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Obama: Detached From Reality

Have we ever seen a moment like Monday night, when we had an American President more detached from reality?

Mr. Obama gave a political stump speech, which in and of itself was unsurprising.  In fact, he has said little different since April.  His speeches all amount to this:  Republicans are on the political fringe and intransigent, Democrats are reasonable and intelligent, and he alone wants a balanced approach, i.e. tax increases.

But the amazing part of the speech was that Mr. Obama now seems distanced from the political realities that even his own party has accepted.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently laid out a debt ceiling proposal with approximately $2.5 Trillion in cuts (only about $1 Trillion being real cuts), but more importantly, without any tax increases.  Reid and Pelosi appear to have largely agreed on this proposal.  Yet, we had a Democrat President on primetime continue to demand for increases in tax revenues.

Even the mainstream media, usually oblivious to such stark issues, has noticed this one.  Gloria Borger of CNN pointedly noted this fact after Obama’s speech.

Maybe this is the tipping point.  In the White House Press briefing on Tuesday, Spokesperson Jay Carney was innundated with questions of why the President has yet to offer any specifics for his budget proposal, especially at such a late date.


The media pummeled Carney for a solid 10 minutes on the simple fact that Obama has not laid out one single policy rider to this bill.  Not even one.  They then asked why the White House would not release the plan that was being discussed with Boehner which the President’s men state that was close to a deal.  The simple fact is that there was never a deal that Obama was close to accepting.

Forget the politics for a moment.  Mr. Obama doesn’t understand that he has marginalized himself.  Republicans had allowed Obama, over the past few weeks, taken the high ground.  But he never claimed the alter of leadership, for a simple reason:  he doesn’t know how to lead.  Obama could have taken the mantel, and Republicans (with their usual ham handed way of dealing with these issues) would have probably lost the media battle.

Instead, Obama has acted like a petulant child, unable or unwilling to rise about the political rancor.  Additionally, unlike his immediate predecessors, Bush and Clinton, he is unable to tell progressives in his own base to sit down and shut up, for the greater good.  In all fairness, Republicans are not willing to compromise.  But Obama is the leader of his party in a way that no Congressional Republican, Speaker Boehner included, is.  But Obama has never showed the spinal fortitude to stand up to his own base, and doesn’t appear to be considering it this time around either.

The way forward is quite clear.  Something along the lines of the Boehner proposal is the only thing that will pass the Democrat Senate.  The public actually supports the ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ proposal by wide margins, but the intransigence of progressives in the Senate (and the White House, for that matter) make that impossible to pass into legislation.  I don’t like the concept of coming back to these spending fights 6 months down the road, but Mr. Obama has left little alternative.

The Boehner plan is, to put it mildly, less than optimal.  But ultimately, what can pass?  Even Paul Ryan, who I think has a lot of credibility here, has come out in favor of the plan:

The Budget Control Act takes an important step in the right direction by cutting $1.2 trillion in government spending over the next decade. Critically, it does this without resorting to Senator Reid’s gimmicks and without imposing the president’s preferred tax increases on American families and the struggling economy.

This bill is far from perfect. We still have a long way to go toward getting the key drivers of our debt — especially federal health-care spending — under control. But considering that House Republicans control only one-half of one-third of the federal government, I support this reasonable, responsible effort to cut government spending, avoid a default, and help create a better environment for job creation.

Obama is divorced from reality.  He doesn’t understand that approximately 2/3 of the country thinks we spend too much.  Yes, many people feel we could raise taxes on the rich, but it is far from a supermajority, and it is not going to happen with Congressional Republicans in power in the House.  Obama can either come to his senses, or he can drive this economy over the cliff.  I would not put the latter past him at this point.

That is why Ryan’s point, bolded above, is the key.  We need to win in 2012.  This President and this Senate will never, ever, pass the reforms necessary to put us on a track to fiscal sanity.  No deal that this President would have ever signed would have accomplished our goals.

It is better to frame the topic as we have, and to ‘kick the can’.  It is time to focus on 2012, because anything short of a Republican President and Republican Senate will not enable us to save this nation from a fiscal black hole.  Holding the line on CCB, as much as it makes me feel better, does not help accomplish the goal of retaking the White House, and thus, does not help to attain our ultimate goal of fiscal sanity.  So it is time to cut a deal, a bad one at that, and show this President and these Democrats for what they are:  completely and utterly detached from reality.


