By Jill Dalton, NYC

May 20, 2011

Monday evening I was honored to attend the premiere of the HBO film, “Too Big To Fail,” which opens on HBO May 23rd at 9 p.m. ET. Curtis Hanson of “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” “The River Runs Wild,” “8 Mile” and “L.A. Confidential” fame, directs the film. Peter Gould bases the screenplay, on the book of the same name by Andrew Ross Sorkin about the financial collapse of Wall Street and the big banks.

The stellar cast includes: William Hurt as Hank Paulson (Treasury Secretary), Paul Giamatti as Ben Bernanke (Chairman of the Federal Reserve), Ed Asner as Warren Buffett, Billy Crudup as Tim Geithner (President of New York Fed), James Woods as Dick Fuld (CEO/Lehman Brothers), Mathew Modine as John Thain (CEO/Merrill Lynch), Ajay Mehta as Vikram Pandit (CEO/Citigroup), Bill Pullman as Jamie Dimon (CEO/JPMorgan), Tony Shalhoub as John Mack (CEO/Morgan Stanley), Evan Handler as Lloyd Blankfein (CEO/ Goldman Sachs), Ayad Akhtar as Neel Kashkari (Asst. Secretary for International Economics and Development), Cynthia Nixon as Michele Davis (Asst. to the Secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs and Director of Policy Planning), Topher Grace as Jim Wilkinson (Paulson’s Chief of Staff) Michael O’Keefe as Chris Flowers (Bank takeover expert) and Peter Hermann as Christopher Cox (Chairman of the SEC).

The parts are well cast but the film belongs to William Hurt. He embodies Paulson mind, body and soul. There is no acting here, only behavior. We have the privilege of watching a human being with all the nuances and subtleties of real life. Never a false moment, we root for Paulson and watch in horror as he implodes along with the global meltdown.

Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I had the amazing good fortune to work with Mr. Hurt on this project for ten weeks as we went through that script over and over again. I looked up every financial term (CDO’s derivates, Credit Default Swaps, Margin Call, AIG, Fanny Mae/ Freddie Mac, every CEO, every bank, every everything) and made a glossary of all of these terms. I mean who ever heard of most of this stuff let along understand it. The actor’s job is to make this language appear second nature; this is who you are and what you do. I did research on top of research putting together a time line of all the events since films are shot out of sequence and the actors need to know where they are in the script at any given moment. Finally, I did a chart run down of each scene and what it was about. The subject matter was so deep and so complex it was like taking a crash course in economics. I learned everything I ever wanted to know and much, much more about the financial crisis than I ever imagined I would.  (Photo is Jill and William at the premier event.)

What impressed me so much about working with William Hurt is his complete and total dedication to his craft and the work. He is first and foremost an artist. He is intensely passionate and thorough and works tirelessly at the job at hand. It shows because when he’s on screen he’s not acting. He just is and it is a wonderful sight to behold.

I admit I was a little nervous before the screening well, maybe not nervous, nervous but excited nervous to see how all this hard work would come together to tell the story of this very complex and difficult subject. But I relaxed almost as soon as the film began and once William Hurt came on screen I said, “Okay now, this is what I’m talking about.”

But let’s be honest here. The making of any film is a collaborative effort. The actors may get the accolades but there are so many unsung heroes on a film set from hair and make-up to grips and electricians, from the teamsters and craft services to the extras, production assistants, props, set designers, assistant directors, cinematographer to the director, producers, editors, etc. All these forces come together to creat this specific world for a finite amount of time. It’s always a crapshoot. No one ever knows how things will turn out but in this case the work rings true and plays like a thriller, which keeps us on the edge of our seats.

Tony Shalhoub is also quite wonderful as John Mack the CEO of Morgan Stanley. And if you don’t blink you can catch me as his assistant. I come in to tell my boss, Tony aka John Mack. “Geithner’s calling again,” and he cusses me out. Well, you know how these Captains of Finance can be when their banks are collapsing. Anyway, my reaction gets a laugh so that made me happy.

Okay, I guess I’ve gushed enough except to say I feel so blessed and proud to be a part of this project. It was a great gift to me and to my spirit and I hope everyone will get a chance to see the film and understand a little better what happened and how nothing has really changed. That to me is the saddest part about this whole ordeal. Did we learn nothing?

Turns out Timothy Geithner, who succeeded Paulson in early 2009, also saw a recent screening of “Too Big To Fail.” Afterward he warned, “It will come again. There will be another storm. “I’m certain we will” experience another catastrophe—he just couldn’t say when or what kind. So why wasn’t anything fixed? Wall Street contributed almost $1 million dollars to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and Obama needs $1 billion with a B to run again in 2012. Oy!

