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2

Why Republicans Should Cheer The Employment Numbers

Last week, the monthly unemployment numbers for January arrived, and gave a boost to the Obama Presidency.  The unemployment rate was calculated to be 8.3%, the lowest since February 2009, with the economy adding 243,000 jobs, the fourth month in a row of significant job increases.

Republicans instantly attacked the numbers as twisted numerical spin, even fraudulent.  And they very well may be, as I discuss below.

But I have long argued that Republicans should be cheering these numbers, and the nominal lowering of the unemployment rate that could have easily been predicted almost a year ago.  This prediction was not because of some great confidence in the Obama economy, but simply looking at the realities of the hard data, and making logical projections.

So why should Republicans cheer these numbers?

1.  Don’t be the pessimist in the room.

Republicans have largely been the party of optimism and hope for America since Ronald Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ campaign.   While Democrats always talk about the looming disaster to befall the American middle class, Republicans have always talked about giving the middle of America more hope for the future.

In this campaign, we should be promoting the future of an ever great nation, not one in decline.  If the employment numbers are good…we should applaud, and then give a reason why they should be better, instead of simply declaring failure at every turn.

2.  Accept that the numbers right now don’t mean much.

Let us take a look at the unemployment rate.

First, definition.  The unemployment rate is defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the persons who are jobless, looking for jobs, and available for work (Otherwise defined as the unemployed) divided by total number of people available to be working.

The key disclaimer here is that those who are neither receiving unemployment benefits nor otherwise not actively looking for work are not included in this number.

If you look at January’s numbers, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3% largely because of people dropping out of the workforce (thus, decreasing the number in the denominator) than by the additional 243k persons who gained employment during the month.

How does one verify this?  By looking at the labor participation rate.  Labor force participation rate is defined as the labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population; or in other words, the number of people employed, divided by the entire adult population.  This is a much more gross number. In January, the labor force participation rate dropped to 63.7%,  its lowest level since the early 80s recession.

What does this mean?  Well, what it means is that although the BLS numbers on unemployment are accurate, they are misleading.  Overall, the number of people working today is far less than before Obama took office.  Furthermore, if you include the people that are no longer looking for work, the unemployment rate is 10.3%.  And, in fact, that number has largely been stable since 2009, even considering the Obama stimulus and other work programs.

The above graph is a little confusing, but here is the basic take home point:  the dotted red line is the TRUE unemployment rate, if you include people no longer looking for work, but actually able to work.  The solid red number demonstrates the unemployment rate as defined by BLS.  The difference between the two lines shows you all the people that are no longer working, are unemployed…but do not show up in the actual unemployment numbers.

NPR states it another way:

“The number of ‘discouraged workers’ — those who have given up looking for work and thus aren’t counted as being part of the labor force — went up to 1.1 million from 950,000 in December. Also, slightly fewer people either reentered the workforce or entered it for the first time. Those are among the reasons why the ‘labor force participation rate’ went down to 63.7 percent from 64 percent in December.”

This difference, between the two graphs above, is equivalent to approximately 3 to 6 million people.  Even if you argue that Obama was not responsible for the disaster of 2009, that still does not blunt the argument.  If you take the labor force participation rate as of January 2011, the unemployment rate would still be 8.9%.  That is wholly owned by the Obama Presidency.

 3.  The numbers ultimately may work in our favor.

Let us stipulate that the worst of the recession is likely over.  I think conservatives even accept that.  What we don’t accept is if we are in a robust recovery.  Clearly, with the numbers laid out as above, we are not.

Let us assume for a moment that this is a lagging recovery.  Then, the unemployment rate is likely to stay the same or even drop, and the people leaving the workforce is still quite large, and jobs are being created.  If you take this presumption, the unemployment rate, at current growth levels, will be around 7.5% in November.

However, in this scenario, do any of us believe that the American people will simply look at the unemployment rate, and accept all is well?  That is presuming that the public is so stupid as to accept the number, while ignoring the reality of parents, children, siblings, and friends remaining unemployed or struggling. Ultimately, I seriously doubt that the public would accept the number for anything but a fallacy.

Let us put forth a second scenario.  Let us assume the economy is really picking up. This, ironically, is even a worse scenario for the Obama Administration.  Why?  Because this would cause people who are currently so discouraged as not to be even trying to obtain work to re-enter the workforce.

This would be disastrous to the unemployment rate.  If you assume that 100k people will re-enter the work force per month, then the unemployment rate would actually increase.  In fact, using this scenario, the unemployment rate would hover around 8.5% by November, and could skyrocket to over 9% if there is a large influx of workers into the labor market.

The irony here is, it is not Republicans but possibly Democrats who are hoping that the economy doesn’t recover too fast to hurt their election chances.  They want people to stay out of the labor market, because otherwise, the true unemployment rate will be expressed in the actual unemployment rate, at which this entire mirage falls apart.

 

 

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Gingrich and the South Carolina Firewall

For years, if not decades, the South Carolina primary has been thought of as ‘true’ conservatives firewall to prevent silly or liberal candidates from sneaking through Iowa and New Hampshire to win the Republican nomination.

But it hasn’t always worked out that way.  Bob Dole crushed right-winger Pat Buchanan there in 1996.  And John McCain defeated a divided conservative field in 2008 on his way to the nomination.

But this year, the firewall is back.

Newt Gingrich’s surge from virtual oblivion is stunning, and will keep the nomination fight going for a significant time.   After Iowa, it looked like the ‘new’ Gingrich was going to revert to the ‘old’ Gingrich: a brilliant man who, when angry, would self-destruct and become more destructive than constructive.  Newt’s attacks on Romney, whether it be about the Political Action Committees or Romney’s days with Bain Capital, were awkward, reactionary, and eventually, not that effective.  And that is why Gingrich lost ground to Romney, Paul, and even Santorum in New Hampshire.

