Friday, March 22, 2002

ZoNotes: How Many Licks Does it Take to Get to the Center?

ZoNotes Goes to the Movies
Before I start my Oscar picks section, some of you may be wondering -- what authority have I to make such predictions? What do I know about film? Seriously, I am no film scholar. I'm not big into arthouse stuff, I like to be entertained. The class I took at GU was one of the 5 free electives allowed to me in my 4 years there. During the furious add-drop period of the Spring 2000 Semester, I latched on to a course taught by Prof. Stern -- Film in the 20th Century. I got to watch a bunch of classic films for free. My interest in cinema, especially the older stuff, increased from there. This has been a subpar year for the Oscars, especially because last year "was made of sterner stuff" -- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the Roman epic Gladiator. MAXIMUS!!
Here are the picks, and I'm focusing only on the ones that we all care about:
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Otherwise known as the career-killer, 1992 winner Marisa Tomei is nominated yet again. From what I can figure, take Helen Mirren of Gosford Park with the win here.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Ben Kingsley in A Sexy Beast. I understand that Kingsley did some yeoman work on this film.
BEST ACTRESS: I'm tempted to take Sissy Spacek, but Halle Berry turned a lot of people's eyes with her portrayal of a convict's wife in Monster's Ball.
BEST ACTOR: Does the Academy love the black man? Being that Russell Crowe won last year for his portrayal of MAXIMUS!!! in Gladiator, the Academy might reward Denzel Washington for his gritty performance in Training Day. The 1989 Best Supporting Actor adds another Oscar to his shelf.
BEST DIRECTOR: Ron Howard had this in the bag for his work on A Beautiful Mind, but the revelation that he exculpted references to John Nash's homosexuality and apparent anti-Semitism came at a particularly crucial time in the Oscar voting. So, I think that the Academy will go with Gosford Park director Robert Altman.
BEST PICTURE: Tough to gauge, but I'm going to go ahead and lock in A Beautiful Mind here. I'm operating on the assumption that the excellent Lord of The Rings will not get the recognition it deserves. Academy voters are an interesting lot, but they only go with the big epic if it has to do with the Bible (see the superb Ben-Hur. I get goosebumpy during the chariot race) or the Romans (see Gladiator or Spartacus, when Peter Ustinov won Best Supporting Actor), or, guys with British accents (Lawrence of Arabia).

Nuking Bracketville
After last night's Sweet 16 games, let me take my South regional bracket and light it on fire. Indiana's LL Cool J-ish "don't call it a comeback" against Duke set bedlam through my brackets, as I had the dookies in the Final Four. However, Oklahoma knows the way to San Jose, as the Sooners continue to be my hot team to win it all. After an up-and-down game, OU resorted to its stifling team defense and clutch shooting to overwhelm the excellent Arizona Wildcats 88-67. Like I said earlier, ride the OU train, baby!

Patrick Speaks
Just a note, yesterday on John Thompson's radio show on Sports Talk 980, Hoya immortal Patrick Ewing took part in an interview. It's amazing that it's been 20 years since the Manichean struggle between the Hoyas and the UNC Tar Heels in the Louisiana Superdome for the NCAA title. Think of all the future pros, coaches, and Hall of Famers that took part in that showdown for the ages -- for GU -- Coach Thompson, Sleepy Floyd, Ewing, and for UNC, Coach Dean Smith, James Worthy, current UNC coach Matt Dougherty, and a young freshman named Michael Jordan. Alas, what would have happened if the sweet kiss of lady victory had touched upon Patrick instead of Jordan in that moment of no return? If Fred Brown had not thrown the ball away to Worthy in the game's climactic moment? Ah, but it is all speculation, the stuff of wishful thinking, empty beer mugs, and night long forgotten at the Tombs.

The War And Its Malcontents
I like reading Charles Krauthammer. He is one of the two or three best op-ed writers with a regular column, the token realist in the Washington Post's hall of idealists. In today's column, Krauthammer dissects the dirty strain of indignant anti-Americanism that greases the antiwar movement. This is great Friday morning reading, by the way.

