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1

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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In Defense Of Our Constitution

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

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

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

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

Stengel’s most relevant passage states the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is why the Constitution matters.

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Cars 2: Movie Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1

Obama, Afghanistan, and the Political Left

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Green Lantern: Movie Review

Green Lantern is a different kind of superhero.  Unlike other characters in the DC Universe, he is much more defined by the Universe he exists in than his own personality.  Sure, he has the ‘reluctant here’ thing going on, but that is not the most essential part of his persona.  The Green Lanterns, the enemies he faces, and the almost insane, silly and sometime ludicrous nature of the comic books is part of what makes up Green Lantern.

And the makers of this film simply did not get that, in any way.

First, what is good about this film?  Ryan Reynolds.  He actually fits this role to a ‘T’.  He is funny, lovable, and when it demands, serious.

The depiction of Oa, the Green Lantern’s base world, is fantastic, and everything I could have dreamed of.  Oa is a strange, truly alien place, and the film makers were able to convey that.  The Kilowog training scene is exactly as it should be.  Parallax, the gargantual cosmic cloud that is the villain, is a solid enemy.  Sinestro, played by Mark Strong, is solid as well, and anyone knowing the story arc of Green Lantern knows why that is essential.

Other than that, the rest of the movie is mediocre at best, and terrible at worst.

The middle part of the movie is a mixture of irrelevant back stories and of relationships we don’t care about.  Yes, we know, the hero doesn’t want to be a hero; he has baggage; he has issues.  Been there, done that.  This part of the plot could have been handled in five minutes.  Blake Lively, as Hal Jordan’s love interest, may be one of the worst parts of the film.  She is a horrendous actress, at least in this movie.

And then there is how the Green Lantern Corps handles the existential threat of Parallax.  This is a threat that has not been seen, and this powerful plot point…but almost seems to be an afterthought.  In fact, I almost wonder if the entire plot is an afterthought.  There is no coherence to the storyline, other than the barest concept of “man becomes hero, saves earth’.

This was a complete missed opportunity.  DC comics, who owns among other things Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and yes, the Green Lantern, once again blows an opportunity to create a hit series.  Yes, they got lucky with Batman…but the rest have been disasters, and this is no exception.  The makers of this film completely misunderstood what Green Lantern is and stood for.  They didn’t understand the Universe he exists in, nor really what drives him.  And that in total makes a film that is virtually unwatchable.

 

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Super 8: Movie Review

Side note:  If the above poster, an imitation of the Drew Struzan posters of an earlier generation of movies, doesn’t get you excited…you simply are not geeky enough.

But that said, this movie is fantastic.  J.J. Abrams, which is becoming this generations Steven Spielberg, has taken inspiration from Spielberg in a movie that is more family entertainment than Science Fiction.  This has the feel of a late 70s – early 80s flick from Spielberg, and I could very comfortably have believed that he made this in the interim between Jaws and E.T..  The movie had me virtually giggling inside, making me remember what it was like to see those movies as a young child.  It brings us back to an era that I guess is now long forgotten, of blissful summers and imaginations gone wild.

The story begins with a group of middle schoolers who, like many of us in that era, decided to make their own science fiction film, in this case a horror flick.  It probably echoes the childhoods of both Abrams and Spielberg, who admit to doing the same thing as kids.  While filming their own story, they happen to be witnesses to a horrible train accident.  Of course, the creature being carried by the train is not your normal circus animal.

As much as the basis of this movie is science fiction, the heart of this movie like many of the earlier Spielberg films is about family, friendship, and the path to adulthood.  Joe, the main character, is dealing with the loss of his mother, mixed with the normal confusion of puberty.  His father, the town’s deputy sheriff, is dealing with the loss as well, as well as confronting the mystery that surrounds the train wreck.  The rest of the cast, especially the children, are fantastic in the depth of their characters and the emotional weight they bring to a film that would not be successful without it.