Don’t Call Our Bluff: Gang of Six Proposal and Obama’s Veto Threat


c/o Nate Beeler, Townhall.com

Finally, the truth emerges.  After months of the media telling us that Obama, not Republicans, is the realist and pragmatist, yesterday we saw in the full light of day what Obama is:  a political hack and idealogue.

Mr. Obama, through his Press Secretary Jay Carney, yesterday clearly stated that the President would veto the “Cut, Cap, and Balance’ bill that Republicans in the House will pass this week.  The bill, which proposes $2.7 Trillion in cuts over the next decade with no revenue increases, has only one item missing for Mr. Obama to veto it.  Simply put, for Obama it is a motto of “Taxes or Bust”.

If we use the media’s own spin over the past few months, that should get Mr. Obama criticized for being an ideologue, or as some liberals have put it, an economic hostage taker or terrorist.  That is what they called Republicans as they pushed their ideas on the country.  The double standard, although expected, is mind blowing.  We should never expect fair treatment in the media, and this is just one more example.

As the debt ceiling debate rolls on, to whatever fruitless end Mr. Obama and the Republican establishment are set upon taking us, I have to wonder…what is our goal here?

Conservatives, it is time to call Obama’s bluff.  Boehner has been ill-suited to make the grand bargain, largely because he has no room to maneuver.  However, Eric Cantor and others could convince the base that a deal is worth making.  What kind of deal am I talking about?

Well, I am talking about a huge deal.  Give the Democrats some tax increases.  Hell, give them the Bush tax cuts if they want.  I simply don’t believe that even that would sell the plan to them.

Well, now we shall see.  There appears to be an outline of this plan forming, in all places, in the Senate’s Gang of Six minus one.  The plan would cut $3.7 Trillion from the debt over 10 years.  Tom Coburn, who is the member of the Gang who jumped ship, appears to like the concept:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who had pulled out of the Gang of Six in May, also rejoined the group and praised the plan as something that could win the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.

“The plan has moved significantly, and it’s where we need to be — and it’s a start,” Coburn said. “This doesn’t solve our problems, but it creates the way forward where we can solve our problems.”

Coburn said the plan would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next 10 years and increase tax revenues by $1 trillion by closing a variety of special tax breaks and havens.

He also noted, however, that the Congressional Budget Office would score the plan as a $1.5 trillion tax cut because it would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax. It would generate a significant amount of revenue out of tax reform and reduction of tax rates, which authors believe would spur economic growth.

Coburn said he expected a “significant portion of the Senate” to support the plan — “maybe 60 members.”

Now, call me skeptical.   A $1 trillion increase in taxes…that is going to be scored as a tax cut?   The elimination of the AMT, an albatross on the necks of tens of millions of middle class Americans, would be an excellent device to get some tax relief, and I am fully in support of eliminating it.  However, we have heard this before; remember the budget deal earlier this year?  I want to see major details before I jump on board.  Coburn’s voice is a positive note however.

If this is real, and Coburn is accurately describing the plan, it would shift the debate.  Ever since Obama theoretically accepted the concept of a ‘grand bargain’, Republicans have been playing on the defensive.  Mitch McConnell’s plan was nothing more than a plan to save face, with some political games included.

But something on the lines of the above plan would force Mr. Obama to put his cards on the table.  Like in past debates, Obama doesn’t really want to take a stand on anything.  He talks about reforms in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, but demands tax cuts in return.  Fine.  Let us theoretically give him the tax cuts, but only for what we want in return.

On entitlements, the plan would fully pay for the Medicare “doc fix” over 10 years, allowing doctors to avoid a drastic cut in Medicare payments under the law, which is regularly avoided but never paid for.  The plan also contains strong enforcement procedures. One of these would require a 67-vote supermajority in the Senate to circumvent spending caps.

Supposedly, Social Security reform is also on the table, but any savings from the program would not be used for deficit reduction.

Now, Mr. Obama, where are your cuts?  Where is your plan?  If this deal is true to its word, $2.7 Trillion in cuts need to be on the table.  We shall see if this President is ready to make true changes to entitlements.  He will have to support some real reforms and real cuts to programs that, so far, he has refused to touch other than with rhetoric alone.

