Sunday, February 26, 2006

Oscar Picks

I have a long history of disagreeing with the Academy dating back to 1994 when "Forrest Gump" won Best Picture over "The Shawshank Redemption". I could go on about the terrible injustices meted out by the Academy (e.g., "Titanic" over "L.A. Confidential") but won't.

Instead I am going to list my predictions for the "Big Five" awards along with who I think ought to win. Here goes:

Best Picture: "Brokeback Mountain" - It has all the buzz and momentum and has already entered the American lexicon.
My Pick: "Walk the Line" - This is a movie that normal folk can relate to which makes it unsuitable to the Academy. It doesn't flatter the Academy's intellectual vanity.

Best Director: Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain" - Again, big Mo' for "Brokeback" will carry Lee along with it.
My Pick: Steven Spielberg, "Munich" - I'm afraid the excellent morality tale will end up being shut out.

Best Actor: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote" - Again, he has all the momentum going in and the depiction of supreme egotist Capote flatters the Academy's intellectual vanity.
My Pick: Joaquin Phoenix, "Walk the Line" - For the same reason that "Walk the Line" won't win Best Picture, Phoenix will not win the Actor's trophy.

Best Actress: Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica" - Has anyone outside NY, LA and the Academy even seen this movie? Yet lauding movies about homosexuals and transsexuals makes the Academy feel more enlightened than "Red State" America.
My Pick: Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line" - For the same reasons Phoenix will not win Best Actor, Witherspoon will not win Best Actress.

Best Supporting Actor: Matt Dillon, "Crash" - This excellent, intricate story of race relations in California will probably not pick up nearly as many awards as it deserves. Dillon is their best shot.
My Pick: Matt Dillon, "Crash" - "Crash" should win more Oscars than "Brokeback Mountain". I mean, really. How relevant are gay cowboys in America? Especially compared to race relations.

Best Supporting Actress: Catherine Keener, "Capote" - Keener is a great actress in the same mold as previous Supporting Actress winner, Marcia Gay Harden. This pick will help stoke the Academy's sense of moral righteousness.
My Pick: Catherine Keener, "Capote" - She's just a great actress.

I'll check back after the awards and see how I did. Lord knows, I hope I am wrong on some of these.

You hit me and I'm going to hit...that guy over there!

Israeli newspaper Haaretz had this report:

Iran will respond to a U.S. attack with a military strike against Israel's main nuclear facility, an Iranian adviser to the Revolutionary Guard said, Haaretz reported Feb. 24. The adviser said the Iranian retaliation against Israeli targets would also focus on Haifa, which houses several chemical factories and oil refineries, and Zakhariya, where an Israeli missile base is located.

Now, in the twisted mental machinations which pass for logic in the Arab world, this might make sense. Except that experience should tell the Iranians they don't want any part of the Israelis. Even when outnumbered and outgunned, the Israelis have mopped up the floor with the Arabs in every stand-up fight they've had with them.

As I write this and think about it, it must just be rhetoric for the masses. The Iranians can't be that stupid, can they?

Most Under-rated Iraqi?

There's an influential figure in Iraq who gets very little media attention. He is not part of the government yet he easily could have been. When others are fanning the flames of sectarian divisions he consistently calls for restraint, cooperation, compromise and dialogue between Sunnis and Shias.

He is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and, although he is Iranian by birth, he is the senior and most respected Shia cleric in Iraq. Quite simply he is one of that remarkable and all-too-rare breed that we call a "statesman".

On the eve of the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, he issued a fatwa (religious decree) calling on Iraqis not to resist the occupation forces. Shortly after the American occupation began, Sistani issued fatwas calling on Shia clergy not to get involved in politics. He worked with firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to agree on a common slate of Shia candidates in the Jan. 30, 2005 elections.

He is a nearly unabashed supporter of democracy in Iraq. He supported the formation of a constitutional convention, and later demanded a direct vote for the purpose of forming a transitional government (perhaps seeing this as a sure path to Shiite dominance over Iraq's government, since most observers say that Shiites make up about 60% of Iraq's population). Subsequently, Sistani has criticized American plans for an Iraqi government as not being democratic enough (!).

In the aftermath of the February 22nd bombing of the Al-Askariyah Shrine in As Samarra, he called for seven days of mourning and restraint against attacks on Sunni mosques.

In my opinion, he is a truly remarkable man and one can only hope that there are many more like him waiting in the wings of the Shia community in Iraq.

Down with the U.S.?

Check out the following report from Agence Presse-France:

About 15,000 Shiites in the town of Budgam in Indian-controlled Kashmir protested the bombing of the Golden Mosque, a Shiite shrine in As Samarra, Iraq, Agence Presse-France reported Feb. 23. The protesters reportedly chanted "down with the U.S." and "death to the enemies of Islam."

What the heck does the United States have to do with this? I think one thing most everyone can, or should be able to, agree on: neither the U.S. nor its armed forces bombed this mosque. In fact, in all likelihood it was a member of that well-known "religion of peace", Islam. Proof again that no good deed goes unpunished.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Consistency from the Left? Pt. 6

A recurring theme of this blog is hypocrisy. I choose to pick on the political Left because I disagree with so many of their positions and because, well, it's just so darned easy.

Take Sen. Charles Schumer (please!), who now says he would take Halliburton (that's Democrat shorthand for "evil oil company") over Dubai Ports World to manage those six American ports.

So, let me get this straight: it's not okay to racially profile Muslims in order to stop terrorism, but it is okay to racially profile entire companies because they are based in Muslim countries?

