You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Big business’ category.
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?
* 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.
Matt Taibbi has apparently abandoned all hope. The system is completely fucked, and so are we. I’d leave, but where would I go? I’m taking suggestions, if anyone has any.
Okay, this video (which originally aired on the east coast broadcast of SNL in 1998 but was edited out of the west coast broadcast a couple hours later) has already been pulled from YouTube, probably because it was embedded over at Disinformation, but it’s still up at Google videos. Watch it quick before NBC makes them take it down for “copyright violations” (and not at all because it is critical of NBC).
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.
Sorry, folks, I know it’s been a few days since I posted anything. Which is kind of surprising, I suppose, when you consider everything that’s happening on the political scene at the moment. There’s certainly no shortage of material.
For the past week, I’ve been mostly painting and sketching. After too many years of trying to relegate my creative side to the back burner, everything has been boiling over, and I’ve had several nights where I sat down to start sketching some idea I’ve had, and the next thing I know it’s starting to get light outside again. I’m in total zombie mode as I type this, in fact, as last night was another all-nighter. So if there are a bunch of typos or if there seem to be words missing, that’s probably why.
When I’ve surfaced for air, though, I’ve been watching the simultaneous implosions of the economy and the McCain campaign.
The former, of course, is rather horrifying. So many people stand to lose everything they’ve worked their whole lives for, all because some I-bankers got greedy and some politicians (cough*Republicans*cough) bought into the whole “deregulation of the markets is a good thing” argument and then sold it to a large chunk of the American public.
My parents are retired, and are dependent upon their investments for their financial support, so when the market is careening around like a yo-yo on a string, they get a bit jittery. The rest of the family is in better shape, I guess. My brother’s income is steady, and that looks likely to continue that way in the coming months (knock on wood), and he and his wife are super-responsible financially, so their mortgage is not of the sub-prime variety. Their credit score is probably off the scale. Their investments may suffer, but they have plenty of time before their kids go off to college or they consider retirement, so they are troubled but not completely freaking out about the recent market moodiness.
And then there’s yours truly. Let’s just say my brother got all the fiscal responsibility genes in the family and leave it at that. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been taking a leave of absence from school and my assistantship this semester as I try to figure out what direction I should be moving in. Thus, I have no money coming in. I’m living off rapidly dwindling savings (and living under my brother’s roof) at the moment. I don’t have much in the way of investments. Most of the money I’d saved up during my lawyer years has been eaten up while I’ve been living la vida grad school, leaving me with just my rapidly-dwindling IRA rolled over from a couple of 401(k)’s.
It’s very tempting to take all that money out and resign myself to the tax hit so I can put it someplace safer. Like my mattress. But while that might be better for me personally, it would be bad for the country, because what if everybody did that? So I am leaving my money where it is for the moment, and hoping that others do the same and that I won’t come to regret that decision.
What is it that the great philosopher Janis Joplin said? “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”? Well, I may be finding out real soon what that kind of freedom feels like, I guess.
But I digress…
In contrast to the economy, watching the McCain campaign implode has been rather entertaining in a very schadenfreude kind of way. At least,
it was, until McCain’s campaign posturing suddenly messed up some
bipartisan congressional efforts to stabilize the
It’s got to be tough to be campaigning with a record of loudly and proudly favoring market deregulation – hell, deregulation was a cornerstone of his platform just a few days ago – only to have the entire country’s economy suddenly and rather spectacularly in peril because of, oh yeah, inadequate regulation and oversight.
And to have as high-ranking members of your campaign staff, lobbyists who represented some of the major players in the ongoing economic catastrofuck?
Well, that’s got to make it really hard to look like you are the candidate who is going to clean up Washington, DC, and save us all from the greedy bastards who brought us to this precarious point.
And yet, somehow, McCain is trying to sell that image to the American public. Go figure.
But, hey! Apparently the debate is going to happen this evening, in spite of McCain’s attempt to postpone it. It should be interesting. I plan to pop a big bowl of popcorn, put on one of my snarky political t-shirts, and enjoy the show. Popcorn is the debate-watching food of choice because it won’t damage the television if I find myself forced to throw something at the screen in response to something McCain says.
Presidential debate during a major economic meltdown. What could possibly be more exciting for a Friday night?
