The American Budget

My curiosity about the federal government, taxes, foreign policy, military spending, etc. led me to I bought the poster, and have since spent hours studying the administration’s discretionary budget proposal. It inspired the following guest opinion, published in the Daily Iowan on Feb 19th, 2007.

Demand better results from defense spending

We Americans, I think, do not generally consider ourselves militant. Our forces are all-volunteer. There is no sustained presence of uniformed soldiers in the streets, as exists in other nations. The ideals of peace, justice, and liberty feature prominently in both our history and folklore. We did not even keep a substantial standing army during peacetime for the first century and a half of our existence – the practice began in 1945.

For many, myself included, recent history runs contrary to what we thought we knew about ourselves. Read More

Time to leave the illusions behind

This guest opinion was published in the Daily Iowan, Jan. 17th, 2007, and the Press Citizen, Jan. 23rd, 2007.

Time to leave the illusions behind

President Bush mentioned the Iraq Study Group report twice in his 20-minute speech touting the proposed increased troop level in Iraq. He stated that his plan to embed more American advisers in Iraqi Army units is consistent with the report.

Although that specific morsel of his new plan is indeed consistent with the report, his saying so creates the illusion of a broader consistency that simply is not there. Read more: (Daily Iowan | Press Citizen)


Oasis is a feature-length screenplay based on my experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a surealistic satire of our war in the desert, the people fighting it, and the politics surrounding it. It was a quarter finalist in the 2006 American Zoetrope Screenplay writing contest.

Log line: There’s a war in the desert and Lieutenant Tuttle struggles through culture, the military mindset, and a staggering bureaucracy to build a well for the locals.

Read It! (.pdf) | (.rtf)
(may download slowly, especially the pdf)

Letter to the Editor — History Lessons

A letter to the editor about the looming controversy with Iran, printed in The Daily Iowan in April 2006. The editor was responsible for inserting all those awful commas.

History Lessons

A recent DI article (“Iraq in class,” March 22) discussed how various UI instructors are employing the war in Iraq as a teaching tool. This has a variety of benefits, including immediate relevance, but there is an even more relevant issue: the looming possibility of war with Iran.

While important decisions remain about our involvement in Iraq, the war itself is a done deal. The issue of Iran is more relevant, because the decision to wage war has not yet been made – at least that’s what I keep telling myself. It is a live issue, and, yet, few people and few, if any, instructors are engaging it.

Am I the only one wondering why the possibility of an even broader war in the Middle East hasn’t received more attention? Read More

Five-Second Films

In February 2005, Cadillac held a five-second film contest to promote their new V-series which could apparently go zero-to-sixty in under five seconds.

My friend Paul Bances and I shot the following two very-short-shorts on hand-held digital video recorders. Neither of us had used cameras before, but we were screenwriting classmates at the New York Film Academy, and motivated, and the school gave us access to some editing software.
Both are films got noticed — they called each of us for releases, but neither placed in their respective categories. It’s all politics, you know. “The Undefeated” was in comedy. My “The Lovers” was in the more obscure drama category.

The Undefeated (.mp4) Written, directed and produced by Paul Bances. Starring Roman Skaskiw as the boxer.

The Lovers (.mp4) Written, directed and produced by Roman Skaskiw. Assistant producer: Paul Bances. Starring Paul Bances and Maria Geronimo as the star-crossed lovers.

Email from Iraq

“Email from Iraq” was originally published in Stanford Magazine March/April 2004.

About the Essay: Stanford solicited me for their “alumni notes” section. When I told them that I was an infantry officer in the 82nd Airborne Division serving in Iraq, they suggested I write about my experiences for them. I had limited access to email, and our correspondance took weeks. By the time I agreed, they reneged their invitation because they had another veteran alumni. The fact of her being a woman aparently blew my chances out of the water. (her story) Some time later, the editor(s) changed their mind again, and I wrote the essay below.


“Email From Iraq”

I’m always scared before a jump. Paratroopers in films never seem to have any equipment, other than their parachutes. In the 82nd Airborne Division, we have lots of it, and it’s very heavy. It feels even heavier because we jump tired, in the dead of night; because of the heat in the aircraft, the crowding, the wait for the green light, the plane swaying to align itself with the drop zone; and because the guy next to me is always airsick. Just before the jump, my mind often wanders back to the Farm, to the difficult nights I spent massaging lines of code in Sweet Hall, or struggling through the Physics 60 series. I don’t need to be here, but the green light comes on before I take that line of thought to its logical conclusion, and I stumble out the door. (Read more: Original Version|Published Version)