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President Jello

Speaker of the House John Boehner basically nailed President Obama’s entire character as President in a quote earlier today:

“Dealing with them the last couple months has been like dealing with Jell-o,” Boehner said. “Some days it’s firmer than others. Sometimes it’s like they’ve left it out over night.”

This is how Mr. Obama has run his presidency from the day of the inauguration.  And in fact, he has not done this only with Republicans.  Obama never really took a stand with Congressional Democrats on the stimulus or on the health care program either.  He simply let deals ‘congeal’ around him, and then jumped on board at the very end.

That worked relatively well when he was dealing with Democrats, for the simple reason that they had largely overlapping basic principles when discussing policy.  However, when you are dealing with the other side, that makes for an impossible bargaining environment…as Speaker Boehner is learning.

Boehner has spent the last day or so finally pushing for the White House to put out its own recommendations for the debt ceiling agreement.

I think it is time for the president to put his plan on the table. Let the American people see just what the president is proposing. You can’t go out there and talk about some $4-trillion agreement to substantially change the fiscal situation here in Washington without any facts.

They, of course, won’t do this, mainly because they don’t have a clue what their ideal plan would be.  More importantly, Obama wants all the credit and none of the responsibility for whatever is eventually produced.  His entire political strategy is to blame others for the failures of his administration.

This is ultimately what you get when you have someone with no executive experience in the Oval Office.  It is one thing to work in a group, such as Congress.  It is a wholly different matter to stake your position by yourself as leader of the nation.  The successful Presidents of our time, including Reagan, Clinton, and Bush had a plan for all to see well before the debate commenced.  Obama has been just the opposite, shying away from the limelight at every turn.

This was a major impetus for Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell to propose his emergency plan on the debt ceiling.  McConnell has said he will not accept a ‘smoke and mirrors’ deal, and thus would rather lay the entire mess at the President’s feet than take responsibility for it.  I have my reservations about the plan, and conservative voices have fallen in both for and against the plan in vigorous debates in the blogosphere.  However, it goes to show that Republicans no longer have any trust in this President, and don’t feel the ability to honestly broker any kind of deal that isn’t written in stone.

So we are left now with the decision making of “President Jello”.  Will he wiggle or jiggle?  No one knows.  Obama has not shown the ability to stand firm however, and usually capitulates in the face of steadfastness.  Whether Republicans have the backbone to stand up to him, and take the beating that will surely occur in the mainstream press until a deal is done, is at best uncertain.

I guess the real question for conservatives is less to do with what the President is made of, than what the Republicans are made of.  It is time to see.

 

1

Jobs Number: Does Obama Feel Your Pain?

A little humor in a NOT so funny situation...

For liberals, maybe they should be more worried about how distant the White House seems from reality.  First this past week, David Plouffe, who ran the President’s 2008 Election campaign, had this brilliant sound byte:

The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” Plouffe said. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’”

This, of course, was roundly criticized by members of the Right and the Left.  Mitt Romney didn’t wait more than minutes before responding, and calling for Plouffe’s resignation or firing:

“If David Plouffe were working for me, I would fire him and then he could experience firsthand the pain of unemployment. His comments are an insult to the more than 20 million people who are out of work, underemployed or who have simply stopped looking for jobs. With their cavalier attitude about the economy, the White House has turned the audacity of hope into the audacity of indifference.”

However, do not let this White House ever be seen as admitting a mistake.  Press Secretary Jay Carney doubled down on this idiocy:

“Well, I understand that we’re engaged in the – or rather, the Republicans are engaged in a primary campaign, trying to get some media attention.  I don’t know where, you know, the voters that some other folks might be talking to — but — or — but most people do not sit around their kitchen table and analyze GDP and unemployment numbers.  They talk about how they feel their own economic situation is.  And they measure it by whether they have a job, whether they have job security; whether their house – whether they’re meeting their house payment, whether their mortgage is underwater; whether they have the money to pay for their children’s education or they don’t; whether they’re dealing with a sick parent and can afford that, or whether they can’t.

They do not sit around analyzing The Wall Street Journal or other — or Bloomberg to look at the — you know, analyze the numbers.  Now, maybe some folks do, but not most Americans.  I think that’s the point David Plouffe was making; that’s the point the president was making just moments ago in his statement in the Rose Garden.”

