Academy Award predictions

And now for something completely different, my Academy Award predictions for tonight's show.

Best Picture
  • The Departed
  • Babel
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • The Queen
Prediction: The Departed

Best Actor
  • Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
  • Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
  • Peter O'Toole, Venus
  • Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Prediction: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best Actress
  • Helen Mirren, The Queen
  • Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
  • Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
  • Penelope Cruz, Volver
  • Kate Winslet, Little Children
Prediction: Helen Mirren, The Queen

Best Supporting Actor
  • Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
  • Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Jackie Earl Haley, Little Children
  • Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
  • Eddie Murphey, Dreamgirls
Prediction: Eddie Murphey, Dreamgirls

Best Supporting Actress
  • Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
  • Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
  • Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
  • Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Adriana Barraza, Babel
Prediction: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Best Director
  • Paul Greengrass, United 93
  • Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Babel
  • Martin Scorsese, The Departed
  • Stephen Frears, The Queen
  • Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Prediction: Martin Scorsese, The Departed


An amended position on Chris Dodd

In a recent online discussion with two friends about the Democratic contenders for the 2008 nomination, I ranked my choices of those officially in the running. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd came in pretty low on that list, which admittedly had more to do with my knowing virtually nothing about him than with any actual objections to his politics.

However, a new John Nichols piece in The Nation shows that Dodd, while he "can't be mistaken for a front runner," is a serious candidate worth paying attention to. From the article:

"He has in recent days made the defense of the Constitution and the restoration of the rule of law central to his outreach to voters.

"One of the saddest days I've spent in public life, in the United States Senate, occurred last fall when the Senate of the United States passed the Military Commissions Act," Dodd says of the Bush-administration sponsored law that eliminates Habeas Corpus protections and retreats from traditional commitment of the U.S. to respect the Geneva Conventions.

"I want to see us get back [to being] a nation that supports the rule of law," argues the senator, who has proposed legislation that would restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees, bar information acquired through torture from being introduced as evidence in trials, and limit presidential authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions."

Amen. The current administration's contempt for the rule of law is one of its most deplorable traits. Even if Dodd's campaign is designed mostly to bring attention to the issue of presidential power, its a welcome one.


Amnesty in Afghanistan: Reconciliation or Concession?

Recently, according to a BBC article, the upper house of the Afghan parliament passed a bill granting amnesty to many accused of war crimes over the past three decades. Though President Hamid Karzai may still veto the bill, many supporters claim that it would be an important step towards reconciliation with members of the Taliban and others who may cause further violence if they continue to be marginalized. This theory is congruent with the result of the US government's dismantling of the Iraqi military and Baath party after successfully ousting Saddam Hussein. The byproduct of that, of course, was placing over 300,000 armed, unemployed, and angry Iraqis on the street, which was very bad.

The issue with this theory in my view, however, is that in Afghanistan the Taliban has already surfaced as an oppositional group. As such it seems unlikely that reconciliation with such a group is possible, especially from the interim government that effectively replaced them. Furthermore, this move is marginalizing the victims of those it seeks to pardon, therefore decentralizing a base of support within the country. According to the article, some MPs in the lower house of the Afghan parliament are claiming they did not understand the bill's full implications when they passed it last month, a mistake that could prove very costly.

The unspoken prejudices

In the ever-prolonged buildup to the 2008 presidential elections, there has been much discussion over whether Americans are "ready" for a female, African-American or Mormon president. A mid-February Gallup poll reveals some surprising trends and, unfortunately, some not so surprising ones.

The poll question was as follows:

"Between now and the 2008 political conventions, there will be discussion about the qualifications of presidential candidates -- their education, age, religion, race, and so on. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be [see below], would you vote for that person?"

The following percentages of respondents answered yes when the following words were plugged into this equation:

Catholic: 95%
Black: 94% (!)
Jewish: 92%
A woman: 88% (I was surprised that this was lower than "black")
Hispanic: 87%
Mormon: 72% (Consider that evangelical Christians make up about 25% of the electorate, and this number makes some sense)
Married for the third time: 67% (Uh-oh, Rudy)
Seventy-two years of age: 57% (Big uh-oh, McCain)
A homosexual: 55% (sadly, I'm surprised its even this high)
Atheist: 45% (infuriating but no surprise)


Nobody ***** With Da Jesus!

Pastor with 666 tattoo claims to be Jesus

From the article:

But Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is not your typical minister. De Jesus, or "Daddy" as his thousands of followers call him, does not merely pray to God: He says he is God.

"The spirit that is in me is the same spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth," De Jesus says.

De Jesus? Does that sound familiar to anybody?

An inconvenient truth for Al Gore

A recent Gallup poll finds that Al Gore's approval ratings have not changed much despite "high visibility" in regards to his film, An Inconvenient Truth.

From Gallup's analysis:

"Gore's current image in the eyes of Americans stands at 52% favorable and 45% unfavorable. His favorable rating is up four percentage points from June 2006, but that is not a statistically significant change and is also not significantly different from measurements in 2003 and late 2002. Gore's unfavorable rating has not changed at all over this time period."

