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The end of any year is often a time of reflection. Looking back to see what went right, what went wrong. This year, we could perhaps benefit from such retrospection more than other years.

I was going to refer to 2008 as “a kidney stone of a year,” but I was almost certain I had heard that phrase elsewhere, likely in something by Hunter S. Thompson. A quick Google search of the phrase didn’t reveal the original source, but it did show three other people describing 2008 in those words, so at least I’m not alone in thinking of it that way.

On a national level, we saw a further…what’s the word I want? crumbling? eroding? collapsing? disintegrating?…let’s go with… deterioration of: our civil rights, our privacy, our status overseas, the situation in Iraq (notwithstanding all the neocons rushing to claim the surge has been a “success”), the situation in Afghanistan, the economy, the health care system, our schools, our infrastructure (Rachel Maddow’s favorite word), the situation in Israel and the Gaza Strip, the environment, and…well…it’s a really long list, actually.

So maybe we should think of 2008 as the year when the whole house of cards we’ve all been living in fell to the floor.

There was the presidential election, which filled up our ears for way too many months with noise and lies and distortions and endless debates and oh the spinning and spinning and spinning and stop the world, please, I’m getting dizzy.

Before that, though, we had the primaries, and the caucuses, and the conventions, and the polls, and the protests and…well, you were there. You heard it.

There were a lot of lows, but there were a few highs, as well. Particularly toward the end of the year.

For a nice change, we had a presidential candidate that appealed to our hopes, rather than hammering at our fears. We dodged the bullet of a McCain/Palin administration, four more years that would most likely have looked like the last eight, except less organized, and instead managed to elect the smart guy over the guy people would like to have a beer with. Thought I suspect Obama would be way more fun to have a beer with than McCain, anyway.

And there was the nice bit about finally electing someone who isn’t a white male to the highest office in the land. That part was pretty cool.

But the economy is bad, and likely to get worse before it gets better. People are losing their homes, their jobs, and their retirement investments. We’re probably going to see a lot more people moving in with other family members to save money, and we’re already seeing more people living on the street.

It’s a scary situation.

And yet, with the new year comes hope.

In twenty days, we will be rid of alleged president George Walker Bush.

We will have strong Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress.

Let’s hope they use their new power for good. Let’s hope they actually use their power, instead of allowing themselves to be conned by Republicans into thinking they don’t dare use the power we gave them to change things.

Let’s hope.

Hope is good.

I have some ideas for a new project for myself in the new year…something that will involve this blog – or perhaps a separate blog created specifically for the project…more on that soon. But I think some more changes are coming in the life of yours truly, that I hope will be interesting for you all, and ultimately, perhaps profitable for me. We shall see…

In the mean time, happy new year, everyone!

And stay safe.

jane doe

p.s. And lest there be any doubt about it…I still think Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.


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


NB: I start this post off with a fairly long and rambling recollection of my memories of 9/11/2001. If you don’t want to read this (and I won’t fault you if you don’t), please consider scrolling down to the asterisks, where I actually start talking about political stuff that may interest my regular readers. -jd

It was an awful day, a day I and many – most – others wandered through in a sort of state of shock.

I was living in California at the time, still working as a lawyer. The first plane hit one of the towers just before my alarm clock went off that morning, The drive-time DJs chattered on as usual about nonsensical matters I can mercifully no longer remember, unaware of the unfolding tragedy until the woman who gave the traffic reports joined them on the air a few minutes later and told them to turn on a TV if they had one in the studio.

I turned my own TV on immediately, and thus had the dubious honor of watching the second plane hit the other tower as it was happening.

I stumbled around my apartment that morning, somehow getting ready for work, largely on autopilot, in shock. My brother called from Colorado. Was I planning on going to the office? Yes, I said. I had a meeting scheduled about a contract I was working on, I had to at least go in to see if it was still happening.

I was a lawyer, and lawyers aren’t supposed to react to emotional events the way other humans do, because lawyers aren’t supposed to be human, to suffer human weaknesses. I never got my emotional circuits disconnected (nor do most lawyers), but I often felt like I was obligated by my status to act as if I had – like many other lawyers did that day.