But after New Hampshire, Gingrich finally accepted a basic fact.   The ‘old’ Newt would lose in dramatic fashion.  So he quickly course corrected, gave up the anti-capitalistic rant regarding Bain, and became the guy that had convinced a lot of conservatives to give him a chance in the first place:  an intelligent and eloquent voice in defense of conservatism and capitalism.  He stuck to the script, laid asidethe Romney attacks for the most part, and focused on the Gingrich persona that had created his first national surge last fall.

It has worked, beyond I am willing to bet even Newt’s immense dreams.  Newt kept on course.  And while he did that, Huntsman and Perry dropped out.  Santorum didn’t make a significant move.  And Mitt?  Mitt Romney incomprehensibly stumbled on an incredibly stupid and easy issue:  his tax forms.  Instead of simply answering that he would release him, he gave inept answer after inept answer, to what end I have no idea.  His campaign appeared to be on cruise control, assuming they could just walk in and do well in South Carolina.  They were wrong.

So Newt’s victory in South Carolina alters the entire dynamic of the campaign.  This more and more looks like the Democrat nomination of 2008.  Romney, playing the role of Hillary, is the establishment candidate that has weaknesses, but is safest for the party apparatus.  Gingrich is the insurgent candidate, who no one inside the party or out are sure where he will take them.  And the Democrats nomination process in 2008 went well into the summer, if you recall.

So 10 days until the Florida primary.  Romney has the edge in support and money, but Gingrich has the momentum. Momentum may not be enough in a large state like Florida, where retail politics doesn’t really work, and advertising is essential.  And Gingrich, unlike a Democrat, cannot depend on positive free media despite his stunning victory in South Carolina.  But enthusiasm means a lot in politics, and the question becomes can Newt convert this victory into an enthusiasm gap that Romney cannot overcome.

The best thing that could happen for Gingrich would be Rick Santorum dropping out.  I cannot see that happening, with Santorum gaining social conservative backing over the past week.  So if the conservative vote remains divided, I still have to believe that Romney is the favorite in Florida.  Only time will tell if conventional wisdom wins out, or if Newt turns the entire establishment on its ear.

1

State of the Race, Pre-South Carolina

Now, it gets interesting.

This week saw a lot of tumult in the nomination race.

First, Gov. Huntsman left.  Today, Gov. Perry will leave.  The former endorsed Mitt Romney, the latter is to endorse Newt Gingrich.

Today, we learned that Rick Santorum actually edged out Romney to win the Iowa caucus.

And on Monday, we saw a debate that was finally…well, a debate.  Although all candidates did have their moments in the sun, the general consensus, and my own personal opinion, is once again Newt came to the top.

So where does this leave us?

Mitt Romney is still the presumptive leader.  Let it be said that I am a marginal Romney supporter.  However, Romney has not had a good week.  He had a middling performance in the debate, although he had no major blunders.  However, his handling of his income tax statements and his now claimed 15% tax rate.  None of this would be damaging, except for the inept fashion in which the Romney people rolled out the information.

Newt Gingrich has struggled to find his footing after stumbling in Iowa.  First it was blaming PACs for all of his troubles.  Then it was attacking Bain Capital, which seemed like a silly reactionary measure.  But this week, Newt fell back to reason he surged in the first place:  his eloquent defense of conservatism.  He shined on the debate stage, especially in his unemployment.

Rick Santorum remains…Rick Santorum.  Yes, he can mobilize some social conservatives, but much like Mike Huckabee 4 years ago, his power base does not go much farther.  He on Thursday discovered that he, not Romney, won the Iowa caucus, which frankly matters not at all.  Santorum’s argument to stay in the race will be determined in South Carolina.  If he doesn’t finish at least a close third, or worse, he will have to ask questions from Gingrich and others on his rationale to go forwards.

Ron Paul is…Ron Paul.  He got slapped down in the debate regarding his opposition to killing Osama Bin Laden while in Pakistan, and rightfully so.  This will not change his supporters glowing opinions of him, and he is guaranteed 10-15% of the vote all the way through the nomination process, and he will be there until the end.

Overall, this was a very bad week for Mitt Romney, and a good week for Newt Gingrich…at least, until today.  ABC News apparently has an interview with Gingrich’s first wife, Marianne, in which she unloads on every little sordid detail of their marriage.  She apparently says Gingrich wanted an ‘open marriage’, and repeatedly had double standards for his public stands on morality and his personal behavior.  This was all known, frankly, and I am surprised that she spoke to the media now.  But this is damaging to Gingrich in a period where he has clear momentum.  And even worse, it further strengthen’s social conservatives resolve to back Santorum, making it less likely that he pulls out of the race any time soon.  Gingrich’s daughter is public, defending her father, but that may not be enough.  Only time will tell.  In any case, this is horrible timing for Gingrich, and questionable editorial judgement for ABC News.

Gingrich has closed the gap in the past few days alone.  Although most polls show Romney leading, there is no question a surge has occurred, and Gingrich actually leads in one poll.  Will the ABC News interview blunt the momentum?  I don’t think we will know until we see actual votes Saturday night.

Hang on, it is going to be a bumpy and interesting ride.

 

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Most Anticipated Movies of 2012

Hi Again!

Every year, I put out my list of my most anticipated movies for 2012.  You can see my prior lists for 2010 and 2011.

This seems like it could be an excellent years for movies, and certainly an improvement over last year.  Some of the smaller movies are very intriguing, and the blockbuster films like Hunger Games and Avengers are almost ‘can’t miss’.

