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1

The Avengers: Movie Review

I know, week late…dollar short.  But since I was on vacation, this was the first blockbuster movie I missed on opening weekend in years.  You can fault my wife for that.

Anyhoo…

The Avengers was a benchpost for Marvel Comics.  It has long been held as one of their most prized comic collections, and bringing it to the big screen was a major endeavor.  Using virtual prequels in the likes of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, as well as to a lesser extent the Incredible Hulk, Marvel has taken a decade to set up this payoff.

And it was worth the effort and wait.

Written and directed by fanboy Joss Whedon, the Avengers does a nice job of uniting the characters that we have learned backstories about in the movies listed above, as well as transitioning other important characters into the mythology.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, as usual, brings the dry humor.  Chris Evans does a nice job as the straight laced Steve Rogers.  Samuel Jackson has Nick Fury nailed down for sure.  Chris Hemsworth’s Thor was brawny.  However, Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki in certain scenes was fantastic. Scarlett Johanson probably did a nice acting job, but she was so gorgeous is some scenes I kind of forgot she was talking.

If I was going to pan any of the actors, it would be Mark Ruffalo.  He wasn’t bad, per se…but compared to the brilliant Ed Norton, I just kept on wishing for more depth.  He was adequate however.  Other reviewers loved his mellow portrayal of Bruce Banner.  So maybe I am wrong on this, but that was my gut reaction.

The action sequences, which basically portray an alien invasion of Midtown Manhattan, are fabulous, and everything one expects from a high grade action film.  The comedy during the height of the battle is awesome, and comes from numerous characters (my favorite is a Hulk moment with Thor…which, trust me, will make you at least giggle).

In the end, this was the payoff geeks like me have wished for. The Avengers is going to print money this summer, as young teenage boys go back again and again to get their geek fix.  More importantly, it shows that a major comic book series with crossover characters can be successful, which gives hope for other tentpole franchises, most specifically D.C. comics Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.).

And the end credits [minor spoiler] point to Thanos being the key villain for Avengers 2, which is freakin’ awesome.

Kudos to Joss Whedon and Marvel Comics for pulling it off.  A must see to begin the Summer blockbuster season.

3

My First Electoral College Prediction

So, this is my electoral college prediction as of April 27, 2012.  I did this all through the 2008 election cycle as well.  [Credit to www.270towin.com].

Couple points:

  • First and foremost, these are just my educated guesses, hunches, and outright leaps of faith.  I do base some of the choices on current poll numbers, but I am not a big believer in the veracity of polls 200 days before the election.
  • Ohio is a state that many people predicting today to go to Obama. (Including Karl Rove, Mark Blumenthal of HuffPost, and Ben Domenech).  Obama won the state by 200k votes, about 4% of the electorate.  Living here in Ohio, I have a feeling that it will be much closer.  That is also why, if you asked me today, Rob Portman is likely to be the VP nominee.  He may not add a lot…but 2-3 percentage points?  Surely.  Enough to make a difference.  The path for Romney without Ohio is unrealistic.  Ohio or bust.
  • There are several states I believe are going to be close that right now I believe Obama will win.  New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico and Pennsylvania lead the list.  States I have as Romney winning which are likely to be close include Nevada, Missouri, Virginia and Florida.  I believe states in both columns are winnable for both candidates.
  • Virginia is a state many have in the battleground column.  Simply put, if Obama wins Virginia (and the same argument can be made for North Carolina and Arizona), then he is winning in a landslide, and you won’t care much which states he is carrying.
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The Hunger Games: Movie Review

The Hunger Games, the much anticipated movie based on the popular novel, has been compared to the Twilight series and other female oriented fictional genre of the past several years, although the similarity ends there.

Suzanne Collins Hunger Games Trilogy has also was a national bestseller, and a favorite among young adult readers, especially women.  However her protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is everything that other recent female characters are not:  Independent, intelligent, innovative; in short, Katniss a virtual force of nature, whose only goal in life is to keep her family alive.

The dystopian view of the futuristic totalitarian society in The Hunger Games is one that dispirits most of its people is at times depressing, violent, and ultimately frightening.  The society exists hundreds of years in the future, after multiple cataclysms befall the United States.  It is dominated by a central governing state, Panem, which echoes Rome during its Empire days.  It relies on 12 surrounding districts for all its resources and needs.  Decades ago, the then 13 districts rose up in revolt…and were crushed.  The 13 district was annihilated.

Since that time, the Capitol punishes the 12 districts for their audacity through a yearly event:  The Hunger Games.  The competition, which harkens back to other sci-fi movies such as the cult classic Battle Royale, is a violent and gruesome fight to the death among a pair of participants from each of the 12 districts, a young boy and girl.  The event is the most profound cultural annual event in the country, as virtually every citizen watches the events on television.  The viciousness is especially profound, considering the age of the combatants is as young as 12 years old.  The competitors fight until only one person remains standing…and that person lives on as the Victor, with glory, fame, and wealth for the rest of their lives.