Surprising, I suspect, its distributor and a lot of reviewers in the mainstream media, War, Inc. is opening several more cities today, and apparently expanding to a few new theaters in cities where it was already showing.
There’s been none of the traditional marketing hype surrounding this movie. In fact, aside from an appearance on Countdown by John Cusack (the film’s co-writer, co-producer, and main star), I think all of the promotion of this movie has taken place online, either at the MySpace page set up by Cusack and the War, Inc. team, or in the liberal part of the blogosphere, where a lot of people (myself included) have been raving about it.
I’ve said a lot about War, Inc., here because I think it’s a film more people should see (just like I think more people should read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine and watch Robert Greenwald’s Iraq for Sale). It focuses its satirical eye on what Klein calls disaster capitalism, a disturbing practice that has exploded and flourished under the current administration’s policies (though it’s been around longer).
Disaster capitalism is what happens when large corporations descend on a country or region in the wake of a disaster (natural or man-made) and start making sweeping changes in the way business (particularly local industry or natural resources) is done and governments are run while the people who live in the region are still in shock from the disaster itself. Of course, these sweeping changes tend to be of a nature that is extremely profitable for said corporations. And often disastrous for the local population.
We’ve seen aspects of it here in America, particularly in the wake of 9/11, when all sorts of appalling legislation that has turned out to be very profitable for certain corporate backers of people in the Bush White House was rushed through Congress. It’s been seen in post-Katrina New Orleans, and it’s probably happening right now in the parts of the Midwest that were affected by the floods a few weeks back, as well. And what some of these corporations (Halliburton, Blackwater, KBR) have done in Iraq is enough to leave one mortified that one shares a common country with the people running them.
It’s a phenomenon I haven’t talked about much in this blog, and which frankly I should probably talk about more. Because once you look at the economic angle, at where the money is actually going, the driving force for a whole lot of otherwise bizarre policies coming out of the White House suddenly becomes very clear. And very disturbing.
But I digress.
The point of this post was supposed to be to alert my you, my dear non-existent readers, to the fact that War, Inc., a movie that satirizes the disaster capitalism process, is opening in a bunch more cities today.
Cities like San Luis Obispo and San Diego in California; Portland, Oregon; Scottsdale, Arizona; Bethesda and Baltimore in Maryland; Philadelphia; Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Plano in Texas; Lexington, Kentucky; Frontenac, Missouri; and Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, in Colorado. (Info about theaters here.)
I have to admit, that last city kind of caught me by surprise. I have family in Colorado Springs, so I’ve spent some time there, and I have to say, it’s a pretty conservative town. It’s the home of Focus on the Family and about a dozen other right-wing evangelical organizations, for one thing, and there are a lot of current and retired military people there. They have the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, and the Cheyenne Mountain NORAD people there. There may be an army base somewhere around there, as well, now that I think about it. These are the people who voted overwhelmingly for Bush in 2000 and 2004. If you’ve ever wondered where the 28 percent of the population that still approves of George Bush is hiding, well, a disproportionate number of them can probably be found in the Springs.
So I was a little surprised to see that War, Inc. would be showing there.
But then I thought, well, there are a lot of soldiers living in Colorado Springs who’ve been in Iraq and seen how things are. They know what’s going on over there. What companies like Halliburton and Blackwater are doing, mostly on taxpayer dollars.
They’ll get it.
Anyway, if you haven’t already seen War, Inc., and you live in or near one of the cities where it’s just opened, you should check it out. Because if you’re the type of person who reads this blog on a regular (or even irregular) basis, I suspect you’ll get it, too.
I went to Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s web page today, hoping to find a copy of the articles of impeachment he has submitted to Congress. Instead, I found this, from today:
“WE WENT TO WAR FOR THE OIL COMPANIES” Kucinich Tells Congress
Demands Bush Administration and Oil Company Execs be Held Accountable
Washington, Jun 26 – US Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, in a speech to the House of Representatives today, tied the secret meetings of the Cheney Energy Task Force to the recent award of non-competitive oil contracts in Iraq and said that both the Bush Administration and the oil company executives who participated in those meetings in 2001 should be held criminally liable for an illegal war and extortion of Iraq’s oil.