Enjoy!

 

Red Tails, January 20, 2012

This has been a dream of George Lucas’s…to do a true, honest retelling of the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.  He has been planning this movie for decades.  The trailers look great, but this movie will say more than many of his other misses (Indiana Jones IV, the Star Wars Prequel) if he has anything left in the tank, or if he is spent as an artist.

   

John Carter, March 9, 2012

John Carter is a character from the Edgar Rice Burroughs series.  John Carter of Mars has been thrilling young boys with science fiction dreams for over a century, myself included.  Whether Disney pulls it off, I have no idea…but here’s hoping.

21 Jump Street, March 16, 2011

OK, another one of the Jonah Hill comedies…this one could work.  Maybe.  And how many kids even know what 21 Jump Street is any more?  That said…I really want this to work, because the 80s were awesome.

The Hunger Games, March 23, 2012

Based on the dystopian novels by Suzanne Collins, this dystopian novel has been a huge hit, not among just the younger readers it was targeted for but the general literary audience.  Definitely major concepts are stolen from Battle Royale, but Collins knits a story that is touching, and Katniss Everdeen is one of the great new young female characters is literary fiction.  This is certainly one of the top 2 or 3 most anticipated films of the year on virtually everyone’s list.

Wrath of the Titans, March 30, 2012

The first movie, a remake of the eighties Clash of the Titans, was mediocre at best.  The previews for this one look better.  We shall see.  I hold out hope; a cool Greek mythological series would be excellent.

Battleship, May 18, 2012

Peter Berg directs this film about a Naval fleet confronting an alien force hiding under the Pacific Ocean.

Men In Black 3, May 25, 2012

The first movie was really good, the second…meh.  But worth giving a chance.

The Avengers, May 4, 2012

After the success of Iron Man, and the relative success of Thor and Captain America, this movie was a no brainer.  Getting all the big stars on the same stage was a trick though.  But with the firepower Joss Whedon, this is going to be a geekdom must see.

The Amazing Spider-Man, June 3, 2012

Is it too soon to reboot one of the biggest franchises of the past decade and a half?  Apparently not.  Just five years after the first Spider-Man trilogy ended, Sony Pictures decides America wants more.  The question is, do they really want more of their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?

Prometheus, June 8, 2012

It is a non-sequel sequel of the Aliens anthology by filmmaker Ridley Scott.  Whatever it is, Ridley Scott has shown that he deserves our attention…science fiction fans are going to be looking forward to this one.

Brave, June 22, 2012

Is there much to say about every new Pixar film? Pixar films are almost, without doubt, classics.  And this movie, based in the Highlands of Scotland and with a female lead, look gorgeous in the trailers.  I am once again excited.

The Dark Knight Rises, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight may be the greatest superhero movie of all time; it certainly is the highest grossing film.  How does Director Christopher Nolan top that?  I have no idea.  But the expectations are skyrocketing for this final installment of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

Expendables 2, August 17, 2012

Pure Testosterone!  More explosions!  More Schwartzenegger and Willis!

Skyfall, November 9, 2012

The next James Bond movie, starring Daniel Craig, hopefully keeps up the tradition of the last two Bond flicks, with a ‘Jason Bourne’ like feel, and Craig in his debonaire style.  Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) plays the villain…a fantastic choice.

The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey, December 12, 2012

If The Dark Knight Rises isn’t the most anticipated movie of the year…this probably is.  Peter Jackson takes us back to Middle Earth, in order to follow Bilbo Baggins, Frodo’s uncle, on his first adventure.  With dwarves, elves, dragons, battles and treasure, the two movie series is guaranteed to be one of the highest grossing films of the year.

World War Z, December 21, 2012

There have been a plethora of zombie books, movies and TV series in the past couple years.  My favorite book was World War Z, written by Max Brooks (so of that Mel Brooks).  Brad Pitt stars.  If the directors do a good job portraying the movie, it should take the zombie genre to a whole new level.

The Great Gatsby, December 25, 2012

One of my favorite books of all time.  Leonardo Dicaprio deserves some leeway in these period pieces, and this is scheduled for December…hinting at an Oscar push.

Honorable Mentions:  The Three Stooges (April 4), The Dictator (May 11), Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1), G.I. Joe Retaliation (June 29), Total Recall (August 3), The Bourne Legacy (August 10), Looper (September 28), Taken 2 (October 5), Django Unchained (December 25), Cosmopolis, Gravity (November), The Raid,

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2012 Predictions

 

I do this every year, I believe I do it more for myself than anyone else, to track how good my forecasting really is.  It is nice to see when I actually know what I am talking about, and where I clearly don’t.  Over the years (20092010, 2011) I seem to have a clear pattern.  I am very good on macroeconomics, mediocre to poor on microeconomics; I am pretty accurate on political predictions, but absolutely horrendous regarding sports and entertainment.  I am pretty sure that trend will continue in the year ahead of us too.

Anyway, forward into the wild blue yonder!

