported by ABC News.

This, of course, has prompted howls of ungrammatical outrage from the steadily dwindling number of Americans who still support George Bush – witness the comments to the above-referenced story, where commenters called ABC News “traders” (one assumes the person meant traitors) and speak of their “tresonous [sic] actions”.

While I can understand the poorly articulated concerns of those who commented on the story, I disagree with their conclusions. There are actions that our government takes that clearly should be kept secret. Broadcasting details of troop movements during combat operations, for example, would put our troops and our entire strategy at grave risk. Barring some notorious exceptions, I think our press has generally been sensitive to this need for vagueness in reporting on ongoing operations.

On the other hand, when our leaders decide to take unauthorized action against a country with which we are not at war, hoping to destabilize its government in the face of very vocal protests by many Americans that we should not go looking for trouble with that country given our current commitments in the world arena, and a news organization finds out about it, I believe that circumstances justify a decision to report on that story.

Clearly, someone within the administration was concerned enough about Bush’s decision to feel that public disclosure was necessary to prevent a huge catastrophe. Just a few weeks ago, George Tenet came under strong criticism from many quarters for his decision not to quit as head of the CIA and go to the press in protest of Bush’s actions in the run-up to the Iraq war. Someone watching all that apparently concluded that they didn’t want a similar catastrofuck on their conscience with respect to Iran – and bless them for it.So am I angered by ABC News’ decision to run this story? No. I view them as the whistleblower in this instance, alerting us to yet another questionable action by this administration that is running amok at our expense. We cannot afford a war with Iran at this time, due in large part to Bush’s bungling of the Iraq situation. And frankly, I don’t trust the motives of anyone in the Bush administration anymore.

“I acknowledge that mistakes were made.”
–Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales

Isn’t the passive voice a wonderful thing? It’s a way to appear responsible, without actually taking any responsibility. A handy rhetorical tool for those in politics, and one which we got to see in use just today, as our Chief Rationalizer for the Undermining of the Constitution, also known as the Attorney General, tried to justify the political firing of eight U.S. Attorneys while at the same time pretending he had nothing to do with it.

“Mistakes were made,” certainly, but when phrased that way, it leaves open the very important question, who by? Please, tell us, exactly who made these mistakes? You? Karl Rove? The alleged president? The American people, by voting these weasels into power? I submit to you, my nonexistent readers, that there is a world of difference between saying “mistakes were made,” and admitting that “I made a mistake.”

In fairness to Gonzales, he is hardly the first political-type to try to weasel out of a tight spot using the passive voice, and he certainly won’t be the last. Examples abound of this sort of creative use of the passive voice in politics. I seem to recall someone in the Reagan administration saying it in connection with the Iran-Contra affair, and others have used similar words in similarly awkward or appalling political situations.

And there are good reasons why we see so much of this from the mouths of politicians. A rather startling percentage of politicians are lawyers, after all, and while law students are generally urged by their writing instructors to use the active voice, those same instructors will be the first to tell you that the passive voice can be your friend when you want to accurately describe the facts in a brief without making your client look guilty of whatever he or she (or it, in the case of corporate clients) has been accused of. Consider the following example:

Imagine you are representing a defendant in a civil lawsuit in which one party is being sued for, hypothetically speaking, shooting the plaintiff in the face while the plaintiff and the defendant were out hunting after having a few beers. Which of the following sentences would you rather include in your legal brief?

“Plaintiff was shot in the face while hunting.”


“Defendant Cheney then accidentally shot the plaintiff in the face.”

The first option acknowledges that the plaintiff was shot in the face, but provides no information about who pulled the trigger. Conversely, even putting in the word “accidentally” in the second statement doesn’t help our poor defendant out very much there, does it?

In fairness to the Republicans (and make a note that I am trying to be fair to the slimy bastards), Democrats are probably just as guilty of abuse of the passive voice. In the face of reporters trying to get Hillary Clinton to admit that she was wrong to vote in favor of the Iraq war, the most I have heard anyone get from her is an acknowledgment that “it was a mistake” — not that she made a mistake. (Shame on you, Hillary. You’re not fooling anyone with half a brain and that will work against you, since you’re not running for the Republican Party’s nomination.)

Some reporters push the issue, but it seems like many more dutifully repeat what is said to them without further inquiry. And of course, on Faux News, they just stick to whatever talking points they’ve been handed by their Republican Party overlords. We need to start forcing the issue when we are confronted with politicians trying to passive-voice their way out of a sticky situation. Otherwise, mistakes will continue to be made, and responsibility will continue to be ducked.

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

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August 2020