Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Night at the Oscars

I think I've missed something! What movie did the rest of the world see when I was watching Million Dollar Baby? I saw a movie that did not meet my expectations, I saw a movie that allowed three very brilliant actors to blow their potential (except for maybe Swank, its not her fault they killed her off) , and I saw the most poorly written screenplay brought to the screen! What was everyone else watching?!?

Before I say anything let me say this... It's about freakin' time! Easily the most talented actor in the business, Mr. Morgan Freeman has been nominated four times for the coveted Academy Award and tonight he finally won! His role in Million Dollar Baby certainly wasn't my favorite and I'm not sure he deserved the award for that film, but collectively it's a disgrace that the Academy took this long to acknowledge his unbelievable talent, grace, and humility. "The amazing Morgan Freeman," doesn't even begin to do him justice, Ms. Swank. For a kid like me, there's nothing greater than seeing my man Morgan on stage with every person in that audience on their feet!! Nothing, that is, except for Ray Charles.

Jamie Foxx is the man! When I saw Ray for the first time, I didn't need the willing suspension of disbelief, you don't know it is Jamie Foxx...everything screams Ray Charles. The sound, the man, the moves. For every reason he deserved the Oscar and the standing ovation. I've never in my life seen a performance like that! The only thing I can possibly compare it to is Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man and that's saying something. Through Jamie Foxx and Ray, Ray Charles' music is being introduced to a whole new generation and for that I'm thankful-- I just can't spread the word alone!

A comment on the art of the documentary... It just keeps getting better. I don't know what's in the water, but for the last three years I have been amazed! Two years ago it was Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, last year it was the admirable and insightful Robert McNamara in The Fog of War, and this year came Born into Brothels. They just keep getting better!

"I'm just a kid." Well, I hate to break it to you Mr. Eastwood, but you're no spring chicken! Tonight Clint Eastwood won for best director in a category of brilliance. For every reason Martin Scorsese deserved it, but for every reason that I don't understand Clint Eastwood reigns again. If nothing else the only thing good to come out of Million Dollar Baby, was Swank's speech to Eastwood. My Macushla: the only thing good in the entire movie!

A few last comments... Cate Blanchett portrayed Kathryn Hepburn as no one but Ms. Kate herself has. A well-deserved Oscar for her though I was pulling for Virginia Madsen. A shout-out to the first Spanish nominated best song and winner. And last but certainly not least a great choice for the honorary Oscar-- Sidney Lumet. 12 Angry Men and Murder on the Orient Express are two of my favorite films. Not a bad night for Oscar or a bad night given the fact that Chris Rock was the host and Meryl was nowhere to be found!

2005 Oscar Winners:
Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby
Best Director: Clint Eastwood
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx
Best Actress: Hillary Swank
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Advice to the Party

In Idaho Democrats win some and they lose some-- for the most part they are ALWAYS losing. Near the November election I commented on the Bannock Six (there are now five--another loss), promoting Marley, Malepeai, Boe, Smith, Anderson, and Martinez, but this one is not a promotion...so hear me out.

It seems to me that the "we're gonna lose" attitude has not only taken over the National Democratic Party (except possibly Barrack Obama...he seems to be oblivious to any losing streak), it has hit the Idaho Democrats HARD. Losing Anderson in November could not have caused this downward spiral.

As I keep tabs on the Idaho Legislature, I'm beginning to notice that the Democrats are battling less and losing more. Though the same-sex marriage victory was encouraging and what seems so far to be a significant piece of legislation for this session, it is the smaller losses that are really beginning to add up.

