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Archive for July, 2007

Unamid to the rescue?

The resolution allows the use of force in self-defense, to ensure freedom of movement for humanitarian workers and to protect civilians under attack.” In a unanimous vote, the UN Security Council agrees to send 26,000 peace-keeping troops and police — a UN-AU hybrid force known as Unamid — to Darfur. “Ban Ki-moon , the UN Secretary-General, called the move a ‘historic and unprecedented operation’ that will send ‘a clear and powerful signal’ of help to the people of Darfur.” That being said, many observers — among them Sen. Russ Feingold — feel this version of the resolution has been excessively watered down to appease the Sudanese government: “If this UN resolution is passed as it currently stands, we can expect the Sudanese government to try to evade its requirements and agreements without a single consequence. Should that happen, the toll of the genocide in Darfur will continue to mount — in lives lost, in persons displaced, and in fundamental human values that the international community has failed to uphold.

A New Day in Washington?

“‘We have kept our promise to drain the swamp that is Washington, D.C.,’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, adding that the legislation is ‘historic.’” “These are big-time fundamental reforms,’ said Fred Wertheimer, president of the open-government group Democracy 21.Noted Common Cause president Bob Edgar: ” If there is a positive side to Jack Abramoff and the wave of congressional scandal, this is it.

Yes, this could be big. In the wake of the broiling Stevens scandal, the House votes 411-8 to pass a comprehensive new ethics bill: “Secret ‘holds’ in the Senate, which allow a single senator to block action without disclosing his or her tactics, would end. Members of Congress would no longer be allowed to attend lavish convention parties thrown in their honor. Gifts, meals and travel funded by lobbyists would be banned, and travel on corporate jets would be restricted.” In addition, “bundles” — small campaign contributions packaged together — will now have to be disclosed, along with political contributions by lobbyists and the identities of the lobbyists themselves.

Of course, the bill still has to pass the Senate, where some conservatives are threatening to force a filibuster vote (in part due to the weakening of earmark rules, which is admittedly rather annoying.) But that was before Stevens’ unfortunate run-in with the FBI, so we’ll see. Right now, I’m cautiously optimistic that the right-wing will have to fall in line. As Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center put it: “It may not be a grand slam, but it’s a home run…There is no credible excuse to oppose this legislation.

When Dubya met Gordie.

“Call it the ‘special relationship’; call it, as Churchill did, the ‘joint inheritance’; call it, when we meet, as a form of homecoming, as President Reagan did. The strength of this relationship…is not just built on the shared problems that we have to deal with together or on the shared history, but is built…on shared values.” Wanna know who (is Mr Brown)? So does Dubya…The new British prime minister and Bush held their first joint press conference yesterday (transcript), and — so far — it’s all smiles. Still, “[t]he British leader did not hide his differences with the president, describing Afghanistan as ‘the front line against terrorism.’…[He also] avoided using the phrase “war on terror” in describing the effort to hunt down and defeat Islamic radicals. He referred to terrorism ‘as a crime’ and ‘not a cause,’ though he went on to say that ‘there should be no safe haven and no hiding place for those who practice terrorist violence or preach terrorist extremism.’

Now will we will touch the bottom of this swamp.

With respect to the U.S. Attorneys, there has been, I think, a bit of a witch hunt on Capitol Hill as they keep rolling over rocks hoping they can find something,” In an interview with Larry King, Cheney calls the persecuted prosecutor probe a “witch hunt,” and defends loyal capo Alberto Gonzales as “a good man, a good friend, on a difficult assignment.” (In another interview yesterday, he also claimed the Libby jury was wrong.) I doubt anyone really needs a credibility check at this point, but just in case: Cheney is also the guy who told us “we’d be greeted as liberators,” the Iraq insurgency “is in the last throes,” that “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction” and is amassing them to use against” us, that the administration is learning “more and more about pre-9/11 connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that the evidence of said connections is “overwhelming.” Simply put, Dick Cheney is an inveterate teller of untruths, and I wouldn’t trust him to walk Berkeley at this point, much less run the country. Impeach him already. (Cheney pic via this post.)

Adieu Adu.

For MLS, it’s Enter Beckham, Exit Freddy Adu. The young soccer phenom, who signed with MLS in 2003, has decided to play for the Portuguese club Benfica. “‘Freddy, when we signed him, was one of most talented young players in the world. I think, today, he still is one of most young talented players in the world,’ [Deputy MLS Commissioner] Gazidis said. ‘What we’ve struggled with is the expectations, not that we’ve placed on him, but that the media has placed on him.‘”

Vicious Mood Swings.

