Rand Paul | Courtesy Lexington Herald-Leader

Paul-a-Buster: Your junior Kentucky senator Rand Paul says he won’t back President Trump’s latest nominations for Secretary of State or CIA director, reports The Washington Post, CNN, Politico and The Wall Street Journal.

The president nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo to succeed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Gina Haspel to take Mr. Pompeo’s current spot with the CIA. He fired Mr. Tillerson on Tuesday via Twitter.

Is it still bad form to break up over text? Because break up by Twitter is taking it to a whole other level.

“I’m going to do everything I can to block them,” said Sen. Paul in a news conference on Wednesday. At issue: Mr. Pompeo’s support for the war in Iraq and his support for enhanced interrogation techniques, seen as torture. He opposes Ms. Haspel on similar grounds. And he says he’s not afraid to use the filibuster to stop either nomination.

I’m perplexed by the nomination of people who love the Iraq War so much that they would advocate for a war with Iran next. It goes against most of the things President Trump campaigned on, that the unintended consequences of regime change in Iraq led to instability in the Middle East.

Mr. Pompeo’s appointment could be more problematic, at least immediately, because Sen. Paul sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If all the Democrats side with him, it’s possible Mr. Pompeo could receive an unfavorable review. Doesn’t kill the nomination on its own — it could go to the floor anyway — but it’s potentially a tougher path to get approved.

His opposition to Ms. Haspiel pertains to her alleged involvement in Bush-era interrogation techniques.

My opposition to her is over her direct participation in interrogation and her gleeful enjoyment at the suffering of someone being tortured. Sen. McCain has voiced some misgivings about the CIA appointment. … If he alone were to say no, it might be enough.

Sen. Paul may be referring to a 2017 report from Pro Publica asserting Ms. Haspiel oversaw a CIA secret “black site” in Thailand where Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida leader, was waterboarded among other coercive interrogation techniques. The report also claimed she mocked the prisoner’s suffering.

Pro Publica retracted that story with a lengthy correction on Thursday. They don’t dispute the account, but note they’ve since learned Ms. Haspiel was not in charge of the site during the time of the interrogation.

Reuters talks to an intelligence officer who served with her who says she was anything but a “gleeful participant.” Said the source:

That makes it sound like she was holding the bucket and laughing, when all she was was a bureaucrat following orders.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would like things to move along quickly, says Reuters.

Both of these nominees seem to be well-qualified and … we hope they’ll not be subjected to undue delay, which has been an enormous problem.

Sen. McConnell’s had a relatively low profile of late, or at least it feels that way. There was some coverage last week saying he wouldn’t introduce legislation to oppose the president’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, but a relatively quiet month.

It’s unsettling. Like when kids are playing in the yard next door and you realize they’ve been quiet for a while. It’s what you wanted, but you know it means the little characters are plotting something and you should under no circumstances answer that knocking at the door.

While we’re here, Sen. Paul’s neighbor plead guilty to the November attack on the senator, says USA Today and CNN. According to court records, Rene Boucher “had enough” watching Sen. Paul stacking brush near his property and ran downhill, tackling the unsuspecting senator. Sen. Paul suffered six broken ribs as a result.

Sentencing is set for June 15. Prosecutors recommended a 21-month prison sentence, but Mr. Boucher can make his case for a lesser punishment.

Myisha Hines-Allen, Arica Carter, Jazmine Jones, Asia Durr and Sam Fuehring | Courtesy of UofL Athletics

The Ides of March: Your 2018 March Madness Tournament kicked off this week. A bit of bad news came out of Selection Sunday: your University of Louisville battling basketball Cardinals did not make it into the NCAA tournament.

Which is a surprise but also kind of not. That kind of year.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have nice things. How about the women’s team, for instance? They’re not only in the tournament, but the No. 1 seed for the first time in the school’s history, says The Washington Post. They’ll face their first-round opponent, the 16-seed Broncos of Boise State, right here at the YUM! Center today at noon. If you can’t make it up the street, ESPN’s carrying the game.

