About Author: neoavatara


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Happy Fourth of July, 2012 Edition



And please remember, as you enjoy your barbecues and picnics with family…our troops still serve on five continents around the world, and some dying even this day.  To often do we forget, that freedom is in fact not free.



The Amazing Spider-Man: Movie Review

Spider-Man is my favorite superhero, bar none.  Always has been.  Peter Parker is the traditional nerdy geek who can never get the girl, and becomes the ultimate superhero, even though he takes a beating along the way.  I always could relate to that.

But in all honesty, when I heard about this remake of a movie that was only released in 2002…I was more than a little dismayed. Why another origin story, when Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was so brilliant to begin with?  Along with Spider-Man 2, Raimi’s movies were going to be hard to beat; although he thoroughly missed with Spider-Man 3.

But Sony Pictures saw a cash hound, and was not going to let it go.  Somehow, instead of just replacing the actors and going forward with the story, they thought a reboot was in order.  And I humbly suggest, that was the fatal flaw in this movie.

Don’t get me wrong…the movie is decent.  There are parts that I think are better than the original, especially when we get to Peter’s back story.  This movie is no where as great as Spider-Man 2, but it is respectable.

Furthermore, Andrew Garfield is so superior in the role to Tobey Maguire, it shames me to admit it.  Garfield has a depth that Maguire never really had in the original movies.

As for Emma Stone…it is unfair to ask me.  She is my crush of the moment.   I love everything she does.  And as Gwen Stacy, she and Garfield have some real chemistry on screen, which should come as no surprise…they are an item in real life.

The Lizard is Spider-man’s evil villain, playing Dr. Connors in human form by Rhys Ifans, was solid, but not spectacular. At some point, you kind of lose the entire reason why Connors is so mad…and why the Lizard matters all together, other than as a foil for Spidey.

However, I submit that the entire film pales in comparison to the prior trilogy.  Sure, the third film had serious issues (3 villains?  Really?), but to make a reboot successful, they needed to surpass what they achieved just a decade ago in the first two films…and they just come up a little short.

I will say this though:  my six year old, who only recently discovered Spider-Man, loved the movie.  For one reason or another, he preferred it to the Tobey Maquire original.  And maybe that reintroduction of Spider-Man is the real key to the series.  I still think I would recommend this movie, but this is certainly not a must see.  I personally would have been content watching this at home 6 months from now…which I guess tells you all you need to know.



Its The Economy, Stupid…But…


…for Congressional candidates, Obamacare may be the issue that wins the day.

This could quickly become a redux of 2010.

In my previous post, I argued that Romney should only talk about Obamacare in reference to its effects on the economy.  It is the largest tax and regulatory bill in American history, and its deleterious effects on the economy and job production fit nicely into Romney’s single issue campaign.

But for congressional candidates, they need only to look at the last midterms to understand the benefit this provides.  Chief Justice John Roberts may have used somewhat convoluted legal arguments to come to the decision, but he now forces a stark reality upon Democrats.

Obamacare is a tax.  Arguably, the largest tax ever.

Numerous candidates who support Obamacare must now defend raising taxes in the middle of a stagnant recessionary economy; or if you believe Joe Biden, a depression.

Just a few examples.

1. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.  McCaskill has already been lagging her Republican contenders for months, and is certainly one of the weakest candidates out there.  Can she now defend Obamacare?  What political capital does she possess to make that argument?  And even more so…how does she explain the comments of Democrat MO Governor Jay Nixon, who said the mandate is bad for Missouri?

2. Tim Kaine of Virginia is in a dog fight with Republican George Allen.  Allen now has a new weapon against Kaine: force him to rationalize a huge tax increase during a recession.  Kaine either has to accept it as a tax and defend it, or give a convoluted Pelosi-like answer that most moderates are unlikely to buy.

3.  Jon Tester of Montana is in a tough re-election race against Republican Johnny Rehberg, who has early as May had already hit Tester on voting for Obamacare.   How long before the tax argument arise?  I wager days, if not hours.

This does not even begin to argue about House seats, especially marginal ones in red states, where in 2010 the Obamacare issue was destructive, as it annihilated the Blue Dog caucus.