I guess, that in a way is true.  What Carney misses is that people’s own person economic situation sucks royally.  No one is going to argue that people struggling to meet their next month’s rent or find money for dinner are worried about the unemployment rate.  But they are concerned about the economic climate in general.  Apparently, this White House doesn’t exactly share that concern.

The absolute ineptitude of this White House on the economic front is now coming to fruition.  But if that was not bad enough, they do not seem to even understand the severity of the problem.  At the current rate of job production, it will take 10 years to get back to 2007 peak employment levels.  During that time, however, the unemployment rate will steadily increase, as the number of people overall increase by normal population increases.

Moreover, the President and his West Wing staff do not appear to ‘get it’.  They seem to have locked themselves in a cocoon, not letting any outside opinions interfere with their perception of reality.  This hearkens back to 1991, when then President George H.W. Bush was being harshly criticized for not understanding the difficulties of the common man.  This, of course, opened him up to attacks from then Governor Bill Clinton, and his famous catch phrase, “I feel your pain”.

Right now, one thing is clear:  Mr. Obama and his comrades do not feel anyone’s pain, especially yours.

 

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Goodbye, Space Shuttle

I wrote a post last year about the end of the Space Shuttle program, titled ‘Space Shutttle:  End of an Era‘, that can be read here.  It has, over time, been one of the most popular postings on my blog.  I think there is a simple reason why.  For my generation (I was born in the early 70s), we missed out on Mercury and Apollo.  We didn’t see Neil Armstrong land on the moon.  Our vision of space travel began with the Space Shuttle.

Additionally, we did not see the great disasters of American History…Pearl Harbor, and that assasinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.  What we did see was the Challenger explode on a January morning in 1986, and more recently the Columbia disintegrating on re-entry.  Those images are seared into many of our memories.

July 8, 2011 is the scheduled launch of the 135th and last space shuttle mission.  This is, for all practical purposes, the end for the last great American space program.

Where does NASA go from here?  Financial realities mean that it will be a downsized program, and likely will have less manned flights.  From now until the eventual successor of the Shuttle, Americans will be dependent on the Russian space program to keep the International Space Station alive.  In fact, other than the minimal current activity by the Chinese, the Russian will basically own human space travel for the next decade.

American space travel and exploration will continue.  But something truly palpable ends today.  America led the way into space, and the Shuttle program’s termination brings a large part of that to an end.  This will be a program more concerned about costs than discovery, less concerned about going to Mars than to send satellites to investigate global warming.  That is simply the world we live in.

So goodbye, Space Shuttle…you will not be forgotten, but you will be missed.

You can watch the launch online here.

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If Obama Ignores Debt Ceiling, Impeach Him

There has been a very slow, but steadily increasing, argument on the left that conservatives should pay heed to.  Liberals are suggesting that the President should invoke the 14th Amendment to ignore the debt ceiling, and spend the way the White House wills.

The argument has become more prevalent as we get closer to the August 2nd ‘doomsday’.  It was most pointedly noted by Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner in an interview several weeks ago.  In actuality, it was proposed even earlier, by Bruce Bartlett in late April 2011.

More recently, ultraliberal Katrina vanden Heuvel made a similar argument that goes something like this:  Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which says that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”  The left’s convoluted understanding of the amendment then argues that Congress cannot default on any debt, because of this passage, and thus the President has constitutional grounds to ignore the debt ceiling all together.

First and foremost, it is quite laughable to have liberals point to the strict reading of any amendment of the Constitution (can you say ‘2nd Amendment’?).  But that belies the point that the 14th Amendment actually was much more specific in its scope than these liberals would have you believe.

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which you will note the liberal authors conveniently dismiss, states the following in toto:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

That appears to be a much more specific and targeted amendment.  A more in depth reading of the discussion over the passage of the 14th Amendment points to a simple fact:  the amendment was never to convey the power to the President to simply ignore Congressional spending powers.  It was, in actuality, an amendment written to prevent political blackmail by using the debt to damage political enemies (in this case, those made during the Civil War).

