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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.


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.

jane doe


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).

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


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
economy.

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.

Oopsie.

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?

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.


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.

jane doe


Surprising no one, the Democrats in the Senate caved on the FISA warrantless wiretapping and telecom immunity measure today. They pretty much gave Bush everything he had been asking for.

All the usual suspects have been writing about it, but I can’t right now. You see, I have to go pound my head against this brick wall, here. Maybe if I do it hard enough, I’ll effectively lobotomize myself. That way, when we finally cross the line completely to become a totalitarian fascist regime, I will neither understand nor care anymore.

jane doe


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.

jane doe


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.

jane doe


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).

Mayhem ensues.

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.

Get rowdy.

And don’t forget to VOTE in November.

jane doe


This evening, I had originally planned to post a nice review of War, Inc., which I finally got to see when I was in Chicago last weekend. It really is wickedly funny, and all the more topical given yesterday’s announcement about certain American and British oil companies going back to work in Iraq on no-bid contracts (read about that here). I’ll have to write that review tomorrow, though. Sorry.

The simple fact of the matter is, I’m too angry at the moment to write a good review.

The House Democrats sold us out today, folks. There’s no other way to describe it. And in doing so, they’ve pushed us a bit closer to that blurry, indistinct line that separates our democracy from fascism.

That’s assuming we haven’t crossed that line already. I’m really not completely sure, since it’s never been precisely clear to me what the defining characteristics of fascism are. There certainly seems to be a lot of debate about that on the internet. And it’s not like any modern government or political party will announce that it is hoping to institute a fascist form of government anymore, not since World War II. Still, we’ve seen the Bush White House use a lot of tactics that seem to come out of the Hitler playbook. Yes, I know that remark is likely to bring comments about Godwin’s Law — or it would if any of you, my dear non-existent readers, ever left comments, anyway. I don’t care. Sometimes, the Hitler analogy is appropriate from a historical perspective, and it has been increasingly so as this administration’s tenure has progressed.

But I digress.

The Democrats have a controlling majority in the House of Representatives. It’s not like the Senate, where they can only claim to have a majority because Joe Lieberman is still caucusing with them (even if he doesn’t vote with them on anything). So they didn’t have to cave.

They didn’t have to give in on the so-called compromise FISA measure. which grants the president expansive powers to spy on us without warrants — our phone calls, our e-mails, our internet surfing habits.

They certainly didn’t have to give the telecoms immunity. How the fuck does that make us any more secure, I ask you?

Yet this is precisely what they have done today. In doing this, they are giving us government not of the people, by the people, and for the people, but of, by, and for the major corporations. And for Big Brother.

In doing this, they betrayed us. The American people.

And it’s leaving me wondering what to do now?

See, here’s the thing. I used to be this corporate attorney. Big law firm, big business deals, big money. Well, big money for the number of years I was out of law school, anyway — lots of people were making a lot more money than me. I wore designer suits, I ate in nice restaurants, and I had a lovely office in…well, you don’t need to know which city, and I don’t want to make it too easy to identify me, for reasons I’ve already discussed elsewhere in this blog.

At first, the work was real easy to rationalize. Most of the clients I did work for were non-profit corporations performing essential services. So there I was, on the side of the angels, right? But the reality was, they were in competition with for-profit corporations, and in order to continue their operations, they had to engage in some of the same practices that the for-profits did just to remain financially viable.

This was very disturbing to me.

I tried going in-house at an organization that I believed then and still believe now to be very ethically run, but the business aspects were still getting to me. And when I have trouble believing in what I’m doing, I do not perform at my best.

Seven years out of law school, I was completely burnt-out.

I decided to go back to grad school to re-tool for a new career. I figured I would get my PhD, and then I could start working with certain organizations to educate legislators at the state and federal level about what scientific research was telling us about the field, and what the implications of that were for making policy applicable to that field.

Seems like a good fit, right? See, I already speak lawyerspeak, and politicianspeak and bureaucratspeak are both really just dialects of that language. So I thought I could help translate the scientific research (another language of its own) for the people making the policy, so that we don’t end up with policy that is so at odds with what all the research is telling us about certain things. (And yes, I’m dancing around the field I’m studying in, as well as the field I concentrated on in law. I’m trying to remain anonymous, remember.)

But then I watch things like what happened today, with the Democrats caving in to the President and the telecoms, instead of upholding the constitution. And I think about how the Democratic leadership has made it clear that impeachment is off the table. And I look at all the ways that the Democrats could have stood up for us since the 2006 election — on the Iraq war, on the economy, on our civil rights, on health issues, on torture and habeas corpus and corruption and no-bid contracts and the use of the Department of Justice for political ends and… the list just goes on and on and on.

And I wonder, am I fighting the wrong fight?

Should I be working within the system to bring about change?

Or should I be trying to change the fucking system?

I just don’t know anymore.

Any suggestions?

jane doe


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:

  1. According to Cusack’s MySpace page, the movie will only go into wider release if it does well at these two theaters.
  2. I really want to see this movie.
  3. 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.

jane doe

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