Mitt Romney needs to take a macroeconomic position and focus on the country at large.  In doing so, he will frame Republicans as the party of economic growth and job creation. But the down ballot candidates need to focus on how critical their role is for the repeal of the unpopular Obamacare law even more now than ever.

Starting this weekend, and continuing today on social networks, liberals are using every excuse they can to define Obamacare as anything other than a tax.  That, in a nutshell, shows you the political bind they are in.  They will try to spin it as anything but what the Supreme Court said it was…and of course, that is a losing proposition for them.  There was one message from the Obamacare ruling:  it is constitutional because it is a tax.

The GOP blueprint for victory and claiming the majority in the House and Senate is clear:  2010 redux.


OK, Obamacare Constitutional…What Next?


So now that we are past the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the ACA, we can move on to more important things.

I am completely serious.

This is not to put a spin on what is ultimately a loss for conservatives.  It clearly was that, and a huge victory for progressives led by Barack Obama.  You may hear me putting a silver lining on it, but we all know conservatives lost this round.

But fundamentally, it changes nothing.

First and foremost, most of the ACA was going to be upheld.  I never truly believed that the whole law would be overturned.  That includes the exchanges, the IPAB, and a myriad of taxes and regulations.  So we needed Congressional action to rid the country of this garbage regardless of the SCOTUS decision.  Now, simply add the mandate to the list, and the work load is virtually the same.

Furthermore, this changes nothing central to the presidential election.  It might give some political boost to Mitt Romney, as I stated in yesterday’s post.  Already, Mitt has had a huge day in contributions, raising over $4 million in the last 24 hours.  But the election is still about one and only one thing:  the economy.  The mandate is important to deal with, primarily because of the individual rights that are trampled, but the only reason to talk about it this year is because of its effect on the economy.

This is still a single issue election.  Mitt Romney knows this and understands this.  Yes, repealing Obamacare is a priority, on day one of a Romney administration…but it is only one piece to the economic puzzle that Romney must convince voters he knows how to solve.

It is still the economy, stupid.


Obamacare Constitutional: Thoughts and Reactions

In a landmark ruling the Supreme Court today announced that in a 5-4 decision (with Justice Kennedy dissenting and Chief Justice Roberts writing the decision) that Obamacare, for the most part, is constitutional, including the individual mandate.

John Roberts declared,

“Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and the Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax.  This is sufficient to sustain it.”

“Simply put, Congress may tax and spend,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “This grant gives the federal government considerable influence even in areas where it cannot directly regulate.”

“The federal government may enact a tax on an activity that it cannot authorize, forbid or otherwise control,” Roberts wrote.

In other words, the constitutionality of the mandate is derived from it being a tax, not from any rights under the commerce clause.  As a constitutional scholar friend of mine stated,
I’m going to use this analogy on TV, to explain the Court’s ruling, unless one of you convinces me not to (and the fact that 90% of the population can’t process analogies isn’t a good enough reason). The government can’t force you to have kids, or punish you for not having kids, but they can make taxes higher for people without kids than they are for people with kids.
In a stinging and surprising dissent, Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that the other justices wanted to wipe out the entire law. “In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety,” he wrote.
The justices did rule against another key part of the law, saying the law’s Medicaid expansion — which starts in 2014 — tranforms the program into something it wasn’t designed to be.

“The court today limits the financial pressure the secretary may apply to induce states to accept the terms of the Medicaid expansion,” the ruling states. “As a practical matter, that means states may now choose to reject the expansion; that is the whole point. But that does not mean all or even any will.”

So my thoughts on the legal aspects?:

1.  Although this is clearly a defeat for conservatives, who hoped to put the issue to the grave, the reality is that this court was never going to seriously overturn the entire bill.  I never believed that for a second.  So legislative action was required to turn back Obamacare before, and is still required.

2.  The commerce clause, the Obama Administration’s argument, was null and void.  There never was a good argument for the commerce clause to apply in an industry that is not interstate.  In fact, Obamacare specifically prohibits buying this product across state lines, and the commerce clause simply does not apply in those cases.  The Supreme Court almost completely rejected the argument. The justices rejected two of the administration’s three arguments in support of the insurance requirement. But the court said the mandate can be construed as a tax. “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Roberts said.