Furthermore, no one in this current political climate is questioning the validity of the debt.  They are question how to pay it.  And in fact, even if the debt default day were to pass, the debt would not be defaulted on.  What would be at risk is payments for government programs.  This would initially include discretionary spending, and ultimately spread to nondiscretionary items such as Defense, Social Security and Medicare.  But at no point in time is anyone dismissing the validity of the debt we have accrued.

Ms. vanden Heuvel does make one point which should scare Republicans…that Obama would be on strong legal footing, at least initially.  There are numerous Supreme Court rulings, including Freytag v. Commissioner (1911), where the Court has held that the president has “the power to veto encroaching laws. . . or to disregard them when they are unconstitutional.  It is doubtful that such a broad interpretation would stand up in this current Supreme Court.  However, in the interim, who would stop Obama?

The answer is simple, but not politically pleasing:  Impeachment.  Moe Lane at RedState was the first that I saw to float the idea, but I think the prospect was looked over too quickly.

The Oath of Office, taken at the time of the inauguration, is clear:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

A pure reading of the Constitution leaves all decisions of the purse to Congress.  This is the most everlasting of Congressional powers.  For the President to ignore this most sacred power of the legislature is to spit on the essence of what the Constitution stands for:  a document that ensures no tyranny, by the power of checks and balances.

If this simply a bargaining too which is supposed to threaten conservatives, threat of impeachment should get liberals attention.  And Obama’s.  If they believe we conservatives are truly the ‘wack jobs’ that the press makes us out to be, then impeachment is definitely in the cards.

Politically, I am not a huge fan of impeachment.  It did the Republican Party no favors when we impeached Clinton.  But sometimes, the Constitution demands it.  I hope it never gets to that point, because politically it would damage Republicans for generations to impeach the first African American President.   But sometimes, one cannot avoid the inevitable.  We should raise the specter of impeachment now, and prevent the crisis all together.  I don’t want to impeach Mr. Obama, but ignoring the Constitution cannot be ignored.

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Independence Day

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

 

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FDA Panel Rejects Avastin For Breast Cancer

A Food and Drug Administration panel today voted 6-0 to halt the use of cancer drug Avastin for the treatment of breast cancer, saying studies have failed to show Avastin is effective for that purpose.  The recommendation came after two days of testimony from patients, doctors, and advocacy groups.

The panel faced several tearful accounts of women, young and old, who believed Avastin saved their lives.

Dozens of protesters, many wearing pink T-shirts and carrying signs that included “Save Avastin” and “I question the FDA’s right to take life from a woman,” demonstrated outside the agency’s Silver Spring headquarters as the hearing began Tuesday, accusing budget-conscious government bureaucrats of rationing care by getting between patients and life-saving drugs. The committee then heard several hours of often-emotional pleas from patients and family members who believed the drug was keeping them or their loved ones alive, as well as from advocates for patients suffering from other cancers worried about the impact on their treatment. The benefits of the drug have been shown to outweigh the risk for other cancers.

Crystal Hanna, a mother of two who will celebrate her 36th birthday Friday. “I’m a testament that the drug does work…I’m not just a statistic,” she said. “Keep breast cancer on the label so that I and others like me can celebrate more birthdays.”

By pulling FDA approval, it gives insurance companies the ability to reject the use of the drug for breast cancers.  Avastin costs up to $100,000 a year.

This is an interesting test case for Obamacare.  Ultimately, Democrats have argued that a regulatory body, such as the FDA, should regulate what is paid for, and what isn’t, by health insurers.  Previously, many liberals had attacked insurance companies for denying care in these situation.  Now, however, it is the U.S. government, and not ‘evil’ insurers left to blame.

Scientifically, the FDA panel is on solid ground.  No studies have shown a significant benefit from Avastin in breast cancer patients.  Politically, however, is another story all together.  Will Democrats now fight to defend the FDA ruling, in the face of young mothers and grandmothers pleading for the drug?  If they cannot do it for Avastin, which is very expensive and of questionable benefit, then it is unlikely that they will ever be able to do it.

 

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Movie Review

Transformers:  Dark of the Moon, the third in the Transformers series, is in some ways the perfect summer movie.  A movie where you can turn off your brain, ignore reality, and simply enjoy sugar sweet Hollywood mayhem.