If not, I dare him to veto whatever the Congress sends up to him.  Don’t call our bluff, Barack.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2: Movie Review

There are many people that criticize one thing or another about the Harry Potter books and movie series.  “They are children’s stories!” “They talk about witchcraft!”  “They can’t compare to the literary classics!”

All of these statements miss the point.

First and foremost, J.K. Rowling’s series has inspired more young children to read than probably any book in the history of the world.  There are generations of kids, from now and moving forward, that start with the childlike The Socrerer’s Stone, and move steadily through the series and follow Harry Potter’s path through adolescence just as they themselves mature.  Most readers are youngster that have grown into adulthood with Harry; the books followed the normal progress of every preteen.  Rowling has given us a treasure more valuable than her books; it has inspired a generation of youngsters to reading.  Very few others can make that claim.

Secondly, the story, both books and movies alike, are as centered into our culture as any story I can think of.  At its core, Harry Potter is an orphan who is forced to face the realities of a cruel world, and ultimately, must fight evil for the greater good.  He is honest, devoted to his friends, and more than anything believes in the forces of good over evil.

I was an adult by the time the Harry Potter series began.  And my children are still too young to read these books.  But in youngsters everywhere, I have seen an affinity to this series like no other.  It goes to show that the story is so appealing that so many other age groups have become enthralled with the stories of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley, and the multitude of other characters that are now ingrained in our social dynamic.  The only stories that have captured the imagination of fans of so many ages that I can think of is Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings saga.

Admittedly, the books and movies are somewhat separate.  There is no way to turn the books into movies without some artistic leeway.  That goes doubly true for the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  The book, 784 pages in all, could never have been made into a single movie…and thus, we are left with Part 1 and Part 2 in the movie series.

In this 8th and final film of the Harry Potter series, the movies finally enter their climactic sequences.  The war, led by the evil forces of Voldemort, is going very badly.  The good guys are losing at every turn.  People are dying, and only Harry has the ability to end the suffering.  And that suffering will end, one way or another, at the site of most of our adventures with Harry….Hogwart’s School of Magic and Wizardry.

Harry, Ron and Hermione have basically been on the run, fleeing one threat or another, for the better part of a year.  They have had virtually no adult assistance, with their major supporters either dead or in hiding themselves.  That have face starvation, the elements, each others weaknesses, not to mention the ever looming threat of capture, torture and death.  In the first part of the Deathly Hallows (spoilers if you have not seen the film) they barely escape the clutches of Malfoy Manor, only to be rescued by of all people, Dobby the House Elf.  However, Dobby dies in the escape, ending the movie in tears and heartbreak.

I always avoid all significant spoilers, and will do so again here.  The basics are these:  critical pieces of the puzzle to destroy Voldemort remain, and Harry must obtain them before ever hoping to defeat his enemy.  This leads us first to Gringott’s, the wizards bank which we were introduced to in the first movie.  There, we see an extraordinary action scene play out, which sets up the final scenes of the series.  The action closes at Hogwarts, as the forces of Voldemort and the allies of Harry Potter meet for a deciding battle.  The final clashes of the film, in the Battle of Hogwarts, rival scenes from the Lord of the Rings.  This will be music to the ears of fans, many envisioning exactly that when they read the book 4 years ago.  The final battles have the heartbreak and agony that should go with a war movie…which this ultimately is.

Emotionally, the movie hits all the right notes.  Yes, it does abbreviate some characters paths, but key characters such as Harry, Voldemort, Severus Snape and others get their appropriate due.  And the losses (yes, there are heavy losses) are emotionally charged, as they should be.  The ultimate climax and end of the movie, which I was pretty concerned about, were done perfectly, and I think will please most viewers.

This is a more than fitting end to this series.  Like the books, the movies take us from childish banter in the early movies to vicious, destructive and emotional battle for the freedom of all in the final film.  A fabulous end to a fabulous series.





President Jello

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Jobs Number: Does Obama Feel Your Pain?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Goodbye, Space Shuttle

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can watch the launch online here.


If Obama Ignores Debt Ceiling, Impeach Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Independence Day

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

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



FDA Panel Rejects Avastin For Breast Cancer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Movie Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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