Twilight of the Hawk...?
Simon Torres (F'00) and I are having a great discussion re Israel and its intriguing domestic politics. The coming of Ariel Sharon to the office of Prime Minister was supposed to help Israel blunt the corrosive effects of the second intifada. At times, he has been frustrated and things have backfired. However, the Labor opposition in Israel is in a worse position, regardless of Sharon's high stakes war of national survival. I will post excerpts from the emails Simon and I are exchanging. Some great stuff, especially because he presided over one of the most demanding and unforgiving political simulations in college -- the Knesset.

"Whoever said "more money, more problems" had problems to begin with."

Thursday, March 21, 2002

ZoNotes: She's an easy lover, she'll tear your heart out you won't feel it!

If you didn't read yesterday's ZoNotes, they're still on the board.

Brutus and His Knife
To understand the title, you have to understand how I view Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). For the ZoNoters who were on board last summer, you know what I'm getting at. For the new crop, I'll make this as brief as I can make it. When I was in high school I read Julius Ceasar, and I found the Brutus character to be incredibly noble but also incredibly destructive. I didn't like him, frankly. He was brilliantly manipulated by Cassius to murder Ceasar -- in essence, he was able to use a proxy to create disorder throughout the realm. Given McCain's increasingly nonconservatism, I posited that he was conservatism's Brutus. Ok, with that out of the way, do you know why the Texas Legislature only meets every 2 years? So they won't make a mess of the state by passing inane or extraneous laws. If only our own Congress and Senate would take heed, perhaps we wouldn't get unconstitutional feel-good "campaign finance reform." This is what happens when you let a bunch of self-important egotists get together to construct an incumbent-protection racket. The big outrage of this law isn't the ban on unlimited soft money contributions to the political parties, it is the restriction on political speech. And what the hell is a presidential veto there for if the President doesn't even want to use it -- even though he knows the bill is flawed? And to top this whole farce off, even the most strident proponents of the alleged reform realize that there will now be a series of loopholes created to circumvent the law. No kidding! This whole episode is demonstrative of the single most trivial and unproductive period since 9.11.

Movies for ZoNoters who Like Movies
Last night after watching a Season 1 repeat of Buffy for the umpteenth time on FX, I switched over to Turner Classic Movies and watched the 1956 film Written on the Wind, starring Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, and the timelessly beautiful and classy Lauren Bacall. Resorting to a truism spoken by Aaron Ammerman (F'00), I seem not to like actresses born after 1960. I liked this film partly because it has an entertaining Texas dynamic -- oil, envy, vice, drinking, hunting, guns, good guys, bad guys, drunk guys, bar fights, and more oil. This was an era of great film, when men were men and women were Lauren Bacall (and in Rock Hudson's case, when men liked men, too). Plus, the plot had a sharp contrast between the first and second hours. The first hour is lighthearted, jovial, and romantic. The second is dark, bitter, rough, and steely. Great acting by Ms. Bacall and I liked the way Hudson played the honest and hardworking Mitch character. However, the best acting in the film is by Dorothy Malone, who played the coquettishly sinister Mary Lee Hadley -- and she did pick up an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The whole movie takes on a grand Dallas image, a worthy predecessor of J.R. Ewing and Sue Ellen.

Terrorism in Peru
One of the few benefits to President Alberto Fujimori's reign in Peru was the reality that he ruthlessly crushed the Maoist Sendero Luminoso and Tupac Amaru movements in the 1990s. A particularly revealing image of the urgency of the period is that of the hooded Peruvian judges trying bamboo-caged Sendero guerrillas. So, all that taken into consideration, it is discouraging that a car bomb detonated just outside the U.S. Embassy, a mere 3 days before President Bush arrives to meet with current leader Alejandro Toledo. The number of suspects is large -- the leftist FARC narcoguerrillas that operate in Colombia put can stream in and out of different countries in the hemisphere, a successor organization to Sendero or Tupac Amaru, or worse, al Qaeda. What's distressing is that Peru was a stable country relative to other countries in South America. Toledo's peaceful ascension to the presidency was a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy time in South America. It would be a shame if that were reversed.

" Freedom can be deprived by consent."

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

ZoNotes: The Show Is Over Say Goodbye...

Keep on the lookout for my Oscar preview, upcoming for Friday's issue.