1.  World

  • The world will not end.  The Mayans are wrong.
  • Iran will continue its saber rattling, but the West, including America, will do virtually nothing about it.
  • At least one country involved in the Arab Spring, most likely Egypt, will take a hard turn toward the islamists.
  • Syria will finally crush the rebellion there, as the West and Arab states fail to support their democracy movement.
  • Iraq will have rising violence, the year following the U.S. pullout.  Iran will be the primary instigator.
  • Although violence will be tempered in Afghanistan, tensions will rise as Pakistan heads further and further toward the precipice.  A constitutional crisis in that country will emerge, and their will be a power struggle between the military and civilian leadership once again.
  • India will lumber along, as it always does.
  • China will show growing domestic unrest because of slowing economic growth, and a housing bubble waiting to burst.  Because of this, you will see a more prevalent Chinese military, both on the seas and in space.
  • North Korea will be relatively quiet this year, as their new leader consolidates power.
  • Russia will face ever growing protests to Putin’s corrupt leadership.  Putin will let them protest, because he doesn’t care.
2. Entertainment
  • War Horse will win Picture of the year.
  • Movies will show a resurgence, as they recover from the recession.
  • Fox News will crush all comers in ratings as politics defines the year.
3.  Sports
  • The Michigan Wolverines will defeat the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Sugar Bowl.  They will be a preseason top 10 next season, and they will again go 10-2, win the Big 10, and head to the Rose Bowl.
  • The LSU Tigers will defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide in another defensive battle for the BCS National Championship.
  • Green Bay will defeat New England in the Super Bowl.
  • The Detroit Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup (I say this every year…).  University of Michigan will win the NCAA Hockey championship (I say this almost every year…).
  • North Carolina Tar Heels will win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (!) will defeat the Miami Heat for the NBA championship.  Lebron James will choke once again.
  • The United States will win the most gold medals in the 2012 London Olympics.  China will place a close second.
  • Detroit Tigers will win the World Series (if I am going to be a homer, might as well go all the way).
4.  Economy
  • The economy, like much of 2012, will continue to sputter forward.  A double dip recession is out of the question barring some extreme catastrophe.  However, growth will go forward at 3%, which is much faster than 2011, but still not enough for a vibrant recovery.
  • The unemployment rate, which had dropped to 8.6%, will actually rise midyear, as more people again enter the workforce.
  • The number of people applying for unemployment benefits will hover in the 350-400k range for most of the year.
  • Corporate profits will stagnate, as the world economy withers.
  • Europe will approach a double dip recession.  Greece, Italy, and others won’t technically default, but ongoing concern about the systemic risks they pose will hinder any economic recovery in the region.  Only Germany within the EU will have decent growth.  England will continue its slow recovery.  France will struggle.
  • China will continue to have a downward slide in GDP growth, as will India, as worldwide consumer base contracts.  China will grow a 7%, and India at 5%.
  • Gold, silver, and commodity prices will largely stagnate.
  • The stock market will not rise until after mid year, when hopes of the U.S. Presidential election will get them out of their doldrums. They will end up the year 10%.  Stocks will finally outperform bonds, after a trend over the past years of the reverse.
  • Energy producers, unlike pure commodities, will outperform.  As will Defense manufacturers (as the probability of a Republican winning rises) and other manufacturers (as the U.S. economy stabilizes).
5.  Politics
  • Republicans will hold the House, but will lose 5-7 seats.  This would be the historical average addition to the party in control of the White House.
  • Republicans will pick up 5 senate seats to take control of the Senate.
  • After these losses, I predict Democrats will remove Harry Reid from the leadership in the Senate.  Recent rumors of Pelosi’s retirement are likely too much to hope for.
  • Presidential turnout will be higher than in 2008, and will be the fourth consecutive election of increasing turnout.
  • There will not be a major third party candidate.  Ron Paul, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, or anyone else.
  • Mitt Romney will win the Iowa Caucus, the New Hampshire primary, and will run away with the Republican nomination, after a year of angst from Republicans.
  • The Obama campaign will set another world record in spending for the 2012 election cycle.  Even with outside expenditures, Democrats will heavily outspend Republicans for the third Presidential election cycle in a row.   However, the campaign’s pledge to raise $1 billion will fall far short of expectations.
  • Obama set the record for most negative campaign commercials ever in 2008.  He will surpass that by a wide margin, and Democrats get down and dirty, because simply put, they have nothing else to sell.  Claims about killing the poor and elderly, being only for the rich, and the old liberal standby about being racist will inundate the airways.
  • Republicans will narrow the gap on election day among women, Hispanics, Jews and young people and will win independents, Whites, and men by wide margins.
  • Mitt Romney will be elected the 45th President of the United States, by a 306-232 electoral advantage, and by a popular vote of 51-49.

 

4

Why I Reluctantly Will Endorse Mitt Romney

My choice for President is  Mitt Romney.

I just shuddered at that statement.

But there it is.  There is the reality that 13 debates, months of bickering and intrigue, and countless discussions with conservative brethren have brought me.

It is kind of a sad reality. Is this the best conservatives could do?

So here has been my calculation for who I would support, from the beginning.  First, the candidate must be electable and able to defeat Barack Obama, both electorally and intellectually.  Second, they must broaden the base of the Republican Party, both on the conservative and moderate sides.  Third, they must be economically intelligent and have a pro-growth plan that will overturn the Obama economic disaster.  And fourth, because of the Obama experiment, they must show some executive level experience.

If you look at our current crop of candidates, the Congressional candidates (Paul, Bachmann, Santorum) all lack significant executive experience.  Newt Gingrich could be argued to have some executive experience as Speaker of the House, but that is stretching the definition to the breaking point.

I think all of our candidates have more of a pro-growth plan than Barack Obama.

As for broadening the base, this is the one I had the hardest time with.  For example, Mitt Romney.  He would definitely appeal to independents and moderates who like a milquetoast candidate.  Could he broaden his conservative wing?  I think he could, but that is a hard slog for him.  Could Newt Gingrich, who has years of baggage and is relatively well known, broaden his likability among moderates?  Doubtful.  Can Rick Perry overcome his stumbles and convince non-conservatives that he is intelligent?  Unlikely. In short, I am not sure any of our candidates significantly broaden the party.