The movie starts with a basic concept:  that the space race in the Cold War was focused on reaching the moon first, not for its scientific achievement, but to obtain alien technology that both the Soviets and Americans secretly knew had crashed on the dark side of the moon millenia ago.  Americans, led by Neil Armstrong, get there first…but keep the information hidden.

Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, and Decepticons, led by Megatron, find out about this, and race to discover the hidden treasures in the crash site.

Ultimately, one thing holds back this entire series:  Michael Bay, the director.  Bay is what he is…fabulous at special effects and action scenes; he loves big bombs and sunset scenes.  Oh, and shots of beautiful women (Megan Fox in the first two movies, and replaced by Victoria Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in this installment).  But he simply lacks the ability to tell a simple, straight forward story.

The one thing going for Bay is that his a skilled cinematographer.  He may be the best in the business.  And the scenes of alien invasion into Chicago are breathtaking.  Here is where 3D really stands out.  I have said this before:  I am not a huge fan of 3D filming.  Other than a few examples (Avatar being the best know), live action 3D just  hasn’t cut it.  It is stupendous in animation, but not with real people.  Well, here in this movie, Bay puts his masterful skills to the test…and passes with flying colors.  The 3D action sequences, especially in the last hour, are what 3D filming is all about.

Other than that, this is pretty standard fare Michael Bay.  Evil Decepticons want to take over the world.  Good guy Autobots will do anything to stop them.  Sam Witwicky (Shia Lebeouf) is our valiant geeky hero with a girlfriend way out of his league.  The background characters are still varying from annoying to forgettable, and at times, we really have no idea where the story is going.

However…and this is a big ‘but’…the visuals are really stunning.  The 3D itself may be worth the price of admission, and doubly so if you are a fan of Ms. Huntington-Whiteley (trust me).  The last hour of the movie is Bay at his best:  fantastic and unrealistic war scenes and explosion, as the city of Chicago gets virtually annihilated.  If you like robots, like aliens, enjoy battle scenes…this movie is likely for you. If you don’t like any of the above, pass on this perfect example of throwaway summer sweetness.

 

 

3

In Defense Of Our Constitution

Richard Stengel is lauded by the political left as a smart and knowlegeable reporter, and is well thought of as Editor of Time Magazine.

After this week’s edition, one has to wonder why.

Time’s headline story is titled, “Does It Still Matter?’.  It refers to the U.S. Constitution.  And in large part, Stengel’s answer is “No”.  In fact, he basically argues that it never mattered.

Stengel points to the irrelevancy of the Constitution is pointing to war powers.  He goes on:

Stengel’s most relevant passage states the following:

“We can pat ourselves on the back about the past 223 years, but we cannot led the Constitution become an obstacle to the U.S.’s moving into the future with a sensible health care system, a globalized economy, an evolving sense of civil and political rights…

…The Constitution does not protect our spirit of liberty; our spirit of liberty protects the Constitution.  The Constitution serves the nation; the nation does not serve the Constitution.”

These passages, more than any other, show Stengel’s bias, and in the end, his ultimate stupidity.  The Constitution does protect our spirit of liberty, in so far that without such a document, what would we define as liberty?  Would we, for example, simply inherently understand that free speech is a right, without such a declaration as the first amendment?  The Constitution serves our nation, to be sure; but a nation which does not serve the Constitution is abiding by what law, exactly?

The previous passage is even more telling.  ‘Sensible health care’?  Who is to define ‘sensible’?  The liberal left?  Maybe sensible is a health care system that provides more freedom, not less, that ties does not tie down the individual to decisions made by an undemocratic body that they had no voice in choosing.

Stengel’s argument is ultimately this:  the Constitution should not be a barrier to [our] liberal agenda.  That is what he means. He is not making a historical analysis, nor a legal one.  He is making a political argument.  Stengel’s bias shows at every turn.

A perfect example is when he discusses the President’s power to wage war.  He largely ridicules the constitution’s passage on the power to declare war.  And here, he may have a point; in this day and age, spending months debating a declaration of war makes little sense.  But where he falls off the tracks is when he discusses the War Powers Act, and Obama’s ridiculing Congress’s demand for Presidential action,  inspite of his earlier support of the War Powers Act.