3.  The power to tax is the power to destroy.  Chief Justice Roberts has reaffirmed this government right.  Simply put, they are treating Obamacare much like they treat Medicare and Social Security.

4.  The Medicare ruling is being dismissed, but this may be significant.  States now have the legal right to reject to enact this portion of the bill.  It may be the equivalent of a waiver.  What does this mean practically?  I don’t know if anyone knows.

So, my thoughts politically?

1. Short term, this is a big victory for the Obama Administration.  Their key legislative victory survives for another day.

2. Long term?  Long term this helps Mitt Romney.  I have been consistent on this.  I think overturning the mandate would have helped Romney marginally, by removing the issue all together.  However, now conservatives and especially Tea Party groups must unite behind Romney if they ever believe they can remove Obamacare. Once in place in 2014, it is highly unlikely that it will be repealed.  I would expect that Romney’s campaign coffers will grow substantially as well.

Furthermore, will this convince moderates, independents, and libertarians that it is essential for Romney to be the next President?  I think for some, the answer is ‘Yes’.

3.  Mitt Romney also has a new line of attack.  By defining the mandate as a tax, Obama no longer can claim not to have increased taxes on every living American.  The taxes in the ACA will raise $500 billion over the next decade, making it by far the largest tax increase in American history.  Furthermore, it is inherently a regressive tax, as it is basically imposed equally among the rich and the poor, though the poorest will receive subsidies.

This completely invalidates the left’s argument that Obama has been a low tax president.  If you include Obamacare taxes, our tax rates are the highest in decades.  Mitt Romney should pound this issue into the ground.

4.  The left’s credibility in lieu of the Supreme Court is a joke.  As late as two hours ago, many liberals were losing their minds, calling the Court ‘dishonorable’ and a ‘Banana Republic’.  Justice Roberts yesterday was a pariah…today a hero…at least to the media.

Another point.  CNN initially got the story wrong.  But, the most interesting development concerning the Supreme Court’s ruling when it was released was not the initial inaccurate media reports that the mandate was invalidated, but instead the reaction from the mandate’s supporters on Facebook: in about three minutes, the Court went from a bunch of pathetic political hacks to jurists of great intelligence and wisdom.

On the other hand, you do not see such insults hurled at the court from the Right.  This morning after the ruling, do you hear conservatives calling the court ‘jackals’ or ‘without honor’?  No.  The majority of conservatives disagree with the ruling, but move forward.  Liberals are the one without honor in this issue.


My final thoughts?  Ultimately, politically this may matter a lot, as it will likely improve Romney’s arguments of Obama being a tax and spend liberal who will continue to grow government regardless of its long term effects on our financial outlook.  It will also however harden Tea Party support around Romney, and likely unite the conservative base once and for all.

Legally and practically, I have to say I prefer winning this battle in Congress rather than in the Supreme Court.  The public is on our side in this issue, by a 2:1 margin.  If we can’t win that argument for more individual rights and freedoms, we don’t deserve to be a political movement.  Furthermore, I have long argued the worst thing about the abortion issue was that is was not done by legislative action, but by Court fiat.  The same goes here.  The public will accept legislative change much easier than it will accept five unelected jurors determining how their lives are led.

So basically, nothing has changed.  The fight goes on.  And the ultimate battle in that fight is to elect Mitt Romney President of the United States.

P.S. – please ignore any typographical errors…I wrote this in haste. 


Brave: Movie Review

Brave is the long anticipated next Pixar contribution to film lore…and it lives up to its hype.  It is maybe the most aesthetically amazing of the Pixar movies, and looks all the more glorious in 3D.

Pixar has built a gorgeous world to bring numerous amazing characters to the screen.  Led by the lead, Princess Merida, the film gives us characters we are unlikely to forget.