There are three big legislative issues right now that the Democrats are taking a beating on:

1. Education (the fight for tuition in Idaho's public universities, excluding the University of Idaho, is only one of many fights)
2. Water Rights (striking a deal with the Nez Perce tribe that will impact the Snake River, Salmon, and Clearwater basins)
3. Family Planning (a bill that will fund the Children's Health Insurance Program, but seems to be, as some radical lobbyist believes, an attempt to fund abortions)

The problem isn't the issues coming before the legislature, it's the ambition the Democratic delegation is lacking when it comes to defending the issues. Nearly everyday in the Idaho State Journal two things appear, one, Senator Bert Marley's picture appears next to an article about a failed piece of legislation that the Democrats introduced, and two, Ken Andrus (the Republican freshman senator who took Anderson's seat after the November election) is applauded for hitting the ground running. He's been behind every key piece of legislation and has been on the forefront fighting the battle.

I realize in Idaho the Democrats are extremely outnumbered, but that's no excuse. Malepeai needs to step up to the plate every time just like he did with the same-sex marriage debate and Marley needs to find some friends. If Bert Marley had five friends as concerned with education as he is, the international studies proposal would have passed and the school worker's right proposal wouldn't have met harsh debate and postponement. And that's just the Pocatello senators... if Kate Kelly, Mike Burkett, Clint Stennett, Langhorst, and Werk could all step up and start fighting we'd have a serious battle on our hands.

Of course our congressional delegation to Washington is going to side with the state Republicans, but that doesn't matter...just read Senator Craig's comments on the Nez Perce water issue and you'll quickly understand that in Idaho all the majority means is that all the fools are on one side. So John Kerry lost the election, GET OVER IT! It's time for the Democrats (Idaho and nation-wide) to get back in the game. Put the issues back on the table, get those boxing gloves on, and don't walk away without a victory!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Palestinian Predicament

Was Yasser Arafat a terrorist? Was Arafat a peace activist? Where is the grey area between the supposed Palestinian terrorist and the Nobel Peace Prize recipient?

It would be a safe bet to say that for everyday I have been alive an article has appeared in the local paper regarding the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It would also be safe to say that everyday of my life I grow increasingly confused. In the introduction to U.S. Policy on Palestine: Wilson to Clinton, editor Michael Suleiman addresses what I believe to be the cause of my confusion:
The making and execution of foreign policy decisions are affected by a number of factors of unequal weight. Which particular factor plays a more critical part depends on the actual situation...the personalities and backgrounds of the decision makers, especially those in the highest positions, certainly influence foreign policy decision making.
From Wilson to Clinton (yes, I am excluding the current president), the varying methods of addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are far-ranging. I'm not sure I've quite pinpointed Carter's policy (I'm not sure he has either), but I've concluded that no two U.S. presidents had a similar policy. Though the U.S. policy is pro-Israel, Eisenhower's policy was drastically different from Nixon's and George H.W. Bush's policy different from Truman's. No wonder Americans can't quite understand what exactly the U.S. policy on Palestine is.

I'm not going to offer a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor refer you to the biblical support of who the land belongs to-- which is essentially the problem and the reason the U.S. is involved, but I will recommend a book: Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour. As Americans we are constantly open to the pro-Israel news and commentary, but Chacour's book offers the Palestinian perspective.

Reading current news is deja vu with this issue. The death of Arafat,a s much as I hate to say it, hasn't really benefited the situation. Cease fires, peace agreements, and road maps to peace are merely sentiments in a situation that will find no resolution.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

100 Posts and Counting

Despite what my Blogger profile says and assuming that my computations are correct, this is the 100th post of The Political Game! Though I'm currently working on a little analysis of the state Democrats, a post on the proposed Bush agenda in regard to Social Security, and an interesting observation on Palestine, today for this momentous occasion, I'll comment on...yes, Kennedy.

Today as we dove head first into a discussion about Lyndon Johnson in my Vietnam War class I realized two things, 1) I have never been impressed with LBJ or Texas politicians and 2) Kennedy left behind some pretty big shoes to fill. Realizing my bias, I will not elaborate on the successes of the Kennedy administration, nor will I comment on the failures (yes, there were many), but I will say that no man could have taken office after Kennedy's assassination and matched his foreign policy. Kennedy was the creator of "flexible response," the only firm-standing man in the room when it came to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the only man willing to take full responsibility for the failure in the Bay of Pigs.