My brother was worried, because I worked in a tall building. Not the tallest in the city I was living in at the time, not by a long shot, but it was a crazy day, and no one was thinking logically. I certainly wasn’t. The biggest mass murder in our country’s history and I was putting on a suit and acting like I could ride out a day at the office.

It was a ridiculous notion, of course, but the truth is, I didn’t know what else to do. I lived alone, and had only recently moved to this city, so I didn’t have any close friends close by. My family was half a continent away. Practically the only people I knew locally were my co-workers. I think that’s the real reason why I went to work – I didn’t want to be alone on that horrible day, watching the news coverage by myself.

Probably only about a third of our staff showed up for work that day, mostly people with urgent meetings or people who like me didn’t think they were allowed (by whatever entity it is that allows these things) to take the day off. No work actually happened, at least as far as I saw. We congregated in a conference room where the head of our department had set up a television. Someone brought in a tray of bagels and a thermos full of coffee, which were largely ignored by everyone present. As if we could have eaten on that day.

We were all mentally or literally going through our rolodexes, trying to figure out if anyone we knew was likely to have been in one of the towers. I was one of the lucky ones – no one I knew, at least that I could think of at the moment, was likely to have been in either of the towers that day, though I did know several people who worked in one of the buildings across the street from the towers.

A co-worker – one of the ones who did not show up at the office that day – was not so lucky. Her mentor from a firm she had worked for earlier in her legal career was at a breakfast meeting in the restaurant that was on the top floor of one of the towers. He was among the missing.

We sat in the conference room, speaking in low voices, watching the scraps of news as they came in. Praying silently for the safety of people that we knew. Praying for all the people we didn’t know – the missing, and the people who would be missing them.

Every now and then, someone’s cell phone would ring, and the phone’s owner would walk quickly out into the hallway outside the conference room to take the call away from the rest of us. Sometimes, the news was good – someone they knew had received confirmation that someone else they knew was okay, was safe at home, was out of town, had taken a later flight, was not among the missing. Sometimes the news was less good – there were lots of reports of unanswered calls to mobile phones, or reaching answering machines at the homes of friends, or of not being able to get through to New York numbers at all.

By noon, I had had enough of pretending to work. I walked home from my office, got out of my lawyer costume and into comfy sweats, and started calling every single friend and family member I could, all over the country, trying to make sure that people were okay, trying to reassure myself that the world was not ending. And by and large, the news from my circle of friends and acquaintances was good.

There were some near-misses, though. A family friend who works in investment management and retirement planning was supposed to be flying from the west coast to New York to meet with some people from Cantor Fitzgerald that evening. His flight was canceled before it had a chance to board. The people he was scheduled to meet with were all among the missing. Another friend was a regular on one of the flights from Boston to LA that was hijacked. In other weeks he might have been on the plane, but something had caused his schedule to change that week.

The day passed slowly, with information trickling out in small bits between the endless replaying of the videos of the second crash and of each tower collapsing. Wild rumors circulated, and were duly reported by the media, albeit with strong caveats that they were unconfirmed rumors, because actual information was scarce.

It quickly became too painful to listen to the reporters, so I muted the television and started going through my CD collection, looking for music that might bring some comfort. John Lennon’s Imagine destroyed me – I listened to it twice, and cried for the lives lost. Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World was very cathartic, as well. I tried listening to Beethoven’s third symphony, Eroica – my favorite of the nine – but quickly abandoned it as inappropriate to the mood of the day. Ditto a Mozart concerto. I finally settled on the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions with the volume turned down low. The entire album has a very mournful sound to it, sad and soothing, something that could be listened to without fear of offending the souls of those who lost their lives that day.

As night fell, I lit candles in my apartment, in the spirit of hope that more who were currently listed as “missing” would turn up alive and well. I brewed chamomile tea, which I sweetened with too much honey and sat on my bed staring at the TV, half-listening to the Cowboy Junkies, and wondering vaguely what could possibly drive people to fly airplanes into buildings.