Merida is a tomboy in the truest sense, which does not fit with her mother, Queen Elinor, and her concept of the perfect daughter and princess.  This of course gets in the way of setting up the ideal husband for the princess.  However, growing up in a Scottish world, especially with the raucous father in the likes of King Fergus, it was unlikely Elinor would have ever gotten her wish.

Merida is not unlike most girls these days, pushing the boundaries of what society often defines them as, at the same time hoping to fall in love with the ideal mate.  Merida simply wants freedom to make choices, but she lives in a world that limits them at every turn.  This may sound like a ‘feminist’ line, but it is more of a growing of age tale than a political commentary.

Furthermore, I loved the relationship Merida has with both of her parents, each unique in its own way.  And there are lessons to be learned, like in every good Disney/Pixar film.  I would say the real lesson in this movie is that every person has to take responsibility for their actions.

The plot is full of twist and turns, to say the least, and I doubt that many people can predict every curve the writers will throw at you.  Some people have criticized this, but frankly, what would you want?  The same “princess runs around and finds Prince Charming” tale?

What I also love about this movie?  It doesn’t hold back in animated violence. Merida is a warrior at  heart (people compare her character to Katniss of Hunger Games fame), but all the key warriors in this movie are ultimately children.  There are scenes where I think young children may get frightened, so pay attention to that.

Ultimately however, Pixar does what Pixar does best:  provide a beautiful background to tell a classic coming of age story in a completely unique way, while telling a story that entrances both children and adults.  Pixar has done it again:  they have created an instant classic.  A must see for the summer of 2012.


Obama Opponents: We Are All Racists Now…

I remember, when Barack Obama became a truly serious candidate for the Democratic nomination late in 2007, how awe inspiring it was.  I knew very little about Obama, other than his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention.  But his oratory was uplifting and moving, and I honestly felt spurred by his statements.  He spoke of a more civil, a more united future together as Americans.  He spoke of post-partisanship.  A post-racial society.

How things have changed.

Today, Barack Obama leads a movement and party that has so debased itself, it hard to recognize it.  Sure, Democrats were always loud and obnoxious when it came to conservatives.  I had long come to accept that.  Being called ‘mean spirited’, ‘hateful’, or being accused of wanting to kill women and starve children was routine.

But then, in 2008, a new regular charge erupted from the mouths of liberals:  the charge of racism.

Sure, conservatives were called racists before.  And sometimes, the charge was deserved.  But Barack Obama’s ascendancy made the claim routine and common place, targeting almost anyone that opposed Obama.  And it became the fall back position for any liberal that could not make a substantial argument otherwise.

In reality, the epithet was used against Democrats first; just ask Bill Clinton, who was famously called ‘the first African American President’ by Maya Angelou, but then in 2008 was called out for being bigoted against Obama.

The first time someone called me a racist, I was truly offended, and emotionally upset.  As a minority who was born and raised in this country, I have never really harbored prejudice to anyone.  I remember being thirteen years old, and not understanding what an ‘African American’ was. I had Black friends…but the term ‘African American’ to me literally meant someone from Africa…in the same way I was an Indian American.  I simply grew up in a household where the concept of bigotry did not exist.  And I grew up in a society where although I understood peripherally that racism existed, I did not suffer from its effects.  I was raised in a multicultural suburb of Detroit, went to college at the University of Michigan, went to medical school, completed my residency, and started practicing medicine…and never once, although I was always a conservative, had anyone with any knowledge of me even hint that I had a prejudicial bone in my body.

And then in 2008, everything changed.  The term ‘racist’ became as commonplace as virtually any other descriptor in political dialogue.

Now, four years later, you hear the claim of racism daily, if you are involved in as many political debates as I am.  Some claims of bigotry are outright, while others are hinted at.  In either case, you know what the person hurling the claim is saying:  you are a bigot, you are racially biased, you are evil. 

Just think about the last week.  On Friday, a reporter yelled out a question to President Obama during a statement.  What is inappropriate?  I would say it was definitely inappropriate.  Was it racist?  That simply is nonsense.  Reporters have been doing inappropriate and stupid things for as long as I have been alive, some worse than the reporter in question here.