I always say that I'd hope I was smart enough to vote for Reagan after realizing that despite his amazing heart Carter was a horrible president and that I would not have voted for Johnson. Of course I have the bonus of hindsight and it is 20/20.

Today in class wasn't the first time, but one of many times that I have wondered how different the world would be had a loser in life, with a $12 rifle, not brought an end to Camelot. I've been to Boston where overcoming great illness, a child became a man, to D.C. where that man became an American leader, and to Dallas where it all ended and not once have I thought: 'This was just an ordinary man.'

In 100 posts, I've commented on Kennedy only a few times, but in a 100 posts, those comments were my favorite.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

ASISU Endorsement

*Editor's Note: Student body elections at Idaho State University are in full swing and recognizing that a good chunk of my readers are students at ISU, here is the platform of the two guys I am endorsing. Not only do they have the best platform and are the most qualified candidates, they are two pretty good guys!

Why Should You Vote For Matt Hobson and Will Sharp?

1) Continued support for the lawsuit to keep out tuition down.

How? Gain written support by Boise State University, University of Idaho, and other Idaho universities. Research past legislation, Idaho's constitution, and previous bouts with the State Board of Education. Not flinching is how they will solve the problem.

2) Better spending within ASISU leads to better involvement of clubs, organizations, and individual students.

How? Matt Hobson served as an ASISU finance committee member this past year and knows how the money gets into the club's hands. Finding out how and for what the money will be spent will not only save the student money, but insure that the money is spent right.

3) Getting athletic tickets back to the game.

How? Convincing the university that there is no reason for which students should have to get their tickets in advance.

4) Let's define "dead week."

How? Hobson and Sharp will send a petition to the dean of each college and have them define what they expect of their students during dead week and then inform the students.

5) Student loan consolidation and counseling

How? Bringing the information to you about what options you have for getting your loan paid off. Hobson/Sharp will provide kiosks in every college once a month with the resources to help the student.

6) They will come to you.

How? Matthew Hobson and Will Sharp will spend time each week visiting each college to sit and talk one-on-one with you about your experience with Idaho State University.

Get out and vote in the ASISU run-off election March 1, 2005.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Million Dollar Baby: Part II

Maybe there really wasn't a part one-- but I know I've mentioned this before. And if you haven't already seen the film, do not read this review... I promise I will ruin it for you.

As I've given great consideration to the plot of Million Dollar Baby over the last several weeks and have read many reviews, I've decided this: The reason I dislike the film is because I am firmly against assisted suicide and euthanasia. I am not only against the practice of assisted suicide in everyday life, I am against it in literature.

This decision has been influenced by 2 things-- 1) A recent conversation I had about the fate of Terry Schiavo and 2) This week's review by Orson Scott Card on his website Uncle Orson Reviews Everything.

First, for those of you have been oblivious to current events for the last several years, I don't know maybe you were on a mission, Terry Schiavo is a Florida woman who has been in the news many times over the last at least 3 years because she is living on life support. The argument is over who should be the consenting guardian, he husband who wished to take her off life support, or her parents, who wish to keep her alive. Yes, quality of life should be considered and she chose her husband not her parents, but that is all beside the point. The point is this... some believe taking her off the life support is assisting her suicide.

Second, Hilary Swank dies in Million Dollar Baby-- At the hands of her otherwise caring trainer and confidant, Clint Eastwood. In all the reviews I've read that have glorified the likes of Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman for such a beautiful film, I've not once read, until the reviews of OSC, that possibly using the assisted suicide was a mistake. Forget the fact that it ruined what could have been an okay film...alright I won't go that far as I felt the plot was dismal and disheartening, but the film certainly could have benefited from either a twist of fate or simply the courage of director Eastwood to go against the grain and not follow the story set before him by the book.