“In March of 2001, when the Bush Administration began to have secret meetings with oil company executives from Exxon, Shell and BP, spreading maps of Iraq oil fields before them, the price of oil was $23.96 per barrel. Then there were 63 companies in 30 countries, other than the US, competing for oil contracts with Iraq.
“Today the price of oil is $135.59 per barrel, the US Army is occupying Iraq and the first Iraq oil contracts will go, without competitive bidding to, surprise, (among a very few others) Exxon, Shell and BP.
“Iraq has between 200 – 300 billion barrels of oil with a market value in the tens of trillions of dollars. And our government is trying to force Iraq not only to privatize its oil, but to accept a long-term US military presence to guard the oil and protect the profits of the oil companies while Americans pay between $4 and $5 a gallon for gas, while our troops continue dying.
“We attacked a nation that did not attack us. Over 4000 of our troops are dead. Over 1,000,000 innocent Iraqis have perished. The war will cost US taxpayers between $2 – $3 trillion dollars. Our nation’s soul is stained because we went to war for the oil companies and their profits. There must be accountability not only with this Administration for its secret meetings and its open illegal warfare but also for the oil company executives who were willing participants in a criminal enterprise of illegal war, the deaths of our soldiers and innocent Iraqis and the extortion of the national resources of Iraq.
“We have found the weapon of mass destruction in Iraq. It is oil. As long as the oil companies control our government Americans will continue to pay and pay, with our lives, our fortunes our sacred honor,” he concluded.
I have nothing to add right now, except (a) if you haven’t already done so, you should check out Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, which has just come out in paperback, and (b) I really, really think it’s time Bush and Cheney were impeached.
I was reading back over what I posted last night – something I really shouldn’t do because I always find things I would like to change – when I realized I left out something rather important in my review of War, Inc.
That is, the film’s impact on me.
Because, like all good satires, it did have an impact that lasted after I walked out of the theater. In spite of being absolutely hilarious at times, War, Inc. is, overall, a rather disquieting movie. This may account for some of the negative reviews, because at times you kind of feel like you’re laughing at a funeral. Gallows humor, I think it’s called.
I mean, here are all these absolutely absurd things happening up on the screen, and you can’t help but laugh, but in the pause after the laugh, you also can’t help but think, “Wait, this isn’t all that far removed from the shit that’s actually happening over in Iraq right now.”
It is a very disturbing feeling.
But that’s not entirely a bad thing. Because we should be disturbed by what is happening in Iraq.
It’s easy for a lot of people to ignore the war, the atrocities that are being committed in our names. Aside from our troops and their friends and families, most of us haven’t had to sacrifice much of anything because of the war. Yeah, we’re paying an obscene amount for gasoline at the moment, but that’s not because of the war. Gas is expensive because Congress hasn’t closed the Enron loophole that lets corporate executives game the system at our expense.
People slap magnetic ribbons on their SUVs and think they’re supporting the troops. Neocons say we can’t leave until we’ve secured “victory” (whatever that means this week), and think they’re being patriotic.
And all the while, people are dying in the name of the bottom line.
I saw Iraq for Sale when it came out on DVD, and it left me so angry I was literally shaking. The effect of War, Inc. was not as severe – probably because I got to release a lot of tension by laughing – but it left me with a definite feeling of needing to do something – march in protest, sign petitions calling for impeachment and war crimes trials for our alleged president, lead an angry mob waving torches and pitchforks up Pennsylvania Avenue, whatever – just something, anything to make this nonsense stop.
It’s a good feeling, I think, and one that more people need to experience.
So if you’re living in one of the cities where War, Inc., is showing, grab a bunch of friends and go see it. Heck, plan a road trip around it if you don’t live in one of those cities.
And then do something.
Finally got to see War, Inc., last weekend when I was in Chicago. The showing I saw was on Sunday afternoon, and at that hour, unfortunately, the theater was more empty than full. Still, a fine time was had by all, I think.
Looking around on the net, one sees that War, Inc., has gotten rather mixed reviews from mainstream sources, and I can only conclude that those people don’t get it.
Me? I loved it.
War, Inc. is subversive, rebellious, twisted, and, most importantly, funny. The filmmakers made their political and social points without being heavy-handed, and clearly had fun doing so. This is what a good satire should be like.