And that is almost the least prominent of the racism charges.  Prominent Democrats and liberals lay the charge of racism almost daily.  Whether it be from the likes of the Congressional Black Caucus or DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the charge is like throwing a figurative bomb into a crowded room. And who can even keep up with the myriad of other celebrities who make claims of racism on the right, as if it is a badge of courage on their part?  And let us not forget the likes of President Obama himself, and Attorney General Eric Holder, who fall back to the race card when an extremely difficult moment of criticism comes there way.

Similar charges of racism come routinely from hosts on MSNBC, from Bill Maher, from prominent Democrats.  It is a daily occurrence.  A few hours after President Obama declared executive privilege on information Congress has been trying to obtain for 8 months, Chris Matthews played the race card, for a simple reason:  he has no intellectual defense, so the only weapon they have is the hammer of racism.

And you never hear Barack Obama decrying those statements; his cries for civility are limited to his opponents only.  I guess we should never have expected anything more, when you consider his past history, now in the full light of day.  Obama’s post-racial, post-partisan society was simply rhetoric molded to the needs of his political career, not a long standing belief.

For me, the epithet has largely become meaningless now.  My friends and I, of all races and backgrounds, laugh when someone calls us racist.  And that, sadly, is the worst part of this routine use of this charge.  There is true racism in society, areas where people are truly damaged by racial prejudice and bigotry, and instead, political hacks use the claim to make incremental charges against the opposition political party that had no racial intentions whatsoever.

So in doing so, liberals, or anyone for that matter, that make casual charges of racism have damaged our society. The charge used to mean something shameful, something embarrassing. For someone like me, who now feels nothing from being called a racist…that is damage that will take this society a long time to recover from…and will make the elimination of true racism all that much harder to come by.





Mitt Romney Rally, Newark, Ohio

Shaking hands with Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney, on his bus tour of the midwest, today stopped in Newark, OH for an enthusiastic welcome by the central Ohio city.  In sweltering heat and humidity, a loud crowd that I personally estimated at 5,000 (media reports put the number at 3,000), Romney promised “a fair shot” for everyday Ohioans.

“I’m convinced that the American people are going to be surprised at just how great this economy is going to be,” Romney said.

Shaking hands with Rob Portman and his wife, Jane.

Romney, his wife, Ann, and two of their five sons, Craig and Matt, were accompanied to Newark by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who is on the short-list to be Romney’s running mate. Portman, in introductory remarks, continued to capitalize on Obama’s recent statement that the private sector “ is doing just fine,” a comment the president quickly walked back.

Approximately 50 or so Obama supporters were in attendance, and were as loud and obnoxious as possible, but were drowned out by the pro-Republican crowd.

I personally shook Romney’s hand…and made sure to tell him, “Its the economy, Mitt; don’t forget!”  Romney, who was about to walk away, came back to me and said, “You’ve got that right.”  That personally gives me hope that Romney is going to avoid the Obama team’s strategy of distraction.



“I Can See A Recovery From My Backyard!”

President Barack Obama, in a remarkably tone deaf press conference on Friday, stated the following:

The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone.

The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government.

This is a shocking level of self delusion for a man that ostensibly is the leader of our large economy.  Even the White House, insular as it is, realized that within hours of the statement.  They sent the President back out, to lick his wounds.  “Listen, it is absolutely clear the economy is not doing fine,” he said. “That’s the reason I had a press conference.”  As if a press conference would solve all of our ills…

Let us get some facts clear.  First, Obama states that he has been at the helm as 4.3 million jobs were created over the last 27 months; over 800,000 just this year alone.  That is true.  Forget the fact that they are cherry picking the ’27 month’ date.  There is another problem.  According to most economists, you need to create 125,000 jobs a month just to keep pace with increases in the population.  Therefore, since Obama became President more than 3 years ago, the population has increased by 5 million people.  So we are not even keeping our proverbial heads above water.  Even this year, the job production has barely kept ahead of population changes.

Therefore, this economy is, at best (taking Obama’s numbers at face value) barely staying afloat.  There is virtually no recovery occurring.  For a recovery to occur, you must start hiring the people who lost jobs in the last recession; that is not yet occurring.  The recovery is stalled. 23 million people are currently unemployed or underemployed…and at best, Obama’s recovery rehired about 50,000 of those long term unemployed this year. That is not ‘fine'; it is not real progress.