As for electability, as time has gone on, it is clear that Paul, Bachmann, Santorum, and Cain would have great difficulty defeating Obama, both electorally and intellectually.

So after all of that angst, you are basically left with potential candidates Romney, Perry, and Gingrich.

But after Perry’s stumble after stumble in the debates, I can see him getting torn apart by Barack Obama in debates, in a style reminiscent of what Reagan did to Mondale.  I really wanted to like Perry, but he has never risen to the occasion.  His brightest moment was when he presented his tax plan, and he never showed another policy initiative as grand.  And he still appears more a caricature than the man that longtime supporters of him describe.

The best qualified candidate of the remaining opposition to Romney is Newt Gingrich.  All things being equal, Gingrich would get my vote.  But all things are not equal.  Every time I think Gingrich can leave his past behind, something comes up.  He cannot seem to keep his mouth out of the way of his campaign.  And he has been on top for about a month, and I am already fatigued trying to defend every new story about him.  I can’t imagine what another year of this would feel like.  Gingrich, ultimately, is a paper tiger.  He is the most well spoken of the group, bar none.  But is he really a conservative?  Is he, for that matter, even more conservative than Mitt Romney?  I am far from convinced of this.  And ultimately, he was the decisive argument for me between the two:   while Gingrich’s sacrifice of conservative principles largely came while he was in his own think tank with no outside pressures whatsoever, Romney’s betrayal came while surround by a horde of liberals looking to take a piece of him at every turn in the most liberal state government in the Union.  It is not an excuse for sacrificing his conservative ideals, so much as an explanation that makes far more sense than Newt sitting on a bench with Nancy Pelosi.

It comes down to this.  I have been waiting for the better part of 4 years for someone, anyone, to show me to be the standard bearer of the Conservative revolution initially started by Ronald Reagan 3 decades ago…and these group of candidates have failed.  I was waiting for a Mike Pence, John Thune, even a Jeb Bush to step forward and take the helm. They all took a pass, for one reason or another.  And so we are left with the current crop of candidates, despite all of our objections.

The last debate in December was a sort of epiphany.  That epiphany was that none of the non-Romney candidates was going to turn into Ronald Reagan.  Ever.  Maybe this wasn’t an epiphany so mach as facing up to the reality.  Oh, sure, there are a few Perry fanatics and Bachmann lovers still out there.  They will probably hold on until the California primary.  But both have stumbled too many times, and too consistently, to be considered serious any more.  Bachmann’s Politifact nonsense from the last debate was the last string for me.  As for Perry, if he was this good in debates in August and September, he would be the leader.  But it just seems to be too little, too late. Too many missed opportunities, with too much of his buffoonery now baked into the social consciousness.  Santorum has never made the sale.  And Ron Paul is…Ron Paul.  Fascinating on pure market economics and libertarian views, but he lives in an alternate universe on foreign affairs.  Jon Huntsman is a non-entity.

Almost makes you wonder if Tim Pawlenty, who was my early leader, left the race way too early, no?

So we are left with Willard Mitt Romney.

I know.  My friends that read here will say this is a sellout.  Maybe it is.  But logically, without any knee jerk reactions, I don’t see any way around this.  I have for months begged others and myself to come to a conclusion that is different.  But I simply can’t.

But here is, ultimately my logic.

I don’t think many people will rationally argue that Romney is unelectable.  He certainly is.  His record as governor is admirable for one of the bluest states in the union, and he has been in politics long enough to be adequately vetted.

Romney would likely pull a lot of independent voters.  My really concern is, would he broaden the conservative bloc?  I am far from sure about this.  My conservative brethren have a deep and well developed distaste for Romney, and I am unsure if Romney can overcome it.  But I think ultimately, our hatred of Mr. Obama’s liberal policies will unify the right.

Romneycare is the biggest hurdle.  Will Romney really stand for states rights?  I honestly believe he will.  I don’t think he will ever be the opponent to government health care we want, so don’t even propose such a thought.  But our goal is to end the mandate on a federal scale.  I believe Romney will be an ally in this small, marginal victory.

Economically speaking, Romney actually is the most well spoken and practical of the bunch.  Although he does not support more radical reforms in D.C. such as Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan, he also has a more traditional approach put forward, which would do a lot of good in rolling back Obamanomics.  Romney likely would support a more radical conservative agenda for the economy if we can show there are votes in Congress for such a plan.

Furthermore, Romney has really show increased maturity on the campaign trail over the past few months.  What was a wooden caricature earlier in the year now shows some humor, fraility, and joviality.  His recent Fox News Sunday interview with Chris Wallace showed a comfortable, relaxed, and human Mitt.

Last, and certainly not least, we found under George W. Bush that even a relatively well intentioned President needs to be reigned in by Congress.  A Republican Congress failed to do that for Bush…it needs to learn its lesson, and keep Romney on a tight leash.  Without that, no man sitting in the Oval Office can be trusted completely.

So, after all that explanation, I endorse Mitt Romney.  I am not happy about it, and can’t believe it has come to this. And I am sure a lot of my friends on the internet will wonder if I have lost my senses completely. But Romney is a good man, a better man than the one sitting in the Oval Office by far.  And if he wins the nomination, it is time for Republicans unify, even if it is for this flawed candidate.

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2011 Predictions…A Look Back

So, my predictions from last year were strikingly on target on the economy and politics, and just as amazingly off target when it came to entertainment and sports.  Oh well, at least I am consistent.  You can my predictions from last year here.