Orson Scott Card says that "suicide or assisted suicide is what bad or inexperienced writers resort to when they don't have an ending." I think that is absolutely necessary to understanding why in my opinion this movie tanked. The ending is meaningless and leaves you frustrated. It took a few days before I was able to process what had happened. You have an overly important character like Frankie (Eastwood's character) assisting an overly ambitious character like Maggie (Swank's character) and the ending ruins it all but suggesting that Frankie comfortably took her life.

The problems with the film are immense. At some point the performance of Morgan Freeman gets caught between the crosshairs as Swank and Eastwood struggle to pull off the elaborate hoax of ending Swank's life-- something Morgan wasn't in on (I hope anyway). There are just little inconsistencies that exist that leave the viewer baffled. Why is Eastwood's daughter not speaking to him and if we knew would it in anyway help us to understand his character or how he could take Swank's life?

Bottom line, if Frankie Dunn was the type of character they built him up to be through the beginning of the film, why did he let Maggie's depression convince him that it was okay to take her life? He could have told her to live and she would have. He could have told her to walk and she may have... that's the influence he had on her impressionable life.

Taking the life of another is murder. Assisted suicide really is no different. The person wanting to terminate their own life can't possibly be in any sane state to make that decision. Maggie knew what was going on and may have requested it, but I imagine there should have been some sort of resistance on Frankie's part.

Terry Schiavo I realize is another story. She is in no state to make any requests, neither to request to die or to live, but taking her off life support is not assisting her suicide when no one knows if she wants to live or die. The question with her is whether or not you let her husband or her parents decide.

A long rant, really on nothing other than a movie that thoroughly confused and frustrated me. And I really wanted to mention Terry because that is a story I've been following since I was in high school. Let me leave you with the words of Uncle Orson:

"Sometimes we do things to keep people alive against their will. That's what civilization is about. It's what love is about. But it's certainly not what Million Dollar Baby is about."

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Night of Tributes

Excuse the non-political post...today it could be my only sanity and honestly I have two posts in the works on Social Security and Palestine that are just not quite postable.

As you all know or have heard by now, I am a die-hard Ray Charles fan. So it is no surprise to know that I was keeping my eye on the 47th annual Grammys tonight as "Ray Charles: Genius Loves Company" was nominated for Album of the Year. What I wasn't expecting was such an interesting display of talent. Sure, it is the Grammys, but we are living in a post-wardrobe malfunction society that tends to censor everything. There was a tribute to gospel music that was rather odd to say the least and a middle-finger salute from Billy Joe (lead singer of Green Day) as he knew his language would be blurped as he sang "American Idiot," but the good stuff was later...Both the Ray Charles and Janis Joplin tributes were excellent.

First, Ray Charles is simply genius. You could have a no-name artist on stage singing "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" and I would have been happy, but as the memoriam played and Ray's voice begins, Bonnie Raitt (a 9- time Grammy award winner and "Genius" collaborator) casually takes her place on stage and sings "Do I Ever Cross Your Mind" with all the respect Mr. Charles deserves. Other tributes were made to Charles as Norah Jones won for her duet with him and commented that "it just just shows how wonderful music can be--its 100% with Ray Charles."

Second, the tribute to Janis Joplin. I missed why they were having a tribute to Joplin, but quickly understood the magnitude of the performance. On stage, bald and brilliant, was Melissa Etheridge. I'm a big Melissa Etheridge fan (and no it is in no way comparable to being a k.d. Lang fan) so I was excited just to hear her, but a few months ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been having the battle of her lifetime. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy (hence the baldness) and yet there she was singing with every bit of energy in her. It was amazing! When she was done, I thought, and I'm sure many others thought as well, that it was the performance of her lifetime. Singing "Piece of My Heart" at the top of her lungs, with Lance Armstrong (sporting a Livestrong wristband) on the front row cheering her on, she was awesome. If that were the last performance of her life, she'd be going out on top.