There is some hope on the horizon, however. Eric Schneriderman’s office (NY-AG) is demanding to see accounting from Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs as their mortgage-based packages turned out to be toxic. And recent federal audits of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial have accused them of being guilty of fraud. This is music to my ears. Tap dance goes here. Woo hoo!

But I also understand nothing changes unless we as individuals do our part and demand our legislators hold these corporate crooks accountable for their actions. It won’t be easy. They took down Elliott Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo before him but we must stand up for economic justice. I just called AG Schneiderman to thank him for going after the big banks for their wrongdoing. You too can take this action. Call AG Schneiderman at (518) 474-7330 and thank him for standing on the side of homeowners and everyday Americans and not the Wall Street CEOs.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and advise everyone to see “Too Big To Fail.” The premier broadcast for the film is on HBO, Monday, May 23, 2011 at 8:00p.m. CT.  For more regarding details of the film and its broadcast, consult HBO-Movies. Godspeed.

Jill Dalton is a writer/performer who has appeared in film and television as well as performing her solo plays in New York and around the country.  Her blogs have also been published on: Dandelion Salad, RSN, Alternet & Progressive Activists Voice. 



When Will the Killing End?

by Jill Dalton, NYC

May 8, 2011

Sunday night when I learned of the death of Osama Bin Laden I did not feel elated, I did not hop on the #1 subway and head to ground zero, nor did I celebrate in the streets, drink champagne or chant USA, USA, USA! Honestly, I wish he’d been brought in alive and put on trial like we did at Nuremberg. I’d like to hear what he had to say and expose him for who and what he was. I prefer justice to murder or assassination. So instead of reveling in his demise I took a moment to reflect on what this has cost our country and our souls.

Since the “war on terror” began besides the trillions of dollars we have spent we have lost over 7,000 of our men and women in uniform. Thousands more have been horribly wounded, suffering lost limbs, brain damage and PTSD. Their recovery will cost our country and their families billions. Not to mention the horrific emotional and physical toll this will take on them.

Don’t get me wrong, 9/11 was a horrific event. I watched with my own eyes as the second tower collapsed. The Pentagon had already been hit. And I thought this is either WWIII or the end of the world and as I walked home across the 59th Street Bridge I could see the smoke from the towers and smell the burning flesh and steel and souls and I said to myself, “If my father were alive he’d kick your ass!”

Growing up in the military I saw first hand the effect war has on families. My father was a Col. in the United States Army and fought in WWII in Patton’s third Army, he also fought in Korea and was in military intelligence, Saigon. I know the effect war has on not only the soldier who serves but also the family members who are left behind to fend for themselves.

When my father went to Vietnam I was 18, a freshman in college and my mother was left to take care of 4 children. Unable to cope she began drinking heavily, had a nervous breakdown, burned her hands up making beef fondue and was hospitalized with third degree burns for six weeks. My father came home from Vietnam a changed man. He was a powder keg waiting to explode. I now realize he was suffering from PTSD but in the military you’re not allowed to admit war has affected you and if you do you are ostracized or discharged in disgrace so better man up and pretend all is well. War is insanity. War destroys families. Vietnam destroyed my family.

Having grown up as an Army brat I am amazed at how caviler most Americans are about war. Every day the U.S. murders innocent women, children and men and labels them “collateral damage.” Estimates of civilian deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan range in the hundreds of thousands.

We Americans need to reflect on these wars and what they have wrought. We have violated international law, committed torture, suspended habeas corpus, and not held our leaders accountable. We have freely given up our rights with the passage of the Patriot Act. We allow wiretapping of our citizens, we are x-rayed or patted down in airports, our backpacks and bags are subject to search in the New York City subways as the disembodied voice of Big Brother booms over the loud speaker, “If you see something, say something.” If bin Laden’s goal was to curtail our freedoms and bankrupt our country then he has succeeded.

Our president and the majority of our congressmen and women have never served in the military and neither have any members of their families. This is why it’s so easy for them to glorify and start wars–so easy for them to send other people’s children into harms way. They too are cavalier about this. I know those who glorify war have never had any experience with it.

Military violence is not the answer. Violence begets more violence. If we continue on this trajectory (every action creates a reaction of equal or greater force) then we are destined to destroy ourselves and our planet. Peace is the only answer. Diplomacy is the answer. Police work, Special Forces is the answer. It was the Navy Seals, the most specialized force in our military that brought down Osama bin Laden not bombs.

The term “war on terror” is an oxymoron. Terrorism is a tactic not a country and it has spread out across the globe. Drone strikes will not stop terrorism and with every bomb we drop and every civilian we murder we create more terrorists. The best use of our time and resources is police work combined with Special Forces units like the highly trained and effective Navy Seals.