Here is a review…

1. Economy.

  • I predicted 2.5% growth…Actual GDP was 1.6%.  I was off…but not as much as the Obama Administration, which predicted 3.5-4% growth for 2011.
  • I stated that unemployment would NOT drop below 8.5%…it dropped to 8.6% last month.
  • Business continue to be profitable overall, as predicted.
  • I predicted the stock market would rise 7-10%…it has been virtually flat.
  • Oil has hovered below $100, and gas at the pump has been below $4.  I predicted both would be much higher.
  • I was right on Gold and silver prices, which I predicted correctly would rise until mid year, and then drop.
  • I thought there would be MANY more defaults of municipalities, and that has not been true.
2.  Politics
  • Republicans in the House kept their promise to reform entitlements and health care (especially with the Ryan plan passage), but were blocked by Democrats to move the bills forward.
  • Republicans called for broad spending cuts, and passed many of them in the House.  As predicted, liberals attacked them for ‘killing the elderly and children’.
  • I predicted the debt ceiling fight accurately.
  • This is an exact quote from last year’s post:  “Obama, as arrogant as ever and possibly more so after his recent successes, will fall back into his belief that he is the greatest politician of his generation.   He will make no significant changes to the leadership of the West Wing or Cabinet, and continue on his current path.  Sure, he will compromise with Republicans on certain issues.  But he will also fight Republicans tooth and nail on certain provisions, but unlike Bill Clinton, will overplay his hand at some point.”  Pretty accurate, huh?  Even I am impressed.
  • I said numerous Democrats would retire…hit the nail on the head.
  • I predicted a tumultuous year for states, and predicted heavy cost cutting by MI Gov. Rick Snyder, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, IL Gov. Pat Quinn, and CA Gov. Jerry Brown.  Missed Wisconsin in that, didn’t I?
  • I correctly predicted Obama’s popularity would hover in the low 40s.  I completely missed when saying Republican popularity would slowly rise (it hasn’t) and Congress approval would stabilize or rise (it has indeed dropped).
  • I stated Sarah Palin would not run.  But, I thought Mike Pence and John Thune would be the leading candidates for the Republican nomination…big mistake.  I still WISH I were right.

3.  Sports

  • Auburn will crush Oregon for the BCS National Championship. [Crushed?  Nope.  Win?  Yes. ]
  • The University of Michigan will fire Rich Rodriquez, and hire Jim Harbaugh as coach.  Michigan will go 7-5 in the 2011 season.  [Fired RichRod.  Hired…Brady Hoke.  They went 10-2 (?!?!?!) and are headed to the Sugar Bowl…beyond my wildest expectations]
  • New England Patriots will dominate, and win the  Super Bowl. [Nope…the Packers dominated]
  • Kansas Jayhawks will with the NCAA Basketball Championship. [Nope…UCONN]
  • Boston Celtics will win the NBA Championship.  Miami and the L.A. Lakers will falter in the playoffs. [Nope…Dallas defeated Miami, as Lebron choked…again.]
  • Detroit Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup.  [Nope…Boston Bruins]
  • Tiger Woods will have another mediocre year. [Nope…he had a horrible year]
  • Philadelphia Phillies, behind their awesome new pitching staff, will win the World Series. [Nope…St. Louis Cardinals, in a classic World Series.]

4.  Entertainment

  • The Social Network will win the Oscar for Best Movie. 4.  Entertainment
    • The Social Network will win the Oscar for Best Movie. [Nope…The King’s Speech]
So like most years, my economic and political predictions…not too shabby.  I seem to be better at macroeconomic predictions than microeconomic, as my stock portfolio would confirm.  I seem to suck at sports and entertainment predictions.  I am almost scared to make them for 2012…almost.

 

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Top Movies of 2011

That time of the year again.  Frankly, I thought this was, at best, a mediocre year at the movies.  A lot of movies that I had expectations for last year were letdowns.  That said, there were certainly movies I enjoyed, and I hope you caught a few of them along the way.  Please note that the links take you to my reviews of the movies, where available.

Honorable Mentions:  50/50, Another Earth, The Artist, Bridesmaids, Captain America, Cars 2, The Descendents, Drive, Green Lantern, The Help, Horrible Bosses, Midnight in Paris, Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol, Moneyball, The Muppets, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Rango, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Transformers Dark of the Moon, Thor, Tree of Life, Warrior

10. Drive

Ryan Gosling had a good year, as you can see with the movie just below this one…but Drive may be the movie that fans come back and watch in years ahead.  An action filled movie that is becoming a cult classic, this is a movie most of you did not see…but should make sure you do.

9. Crazy, Stupid, Love

The best romantic comedy of the year.  With an awesome and funny cast, and enough twists to keep you entertained, Steve Carell again shows that he is simply one of the funniest men around.

8.  Hanna

Hanna was a movie that simply flew under the radar.  I knew it did for me…I ended up watching it on DVD.  That said, I have to say it was one of the more enjoyable movies of the year.  Saoirse Ronan, who plays the title character, is a star in the making.  And her portrayal of a young girl trained to be the ultimate killing machine, and the forces that formed the world she has grown up in, are fascinating.

7.  Attack the Block

This low budget movie from England simply was the one of the most entertaining science fiction movies of 2011.  The story about a group of ghetto dwelling delinquents fighting an alien invasion, with the assistance of the woman they mugged hours earlier, is pure joy.

6.  X-Men:  First Class

This was a movie that I was very unsure of a year ago.  In my look forward from the end of 2011, I showed a lot of ambivalence.  But the movie paid off.  Probably the best of the X-Men movies…and that is saying quite a bit.

5.  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I was quite ambivalent about the making of this film.  I am a huge fan of the original European version, starring Noomi Rapace.  That said…Director David Fincher has done a masterful job translating Stieg Larsson’s book to the American screen.  Rooney Mara does a fantastic job, and this film can hold its own with the original…which is high praise indeed.