At some point, I fell asleep, lights still on, music still playing, TV still flashing endless loops of planes crashing and towers falling.

A new day dawned, and the entire world had changed.

* * *

You may wonder why I’m writing about all this. My story of that day seven years ago is not dramatic, and it’s not as if anyone who was alive and aware of the world around them at the time of the attacks couldn’t tell a similar tale.

In truth, it is not what I had intended to write about when I sat down at my computer. But these were the words that came out, and I let them, because I feel it is appropriate to honor the memory of that day, as horrible as it was, and to honor the lives lost there – particularly the sacrifice by those who were trying to rescue others caught in the inferno of the towers before they fell, and the lives of the people on flight 93, who, having heard what happened with the other hijacked planes, fought back against their hijackers and prevented their plane from being used as a fourth weapon of horror at the cost of their own lives. Likewise, it is appropriate to honor the suffering of all those who lost friends and loved ones on September 11th.

Moments of silence, flags flown at half mast, prayers and religious services are all appropriate tributes to the losses suffered on that horrible day. Likewise the haunting sounds of Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes or a stirring rendition of America the Beautiful.

These are the things that civilized people do when faced with such a tragedy.

What civilized people do not do, is to use the memory of that horrible day and the lives lost on it to score political points.

Yet today, we are seeing exactly that from the Republican party.

Last week, they showed that appalling 9/11 “tribute” video as part of the run-up to John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. The video was apparently sprung on the cable news networks covering the convention without warning, and without the opportunity to screen it prior to its airing.

It was graphic and jingoistic, and it was clearly designed not to honor the memory of the lives lost or the heroic efforts of those who worked feverishly to rescue people from the rubble of the collapsed towers, but rather to inflame the worst aspects of the American public’s memory of that horrible day.

Worse still, it attempted to tie the attacks to Iran – a nation that had no part in planning the attacks – and to reinforce the idea that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were also somehow involved in their orchestration, despite no evidence to support this notion and massive evidence to the contrary. But tying Iran and Iraq to 9/11 serves the political agenda of certain people in the upper echelons of the Republican party (and, let us not forget, the agenda of the corporate interests and radical religious groups supporting certain GOP candidates).

Minutes after it aired, Keith Olbermann was apologizing to MSNBC viewers for the inappropriate nature of that video. And last night, he rightly castigated the Republican party leadership for the showing of the video in one of his excellent special comments.

Unfortunately, it seems we can expect many more actions of this nature from certain groups backing McCain and the Moose Killer over the next few months.

According to Denise Dennis, writing at the Huffington Post:

This past Sunday, in presidential-election swing states across the country, the New York Times came bundled with a dvd of the documentary “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” a controversial film on the threat Islamic terrorism. The documentary is set for release to retail outlets this week — the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — but has been shown at college campuses for nearly a year now, presented largely by Jewish student organizations and as part of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, the national “conservative campus protest” organized and sponsored last fall by conservative author David Horowitz’s Freedom Center.

As it happens, I find myself in possession of a copy of this DVD. I did not buy it, though it lists a manufacturer’s recommended price on the front cover. Apparently, someone thinks it is worth $19.95, though I would disagree with that appraisal.

The copy I have was pressed into my hands by an earnest-looking young woman on a Denver street corner two weeks ago during the Democratic convention. She said something about it being about the distinction between peace-seeking Muslims and terrorists. I thanked her for it and shoved it in my bookbag without much thought or attention at the time. It remained in a stack with all the other political literature and similar offerings that I picked up as I wandered around the convention venue until last night, when I saw Ms. Dennis’s story on Huffington Post and the movie’s title rang a bell in my memory.

I have now watched the first forty minutes of the one hour video. That was enough.

More than enough, actually.

It is a piece of propaganda, plain and simple. Like the 9/11 “tribute” video from the RNC, it is designed to reawaken the public’s fear off terrorism. It displays graphic images of people injured in terrorist attacks. It shows maps with ominous x’s at the locations of various events. And it shows clips of various men in Muslim attire, with subtitles full of scary threats against the west, and particularly against America.