On Obama’s second point:  the private sector is lagging in any comparative analysis of prior recoveries.  They are not hiring, because of myriad of factors (uncertainty in tax policy and regulations, uncertainty in the world market, etc).  Furthermore, although they did have a good 4th quarter of 2011, corporate profits are currently decreasing.    Corporate profits in the first quarter of 2012 ($11.4 billion) decreased in comparison with the rise in the fourth quarter of 2011 ($16.8 billion), according to the government.  Hint to the President:  decreasing profits is not fine.

And, oh…as for that comparison of public sector vs. private sector.  This is not to say public sector jobs haven’t disappeared…they certainly have.  More than 142,500 public sector jobs were cut last year, according to recruitment consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That averages to around 12,000 job losses a month.  The public sector cuts have continued this year, albeit at a slower rate.

Furthermore, those job cuts have almost exclusively come at the state and local level, where they cannot borrow money to keep people employed.  So is Obama suggesting another large stimulus, to funnel money to the states?  I am sure the public would love that.  And that actually misses the point.  Many states and localities are forced to fire people because pension obligations are through the roof.  When Governors like Scott Walker make reforms to keep people employed while reforming pensions, they are attacked by liberals the likes of Obama.

And let us say we fired no one from the public sector over the past 2 years.  What would the overall unemployment rate be?  It would be approximately 8.0%.  Not the roaring recovery Obama hints at.

Furthermore, one fact about public vs. private sector jobs.  The unemployment rate in May for government workers overall was 4.2 percent — about half of what it was nationally, according to the Labor Department.  Compare that to 8.3% unemployment generally in the public.  Or, the unemployment rate in the construction sector, which was 14.2 percent in May. Private sector job employment, although improving, is improving at such a rate that no recovery is possible.  Recoveries are built on booming private sector employment, and that is simply not occurring.

So as usual, Obama is stating facts, but then distorting its relevance to the overall picture.  Ultimately, the economy is not recovering, and blaming it on public sector job cuts is not mathematically reasonable or plausible.

During this entire episode, all I could think of was the supposed Sarah Palin gaffe about being able to ‘see Russia from our backyard’.  Well, Obama sees an economic recovery from his backyard, that no one else with any rational thinking can see anywhere on the horizon.




Prometheus: Movie Review

Prometheus has been one of the most anticipated movies of the year, ever since announced.  Ostensibly a prequel of the Alien movies, the Ridley Scott movies tells a tale largely located in the Alien universe…if not a direct predecessor of the Sci-fi classic.

However, this is a much different movie.  It is more a true science fiction flick than horror cinema.  There are numerous small references to events, characters, or plot points that are relevant to the Alien movies, but nothing all together significant. Of course, the biggest of those is the horseshoe alien craft on the planet, and its ‘space jockey’, which are involved in one of the critical and iconic scenes in the original movie.

The first hour or so is background, explaining how this crew is searching for the source of humanities origins, and how the search begins.  It gives a background to the characters, including the Weyland corporation, who plays a pivotal role in this movie and the former Alien Quadrology.

The visuals are obviously fantastic.  3D is somewhat overkill, but is well done and gives the movie a grand scale that it might otherwise be lacking.

The cast is well known and is fantastic.  Michael Fassbender specifically deserves a call out, and after several fantastic movies, he is a superstar in the making.  Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace also are fantastic in their roles.

As for a recommendation?  On its own, Prometheus is an engaging and fascinating film, that explores the depth of individuals facing a force they cannot imagine, while at the same time testing humanity as a whole.  And isn’t that often what good science fiction is about?

However, if you are looking for an Alien prequel, that fills in plot points that the original movies left open, you are going to be largely disappointed. This is a film that exists vaguely in that universe, but wholly stands on its own.  And on at least one occasion, maybe several, this film appears to contradict things in the original films.  But on its own, Prometheus is a must see for any Science Fiction geek like myself.

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