There was also a collaboration in support of the Tsunami victims that included an array of talent including U2, Aerosmith, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Brian Wilson, Tim McGraw, and Alicia Keys. It was interesting to hear "Across the Universe" from such a variety of musicians.

For the Grammys it wasn't too bad. (Oh, like I'd forget-- "Genius Loves Company" was the winner in the best album category. If you don't own it, this is a wise investment!)

Sunday, February 6, 2005

A Few Matters of Business

Several matters have come to my attention in the last week or so that require a comment. I do not intend to alienate any of my readers, but would like to make a few things clear. It is by choice that I allow my personal email address to appear in my Blogger profile, I would greatly appreciate it if those of you wishing to speak directly to me via email would be brief and refrain from sending me links, attachments, and political commentary. If you wish to comment on a post, please feel free to do so publicly, but please do not send me information on the topic. Believe it or not, I am a well-educated individual and spend quality time researching the issues I choose to post on. I do not need any additional information that any reader cannot comment on publicly through the blog itself.

Also, this blog is read by many individuals from various backgrounds. I respect each of my reader's opinions, but ask that you each take a moment to examine the tone of your comments out of respect for other readers and myself. Please refrain from obscene, vulgar, rude, and distasteful comments. Again, I appreciate your opinions and spend a great deal of time considering them.

Last, but certainly not least. I have added a link to an Amazon Listmania! list that I have composed. It's just a quick ten book list of my all-time favorite novels. Maybe eventually I will consider creating a list of those favorite movies that I shared with you all earlier and I would love to make a list of my favorite albums--though I'm not sure I could condense that to a mere ten choices! I hope you enjoy this list.

Thank for your readership and comments, happy blogging!

Saturday, February 5, 2005

The Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

When the "reddest" state Senate in the union cannot come up with the supermajority needed to send a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions to the House for a vote, we know it's going to be one long battle for President Bush when he starts pushing this same proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This will not be an easy battle for either side. This week the Idaho State Senate voted against a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage... okay they didn't vote against it, but they certainly didn't come up with the votes needed for 2/3 majority that would send the bill to the State House of Representatives.

The problem in Idaho is not the absence of law prohibiting same-sex marriage, there is a law on the books stating this illegal act, but the problem is the fear that without the existence and protection of an amendment to the Idaho Constitution, judicial activists could legalize the practice of same-sex marriage. The vote on the bill (Bill SJR101), held this week, was a proposed amendment that would essentially define marriage as between one man and one woman (I say "one" as a reminder that polygamy is still a viable threat in this state and many other western states). The amendment would ban not only same-sex marriages, but civil unions and domestic partnerships in the state of Idaho.

I publicly applaud the 14 members of the Senate who opposed this bill and condone the 21 senators who supported the bill. (24 senators would have been needed to reach the supermajority) This is not the first time this bill has come up, not is it the last. This isn't the end of the bill--it will be back. The battle over same-sex marriage is not going anywhere, but I'm quite proud that the "blue" in this traditionally "red" state stood out this week...if only for a moment.

Senator Edgar Malepeai, a Pocatello educator, led the battle to resist the supermajority with the help of 13 other wise senators. Malepeai was quoted in our local paper, The Idaho State Journal, as saying that he is "not one that will support something that will take rights away, no matter who it (pertains to)." Of the two Bannock County Democrats in the State Senate, Malepeai was obviously the more courageous. Bert Marley voted for the ban on same-sex marriage. Now, I would consider Bert Marley a friend, he was my German, World History, and Mythology teacher in high school and was my former bishop, but I can't quite let his vote slip from my thoughts on this matter. Marley's vote, though possibly was shared with his constituents, may have been religiously motivated.