But herein lies Stengel’s mistake:  his problem is not with the Constitution, but with the War Powers Act itself.  The Act has long been held as unconstitutional by many conservative jurists.  Stengel confuses a largely idiotic Congressional action that tried to limit President Nixon’s actions in Vietnam, after being mislead year after year by the military.  But the act itself contradicts what the Constitution says about the power of the President to wage military action.  Congress always had, and always will, have the ultimate roadblock if they wish to use it:  defunding the military action itself.

So in this example, Stengel’s problem is not with the Constitution…but with a Congressional act that is and likely always has been unconstitutional.

His lack of understanding then moves on to the debate over the debt, where he questions why Republicans are making such an issue.  Basically, his argument is this:  the debt, no matter what the size, is constitutional.

Well, he is right.  If we had morons in Congress (and you could argue that is exactly what we had from 2006-2010), you could run up any debt and it would be constitutional.

But then he goes on to make an argument you are hearing over and over again from the left.   Stengel argues that the President, using Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, could simply ignore Congress, because of the following passage:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Stengel, and delusional leftist, miss a simple point:  Congress, by not passing an increase in the debt limit, is not questioning the validity of the public debt.  What they are doing, however, is saying that all other expenditures will need to be withheld until such time the debt is paid.  So, you want to fund the military, Medicare, etc.?  Too bad, because the 14th Amendment makes clear that the debt is pre-eminent.  The President can’t ignore the debt…and as such, he will have to pay the debt first, before moving on to other government expenditures.

Maybe the  to prove Stengel is a hypocrite is a conversation he had with Howard Kurtz regarding the Wikileaks controversy, and why he, as an American, could print those leaks:

KURTZ: But Rick, you say right here in your editor’s note in “TIME” magazine that these documents released by WikiLeaks “harm national security,” and that Assange meant to do so.

STENGEL: Right. I know. But there’s no way around that.

I mean, I believe that’s Assange’s intention. I believe on balance that they have been detrimental to the U.S. But our job is not to protect the U.S. in that sense. I mean, the First Amendment protects us in terms of releasing this information which does enlighten people about the way the U.S. conducts foreign policy.

Mr. Stengel, if the words in the Constitution don’t matter…why do you think that document protects you in any sort of way?  Or does it matter only in you line of work, which provides your life subsistence, and not in any other American’s life?

What may be most profound is not what Stengel says, but by what he omits. Stengel asks, “If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it certainly doesn’t say so?”  It in fact does exactly that.  There is not one mention, even in passing, of the 1oth Amendment, which reads:  “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Kind of important to discuss to his thesis, no?  Yet Stengel simply ignores it all together.  Telling, in my humble opinion.

Is our constitution an imperfect document?  Of course.  It was written by fallible and flawed, albeit brilliant, men.  But Stengel largely discounts the importance of the Constitution.  The Constitution is the document on which all of our liberties are based.  That does not mean it should not be changed, or altered…there are mechanisms for that.  If one believes that Obama’s individual mandate should be codified in the Constitution, be my guest:  get an amendment passed.

But Stengel’s real argument, the one that underlies the tone of  his entire piece, is this:  The Constitution is too hard for us to change, so let us ignore it.  That, my friends, is how tyranny begins.  Basic liberties should not be easy to ignore, or dismiss, whether we like them or not.  Those liberties, codified in our Constitution, protect us from people like Mr. Stengel, who think they mean well as they slowly erode rights you and I believe are worth fighting for.

And that is why the Constitution matters.

1

Cars 2: Movie Review

I, like most everyone, loves Pixar movies.  That said, the first Cars movie may be my least favorite.  The movie, loosely based on the old Michael J. Fox movie Doc Hollywood, is o.k., and the imagery is fantastic, but it doesn’t have the  heart and emotion of the great Pixar movies like Toy Story, Wall-E, or Finding Nemo.

That said, it is also the Pixar movie I have seen the most times.  The reason is obvious:  it is by far my 5 year old son’s favorite movie (well, until he discovered Star Wars this year).  He has watched the movie dozens of times, and our house (like I would guess, most families with young boys) is littered with Lightning McQueen paraphernalia.  Disney/Pixar created a virtual cash machine.