The video purports to distinguish between most followers of Islam, who are as horrified by the terrorist tactics used by al-Qaeda as the rest of us, and the radical Islamists who actually support or engage in terrorist acts. In reality, what it does is paint the Muslim religion as a threatening “other”, both opposed and a threat to “our way of life.” It blatantly states that Muslim people will say one thing when non-Muslims are present, and another thing when only believers are present – thus, by implication, no Muslim person can be trusted, because you can’t tell the radicals from the non-violent majority.

Someone has obviously spent a lot of money to make sure this DVD is widely circulated in swing states. The copy I have was presented in the standard DVD case, with a cover that looks like it was designed professionally like any other commercial DVD. I would assume the same can be said of the copies that were sent to the New York Times subscribers. According to the above-cited Dennis piece, the DVD “was bundled into newspapers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia.” Make no mistake. The distribution of this piece of political propaganda cost a fair chunk of change.

Why would someone go to this incredible expense?

It all comes back to fear, and to terror management theory.

As I have noted previously in this space, reminders of 9/11 and the threat of terrorism have been shown to influence opinions expressed by voters on a variety of political issues, and on average to sway those opinions in the conservative direction.

The stronger the reminder about the threat, the greater the number of voters likely to be swayed by such tactics.

Certain Republicans want to set up Muslim citizens as the “other” in society, to be hated and feared, because it will give mainstream voters a visible threat to fear.

They are using graphic reminders of the attacks that occurred on this day seven years ago and the lives that were lost on that day as a means to accomplish this end.

They are doing it shamelessly and without apology.

There is a word for this sort of political tactic.

It is obscene.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, obscene means “objectionable or offensive to accepted standards of decency.” It then goes on to further define the term in primarily sexual contexts, which is how that term is usually interpreted in the legal arena. But the first sentence of the definition certainly applies to this tactic, so I will use the term obscene to describe it.

The people who lost their lives seven years ago today deserve better treatment than to have their deaths turned into a political tool. The people who lost friends and loved ones seven years ago deserve better. The American public deserves better.

And yet, as appalling as it is, there are politicians, corporations, and religious groups who are foisting this obscenity onto the American public, and who will continue to do so between now and November, all for the sake of winning a presidential election – an election which they in no way deserve to win after the horrible catastrofuck resulting from the past eight years of Republican “leadership.”

I cannot begin to describe how angry this makes me.

Mere words cannot suffice. I could paint you a picture, but I don’t think I have enough cadmium red or alizarin crimson – indeed, there may not be enough of either pigment in the world to convey my anger about the cynical use of our memories of 9/11 as a means to a political end by people who want to see John McCain elected in November.

Instead, I will leave you with this. It’s another Roy Zimmerman song, about someone else who tried to use 9/11 in a semi-political, semi-religious context:

Peace.

jane doe


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


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


NB: Updated at bottom of post. -jd

Hey everybody, lookit what I just found:

It appears that some Political Science professor named Marc Turetzky, of Gavilan College (in Gilroy, California, home of the always fragrant Gilroy Garlic Festival) has set up one of those “Rate My ______” sites.

There are a whole mess of these things. Rate My Picture. Rate My Life. Rate My Date. Rate My Rack. The one I’m most familiar with is RateMyProfessors.com, because hey, grad student here. This one is new, though:

It’s time to play Rate My Congressman!

It’s set up in blog format, one blog post per Representative. Visitors to the site are invited to rate their Representative in the Comments.

At least, that’s what I assume we’re supposed to do. It looks like the professor has been setting it up this weekend. He seems to be going state-by-state, with each state being it’s own blog category. As I type this, only about twenty states are up. But hey, lookee here…it appears that he’s already added all the California representatives.

And here’s our beloved House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.

No one’s left a comment yet.

How could I possibly resist?

To Professor Turetzky:

It looks like you are still setting this blog up. I don’t know if you are doing this in connection with a course you are teaching, or if this is for general public consumption, but I stumbled across your blog and really couldn’t resist.

jd

——-

When Nancy Pelosi rose to the position of Speaker of the House after the 2006 elections, a lot of people, myself included, thought that we would finally see an end to the Bush administration’s illegal and unconstitutional actions at home and abroad.