My point, if I have one, is that religion is motivating this new interest throughout the country concerning the "sanctity of marriage," as President Bush puts it. I agree that many of these marriages are motivated by economics. Many of those leading the front banning same-sex marriage are economically motivated, but the reason the nation--the public individuals who aren't part of the health insurance companies or the government--are interested is because it makes them question religion and morals. The reality is that approximately 78% of the American people are Christian. They believe the Bible more often than not. They believe that quite possibly there is a contradiction between what the Bible says about the so-called rights of homosexuals and what the Constitution says. That is the bottom line.

I can't say enough about the courage of Senator Malepeai. He's a good man and his actions remind me of those of several individuals Kennedy wrote about in Profiles in Courage. It takes a lot to go against the grain, he'll take a lot of heat for it, and you must remember this is the Grand Ole Party in Grand Ole Idaho running things. And I can't say much for Marley. He was quoted in the ISJ the day after his vote on same-sex marriage on another issue saying that, "he thing that continues to concern [him] is the concept that the rules of the Senate are more important than the rules of the Constitution," maybe he should think about the beliefs of the Idaho Senate versus the beliefs stated in the Constitution.

(*Editor's Note: The members of the Idaho State Senate have been ranked based on their votes regarding all homosexual issues, Marley received a D (anti-gay) and Malepeai a C (average). Interestingly enough, retired senator and recent unsuccessful U.S. Congress candidate Lin Whitworth received an A+.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

State of the Union 2005

"The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."--Article II, Sec. 3, U.S. Constitution.

When any man steps before his colleagues and his fellow citizens as the most powerful democratic leader in the world, it is a historical moment, a moment worth watching. Since I was old enough to understand the historic magnitude of the State of the Union address, I have watched, mesmerized by the executive office and the strong principles of the legislature--both Democratic and Republican. Tonight was no exception.

As I could continue on describing my amazement by the constitutional moment I have just experienced for days, I will give my critical assessment of the 2005 State of the Union address as given by President George W. Bush.

I am simply surprised that the Iraqi elections went as well as they did. I sat with tears in my eyes as the Iraqi woman hugged the mother of a fallen Marine. But in all the emotion, never once (and I just heard that Sen. John Kerry is already mentioning it) was Osama Bin Laden spoke of. Never once was an exit strategy mentioned. We have brought democracy to Iraq, but the regime that brought tragedy to our own soil on 9/11 has not fully been confronted and our troops continue to be compromised on foreign soil.

Social Security being privatized is an issue I'm not yet too educated on. I plan on in the next several weeks addressing this from my side of the political spectrum, but I will say this: Scaring the American public is not the answer to justifying spending or the change of any issue. I do not side with my fellow Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer often, but on this I stand firmly. Social Security has a much larger future than the President would have us believe. He said before that Social Security would go broke by 1988-- so far I haven't seen that to be true. Social Security will be a key battle for the 109th Congress.

I will certainly say reinstating the Ryan White Act is an excellent move for America. AIDS research and prevention must exhaust our efforts, but AIDS is not only a problem on our home court. If there is one issue that I stand completely with my party on it is AIDS. AIDS and stem-cell research continue to be issues that keep us politically in disagreement, but for the good of our people require our attention.

There is so much yet to be done at home and abroad. There is genocide currently being practiced in the Sudan. There is great unrest in the ancient lands of Israel and Palestine. There is ever growing insecurity in Iran and Syria. There is a terrorist leader still somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan. But despite all that must be done to bring peace to the world, there is much more to be done at home. "We shall be judged more by what we do at home than by what we preach abroad." (President John F. Kennedy, 3rd and final State of the Union address)

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Ray on DVD

Just a grand little announcement for you all-- Ray came out today on DVD and as of 36 minutes ago I am the proud owner of it! If you haven't caught on to my great love for Ray Charles, here's another chance. I can't say enough about how wonderful the film is. Like him or not, his story is amazing, Jamie Foxx is brilliant, and the music...well it's genius.