This is a film that yearns to be E.T. or Close Encounters.  Is it that good?  Probably not.  But it is an excellent film in its own right.   I cannot remember a film that was as emotionally based being as fun as this in decades.  Most summer films in this era are about superheroes, explosions, and sex.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for that.  But there is a place for this too:  a film about relationships, about imagination, about childhood, and about growing up.

It is hard for me to explain the joy and wonder this movie brought for me.  It has been years, maybe decades, since a film made me feel so…child like.  Maybe it was the nostalgia, maybe it was just that this is a damn fine movie. Maybe the locale, a small Ohio town, harkens to my own childhood growing up in a small Ohio town.  I do know that this is a movie I will love to see with my kids when they are old enough, getting them to try to understand what it was like growing up in the 1970s.  But this is, by far, the movie of the summer at this point.  And I would be shocked if it doesn’t end up as one of the best movies of the year.  A must see.

 

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The Ever Weakening Case For Obamacare

As the legal case for Obamacare makes its way up to the Supreme Court, both sides have been ferreting out their legal defense of their positions.

Legal scholars have noted that the Obama Administration’s defense of their massive health care plan has changed over time. Originally the government was arguing that the law was regulating the mental activity of whether or not to purchase insurance. But now the argument is that it’s regulating the activity of obtaining health care.  The shifting defense should raise doubts about the Obama team’s confidence of winning in court.

The insecurity of the defenders is showing, to be sure.  Neal Kumar Katyal, President Obama’s solicitor general, defending the national health care law last week, told a federal appeals court that Americans who didn’t like the individual mandate could always avoid it… by choosing to earn less money.  He made the argument under questioning before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.

That does not strike me as the most steadfast legal defense imaginable.  Not to mention, the judges in the Sixth Circuit trial were less than amused.

During the Sixth Circuit arguments, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, asked Kaytal if he could name one Supreme Court case which considered the same question as the one posed by the mandate, in which Congress used the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution as a tool to compel action.

Kaytal conceded that the Supreme Court had “never been confronted directly” with the question, but cited the Heart of Atlanta Motel case as a relevant example. In that landmark 1964 civil rights case, the Court ruled that Congress could use its Commerce Clause power to bar discrimination by private businesses such as hotels and restaurants.

“They’re in the business,” Sutton pushed back. “They’re told if you’re going to be in the business, this is what you have to do. In response to that law, they could have said, ‘We now exit the business.’ Individuals don’t have that option.”

Throughout the oral arguments, Kaytal struggled to respond to the panel’s concerns about what the limits of Congressional power would be if the courts ruled that they have the ability under the Commerce Clause to force individuals to purchase something.

Today, the judges on the 11th Circuit in a parallel case were just as unconvinced.

Judges on a federal appeals court panel on Wednesday repeatedly raised questions about President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, expressing unease with the requirement that virtually all Americans carry health insurance or face penalties.

Chief Judge Joel Dubina, who was tapped by President George H.W. Bush, struck early by asking the government’s attorney “if we uphold the individual mandate in this case, are there any limits on Congressional power?” Circuit Judges Frank Hull and Stanley Marcus, who were both appointed by President Bill Clinton, echoed his concerns later in the hearing…

Hull also seemed skeptical at the government’s claim that the mandate was crucial to covering the 50 million or so uninsured Americans. She said the rolls of the uninsured could be pared significantly with other parts of the package, including expanded Medicare discounts for some seniors and a change that makes it easier for those with pre-existing medical conditions to get coverage. Dubina nodded as she spoke.

Hull and Dubina also asked the attorneys to chart a theoretical path of what could happen to the overhaul if the individual mandate were struck down but the rest of the package was upheld.

Even more interesting is the lengths that Justice Frank Hull, a Clinton appointee, pushed Katyal:

“I can’t find any case like this,” said Chief Judge Joel Dubina of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. “If we uphold this, are there any limits” on the power of the federal government? he asked.

Judge Stanley Marcus appeared to agree. “I can’t find any case” in the past where the courts upheld “telling a private person they are compelled to purchase a product in the open market…. Is there anything that suggests Congress can do this?”