Surely, with the Democrats now controlling the House of Representatives, we would see some real oversight, some investigation into the many, many scandals that seem to have become business as usual over the past few years.

Surely, Ms. Pelosi would use the powers granted to her by the Constitution and laws of this country to at the very least ensure that no further damage was done to our civil rights, our dignity, and our reputation among other nations.

Surely, she would guide the House of Representatives along a course that would rein in the worst abuses of the Bush administration.

Surely, you jest.

Almost immediately, she made it clear that impeachment – the most powerful tool granted to Congress to control illegal acts by the executive branch – was off the table.

The reason for doing so has never been clear to me. If ever there were a president deserving of impeachment, it would be the current Decider in Chief. His crimes against our constitution, against our laws, and against humanity are almost too numerous to itemize at this point. Failure to impeach such a man under these circumstances would itself be a failure by Congress to uphold its responsibilities under the constitution.

And yet, the president has not been impeached, despite efforts by Kucinich and others, despite widespread public outcry.

Because Speaker Pelosi declared that impeachment was off the table.

Furthermore, she has repeatedly caved in to Bush’s craven demands for yet more power, yet more authority, and has allowed yet more money to be poured into the pockets of corporations like Halliburton, KBR, and Blackwater as part of his unending war on Iraq.

The Democrats have a strong majority in the House of Representatives. It is not like the Senate, where they can only be said to control the chamber because Lieberman is still caucusing with them.

It should have been relatively simple to prevent Bush from shoving through measures that were antithetical to our nation’s governing documents. Measures like the revised FISA bill that passed recently.

What was it Nancy Reagan always used to say? Just say, “No.”

And yet somehow, Pelosi did nothing, or next to nothing. And we are now faced with an even graver situation, both domestically and internationally, than we were in 2006.

And while we are rating Speaker Pelosi’s performance, let us not forget that recent weeks have brought the revelation that Speaker Pelosi was among the Democratic House leaders who were briefed on the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that have been used by Americans against others in recent years. She knew we were torturing prisoners as a matter of federal government policy, yet she did and said nothing.

To be fair to Speaker Pelosi, she has managed some good things during her tenure as House Speaker. There have been times when she and her colleagues have stood together to pass important legislation opposed by the president, or to block legislation he tried to force through.

But many of those victories seem to have been only temporary ones. The House initially held strong against the FISA expansion and telecom immunity provisions, for instance, yet when faced with repeated demands from the Bush administration, the Democrats eventually caved.

Is it fair to blame Pelosi for that? Maybe not. But I can’t help thinking that Tip O’Neill wouldn’t have let some of that crap through.

Looking around the site here, I cannot find any rating metric for rating our representatives, so I guess it is up to me as the first commenter to propose one…

Hmmm…this is actually trickier than it sounds. I have several ideas, actually, but the WordPress restrictions on HTML don’t seem to allow for inserting little icons in one’s post, which rules out a couple of my ideas. For instance, I was going to go with little pink pigs, because, well, our representatives in Washington are feeding at the public trough, and also there’s the nice Orwellian tie-in with Animal Farm.

But that’s probably overly cynical, isn’t it? After all, I’m sure there are people who want to say nice things about their representatives. I mean, not me, because I’m in Redstatesville, and my representative is a rubberstamper who votes however Bush wants him to. But surely there must be SOME people who actually like their representatives, no matter how low the approval ratings are for Congress these days, right?

How about this: we can use the symbol for dollars ($) as the rating icon. It’s perfect, because it can carry so many meanings — the tax dollars that they waste (or occasionally use wisely), the campaign contributions they receive from the lobbyists and heads of major corporations, the federal dollars they are able to direct to their home districts via earmarks, the bribes they receive…the possibilities are endless.