Back over to the men’s side of things, your No. 5 seed University of Kentucky winning Wildcats defeated their first round opponent, the No. 12 seed Wildcats of Davidson College, by a score of 78-73, says NBC Sports.

That victory came with a price, however: the end of a streak of 1,047 games with a 3-pointer, says CBS Sports. SB Nation says the fans are pretty upset, despite the win.

The players, not so much.

Kentucky will meet the Bulls of Buffalo Saturday at 5:15 p.m.  CBS will broadcast.

Between now and then, you can check out this GQ profile on Kentucky coach John Calipari, his image and reputation and what he thinks of the NCAA. Sneak peak: “not a fan.”

 

Jennifer Lawrence in “The Hunger Games” | Courtesy of Lionsgate

Star Power: The Hollywood Reporter has a piece by the executive editor Stephen Galloway opining, “If Jennifer Lawrence Can’t Open a Movie, Who Can?” That’s spurred on by a less than stellar box office outing from Ms. Lawrence’s new movie, “Red Sparrow,” following a less than stellar box office outing from “mother!” and a less than stellar box office outing from “Passengers.”

Which leads Mr. Galloway to lament the condition of the star and ask if we truly have any left.

I thought Lawrence was the real thing, until her box office began to show signs of continental drift. The news that she’s had her third flop in a row with Red Sparrow (following Passengers and mother!) was especially disheartening for admirers like myself. Partly, it’s a result of the movies she’s chosen. Even as a fan of the actress and Darren Aronofsky, I couldn’t recommend mother! to my own mother; as for Passengers, perhaps I shouldn’t have watched it on a plane, but it made an already long flight seem like it would never end.

In all deference to Mr. Galloway, this is silly and built on a false premise or two. Maybe three.

First, “mother!” was never meant to make “Hunger Games” money and its audience was always going to be more narrow. Mr. Aronofsky has a great reputation as an auteur, but his movies are not made to print money. “mother!” may be a drop from “Black Swan,” but it also made more than “Requiem for a Dream,” “Pi” and “The Fountain” combined, according to Box Office Mojo. Though in fairness to those films, it played in more theaters.

“Passengers” may not have done quite as well as anticipated, but still made over $300 million globally, also according to Box Office Mojo. It’s budget was $110 million. That’s even with the creepy twist for co-star Chris Pratt’s character. And even then, a lot of reviews said “Lawrence and Pratt are great! And great chemistry! Shame about the script and the creepy!”

That’s a paraphrase.

And that movie was also playing opposite “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” which had some pretty decent traction already.

Which brings us to “Red Sparrow,” which also received lukewarm audience and critical response, released at a time when “Black Panther” is taking over the world.

So the argument then becomes, something akin to a star should be able to get a wide audience to see a movie, even if it appears to be avant-garde or not terribly exciting while competing with other terribly exciting things. And that doesn’t really work.

If you look at our other (brief) resident star, Tom Cruise, he’s all over the place, too. The critically acclaimed “Magnolia” only brought in $22 million, not far from where “mother!” sits, while his next film, “Mission Impossible II” brought in over $200 million.

That’s just how stuff works. The more that stuff explodes featuring people running and jumping and yelling about running and jumping also while shooting at someone or something maybe alongside a fast-moving car, the more money your movie makes. Or is supposed to make. That’s just how math works. And it’s OK if something doesn’t have mass appeal that was never meant to have mass appeal to begin with.

But even in the non-explodey cinema you have someone like Tom Hanks. “Big” made him one of the biggest stars ever, but no way, no how was that enough to get people to see “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” That film also had Bruce Willis who was already two “Die Hard” movies and a couple of “Look Who’s Talking” films into his career. Still: $15 million.

So I think she’s going to be fine. And she’s still a whatever deal she is and we’re all going to be OK.

At least where the movies are concerned.

See you next week.

Kyle Ware
Kyle Ware is a Louisville-based actor, artist, educator and writer. His column, In Other News, appears at Insider Louisville every Friday.