The film stars John Cusack (who also co-wrote and co-produced it) as hitman Brand Hauser. Hauser is hired by Tamerlane, a US-based corporation run by a former Vice President (Dan Aykroyd) which has just successfully invaded a country called Turaquistan in the first-ever entirely corporate-fought war, to kill a competitor who has the temerity to build an oil pipeline in his own country in competition with Tamerlane.
Whew. That was a lot of info to fit in one sentence.
Tamerlane is a rather deliberate hybrid of Halliburton and Blackwater, and any resemblance between Iraq and Turaqistan (or between Aykroyd’s character and Dick Cheney) is purely intentional, I’m sure.
Hauser’s cover on this assignment is that he has to act as the trade show host for Tamerlane, which is showcasing all the wonderful products the company makes to help rebuild the country…sort of…most of the products seem to be things like inflatable prisons, weapons, security devices, and artificial limbs. Does any of this sound familiar?
While on assignment, Hauser is aided by his super-efficient assistant, Marsha Dillon (played by sister Joan Cusack). The relationship between these two characters seems very reminiscent of the roles the two Cusacks portrayed in Grosse Pointe Blank, but it works in this movie, too.
Hauser also finds himself interacting with lefty reporter Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei), an about-to-be-married 18-year-old Middle East pop star named Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff), her piggish husband-to-be, Ooq-Mi-Fay (I’ll leave it to you to figure out the piglatin translation), their entourage, and the voice of an OnStar-like guidance system (Montel Williams).
I’ll refrain from detailing the storyline more than I already have, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Suffice it to say, there is sufficient plot excitement to keep the film moving along at a good pace, but probably no huge surprises as the story unfolds.
The performances from all the major actors are great. Cusack is again wonderful in the conflicted hitman/everyman role. Marisa Tomei, Ben Kingsley, and Dan Aykroyd all nailed their parts. And much to my surprise, Hilary Duff was great as Yonica, the Middle East’s Britney Spears. I’m not familiar with her earlier work, and I’d kind of assumed that her acting talent would be about on par with Britney Spears, as well, but she showed a great ability to disappear into the character – I really wouldn’t have recognized her if I hadn’t already known she was playing the role.
There’s a lot going on in this movie at any point in time, beyond the main focus of the scenes. The advertising signs scattered all over the place in Turaquistan were hilarious, and there was a lot of funny stuff that you would miss if you blinked. I’m really looking forward to getting this movie on DVD, so I can figure out some of the things that went by too fast on the screen to be appreciated.
The soundtrack is good, which is no surprise since Cusack has shown a real talent for pulling together nice soundtracks in earlier movies where he’s been involved in the production (e.g., the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack, which is awesome). A fitting selection of tunes for the big scenes, plus some original songs written by Paul Hipp for Yonica’s performances in the film, like her trade show number, I Want to Blow You…Up, which, as you might expect from its title, is heavy on the innuendo, hold the subtlety.
My overall recommendation on this movie is this:
If you are a neo-conservative, don’t bother. Either you won’t get it, or it will piss you off. Of course, from the absence of badly-spelled troll-like comments I receive on this blog, I assume not many neocons are reading this, anyway.
For everyone else: If you are sick of the Iraq war, if you are tired of the way the Bush White House is running this country for the benefit of its corporations instead of its citizens, go see this movie.
Make a little noise.
And don’t forget to VOTE in November.
Hey, there, my dear nonexistent readers. This is a reminder to any of you who live in LA or New York:
John Cusack’s new movie, War, Inc. opens this weekend at a single theater in each of those cities. In Los Angeles, it’s showing at the Landmark (10850 W. Pico Blvd.), and in New York, it’s at the Angelika Film Center (18 W. Houston St.).
As I said a few posts back, this movie looks great! The clips I’ve seen are smart and hilarious in a dark, rebellious sort of way, and the buzz from people who have seen it is very good. Cusack has a MySpace page set up where you can watch the trailer and various clips from the movie. Better yet, just go see it!
I know, it’s a bit unusual to see me so enthusiastic about a movie. But here’s the deal:
- According to Cusack’s MySpace page, the movie will only go into wider release if it does well at these two theaters.
- I really want to see this movie.
- I live nowhere near New York or Los Angeles, so the only way I will get to see it is if it goes into wider release.
So if you live in NYC or LA, and the trailer looks good to you, go see the movie! Now! Hurry! Go!
And by the way, I still think Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.