So, using a one ($) to five ($$$$$) scale, with five representing the best one could possibly hope for in a congressional representative and one representing pond scum:

My overall rating for Nancy Pelosi is: $$

Though to be fair, I would have given her two and one half dollar signs, if I could just figure out how to get half a dollar sign to appear.

Ah, well, maybe someone else will come up with a better rating system.

jane doe

Update: It looks like the person running the blog is moderating the comments – unmoderated was too much to hope for, wasn’t it? I thought they were unmoderated because I could see my comment after I submitted it, but I found out no one else could. So if you follow the links in this post, you won’t see my comment over there – at least not yet.


Apparently this bit of guerrilla theater has been going on for at least a year in various cities around the country, but this is the first time I’ve heard about it, so I thought I’d post the clip (since I seem to be doing that sort of thing lately). From Iraq Veterans Against the War:


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


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

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

It’s all got me feeling a bit twitchy.

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

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

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

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

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

Twitch, twitch.

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

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

jane doe


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


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


Okay, this is not exactly a movie review, I guess, since I haven’t seen it yet.

Please. Like I have those kinds of contacts.

Still, it’s a movie that I’m really looking forward to, assuming it ever makes it here to Redstatesville. Which it may not. It is opening May 23rd in a few theaters in New York and L.A. Wider release presumably (hopefully) to follow.

The movie, War, Inc., is by all accounts a mish-mash of genres and a wicked satire of the highest order. John Cusack (who also co-wrote and produced the picture) stars as hitman Brand Hauser (NB: not the same character as the hitman Cusack plays in Grosse Pointe Blank, another wonderful movie he co-wrote, produced and starred in), who is hired by the management of a Halliburton/Blackwater-style corporation called Tamerlane to assassinate the head of a rival company. The story involves the first ever entirely corporate-managed foreign war in a country called Turaqistan, and is clearly based on the Iraq war fiasco, while exploring themes similar to those found in the documentary Iraq for Sale and Naomi Klein’s wonderful book on disaster capitalism, The Shock Doctrine.

[Side note: if you haven’t read Klein’s book yet, you ought to pick up a copy at your earliest opportunity. Like now. Really. It’s that good (and disturbing), and it will change the way you look at a lot of major events you see reported in the news. Seriously, head over to Amazon.com or (better yet) your favorite independent bookstore and pick up a copy NOW. This blog will still be here when you get back, I promise.]

I’ve always thought that Grosse Pointe Blank – Cusack’s 1997 movie about a hitman in existential crisis who attends his ten-year high school reunion – ought to be required viewing for anyone thinking about becoming a corporate attorney (they call them hired guns for a reason, folks!). Martin Blank’s recurring assertion that “It’s not me” in that movie goes to the heart of a lot of business dealings that are too easily rationalized as “It’s just business, nothing personal.”

War, Inc., looks even better in that regard, from what I’ve heard, and the early buzz I’ve heard is very positive.

So why am I writing about a movie that I haven’t seen yet? A movie that, in fact, may not open here in Redstatesville where I live?

Because this thing really looks brilliant. Don’t believe me? Check out the clips and blurbs on Cusack’s MySpace page.

Also, because I am hoping that one of you, my dear nonexistent readers, has seen it (it was apparently showing in Toronto last week) or will see it soon (as noted, it opens in NY and LA on May 23rd). So I’m putting out a call here: if anyone reading this little blog sees it (either opening weekend or before then) and wants to post a proper review (or even an improper review) here, please contact me directly at janedoe [at] inbox.com.

Worst case scenario, I will post a review myself if/when it opens here in Redstatesville (or somewhere within relatively easy driving distance of here).

In the mean time, of course, I still think Bush and Cheney ought to be impeached.

jane doe

Follow-up: minor formatting corrections. Sorry for the multiple posts, RSS subscribers.


Okay, listening to the MSNBC coverage of the speech. And Olbermann starts out with calling Bush on distortions and outright lies about terrorist plots the government has allegedly stopped. Also compares Bush’s words about Iran with the stuff he was saying in the run-up to the war with Iraq — which, as we know, turned out to be almost entirely false or inaccurate. Thank you, Keith!

– jane doe

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