Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tom O'Neil: Is secret homophobia fueling a possible 'Crash' upset?

Tom O'Neil of the LA Times penned this column which I just read. It's not designed to be directly linked to, so here it is:

"I don't think he's right, but there's some of it. I think Brokeback will win because it's got too many mainstream A-List Hollywood people behind it. But we'll see.

Is secret homophobia fueling a possible 'Crash' upset?

Something weird is going on among Oscar voters — and it's also going unspoken. "Crash" and "Good Night, and Good Luck" have their passionate supporters who gush with their honest love of those best picture nominees, but most non-"Brokeback" votes I hear from Oscar voters are really anti-"Brokeback."

Scads of academy members fume to me when they tattle on how they're inking their ballots, "I'm not voting for 'Brokeback'!" Then they calm down a bit and add, "I'm voting for (fill in the blank)" and give a positive reason to justify their decision for picking an alternative. In most cases I hear contrary votes for "Crash," but there's also surprising strength for "Good Night, and Good Luck." So far I've heard equal numbers of votes for "Brokeback" as "Crash," with "Good Night" not far behind. The best picture race is really thisclose.

It's the fury that voters express when mentioning "Brokeback" that's so odd and suspicious. In some cases I believe they're people who think the film is overrated. Or they're just weary of gay cowboy jokes. But in the majority of cases I suspect it's something else and something bad that they feel they can't utter out loud, so they're holding it in. You can see it on their faces.

Could it be secret homophobia? Perhaps. The academy is comprised mostly of straight white guys with white hair who know it's intolerable to bash gays in lavender-friendly, liberal Hollywood. But I really don't think it's that in any large way. Instead, I think it's the same frustration non-Jews feel when there's a glut of Holocaust films leading the Oscar pack in Jewish-friendly Hollywood. They want to exclaim, "Enough already with the Holocaust films!" This time I suspect many straight Hollywooders — who are totally cool with gay people in general — are fighting the urge to shriek, "Enough already with the gay persecution films!"

This Oscar year there really is a glut of them and, if I'm right in my predictions, we'll see the all-gay Oscars on March 5 with victories in the top categories by "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote" and "Transamerica."

How widespread is this anti-"Brokeback" tide? It's hard to say because it's mostly unspoken, but it's very real and it makes predicting the best picture race a crapshoot. It's quite possible that we could see another one of those best picture/director splits that used to be so rare, but are now commonplace with "Chicago," "Shakespeare in Love" and "Gladiator" winning best picture while the director laurels went to, respectively, Roman Polanski ("The Pianist"), Steven Spielberg ("Saving Private Ryan") and Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic"). Whatever happens this year, it's clear that Ang Lee has the best director trophy in the bag.

In the end, I believe "Brokeback" will win because there's a clear voting pattern in the top category recently: academy members want to be on the winning team. Front-runners tend to win even when there's a growing surge against them. Backlash against "The English Patient" was so widespread that "Seinfeld" did a whole episode about it, but it still won. Even though "A Beautiful Mind" was under attack on all fronts a few years ago, it nonetheless prevailed. "Chicago" pulled off its best picture victory even though late-breaking momentum for "The Pianist" was so strong that it won the top prizes for director, actor and screenplay. That bodes well for the gay cowboys remaining tall in the saddle on Oscar night.

Arkansas Governor Huckabee Refers to Legislators as "Puppets." - Live on C-SPAN Today

I just heard Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee gain a problem of running off at the mouth when at the National Governors Association and after a skit with Sesame Street puppets, he said "I never thought in my time as Governor I'd spend part of it talking to puppets. Kind of reminds you of the legislature." To which the crowd said "Ooo," as if to say "He just blew that one."

Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger at the National Governors Association Conference live on C-SPAN - Now

Arnold is the talking about health care and physical fitness -- "Communicating Heath Messages" -- to the nations governors right now. I'm listening for any news. Right now he's poking fun at Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's much-reported fitness habits.

(By the way, Arnold's once swollen lip is just fine.)

The California Governor says that lack of excersize has a terrible impact on kids, including depression. He also stresses that the Department of Heath Human Services was not (and still it not) communicating with the Department of Education. There's no coordination. "On the one side, they're giving them fast foods, and on the other, they're taking physical fitness away," he said.

What's interesting is he's talking to the group of our countries governors, and C-SPAN gets this crowd shot full of -- overweight double-chinned people.

Arnold said he signed into law a bill that prohibits junk food in the schools. "We want to make sure that we're giving kids the chance to excersize 45 minutes." He's not trying to make athletes -- they turn to a shot of Maria wearing a nice leather jacket -- he said. Just healthy people.

Arnold ended his speach with his famous line: "I'll be back," and was followed by Sesame Street's Elmo and Rosita.

Secret Service agents say Cheney was drunk when he shot lawyer

I got this item from my friend Richard Liberman, who got it from....You'll see. If it's true -- and it bears no image of being false -- it was a classic case of irresponsibility that the VP should thank god didn't end in Mr. Whittington's death.

The Rant
Secret Service agents say Cheney was drunk when he shot lawyer

Feb 22, 2006, 07:35

Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago say Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting.

Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.

According to those who have talked with the agents and others present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of the hunting party time to sober up.