Katyal argued that healthcare is unique and unlike purchasing other products, like vegetables in a grocery store. “You can walk out of this courtroom and be hit by a bus,” he said. And if such a person has no insurance, a hospital and the taxpayers will have to pay the costs of his emergency care, he said.

To many observers, it looks like Hull, who was supposed to be a liberal vote on this court, is looking for a way to strike down the mandate without killing the bill all together.

If both the 6th and 11th Circuits strike down the constitutionality of the individual mandate, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the Supreme Court, will be hard pressed not to do the same.  Although Kennedy is difficult to predict, the bipartisan nature of the lower courts could sway him.

Of course, ultimately this will go to the Supreme Court.  But the legal arguments to this point should make any supporter of the individual mandate very wary of its prospects.

 

 

 

1

People, 2012 begins today

Less About Romney, More About The Economy

Bye-bye, post Osama Bin Laden bounce.

The most recent Washington Post-ABC poll tells us what anyone with any intelligence could have predicted.  Obama’s 10 point or so bounce from the assassination of Bin Laden has quickly dissipated.

Why?  Simple.  It’s the economy, stupid.

By 2 to 1, Americans say the country is pretty seriously on the wrong track, and nine in 10 continue to rate the economy in negative terms. Nearly six in 10 say the economy has not started to recover, regardless of what official statistics may say, and most of those who say it has improved rate the recovery as weak.

The best news from this poll has to be for Mitt Romney.  Obama and Romney are tied at 47 percent apiece in among all inviduals.  Among registered voters, Romney is ahead 49 percent to 46 percent.  Romney enjoys a 50-43 percent lead among independent voters.

The news was the opposite for Sarah Palin, who appears to be losing ground.  Almost two-thirds of all Americans say they “definitely would not” vote for Palin for president. She is predictably unpopular with Democrats and most independents, but the new survey underscores the hurdles she would face if she became a candidate: 42 percent of Republicans say they’ve ruled out supporting her candidacy.

There is an important take home point in this poll however.  It is simple:  a generic Republican can defeat Barack Obama.  There is nothing special about Romney, other than he is better known than virtually everyone running other than Gov. Palin.  His besting of Obama before he has had a chance to campaign gives us a clear insight to the disfavor that many Americans hold the President in.

More importantly, it gives Republicans a clear roadmap to electoral victory:  It is the economy.  Economy.  Economy.

Charlie Cook has an interesting piece today called ‘Owning It’.  He makes a point by point argument for why the Democrats are stuck with owning this economy, for good or ill.  With job numbers like those released last week, that is an albatross that will be difficult to escape from.

Republicans can talk about the issues that are close to their hearts all they want.  And I am sure the nomination process will discuss every issue imaginable.  But ultimately, the Republicans must have a clear vision for a future America after Barack Obama.  A pro-growth policy, with a reformed tax code, entitlement reform, and more sensible regulatory policy would go a long way to loosen up the approximately $2 trillion in cash that big businesses are holding on the sideline today, not to mention the almost $6 trillion in cash held by individuals.  Releasing this capital, and putting it to use in a growing vibrant economy should be the core to any conservative economic policy.

In turn, demonstrating Mr. Obama’s policies ability to stifle the flow of this capital, and thus freeze job creation nationwide, should be job #1 for every Republican in a race.

So, it is time to focus.  The 2012 race has basically started.  And it is about one thing:  it is the economy, stupid.

 

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X-Men – First Class: Movie Review

I will be honest.  Two years ago, when I first heard about the concept of this movie, I was not excited.

Actually, that is an understatement.  I was outright confused.

Hadn’t we already done this before?

With the well established X-Men trilogy, initially done by Bryan Singer, why go through this exercise again?

In what is basically a prequel, and almost a reboot of the series, the action now takes place in the 1960s.   A young Charles Xavier (later to become Professor X) meets a brilliant young Erik Lehnsherr, who will later become Xavier’s nemesis, Magneto.  Together, they come together as allies to create a team of mutants that will benefit humanity.

