The one thing you can say about the Ruckus Society, an Oakland organization dedicated to disrupting the affairs of evil government officials and corporate robber barons, is that they don’t deal from the bottom of the deck.
In early May, the organization created the War Profiteers card deck as a response to the Iraqi Most Wanted playing cards created by the U.S. military to identify the 55 most wanted people connected with the regime of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
American government and industry are organized by suit with spades representing oil, gas and energy companies; hearts "(because they love you)" for government officials; clubs for military and defense contractors; and diamonds for the heads of industry, finance, media, policy and hype.
"We did an original run of 500 decks, and it was a labor of love," said John Sellers, executive director. "They were hand-collated and gone in two days," he said.
Once the news about the alternative deck — featuring U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft as the lowly 10 of hearts and President Bush as the "Jerk" (instead of joker) — the Ruckus Society was deluged with requests.
"We’ve totally struck a nerve," Sellers said. "We wanted to do it in a funny way and we knew it was a great idea, but we’ve been barraged with thousands of calls."
And not all of the calls have been requests for a deck of cards.
Reporters from around the country have called because some of the people depicted on the cards have complained that they weren’t ranked higher in the pecking order.
"(Col.) Richard D. Downie (2 of hearts) has been complaining about how low he is in the deck. Downie runs the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Sellers said a reporter asked about the 9 of spades, listed as Philip J. Carroll, a former CEO of Shell Oil USA who has been tapped to run Iraqi’s oil industry.
Each of the cards has information about the person and reveals the shadowy connections that often exist between corporate America and Capitol Hill.
Just pick a card. Any card.
Former Secretary of State George Shultz: "Best known for dumping nuclear waste on native lands and hijacking Bolivia’s water, now Bechtel’s scored big with the contract to ‘rebuild’ Iraq. AND, they employ George Shultz and Caspar Weinberger. Did someone say, ‘revolving door?’ "
Shultz is listed as a senior counselor for Bechtel Group Inc. of San Francisco, one of the largest construction companies in the world. Shultz should take no offense that he wasn’t ranked one card higher, which would at least make him as evil as Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, Hussein’s presidential secretary and right-hand man apprehended by U.S. soldiers in Iraq two weeks ago. That slot was taken up not by a person, but a whole organization: the World Bank Group. Evil plus points.
No one should be upset with their ranking — in fact, they should be honored because they are being lampooned by some of the best guerrilla street theater organizers in the country.
The organization, begun by Earth First founder Mike Roselle, has pulled off some of the most memorable public protests around the country.
The group helped organize actor Woody Harrelson’s dangle from the Golden Gate Bridge to fight for old-growth forests, the hanging of a giant "Buy Nothing" holiday banner at the Mall of America and a lockdown of a San Francisco public school.
For the past few years, the group has offered summer camps that teach the fine art of tossing a monkey wrench into well-laid plans of well-heeled people.
Last week’s session, primarily for African Americans and American Indians from Alaska and Washington, was a lesson on how to fight powerful oil and energy companies that operate in their backyards.
The group has found another niche with the cards and has ordered a printing of 15,000 decks to meet the demand, Sellers said.
The playing cards produced by the Ruckus Society are just one of a few Most Wanted knockoff decks.
Greenpeace has created Nuclear Playing Cards that identify the greatest nuclear threats to world security. Another Web site, newsmax.com, offers a Deck of Weasels that targets anti-war proponents. The deck includes filmmaker Michael Moore, former President Jimmy Carter and Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The Ruckus Society’s cards sell for a $10 donation and are available at the group’s Web site, www.warprofiteers.com. Act now, because Sellers said the group plans a drop on Capitol Hill sometime this summer.