This is disappointing news for those, like me, who are very excited by the possibility of a Gore candidacy in 2008. I'm not terribly surprised by the polling data though. Global warming ranks pretty low in the priorities of most Americans (as I detail in my piece in last week's Beacon). His film also only grossed about 23 million in the United States. (Fahrenheit 9/11 grossed 119 million.) Now, these numbers might be somewhat misleading considering that Inconvenient Truth was screened for free in a number of places, but the point stands: the movie has simply not changed opinions all that much across the board.

The revolution will not be televised

In a President's Day speech, Bush compared our Revolutionary War to the current conflict across the world in Iraq. He said:

"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life... And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone."

By now, Bush has compared Iraq to every other war America has fought in except the most relevant one, Vietnam. The invocation of our own war for independence when discussing our role in Iraq is particularly offensive. Democracy and freedom were not subjected upon our nation. We fought for them. Ultimately, this is the only way democracy can be won: not by the overwhelming military force of a third party, but by the individuals living in tyranny. The sacrifice and passion and desire must be theirs. Democracy can't come by the barrel of our gun. This is the lesson we must learn. And it is those who initially supported the war, myself included, who must certainly remember this history, lest we become doomed to repeat it.



One year later

One year later, Golden Mosque is still in ruins

The New York Times reminds us that it has been one year since Sunni insurgents destroyed the beautiful and sacred (and Shiite) Mosque of the Golden Dome. The moment was a dark turning point in this conflict and made many over here realize the lengths some were willing to go to in this civil war. The violence hasn't slowed since.

How will more U.S. troops quell the hatred between these groups? Will our presence erase the humiliation that the Sunnis feel or the thirst for revenge of the Shiites?


Hillary and the War

Hitchens highlights, in greater detail than we're used to reading, Hillary Clinton's conflicting statements on Iraq.


Wat is happenin 2 0ur langu@g3?

Students using "AIM" lingo in school essays

I don't know whether this is disturbing or hilarious (LOL!), but it definitely irritates me. What does it say about our youth culture that they can't tell the difference between what is acceptable in an online or text message conversation and what is acceptable in an essay?

There is no way to blog about this issue without, even at age 20, sounding like a grumpy old man (get off the AIM and read a book, you punks!), but what would Orwell think?

Andrew Sullivan gets it wrong on Rudy

"Giuliani is not, pace the NYT, gently shifting to the "right" on abortion and marriage. As best I can tell - and Ann Althouse has done more spadework here - he's simply favoring a federalist answer to divisive, difficult, social and moral questions. As readers know, that's what I've been favoring for quite a while as a small-c conservative truce in the culture wars."

Sorry, Andrew. Rudy Giuliani has not only flip-flopped once, but twice, on the issue of abortion. Except him to flip-flop again, moving back to the center, if he wins the GOP primary (which I happen to think he has a pretty good chance of doing).

Before he became mayor of New York City, Rudy was staunchly anti-abortion, opposing it except for cases of rape and incest. This hurt him in the city and he changed his tune. He then opposed a ban on so-called partial birth abortions. He now supports it. Now he hints that he will elect judges who want to overturn Roe.

This is not, regardless of what Sullivan says, a consistant stance regarding federalism. What will the voters think?

Okay, NOW he's running

Obama is officially official. His "I'm in it" speech had some nice imagery but was pretty straightforward. The theme was hope and change, which, if I'm doing my math right, is the theme of roughly 100% of political speeches these days. I guess they do the best in focus groups.

I'm waiting to see what the senator actually has to say. It's a bit too early in the campaign for substance. His fresh face is a welcome addition, but the lack of experience does bother me. I don't buy the line that he can surround himself with experienced people (How did that work for George W?), but it may not be a deal breaker.

I'm still holding out for Gore, anyway.


Plagarism at Slate

More credibility issues in the media, this time from a webzine.


The YouTube Effect

This attack video against John McCain that's posted on YouTube is, I feel, incredibly effective. Imagine: this technology is available to so many. It's also not limited to 30 seconds, as is traditional for TV spots.



Who would want to pay to attend school in Oklahoma, anyways?

Oklahoma school auctions tuition on eBay.

A little something to make you feel even worse about the $40,000+ you are spending on tuition this year.

For just over $4,000, you can attend Oklahoma Wesleyan University. You can even have someone bid on the tuition as a gift. The only disclaimer? You must "meet the university's requirements."

Basically, if you are an evangelical Christian, congratulations. Head on over to eBay and win your dream auction: a year in rural Oklahoma learning in a "Christian environment for Wesleyan youth."

A religious atmosphere within the college community, not to mention an array of scientific and mathematical majors? It's every Emerson student's dream.

The latest Bush-ism.

Courtesy of Slate Magazine:

"I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."
-- George W. Bush