We talked with a number of administration officials who are privy to inside information on the Vice President's shooting "accident" and all admit Secret Service agents and others say they saw Cheney consume far more than the "one beer' he claimed he drank at lunch earlier that day.

"This was a South Texas hunt," says one White House aide. "Of course there was drinking. There's always drinking. Lots of it."

One agent at the scene has been placed on administrative leave and another requested reassignment this week. A memo reportedly written by one agent has been destroyed, sources said Wednesday afternoon.

Cheney has a long history of alcohol abuse, including two convictions of driving under the influence when he was younger. Doctors tell me that someone like Cheney, who is taking blood thinners because of his history of heart attacks, could get legally drunk now after consuming just one drink.

If Cheney was legally drunk at the time of the shooting, he could be guilty of a felony under Texas law and the shooting, ruled an accident by a compliant Kenedy County Sheriff, would be a prosecutable offense.

But we will never know for sure because the owners of the Armstrong Ranch, where the shooting occurred, barred the sheriff's department from the property on the day of the shooting and Kenedy County Sheriff Ramon Salinas III agreed to wait until the next day to send deputies in to talk to those involved.

Sheriff's Captain Charles Kirk says he went to the Armstrong Ranch immediately after the shooting was reported on Saturday, February 11 but both he and a game warden were not allowed on the 50,000-acre property. He called Salinas who told him to forget about it and return to the station.

"I told him don't worry about it. I'll make a call," Salinas said. The sheriff claims he called another deputy who moonlights at the Armstrong ranch, said he was told it was "just an accident" and made the decision to wait until Sunday to investigate.

"We've known these people for years. They are honest and wouldn't call us, telling us a lie," Salinas said.

Like all elected officials in Kenedy County, Salinas owes his job to the backing and financial support of Katherine Armstrong, owner of the ranch and the county's largest employer.

"The Armstrongs rule Kenedy County like a fiefdom," says a former employee.

Secret Service officials also took possession of all tests on Whittington's blood at the hospitals where he was treated for his wounds. When asked if a blood alcohol test had been performed on Whittington, the doctors who treated him at Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial in Corpus Christi or the hospital in Kingsville refused to answer. One admits privately he was ordered by the Secret Service to "never discuss the case with the press."

It's a sure bet that is a private doctor who treated the victim of Cheney's reckless and drunken actions can't talk to the public then any evidence that shows the Vice President drunk as a skunk will never see the light of day.

A follow up to "Misunderstandings, Race, and Ass Holes in San Francisco"

The next day, Friday, after my Aqua horror, I went to a nice place called Americano to enjoy the Friday sun and a glass of wine in a place crowded with nice-looking women, and where I always see people I know. In this case, the person was Kevin Shannon.

Kevin's a friendly bespectacled real estate lawyer of Irish decent who lives and practices in San Francisco. Over the years, we've always had great -- and some times heated -- conversations about politics, race, and society.

See, I've noticed from talking with people I know that I'm one of the few African Americans who openly talks about a race-based problem with anyone who may be the cause of it, or with someone white. Most blacks I have talked with and observed don't do this. It's a total shame, but a pattern. I contend that you can't know if someone's your true friend if you can't be yourself around them. Plus, they can't say they really know you.

Anyway, I told Kevin about the Aqua horror, as I will call it, and he said that though I may have been correct, sometimes it's not necessary to counsel the person. He used the example of our mutual friend, Bill Patton, who passed away two years ago. Bill was a very energetic African American man who had a smile and a kind word for everyone. He always went to the bars in SF, but only drank water.

With all of the people Bill knew, you'd think that there would be thousands of people at his funeral. There were about 50. I was really hurt by that. It opened my eyes.

Kevin said that Bill had a great way of dealing with ass holes and apparently racist people. He used a humble approach. For example, some woman -- white -- bumped into him and spilled her drink and his too. But instead of appologizing, she blamed him and started yelling. He said "I'm just a poor black man from the South" and that disarmed her.

At one point a long time ago, I was a little like that, but it was before my heart problem in 1991, where I thought I had a heart attack. After medication, and seeing a therapist on the advice of the doctors, the psychologist realized that many of the encounters I had in society bothered me, and yet I could have changed things by mentioning my hurt or desire on the spot.

That observation opeened me up. It caused me to write, and shortly after that became a columnist for The Motclarion, and generally far more expressive. Plus, I felt better.

Now, Bill passed of a heart attack at 70 years old. I think Kevin's right about Bill's approach and my need to "pull back" a little bit. But the other side of the coin is that loosing two parents and buring them, as I did last year, has an impact on how you view life. I don't want to waste my time on earth not expressing what I see, for better or worse.

As much as I love Bill Patton, I have to be myself. I have a fear of being subordinated by the society around me. I'll never let that happen. Perhaps that's the wrong way to look at things. But Kevin's point is that I should take a look at a situation before I point an accusatory finger.

I try to. But in the retrospect of the Aqua Horror, I really did do that.

Bill had a formula that did work for him. But what got me was that only 50 people came to his funeral. That was insulting, and when I think about what Kevin said, I keep coming back to the thought that maybe his heart couldn't take all of the pounding of society with no real outlet, and so after a time it just gave up. That almost happened to me and I'm fearful of another episode.