* Say what you will about acclaimed director and child fucker Roman Polanski, but the man knows how to make a movie. His latest effort, The Ghost Writer, is a knockout political thriller that manages to keep you alert and in suspense until its shocking and gut-punch ending. A ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) is hired to write the memoirs of ex-prime minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) who's hiding out in America, avoiding potential war crimes back at home for sending enemy combatants to the CIA to be detained without just cause to be tortured. Once arriving at Maratha's Vineyard, nothing is what it seems, as getting to the truth behind Lang's life is as hush-hush as the mysterious death behind behind the writer who came before him. The Ghost knows he's in over his head, as pictures, false dates, and lonely, bitchy housewives begin to take center stage in under three days. I won't dare tell you the rest, only that this movie boasts excellent performances from McGregor, Brosnan, Sex and the City's Kim Catrall, and Tom Wilkenson, but its Olivia Williams as Adam's manipulative wife, who is the standout in this verbal cat-and-mouse thriller.
**** stars out of ****
* I keep getting newsletters from the conservative magazine, Newsmax.com. I don't know why (hell, I didn't even sign up for the bloody thing), but this current newsletter just begged me to ask a question: isn't two unnecessary wars in the Middle East enough?
1. Congress Calls on Obama for Action Against Iran
A letter to President Barack Obama from two unlikely congressional allies urging strong action against Iran has gained wide support on both sides of the aisle.
The letter was originally signed by Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana and circulated in late March.
The letter to the president begins, “We are writing you out of our concern that Iran is growing ever closer to nuclear weapons capability, a fact demanding immediate action on the part of the United States . . .
“Iran’s nuclear weapons program represents a severe threat to American national interests. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could lead to the proliferation of these weapons throughout the Middle East and beyond, destabilizing the global non-proliferation regime and greatly increasing the likelihood of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorists . . .
“It would undercut prospects for peace between Israel and her neighbors, with emboldened Iranian surrogates enjoying the strategic backing of an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And it would pose an existential threat to the State of Israel . . .
“Mr. President, you have stated this issue is a priority for your administration. You have attempted to engage the Iranian regime for over a year. You have gone to the United Nations Security Council in an effort to impose tough new sanctions on Iran. But time is not on our side . . .
“Accordingly, we urge you today to reaffirm boldly and unambiguously that the U.S. can and will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. We call on you to fulfill your June 2008 pledge that you would do ‘everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.’
“Certainly, one way to begin would be to reverse the practice under which the U.S. government has awarded at least $107 billion over the past decade in federal contracts to companies investing in or doing business in Iran. We urge you to join with those allies who are prepared for action to immediately impose crippling sanctions on Iran . . .
“We can do this by imposing punishing measures on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, rocking Iran’s banking system, and dramatically impacting Iran’s ability to import or refine petroleum.”
In December, the House approved a measure enabling Obama to ban foreign firms that supply Iran with refined petroleum from doing business in the U.S. The Senate passed its own version of sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector on Jan. 28.
But as the Insider Report disclosed two weeks ago, Democratic leaders have not taken steps to reconcile slight differences in the House and Senate bills, reportedly because the Obama administration has asked them to hold off so he can maintain “flexibility” in dealing with other countries in confronting Iran.
The letter from Reps. Jackson and Pence concludes: “We urge you to move rapidly to implement your existing authority on Iran and the legislation we send you, and to galvanize the international community for immediate, devastating steps. The hour is late. Now is the time for action.”
The letter quickly gained support from other members of Congress, and by April 1, 76 Democrats and 138 Republicans had signed on to the letter.
“The broad, bipartisan backing reflects a clear-eyed, rock-ribbed commitment in Congress to do what is necessary now to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability,” Rep. Jackson told The Hill newspaper.
Another letter with bipartisan congressional support was sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month, stressing the importance of American-Israeli relations.
“We are writing to reaffirm our commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the State of Israel and to express to you our deep concern over recent tension,” the letter begins.
Referring to the announcement during Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Israel that Israel would build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, the signees state: “We are reassured that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s commitment to put in place new procedures will ensure that such surprises, however unintended, will not recur.”
The letter, dated March 19, was signed by three Democrats — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland; Howard Berman of California, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Gary Ackerman of New York, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
Three Republicans also signed the letter: Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the ranking Republican member on the Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Dan Burton of Indiana, ranking Republican member on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
The letter to Clinton declares: “We are concerned that the highly publicized tensions in the relationship will not advance the interests the U.S. and Israel share. Above all, we must remain focused on the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear weapons program to Middle East peace and stability.”
Really?! Didn't we learn anything from our previous "adventure" in Iraq that we can't keep policing the world? We're in a recession and we've racked up $12 trillion in debt - I don't think another war is going to help our situation look better.
* A quick comment on self-checkout lanes in grocery stores: they're neither quick, nor efficient. Fix the bugs you've got on those damned things!
* If there's one gripe I have about our National Pastime (besides the faux shock Bud Selig and the MLB display when it's revealed some HOF player took steroids) its that the majority of the games are the same ones we see on Fox and ESPN almost every weekend: Boston, New York, St. Louis, Los Angles, and the other big market sports cities. Don't get me wrong: I love seeing the Red Sox and Yankees take on whoever they're playing, but I swear, its like they have those sports networks in their pockets. While covering the Albert Pujols's and the C.C. Sabathia's of the world, we don't shine a light on some the talented performers in the smaller market teams, like Jorge de la Rosa, who limited Padres batters to 2 hits and 0 runs over 7 innings of work on Friday, as the Rockies beat my beloved (yet oh, so awful) Padres 7-0, or San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, arguably the most underrated first basemen in the National League, putting up big numbers constantly (he had a .277 avg with 40 home runs and almost 100 runs batted in for 2009) and yet very little mention of the pair from sports analysts. They need to start covering the little guys. Sure the teams suck, but there are bright spots playing for them. And while baseball's at it: bring in salary caps so that every team is on an equal-level playing field.
Edit From The Count: Let the bitching begin about the new color scheme. If you find it too hideus I shall change it but I like Dark. It fits me.