4.  Super 8

I loved this movie.  I cannot tell you how much.  I can tell you why though.  I grew up in the late 70s, in Ohio, much like the characters involved.  I had a group of friends that would do exactly what these characters did.  And of course, there was always a girl.  This movie just happened to touch me where it counts.  I think many others felt the same way, for their own reasons.

3.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

What a fantastic finish to one of the great movie series of all time.  Individually, I would not call any of the movies in the Harry Potter franchise ‘classic’.  In toto?  Maybe.  Warner Brothers, from start to finish, did a brilliant job putting together a cast, crew, directors, and ultimately, the support of author J.K. Rowling in what 1o years ago appeared like an almost impossible task.

The final movie, although somewhat a departure from the book, brought most of the feeling, anguish, heartbreak, and ultimate triumph necessary to conclude the Harry Potter saga.

2.  Hugo

Hugo is a magnificent movie for children and adults.  Martin Scorcese has possibly created one of his greatest works of art…which is saying something.  The artistry is beautiful, and the story is perfect.  This could become a classic in years to come.

1.  War Horse

Steven Spielberg has been hit-or-miss for the better part of several decades now.  When he bombs a film, he really bombs it (see:  Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull).  But when nails a film, it becomes a classic.  War Horse is in the latter category.  Based on the 1982 children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo, and later turned into a play, Spielberg demonstrates movie making at its best:  blending the splendor of visual greatness, the epic scale of war, and the passion and emotions that pull at the heart strings.  A masterpiece, and definitely in the running for Best Picture.

 

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State of the Race, December Version: Newt’s Turn

Conservatives are coming to a reality…we don’t like our Presidential candidates all that much.

That isn’t to say we don’t want to beat Obama.   Few things unify moderates and conservatives more than the fact that Obama is a destructive force in American politics.

But conservatives cannot unify behind a candidate.  The serial leadership has now set its sights on the mercurial Newt Gingrich, who even many right wingers don’t trust that much.  And then you have Erick Erickson, who in a virtual diatribe on Redstate, told us all the ways he hates Mitt Romney, and all the ways that Republicans are going to desert conservatism.

Frankly, conservatives have many reasons to be depressed.

That said, someone is going to win the nomination.  And that person is going to be the standard bearer for the Right for 2012.  So where are we, as we enter the final month of 2011?

1.  Rick Perry is a laughingstock.

Sorry, Perry supporters.  The truth hurts.  When Perry announced his campaign in August, I was really hopeful.  My ideal candidate would be a successful conservative governor from a large state that created jobs. Perry?  Check, check, check.

And yet, Perry somehow found a way to make that good will vanish within a month.

Perry seems like a nice guy.  He seems conservative enough.  But he simply doesn’t act presidential.  He has a swagger that makes him appear like a cartoon version of George W. Bush.  He cannot perform in debates, and has difficulty in simply arguing any of his conservative ideals.

Perry had one good moment during the last few months:  when he announced his flat tax.  But other than than, it has been a series of missteps and buffoonery. His debate performances have significantly improved, but that is too little too late; first impressions matter.  The Perry narrative is now set in stone:  a Texas Governor that doesn’t look all that smart.  That is probably not the truth, but when has truth ever mattered in politics?  Conservative colleagues like Erick Erickson maintain hope that Perry will have one more shot.  I just don’t believe it.   I simply cannot see how Perry changes the tide.

2.  Ron Paul is, well, Ron Paul.

Enough said.

That said, I like a lot of Paul says.  He is truly libertarian.  The problem is, he is also an isolationist for all practical purposes.  His foreign policies stances, most recently regarding the Patriot Act and the war on terror, simply are not realistic.  He will not win the nomination.

3.  Herman Cain’s problem is not the bimbo explosions.

Oh, sure, the media is talking about sexual harassment charges 24/7.  And now rumors of affairs.  But that is not Cain’s biggest problem.  His biggest problem is that he is an outsider with no government experience.  That, in itself, is not a reason to not vote for him.  But Cain has to meet a higher bar of competence in the knowledge necessary to be President than the other candidates with longer public service resumes.  Simply put, he has failed to do that so far.

Cain was brilliant in putting out a simple, tax reform plan that people could hang on to…999.  But he has to have more to sell to the American people…and he has not made that sale yet.  And with his campaign now ‘reassessing’ the situation, the Cain train has reached its final stop.

4.  Gingrich is Back To the Future

Newt may be the smartest man in the race.  Heck, along with Bill Clinton, he is singularly one of the smartest politicians of his generation.  Barack Obama?  Not even in the same stratosphere.

Gingrich has,  however, more political baggage than anyone in his generation as well, and again compares favorably/unfavorably with Bill Clinton.  Forget the personal issues, which are substantial.  It is the political issues and history that will destroy the campaign.  Remember, Gingrich supported an individual mandate as recently as May of this year.  He was largely supportive of Romneycare until very recently.  He joined Hillary Clinton in 2005 to push for solutions in health care.  Videos like the one embedded below are going to become commonplace, and the question is, once it spreads through the public, will Gingrich be able to respond to the attacks?

He joined John Kerry in 2007 and stated he believes in man made global warming.  On immigration, he has not been very supportive of a border fence, is vaguely supportive of the DREAM Act, and at times appears to support amnesty.

This isn’t to say Gingrich couldn’t be a good President.  It just means that the base has largely ignored Gingrich on the issues because he has been so good on the stump and in debates.  That will change as he now vaults to the leaderboard.  Can he maintain that lead?  The next month will be the most critical in the long, storied political story of Newt Gingrich.