The Problem With Peacekeepers
With the fate of Israel hanging in the balance as a result of the second intifada, we see proposals for American peacekeepers to inhabit a buffer zone between Israel and a future Palestinian state. I find this proposal disturbing on many levels. The first begins with the premise that the force would be comprised of American and Palestinian forces. How is it that Friedman can say on one hand that neither the Israelis or Palestinians can be trusted, yet insists that American troops work with the Palestinians? And what of this talk of Palestine never becoming a base for operations against Israel? All current Palestinian territory already is a staging ground for operations against Israel. Unless the supposed "Palestine Security Force (PALSFOR)" were to take up the practice of hunting down and arresting leaders of Hamas and the suicide Al Aqsa organization, there is no guarantee that Palestine would be "clean" of terrorist activity. The mission would then evolve on one of three tracks -- the Bosnia model, where NATO forces can move in on weapons caches and arrest war criminals, or the Somalia model, where the mission begins with one purpose and then haphazardly expands to include something else, or worse, the Beirut model, where U.S. forces were left exposed to attacks by terrorist factions. Worse, what would happen if the Palestinians manufactured "disturbances" threatening "PALSFOR," creating a situation where there is operational room for Iraq to move armored divisions or even SCUDs into lethal firing range? On a corollary note, even such a "secure" arrangement with the Palestinians is separate from the piece of land that is mortally important to the viability of Israel -- the Golan Heights, taken from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War. The dispute there cannot be expected to be bundled together with any Israeli-Palestinian deal. It doesn't matter that the differences in territory can be measured in yards -- wars have started over less.
A contrasting example of course would be the combined force that is currently sitting in the Sinai Peninsula as a "buffer" between Israel and Egypt. Since it touched down, it has never had to take serious action to ward off the two combatants. Egypt is a relatively stable nation-state, but a newly independent Palestine would not have that kind of stability. This is why it is crucial to look at the Beirut dynamics as well. Is a force going to have the necessary teeth to prevent results similar to the disastrous 1983 mission which included the terrorist attack on the Marine barracks?
Numerous conditions would need to be met to even consider an American deployment -- the disarming of Hamas, arrest of extremist leaders, extensive basing rights from other Arab countries for the removal of Saddam Hussein as a quid pro quo, institution of mechanisms for swift and timely elections in the Palestinian state, a framework for water rights, and that's just the beginning of the list.
American ground troops are a valuable commodity. Committing them in a peacekeeping/observer capacity is an investment of serious political capital, a crossing of the Rubicon. However, presence for their own sake -- without establishing the necessary conditions for their lasting viability -- will only acclerate the likelihood of a regional war.

Arsenal of Everybody Else
Aaron Ammerman (F'00) sends me this piece on the way that the most unlikely countries get a hold of our equipment. Of course, some countries inherited our weaponry, much like the way Iran acquired F-14s before the fall of the Shah.

"Force can be tempered by resolve."

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

ZoNotes: Under Rugs Swept...

The Importance of Being Earnest
Last night on Larry King Live I watched the interview with Jordan's King Abdullah. If the Arab world were to generate a perfect spokesman, it would splice the DNA of King Abdullah. He is very much southwest Asia's great communicator, able to engage directly with the American public on a level that other Arab leaders cannot. Plus, it seems that the good king has inherited not only his father's public diplomatic skills, but he has also captured King Hussein's situational awareness for Jordan's survival. Jordan is an interesting case in SW Asia, its leadership involved in some of the most breathtaking chicanery even for the conflict-torn region. On the other hand, Jordan retained a golden umbrella of "neutrality" during DESERT STORM, criticizing the coalition during the airstrike phase of the campaign. When it comes to SW Asia, Israel's only "peaceful" neighbor is Jordan, and that's not saying too much. Still, if King Abdullah can act as a conduit between the Israelis and the Palestinians, then we could in the future try to find a viable settlement. Plus, it's in Jordan's interests to make sure the Palestinians don't come back and try to take over the country like they did in the 1970s.

Eyes on the Americas
The upcoming Latin America swing for the President comes at a delicate time, with trade considerations, the stability of certain governments, and the terrorism war intersecting to create a morass. The Americas were supposed to be a focal point for the Administration, with the great hope being the finalization of an agreement betweeen the U.S. and Mexico on transit and status of Mexicans who cross the southern border. However, only a week after Mexican President Vicente Fox's state visit in September, the 9.11 attacks placed central Asia into a position of unrivaled importance. Unfortunately, events in the Americas did not stabilize -- rather, they atrophied. Venezuela dipped further into the authoritarian grip of leftist Hugo Chavez, the Colombian government continued to confront narcoguerrillas, the Argentine economy imploded, and no progress was made with Mexico. Hopefully this trip will generate some positive momentum, especially given the implications of a Colombian "power failure" or a succession crisis in Venezuela. Plus, the glaring vunerability of the Argentine government could trigger the rise of extremist elements.