Our heroine, played by Jennifer Lawrence, was a survivalist long before she enters the arena, as she struggled to keep her mother and sister alive after the death of their father.  She is a hunter by need, and those skills serve here well during the Games.  She volunteers for the games after her 12 year old sister is initially chosen.  Her counterpart from her district for the Games is Peeta, a young boy with which she has a complicated, albeit very limited, past, but one that comes into play in the future story.

My fear about the movie adaptation was that they would fail to convey the violence and despair that the Hunger Games cause.  The movie does a decent job showing violence when needed, emotions when required, and depth and complexity to characters who are on the screen for only a very limited time.  Now, does the violence of the Games on screen match the terror in the books?  I have to say no.  I think there is a sense of dread while turning the pages that is difficult, if not impossible, to convey on the big screen, unless you are making a horror movie.

Ultimately, it is Lawrence, and not the action or the violence, that carry this film.  She gives her character the depth necessary to relate to her oppression and horror.  She doesn’t feel a need to win the Games, except for her family.  She would happily die for them, and that carries over into the character.  But as the Games progress, she finds herself and others, and learns to fight for reasons she never thought possible.

The first installment of this projected trilogy does its job well.  It introduces us to the main characters, the central event (the Games themselves), and the horrors of the totalitarianism in which the entire story takes place.  I am more than satisfied with this adaptation, and am anxiously waiting the sequel.  Highly recommended.

Please note:  My one caveat…the violence is EXTREME. I would be hesitant to take a child under 13 to this movie, and even teenagers, if squeamish about violence, should think twice. 

 

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The Post-Super Tuesday Reality

Mitt Romney wins Super Tuesday!

Yeah, right.

This must be the most pathetic Super Tuesday victory in modern history.  Romney, who outspent his opponents 4 and sometimes 5 to 1 in many states, eked out a victory in the essential state of Ohio.  This was the type of victory that feels like a defeat; waiting until the wee hours of the morning, worrying about votes from Cuyahoga county to put you over the top.

After a similar type of victory in Michigan, Romney needed a decisive win, but again failed to attain it. Besides Ohio, Tennessee was an utter disaster, with Romney falling to Rick Santorum by double digits in a state which is the least conservative of the southern states.  Other than Virginia, where neither Newt nor Santorum were on the ballot, Romney only took states in the Northeast, including his home state of Massachusetts, and in Western states which he was favored to win for various other reasons.

The exit polls are telling.  So which groups gave Romney trouble?  Well, all of them.  Yes, in Ohio Romney won women and was even with men.  He lost strong conservatives but won somewhat conservative voters as well as moderates.  He beat Santorum among Catholics.  But frankly, all that doesn’t matter…ultimately, he tied Santorum in Ohio, which is bad enough.

So the real question, now that we are into March, is where are we, and where are we going?

1.  The only candidate with the CHANCE TO WIN the nomination is Gov. Mitt Romney.

This is a truth most of my conservative brethren don’t want to except.  Erick Erickson however has basically conceded as much.  Numerically, there is no path to the nomination for Newt Gingrich nor Rick Santorum.

The argument from the Santorum camp is they have a chance if Newt leaves the race.  First of all, does anyone believe Newt will just walk away now?  Me neither.  Second, several polls have shown that the beneficiary of Newt leaving would be…Mitt Romney.  Whether this would bare out in reality is a question mark, but enough of one to wonder if Santorum has any strategy that would outright provide him victory.

How big a hill does Santorum have to climb?  To win the nomination, he would need to win 61% of all remaining delegates.  If you assume Romney wins the northeast delegates remaining, that means Santorum would have to win 67% of the other delegates.  And if the unbound delegates (the approximately 100+ delegates who can vote whatever way they presume to) vote for Romney as expected, Santorum would have to win 71% of all remaining delegates.  This is virtually impossible, and shows you the basic problem:  there is no realistic path to the nomination for Rick Santorum.

So most likely, Mitt Romney will win the nomination.

All that said…

2.  Even Mitt may not be able to close the deal.

Now, to be clear, even Romney’s path to 1144 is difficult.  If all four candidates stay in the race, and races go as predicted, I added up and got to 1100 delegates for Romney…or 44 short of winning the nomination.  That was a conservative approach to the delegate count, but shows how razor thin this margin is going to be.  Romney will be digging and scraping for delegates well into the summer.  I believe ultimately Romney will win enough delegates, and some states will break his way late that today we would not expect.  However, that shows how uncertain this entire game is.

3.  The only anti-Mitt strategy is the convention.

‘Open convention’.  It sends conservatives into a frenzy.

The reality is, there is only one strategy to stop Mitt Romney, and that is to block him from enough delegates in order to send this to a convention floor fight in August.  Prevent him from reaching the magic 1144 delegates he needs, and all of a sudden, the power is out of the hands of voters, and in the hands…of the establishment.