5.  Romney can’t avoid himself

Romney is the most disciplined, best trained, most likable candidate in the group.  He is also the most hated.  Romney cannot run from his past, and he has decided to embrace it, for good or ill.  Last week he reiterated support for Romneycare, which made every conservative in America shudder slightly.

My problem with Romney is the same as most:  I have no idea what his core is, what he believes in, and what he ultimately will fight for.  Would he fight, to the bitter end, to end Obamacare?  To reform the tax code?  To fix the entitlement state?  I have no idea.

Additionally, for all his political prowess, Mitt seems to be hamstrung by his own political advisors.  In an interview with Brett Baier on Fox News, Romney appeared prickly and uncomfortable in an environment that was not carefully pre-planned by his campaign.  That does not bode well going forward.

Romney ultimately is the moderate in this race, and with the deep pockets, can withstand losses in Iowa and South Carolina.  What he cannot do is sustain a large loss in Florida, where Gingrich now leads by large margins.  Romney will need to find a way to restart momentum, otherwise risks being washed away by a conservative tsunami.

6.  Bachmann, Santorum, Huntsman, Etc?

None of these candidates are viable for numerous reasons to waste time on here.  We all know they are not viable, unless without something short of an asteroid hitting New Hampshire.

 

In the end, I fear that we will get another candidate that is ‘the lesser of evils’.  There was no knight in shining armor out there this year to save the party, so we are left with the remnants.

That by no means leaves us hopeless.  Most of these candidates, if they run a smart campaign, can defeat Barack Obama.  Obama is much weaker than the polls make it out to be.  Furthermore, we have seen weak nomination processes create Presidents before.  The 1992 cycle was considered one of the weakest on record, and resulted in Bill Clinton, the most powerful Democrat President in a generation.

I guess the best we can do is let voters vote, let the best candidate come out, and embrace him, warts and all.

So where does that leave us?

This is still a Romney vs. anti-Romney campaign.  Newt Gingrich is the alternative flavor of the month.  To be sure, he has more gravitas than most of his predecessors on the leaderboard.  In debates and speaking engagements, Gingrich is by far the most eloquent defender of conservatism and Reaganism, and shows the largest base of knowledge.  However, Gingrich is still the Gingrich we love and hate.  Will he self-destruct, as many core conservatives believe he will?  Or is this is a new Newt, who can show the personal self control to run a disciplined, streamlined campaign ala Romney?  The next month will be telling.

I believe Gingrich is the last man standing as for as anti-Romney candidates go, for a couple reasons.  First, he is the smartest of the bunch.  Second, his timing is impeccable, rising to the top a month before Iowa.  Third, and maybe most important, all of his competitors seem unwilling or unable to gain any traction.  Gingrich, on the other hand, is riding the wave all the way to Iowa.

This is no longer a marathon, but a sprint to Iowa and New Hampshire.  There are 32 days until Iowa, and 39 days until New Hampshire.  After all the talk, this is, as we thought from the beginning, whittled down to a 2 man race.  If Gingrich can survive that time without a major catastrophe, he is the likely nominee. If he stumbles, Romney is the last man standing.

 

 

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Illegal Immigration: Newt Is Right

Newt Gingrich is today getting vilified on many conservative blogs for his moderate stance on illegal immigration in last night’s CNN/Heritage Foundation debate.

He stated the following:

“If you’ve come here recently, you have no ties to this country, you ought to go home, period,” Gingrich said.  “If you’ve been here 25 years and you got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law, you belong to a local church, I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.”

Challenged by Michele Bachmann — “I don’t agree that you would make 11 million workers legal, because that, in effect, is amnesty” — Gingrich stuck to his guns.  “I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families, and expel them.”

I have, for several years, argued for this exact strategy in dealing with illegal immigration, on this blog and elsewhere.

Let us accept a couple truths, which Gingrich reiterated last night.  One, we have a border problem with illegal immigration.  Two, there is no majority sentiment in this country to return illegal aliens that have lived he for decades, raised their families, and have otherwise lived within the bounds of the law.

Accepting those facts, Gingrich’s stance makes the most sense.  Yes, there is a hint of amnesty; but I think the counter to that argument is that this is not full amnesty.

Why?  This is what I would propose, and I think Gingrich would basically accept:

1.  Secure the border.  

Use a wall, use border troops, use virtual defenses.  Whatever it takes, but it must be secured to avoid a repeat of the Reagan-era failure on immigration reform.

2.  Find a path to legal residence for illegal aliens.  

This is where Gingrich and myself depart from prior amnesty proposals.  All illegal aliens should accept they committed a crime by coming to this country.

By accepting this as a crime, they have two choices. One, allow them to gain some sort of legal status, that allows them to become naturalized residents.  However, by this path, they would be prevented from ever applying for citizenship, as their punishment for coming here illegally.

The second path would ask them to return to their home country, and then apply for a green card like all law abiding persons.  Via this second path, they could then apply for citizenship in due course.

This would therefore NOT be amnesty, but a punishment system by which we legalize these persons, while at the same time punishing them by never allowing them become citizens because of their crime.

Gingrich is basically correct on this proposal.  There is no other logical way forward, and the sooner conservatives accept that, the better.  Deportation is a nonstarter for event the most extreme of conservatives.  Michelle Bachmann attacked Gingrich on immigration, but provided no alternative.  Romney attacked Gingrich, although he basically supported similar plans back in 2007.

Gingrich is now clearly shifting to a general election platform, much like Romney.  This is a smart move on his part.  Conservatives can decry his stance as ‘amnesty’, but such talk is naive and misses the point.  Ultimately, you have to deal with illegal immigrants in some way short of deportation, because deportation will never happen.  Gingrich is simply accepting the reality, and presenting the best plan available considering those facts.

 

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