A few facts, if you have a moment:

  1. These ports were already foreign-owned and managed. They were being managed by a company called Peninsula and Orient Steam Navigation Company (P&O), a British firm that was acquired by Dubai Ports World. US approval was needed, sought and obtained for the takover since P&O managed several important East Coast ports.
  2. If the U.S hadn't allowed the takeover of P&O by Dubai Ports World, management of these ports would most likely have been ceded to a Singapore-based firm. So it's not like All-American Port Management lost out in a crooked process to some icky Arabs.
  3. Security at the ports will still be the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard. Labor will still be provided by the International Longshoreman's Association.
This is not to say that there aren't honest objections to be made over the deal. Port security is important and potientially very vulnerable to attack. As Charles Krauthammer noted in an excellent op-ed, managing these ports will necessarily entail turning over details of port security to whichever firm manages the ports. If that firm is foreign-owned, the federal government (both the legislative and executive branches) should look very carefully at the fine print.

But, why bother with nuanced analysis when you can resort to good ole fashioned demagoguery, right Chuck?

Quick Hitter about the UN

Recently UN Secretary General Kofi ("I fiddled while Kigali burned") Annan called on the US to close its detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

I say we make Kofi a counter offer: we'll close Guantanamo and let all those nice terrorists go home if you close up Turtle Bay and send all those nice globo-crats home. Deal?

"Misguided Border Patrolling"

A week or two ago I read an op-ed in USA Today written by a Ruben Navarette, a writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

In it, Mr. Navarette blames everybody for the illegal immigration problem: local, state and federal authorities, politicians, businesses and ordinary citizens. Everybody that is except for the illegal immigrants themselves. As if the USA were some kind of powerful magnet that illegals are helpless to resist.

He advocates a "three strikes" law, saying that current laws are too lax because they contain a loophole (one has to "knowingly" hire an illegal immigrant). Well, aren't the illegal immigrants "knowingly" breaking the law? (Of course, Mr. Navarette convienently omits the adjective illegal, preferring simply to refer to them as immigrants.)

He's correct that the government, especially the federal government, has failed in its responsibility to enforce current immigration laws. Yet he doesn't suggest any kind of guest worker program. Such a failure wilfully ignores the security implications of our long, undefended border with Mexico.

My own position is that we should change the law. I favor a guest worker program similar to what they have in many Gulf states and Japan. Such workers are welcome to stay as long as they have a job. However, once their employment is up, they must return to their native country. I don't believe that each and every resident alien should be placed on a citizenship track. We've got 300 million people. We don't need an undefined number more, thanks.

(By the way, for those keeping score at home, this was my 150th post.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I just want to get the rules straight

I'm a big gamer and a fairly competitive person. I like playing card games, board games, computer games. Games of all sorts. I think one of the thinks I like about games is that they have rules. I like to understand the rules so that I can play the game.

So let me see if I have the rules on this straight.

Muslims can kidnap and behead infidels (their term, not mine) and then release the videos on the internet. They can riot and kill people because of an erroneous story about the abuse of the Koran. They can riot and attack foreign embassies and consulates. They can kill our soldiers and their own countrymen through the use of cowardly tactics such as the use of IEDs. They can execute police trainees. They can strap bombs to teenagers so that they can kill innocent victims in discos and shooping malls and on buses and themselves.

And we can be more sensitive to their concerns.

Is that about right?

This is base hypocrisy. The Muslim world insists that the rest of the world respect their religion while they respect no religion other than their own. Ever hear of a concept called dhimmitude? It's a concept whereby Islam relegates all non-Muslims (i.e., infidels) to second class status, including special taxes and abridged rights. In Saudi Arabia, for example, it is illegal to practice any religion other than Islam. Muslims demand tolerance from the West for their religion, but rarely grant it in their own countries.

And since the impetus for this post is the flap over the cartoons that appeared in a Danish newspaper (in September, mind you!), how can we overlook the anti-Semitism rampant in the Muslim media. Jews are regularly depicted in crude caricatures (hook-nosed, greedy, duplicitous). Egypt, for example, recently ran a forty-one part (!!) series based on "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion". It purports to be the master plan by which Jews take over the world, but has long ago been proven to be a Russian czarist forgery. Except in the Muslim world, where they lap it up with a spoon.

Let me say this plainly: NOTHING TRUMPS FREE SPEECH. NOTHING! Not religious sensitivity (or over-sensitivity, as the case may be). Not gender issues. Not racial issues. Not sexual orientation issues. Nothing.

I could give a fig about Muslim sensitivities. And really that is what we are talking about. No-one is suggesting to the Muslims that they be sensitive to Jewish sensibilities. No-one is saying that the media in America should be sensitive to Christian sensibilities. Do you know why? Because when you print a cartoon that is offensive to Jews or Christians, they don't go on multinational rampages. I'm sorry but no citizenry has the right not to be offended.

I hope the delicious irony of this whole flap hasn't escaped anybody: Muslims are rioting, rampaging, and attacking embassies and businesses (a KFC in Pakistan - take that, Colonel Sanders!), burning Danish, French and American flags, calling for the deaths of the cartoonists - to protest a cartoon that suggested that Islam has been co-opted by violent factions!!

The protests in Pakistan and the Philippines are particularly risible since once the protests are over many of the same people will be standing in line for visas to Denmark, France and the US.

Finally, the kicker: THERE IS NO PROHIBITION ON THE DEPICTION OF MUHAMMED IN THE KORAN! It's a fact. You can look it up. In fact, there used to be a tradition of depicting the prophet and using satire as protest in the Muslim world. My, how far they have retreated.