Right around the midpoint of Steve Buscemi’s uneven, ultimately disappointing Interview, the first of three American remakes of films by the slain Dutch director Theo Van Gogh (the other two will be directed by Stanley Tucci and John Turturro), Buscemi’s beleaguered, world-weary, and increasingly drunk journalist bemoans the state of his notes for his article on Sienna Miller’s catty, self-entitled celebrity-of-the-moment: “This tape is just ten minutes of us bickering at each other!” Uh, Steve, it’s more like 85 minutes. A very brief scene at the opening notwithstanding, the entire movie consists of this eponymous interview, meaning that Buscemi and Miller are bickering, cajoling, pleading, seducing, and threatening each other for the entire film’s run. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing — I came in to the movie expecting a theaterish two-person character study (with possible archetypal overtones about the overlapping worlds of media and entertainment): Add one pompous reporter, one self-infatuated actress, and simmer. But, while the beginning is engaging, the ending is decent, and the film is well-made and well-acted throughout, Interview lost me in the middle going. These two characters turn on a dime too quickly too often: They go from at each other’s throats to in each other’s arms and back over and over again, and it just doesn’t feel plausible. This is mainly a fault of the writing, which — while clever — also feels stilted and unnatural. Buscemi the actor and director comes up aces here, but Buscemi the writer (along with David Schecter) frankly could’ve used a later deadline.

The plot, in a nutshell, has already been described: Pierre (Steve Buscemi) is a hard-drinking, pill-popping political journalist who, as the result of being on the outs with his editor, has been assigned a celebrity puff piece in New York on the same day Very Important Indictments are being handed down in DC. (As we discover in the film’s opening moments, he also has a shell of a brother wasting away at a mental hospital. Based on later revelations, this inclusion may be important, or it may just be a red herring — I chalked it up to a need to humanize Pierre before we watch him rant and rave his way through the rest of the evening.) The celebrity in question is Katya (Sienna Miller), the It Girl of the hour for her sexual escapades and breast reduction surgery as much as for her horror film and soapy TV drama (neither of which Pierre took the trouble to screen beforehand. He considers the subject matter — and the subject — beneath him.) The official interview, at a trendy downtown restaurant, starts and ends badly. But, on the way home, an accidental bump on the head, perhaps precipitated by Katya’s winning smile, gets our two antagonists bottled up in her spacious Tribeca loft, where the “real” interview begins to unfurl…

The remainder of this epic interview consists of seventy or so minutes of intensive, convulsive, verbal wrestling within this deluxe apartment in the sky: Buscemi’s snake to Miller’s mongoose (or is it Buscemi’s mongoose to Miller’s snake? Either way it’s bad — I don’t know animals.) Their sparring is intermittently entertaining, to be sure, but it zigs and zags too often to feel anything close to real. And, while Buscemi and Miller both do excellent work in the roles as written, other parts of the story just don’t hold up. At one point, Buscemi becomes fascinated with some morbid paragraphs he finds (surreptitiously) in Katya’s diary. But, frankly, it’s the type of gloomy woe-is-me fluff everybody had written at some point in a journal, and it doesn’t really make sense that it’d pique his interest so. And to help explain away the reason why neither Pierre or Katya disengage from this disastrous conversation much earlier, they’re given an unwieldy, simplistic Freudian connection — he looks like her wayward dad (her dad is John Waters?), she reminds him of his deceased daughter — that comes off as groan-inducing more than anything else. The last few beats of the movie help bring the story into focus, but by then the damage is done — I’d stop thinking of either character as real people, or as anything other than writerly conceits. For all intent and purposes by then, the Interview was over.

(Death) Racing Straight-to-Video.

Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, and Joan Allen are cast in a forthcoming remake of the 1975 cult film Death Race 2000, to be helmed by (notorious hack) Paul W. S. Anderson. Uh, Joan Allen? That’s “Judi Dench in The Chronicles of Riddick” weird. Update: Al Swearingen’s in too.

But is he truthy?

‘He’s a slippery fellow, and I think so intentionally,’ said Richard L. Schott, a professor at the University of Texas’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. ‘He’s trying to keep the president’s secrets and to be a team player, even if it means prevaricating or forgetting convenient things.‘” In a front-page story, the WP surveys Alberto Gonzales’ decade-long history of evasions and forgetfulness at the service of Dubya: “Whether Gonzales has deliberately told untruths or is merely hampered by his memory has been the subject of intense debate among members of Congress, legal scholars and others who have watched him over the years. Some regard his verbal difficulties as a strategic ploy on behalf of a president to whom he owes his career; others see a public official overwhelmed by the magnitude of his responsibilities.” So, liar or idiot…take your pick. (My money’s on liar.)

It’s the thought that counts.

This site’s been languishing in the bookmarks for a good while now, but that doesn’t make it any less hilarious. By way of mkh at Hidden City, Someecards.com, for “when you care enough to hit send.” It’s got exemplary Onion-like ecards for almost any occasion, and many, many ways to express the inexpressible. Hallmark, you are in a world of pain.

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