And this is precisely the problem with this strategy.  It is not base conservatives that will decide our convention’s fate, but the very establishment that created this mess.

That is not to say we would not possibly be better off with an open convention.  I think at this point, many of us would take a Chris Christie, for example, over Mitt Romney. Names such as Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin have been thrown out there, but are much more divisive names that would be harder to get the country to coalesce around.

Additionally, if Romney is short only 40 or so delegates, as I stated above, he could probably sway delegates simply by naming someone like Marco Rubio as his Vice President. Or, in an crunch, could sway Rick Santorum, though that would likely be disastrous for his general election campaign.  In either case, even in the open convention scenario, you have to believe the most likely outcome is Mitt Romney is our nominee.

4.  Mitt Romney can defeat Barack Obama. 

I know in recent weeks, it has been conventional wisdom that this election is over, with people such as George Will stating it with virtual certainty.  That entire thinking process is an utter joke.

First, lets look at history.  In August of 2004, John Kerry led George W. Bush by 8 points…and lost by 3 points.  In March of 1992, George H.W. Bush led all Democrat candidates (a divided contest at the time, much like this year) by large margins.  In 1980, the few polls available showed Jimmy Carter defeating Ronald Reagan by double digits.  Reagan won by 10 points.

Is this primary season brutal?  Yes.  Is Romney so far a pathetic candidate?  Absolutely.  But there is one thing that is quite clear:  most long, arduous primary fights that don’t involve an incumbent tend to make candidates stronger, not weaker.  Romney is going to improve as a candidate because of this fight, not be weakened because of it.

There is no historical reason to believe this election is over.

Furthermore, Obama is a weak candidate.  If the economy is improving, Americans are barely feeling it.  Numbers matters, such as the unemployment rate, but never matter as much as what the public sees on the ground.  If they see their neighbors and relatives find work, Obama’s approval numbers will skyrocket.

That is not happening yet.  Obama’s job approval rating, as measured by Gallup, is 45 percent or lower in 12 battleground states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  That is not conducive to re-election.

Let us remember:  a GOP candidate does not need a huge shift to win the Presidency.  We are likely to take Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina back.  Then, we need to win Ohio, Florida, and a combination of states for 14 more electoral votes…or Pennsylvania.  That is not an easy task, but extremely doable…even for Mitt Romney.

Conservatives and the GOP need to take a deep breath.  This nomination process will drag out, probably until May or June.  If Mitt wins, he wins.  If not, it goes to the convention.  But the reality is, there will be a GOP candidate standing in September, and that candidate will be a viable legitimate alternative to the current occupant of the Oval Office.  Simply put, despite all the gloom and doom, we have a realistic shot at defeating Barack Obama on November 6th.

 

 

0

Best of CPAC 2012

CPAC time again, and this year, this conference is more important than ever.  Will we unify as a movement, or fracture even further?  The speeches and attendants at CPAC will begin to give us answers.

I will try to add future videos of speeches as they become available.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida did nothing to alter his rockstar status in the conservative movement. In a funny and politically pointed speech, Rubio went after liberalism and its key purveyor, Mr. Obama.  If he hasn’t elevated himself to the pole position for Vice President (assuming he has changed his mind and would actually consider it), he has at least placed himself in good position for the next go around…whether that is 2016 or 2020.

Strong speech by Gov. Mike Huckabee, and I wonder if he would have been a strong candidate this time around.

Gov. Rick Perry had a pretty mediocre speech, in my humble opinion. He says he will be back…and I think he will. But this, by far, was his best quote in his speech.

Sen. Rand Paul once again eloquently talks about the coming debt crisis, and tells Republicans that they better accept that reality or might as well be Democrats.  An integral voice in the future of conservatism. And a much more pragmatic one than his father.

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Gov. Mitt Romney had a solid, but definitely unspectacular, speech.  But as Rush Limbaugh pointed out, the key quote that came out of this may be Romney describing himself as a ‘severe conservative‘, which is inane.  Not quite a foot in the mouth, but close.  He definitely did not close the deal.

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Speaker Newt Gingrich was clearly the best of the three Presidential candidates.  The crowd wanted red meat, and got it.  And more importantly, this was the ‘good’ Gingrich that so many mainstream conservatives love; a man devoutly professing conservatism while largely ignoring his competition.   Gingrich, as far as I can tell, never really mentioned any specifics regarding Romney or Santorum.  He focused on Obama, and that is when he is at his best.

Rep. Allen West is quickly becoming another up and comer, along with Rubio.  Another highlight of CPAC so far.

For pure entertainment, nothing beats Andrew Breitbart.  Yeah, I disagree with a lot of his rhetoric…but his damn funny.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has been somewhat off the radar since his disastrous State of the Union response in 2009, and following the Gulf oil spill.  But he has done wondrous things with business and education in Louisiana.  Jindal is another rising star in the Republican Party.

Gov. Sarah Palin was presented the keynote address, and did a good job pointing to what the conservative movement needs to focus on.

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.

 

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