Wrapping the Anaconda
As CENTCOM commander GEN Tommy Franks calls Operation Anaconda an "unqualified success," some concur and others raise a note of caution .

"Ninety percent of diplomacy is composed of 100% ambiguity."

Monday, March 18, 2002

ZoNotes: Crossing the River Styx. LAAADY, Of The Morninnnnnng!!!

Simpsonian Musings
We all know that my favorite tv show is Buffy, but yesterday I sat down and watched one of the funnier Simpsons episodes in recent memory, which parodied some of the great literary works of all time -- including Joan of Arc and Hamlet. I don't usually watch the show because I'm usually not watching tv on Sunday night, but I did get a kick out of this one. And if you watched the show, make sure you don't waste your practice stab!

The Integrating Europeans
The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, argues that the time has come for the Brits to abandon the byzantine construct that is the European Union. British hostility towards the continent has always been a part of the politics in the country, and current PM Tony Blair has delicately balanced the integrationist line against the "withdrawalist" impulse of the Conservative Party. Labor's support of integration within the EU is stronger, but I don't know if the Brits want to take part in an organization supported by the French and Germans. The EU to me always seemed like the gathering of weaklings, who figured that aggregate inferiority was preferable to its individual form. Britain actually has more stature and flexibility on its own. Second-rate power as the Brits are nowadays, the country still possesses indispensable political, economic, and military capital. Coupled with the unprecedented power and authority of the United States, the British sustain a viable position. Deepening ties with the continent, on the other hand, limits the parameters of British power and handcuffs London to the striped suits in Brussels. The EU also tries to market itself as the unAmerica, allegedly taking a more "civilized" tact than us bloodthirsty neanderthals. Actually, the EU is good for securing appeasement.

Life and Death in Colombia
The murder of Colombian archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino exposes yet again how unsafe people are in the most dangerous country in the hemisphere. The archbishop had made many enemies, including hard right paramilitaries and the fervent leftist narcoguerrillas of the FARC and ELN.

Today's Wordplay comes courtesy of ZoNoter Alma Peña:
"A beast I must be, lest the beast I become."

Sunday, March 17, 2002

O'ZoNotes: Pardon me stewardess, I speak Irish.

Remember, if you aren't Irish, you can always hiberniorous ipsis hibenicis -- " be more Irish than the Irish themselves!"

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Wear your Tombs Irish Power 2002 pin with pride!

O'Pubs to O'Celebrate
Here are some fun places to be of the Irish, places O'ZoNotes has frequented in the past:
Murphy's (Old Town Alexandria)
Dirty Dick's Last Resort (San Antonio, TX)
Tombs (Georgetown)
Old Glory (M St., DC)

O'March O'Madness, O'Baby!
Holy Jumpin' Jesuits! Creighton's 83-82 win over Florida propels the Blue Jays to play Illinois today at the United Center in Chicago. It also heralds them to the coveted #1 slot in the JPRs. O'ZoNotes' brackets settled down though, as the Sweet 16 is playing out more or less how I predicted it, with 6 teams in that I called -- Duke, Oregon, Arizona, Mizzou, Kentucky, and Kansas. My brave pick of Mizzou to make the Sweet 16 proved to be correct, as Quin Snyder's bunch is getting hot at the right time. The Tigers' thumping of Ohio State portends of good things to come!

O'Once O'You O'Go O'Black, O'You O'Never O'Go O'Back!
Last night during the Tulsa-Kentucky game, I noticed that the Golden Hurricane players were wearing black jerseys. Wait a second, aren't Tulsa's colors blue and gold? And what of Duke, who's away jerseys are now black? Even Georgetown has black in some of its color patterns, but the funky '82 Nike throwback jerseys got the classic dark blue of the Hoyas' run to the Final Four in New Orleans that year. know other sports teams want to capitalize on the popularity of black-on-whatever their color is, but it seems gratuitous.

"Pass me a Guinness!!"