War is a Racket” by Major Gen. Smedley Butler who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice wrote, “it (war) is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.” This is certainly the case here. This war has been privatized and huge corporations have taken over jobs our military use to do. Halliburton, KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root nicknamed Kill-Bag-Replace people) due to their irresponsible criminal behavior, Bowing, Lockheed Martin, Blackwater now renamed Xe due to its criminal activities and misdeeds, Parsons, Dyn Corp, Transatlantic Traders, Titan and CACI in charge of Abu Ghraib interrogations and disgracing our country.

This unbridled corruption must stop. There has been no accountability of these corporate predators for any of their wrongdoings from instituting torture, to supplying moldy tents, contaminated water, charging $99 a bag to do laundry, ordering the wrong equipment, disposing of it in huge burn pits, then recharging the government, a truck that cost taxpayers $80,000-$1000,000 is destroyed because they didn’t have a spare tire to fit it and our government allows this blatant abuse and corruption to continue unchecked.

It is greed on steroids pure and simple. Unbridled greed and these corporations with huge ties to the government are stealing our taxpayer dollars and do not care one iota about our country. They are not patriots. They are war profiteers who spend fortunes on lobbyists and campaign contributions in order to bill the Pentagon billions and even though the Pentagon knows it’s graft they pay it anyway. Angry yet?

Our government learned many lessons from Vietnam. They learned not to institute a draft because this causes student unrest and protesting. That’s why we have an all-volunteer army and special contractors such as Blackwater (Xe) supplying hired guns who are not accountable to the military for their actions. During Vietnam the war was broadcast in our living rooms every night. Violent images were shown on the news along with the daily tally of the wounded and dead. This is why our media is censored. We are not allowed to see the disturbing images of our solders coming home in coffins covered with the American Flag and why there is little or no mention of the war in the news or in our media. Out of sight. Out of mind.

Mr. President it is time to show some real courage and leadership. It is time to bring our men and women home form these endless, illegal wars. It is time to stand up to the corporate elites who rake in billions, stand up to the power of the military industrial complex and instead stand with American citizens. This is your moment. Will you seize it or go down in disgrace like Lyndon Johnson who refused to get out of Vietnam even when he knew he should. The choice is yours.

All empires eventually turn on themselves and collapse. Are we so numbed out as a nation so dead inside we no longer care about what is right and just but continue to bow down to the corporate puppet masters who thrive, promote and profit from these illegal and unjust wars? When will the killing end?

The killing will end when Americans stand up and say, “Enough! Not on my watch.”

If you’d like more information on war profiteering please check out Brave New Films documentary “Iraq for Sale,” available on iraqforsale.org and on Netflix.

Image by: Tracy Knauss      

Jill Dalton is a writer/performer who has appeared in film and television as well as performing her solo plays in New York and around the country.  Her blogs have also been published on: Dandelion Salad, RSN, Alternet & Progressive Activists Voice. 


Enhanced Interrogation for Republican Leadership–Where Are the Jobs?


Dr. Tom Baldwin, Biloxi, MS

May 3, 2011

It is quite amazing to watch Republican critics of President Obama in his handling of the Bin Laden assassination try to take credit for the success in this action.  The fact is that it was a courageous decision by Obama based upon input from several advisors, it was immensely successful thanks to the execution of the Navy Seals, and it was politically very risky.  The President deserves full credit for his decision and the success of the mission along with those who carried out the execution.

But to try now to attribute it to a decision by the Bush-Cheney administration to commit to “enhanced interrogation” techniques is one of the most absurd things that anyone has heard.  It is a desperate attempt to maintain that Republicans are far superior to Democrats in matters of national security.  But that’s all they have, isn’t it?

So lets’ suppose they are right, huh?  Since the Republicans have promised us in the last election to produce jobs and haven’t come forth with any ways to do that, let’s suppose they know how to do that but won’t disclose that information. Instead, all they have done is to continue to shut down the whole government and threaten to default on payment of our debt. Let’s suppose that their belief that advanced interrogation methods work where others don’t.  Therefore, we should assume that we should be able to get that information from them if we use “advanced interrogation” methods, doesn’t it?

Therefore, I propose that we subject the Republican Leadership, including Senator McConnell, Speaker Boehner, Rep. Cantor, and Rep. Ryan to techniques such as “waterboarding” on the Capitol steps for all to see. Rep. Peter King (NY) stated clearly that “water boarding was a moral imperative”; thus he would make an excellent candidate to demonstrate the success in obtaining the answer to the question:  Where are the jobs?  If someone will supply the waterboard, the rest of us can supply the water.  This process should give us a good answer as to how we can supply much needed jobs to our economy and solve our deficit problem in short order!  This is without question the major threat we face right now from the terrorist threats to the economy that the Republican Party continues to present.