Daily Archives: April 28, 2007

But the schools are still painted, right?

It won’t take much more to make Iraq a PERFECT fiasco.

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq, Michelle Malkin's latest brain fart, Politics

Saturday Big Lebowski Roundup

The film critic (?) of the Northern Iowan (?) gets it.

I’ve talked with dozens of people about “The Big Lebowski” and have noticed a peculiar recurring sentiment. Just about everyone reports not enjoying the film after their first viewing but liking it exponentially more each time it plays. I have a theory as to why this may be: It’s a perfect film.


Each shot contains a wealth of detail, every wonderful line is uttered so well that even the less spectacular moments are firmly planted in the sublime. The level of delight offered by this film is witnessed so rarely that it might be easy to fail to recognize it as a masterpiece. Normally, the argument that one should watch a particular film over and over is merely a euphemism for “it’s got too many flaws to be enjoyed until the viewer can overlook them.” On the other hand, “The Big Lebowski” demands to be watched again and again because to process the entire splendor with, one viewing may be impossible.

Though The Dude may be the antithesis of relentless detective, he’s a surprisingly apt observer through the haze of pot smoke, not to mention sidesplitting to watch. It’s not easy to make a drug-addled, self-proclaimed “deadbeat” an identifiable character, but that Bridges didn’t receive an Oscar nomination is to the Academy’s eternal shame.

If there’s a film that has more laughs per minute than “The Big Lebowski,” I’ve yet to see it. Most comedies pick a source of humor and stick to it: a sarcastic lead, people getting hit in the nuts, political satire, or whatever gets people in the seats. The Coen brothers mine a staggeringly diverse spectrum of humor for the jokes, which fly from start to finish, refusing to die out or lose strength in the final act. Absurdist, ironic, satire, slapstick, and other forms flow and merge seamlessly, never getting stale or predictable.

I’d wager that “The Big Lebowski” might be the most beloved film amongst people of my generation, perhaps excluding “Star Wars.”

That’s my homework, Walter !!

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Movie review: Fracture

Well, it’s a good formula: bring back an aging (very aging) Anthony Hopkins as a Hannibal Lecter-type evil genius, toss in a little ilicit sex, some licit sex, mystery, murder, and see what happens.

And that’s the problem.  Good ingredients, but the recipe is flawed. The film bumps along in a series of highly improbable events which highlight Hopkins’ character’s genius, the amorality of lawyers, and the idiocy of our legal and medical systems.  The character development of Hopkins’ nemesis, a young prosecutor played by Ryan Gosling, is not very credible.

The film is too long, the plot twists are predictable, and the ending is clumsy.

The cinematography is very good, production values up the wazoo; it LOOKS like a good movie.

I give it a borderline recommend, but don’t be blamin me if you don’t like it.

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Filed under Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, Movies

Iraq: Kurds oppose the oil law; it may not pass.

This is what it was all about in Iraq, and it may not happen. Iraqi oil officials had to meet outside the country to try and hammer out an agreement, but no accord was reached:

Discussions turned contentious among the more than 60 Iraqi oil officials reviewing Iraq’s draft hydrocarbons bill last week in the United Arab Emirates.

But the dispute highlighted the need for further negotiations on the proposed law that was stalled in talks for nearly eight months, then pushed through Iraq’s Cabinet without most key provisions.

Tariq Shafiq, one of three authors of the law, said he attended the Dubai summit “reluctantly,” at the request of Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani. “I thought it would help,” Shafiq said, hoping all Iraqi sides in the debate over its oil law would meet and iron out their differences. “Apparently it did not.” Petroleum Intelligence Weekly reports talks in Dubai led to “heated exchanges.” Instead, the voices of those who disagree with the law or, like Shafiq, oppose what it has become since the initial draft and how it was kept from the public, were not given part of the platform.

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Bush set a “deadline” of May 31 for the passage of the “hydrocarbon law”, which would

  • outline the terms of “participation” by certain multinational oil companies, and
  • specify the way in which oil revenue would be distributed to Iraqis.

Bush and the US have publicly emphasized the latter issue, and it remains a point of contention; two major points on “sharing” are contentious:

  • will there be an automatic formula, or will the government have discretion, and
  • will future oil discoveries be treated differently than present revenues.

The Kurds are sitting on huge oil deposits, as well as currently producing wells. They want

an automatic mechanism to redistribute the funds, while the central government wants it collected to the central bank, to be doled out by the Iraqi finance minister. …. Sunnis, a minority group without oil land and the power wielded while Saddam Hussein reigned, fear they’ll wind up without if the central government is weak.the KRG’s oil minister, vowed Kurdish parliamentarians would veto it as written.

The other half of the hydrocarbon law is about the terms under which the three favored Anglo American multinational oil companies will control and extract profits from the Iraq oil. The current proposal is stacked heavily in favor of the oil companies, much more so than in any other middle eastern oil producing state. This part of the law is also very contentious; it could deprive Iraq of much of the benefit of its oil resources.

There are many who oppose the law. Iraq’s oil unions have threatened to shutdown production if foreign companies are allowed too much control. ….“If the law includes the distribution of revenue from future oil projects, then the Kurds are likely to reject it as unconstitutional,” he said. “If the law does not include such revenue, then it will accomplish little toward national reconciliation.” Shafiq said “the majority of the oil technocrats are against” the law as written. He said the eight months negotiators took after the drafters were finished was too long. And it was kept secret from the public and parliamentarians, which then added to the politicization. “The weak thing about their procedure is they never published the draft,” Shafiq said. “They should have had teams to explain this to unions, to intellectuals, to nongovernmental organizations, to the parliamentarians, and then get the gist of their reactions before they start finalizing a draft.”

What will Bush do if the oil law doesn’t pass? Obviously the entire situation in Iraq is in flux, and Bush’s support is waning at home. As recently as a month ago, it seemed that Bush might stage a coup, install a strongman who would issue some decree that would enable oil exploitation.

However, the entire US adventure in Iraq is now hanging by a thread, and that is Congressional funding. If the al-Maliki government were to fall, the odds are that the US would pull out. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, architect of the current “surge” strategy, has recently published a paper suggesting that, in view of the current instability in Iraq, perhaps the oil law can wait.

It looks like it will have to.  Members of parliament are not interested in risking their lives on this turkey.  I suspect the rightwing US thinktanks like AEI are recognizing this, and starting to engage in “softening of the blow.”

This will be a major, MAJOR defeat for Bush. In the US public eye, it makes the Iraqis seem like selfish greedy partisans who can’t agree on anything and won’t even provide funds to help with their own reconstruction.  I look for Bush to start backtracking on this issue.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, global warming/environment, Iraq, Middle East, Politics