So the obvious result is this sequel.  John Lasseter, the brains behind many of the Pixar movies, decides to move the story from the plains of Route 66 to the world stage.  In this installment, our hero Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) competes in the World Grand Prix, which takes him to many locales around the globe.  Of course, his ‘best friend’, Mater (Larry, The Cable Guy), tags along.

This story, however, largely revolves around Mater, who is soon mistakenly identified as a spy.  Michael Caine as Finn McMissile is the most interesting character in the story, as he tries to bring down a group of villains led by a James Bond-type villain in the evil Doctor Z (Thomas Kretschmann).

Like the first film, the imagery is spectacular, and I doubt any Pixar film can stand up to it in terms of artistic beauty.   However, also like the first film, this movie lacks a central emotional link that the other Pixar movies do.  Toy Story tugs at your inner child.  Wall-E associates us with loneliness.  Up is at heart a love story.

The first Cars movie?  The best I can say is that it teaches children to stop and smell the roses…not a bad lesson, but not at the level of the other Pixar movies.  This movie is all about action, with no emotional tug at all.  Nothing wrong with an action movie…but it is simply not up to par with anything in the Pixar library.

That is not to say Cars 2 was not enjoyable.  It certainly was, and was as far as I am concerned the best animated movie this year, so far.  Additionally, unlike most movies, I highly recommend the 3D.  Some of the scenes are brilliant, and worthy of the 3D transfer.  But this movie was far from the life changing experience of most Pixar movies.  Take your kids, especially your sons, enjoy the humor and action for a couple hours, and move on with your day.  I do recommend the movie, as long as you maintain reasonable expectations.

 

1

Obama, Afghanistan, and the Political Left

President Obama plans to announce his long awaited plan to draw down troops in Afghanistan this week, according to an article by the Washington Post. Rumors of the size of the withdrawal are flying, but many are suspecting a larger than expected withdrawal of 30,000 troops by the end of 2012, with 10,000 troops returning this year.

The troop withdrawal has slowly become one of the under the surface issues for the 2012 campaign.   It has been simmering for some time now.  The leftist wing of the Democrat Party have been angry about the Afghan front from the moment Mr. Obama announced the troop surge early in his presidency.  However, as the war drags on without a clear end game, and as the costs both financially and in body count rise, conservatives have also voiced displeasure in our continued unending involvement.

First and foremost will be the size of the withdrawal.  With General David Petraeus taking over the CIA in the coming months, it is surprising for Obama to discount his lead general’s opinion on the matter.  Petraeus has long argued that this is a fight we must win, and that it will take many years to achieve those goals.  Obama bought into that with his current strategy, complicating any future diversions he may consider.  It will be interesting if Petraeus will simply be the ‘good soldier’, and accept the rejection of his plan, or will speak up.

Second and almost as interesting is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates strong defense of Obama’s strategies in not only Afghanistan, but Iraq and Libya as well, this weekend on the Sunday talk shows.  Gates very likely does not agree with such a quick pullout, but has always been a good soldier and will follow the party line.

Clearly, Obama has gone with his heart, as well as the ever growing voices of dissent on the Left.  The voices of discord have been increasing, and have been bolstered by a few voices on the right.  Last week’s Republican Presidential debate had many of the participants calling for a rethinking of our Afghan strategy, if not for complete withdrawal.  However, Obama likely saw the weakening support among his base, and with the economy tanking, could not risk alienating the heart of his base once again.

The risk is obvious.  If, during the next year, the situation in Afghanistan worsens…what then?  Excuse the pun, but there are no more bullets left in the chamber.  Obama does not have the political capital to call for a second surge next year if the situation with insurgents turns south.  And if such worsening occurs, Obama will bear the responsibility.  At that point, does he extend the pullout?  And if now, what will be his argument for lengthening the process?

In the end, this may be the right decision.  Yes, the left of his party likely forced him into the decision.  But ultimately, the question is how long do we stay in Afghanistan at this point, with at best murky end objectives?  But it is a high risk game he is playing.  Without the support of his generals, Obama is now alone on this policy. If the situation falls apart, only President Obama will be left holding the bag.

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