But we all know how that ends up, don’t we?

The backdrop is the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the mutants get to utilize their powers to their full extent.  This gives the movie a fanciful historical angle, and allows Director Matthew Vaughn the ability to create a X-Men universe from scratch.

Michael Fassbender as Lehnsherr and James McAvoy as Xavier are excellent, and provide the movie with a depth that is sorely needed.  The plot skips from locale to locale, in somewhat confusing manner.  But the plot is relevant enough to keep the viewer interested, if not enthralled.

Is this a perfect movie?  Not even close.  Other than Fassbender and McAvoy, the rest of the cast is mediocre, although talented.  Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone, and next year’s Katniss in Hunger Games) stands out.  And when the ultimate civil war starts, the viewer is not really certain why some characters choose good, and others evil; kind of a big plot point, no?  But otherwise, most of the characters are just a back drop for the coming generational clash that will be defined by Xavier and Magneto.

So, should you see this movie?  If you are a superhero fanatic, especially an X-Men aficionado, this movie is definitely enjoyable and worthwhile, and will set up the obvious sequels I am sure the studio is already planning.  It gives a completely new outlook to the X-Men universe.  And if rumors are correct, and they plan sequels placed in the seventies, eighties, and so forth, it will provide an interesting historical landscape, especially if they bring back the more interesting characters and story lines from the comic books.  If you are not a superhero fan, it is an enjoyable summer flick; no more, no less.

 

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Obama’s Double Dip?


Remember the good ‘ole days?  Back when the Obama Administration was touting the greatness of the economic recovery…when jobs were coming back…when the stock market was soaring?

Yeah.  January.  Good times.

Well, that has all fallen by the wayside.  We are now entering Obama’s self named ‘Summer of Recovery’, version 2.0.  He first stated the concept of the summer of recovery all the way back in June 2010.  They even referred to it back in 2009, if you can believe that.  Heck, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote an editorial in the New York Times in August 2010 titled (I dare you not to laugh)…‘Welcome to the Recovery’.

O.k….queue the laughing.

May’s job numbers?  Horrendous.  Worse than ‘expected’.  The unemployment rate has risen to 9.1%, and not because people are entering the workforce to look for jobs, but because of lack of jobs.  The number of unemployed in the workforce actually rose by almost 170,000, while the number of Americans not in the workforce fell by 105,000.  In May, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) increased by 361,000 to 6.2 million; their share of unemployment increased to 45.1 percent. The civilian labor force participation rate was 64.2 percent for the fifth consecutive month. The employment-population ratio remained at 58.4 percent in May.  Only 54,000 jobs were created, compared to the predicted 160,000.

How is the Obama economic plan working?  Let us count the ways:

  • The Obama recovery, by almost any standard available, is the worst recovery since the Great Depression.
  • When the Obama Stimulus passed in February 2009, the Administration predicted GDP growth of 4% by the summer of 2011.  GDP growth currently is hovering at 1.8%.
  • Housing prices have now officially entered a double dip, with housing prices now at their lowest levels since the recession began.  The Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for 20 large cities fell 0.8 percent from February, the eighth drop in a row. Prices are now down 33.1 percent from the July 2006 peak.
  • New reports Wednesday showed a steep slowdown in the manufacturing sector and weak private-sector job creation in May.
  • Consumer spending, which makes up the majority of our economy, appears to be slowing, and my be entering a double dip of its own.
  • And the Pièce de résistance:  Also Wednesday, ADP, the payroll processing company, said the rate of job creation at private businesses slowed sharply last month. Firms added only 38,000 jobs, ADP estimated, compared with 179,000 jobs added in April. While the ADP survey is inconsistent in predicting overall job growth according to official government numbers, the May report matches other negative signs about the job market. The number of people filing new claims for unemployment insurance benefits has drifted up in recent weeks.  The unemployment rate hovers just under 9%.

Obama has long escaped any responsibility for these numbers.  But that time is growing short.  Sure, the public was willing to give Obama a pass on many of these issues because of the crisis occurring as he entered office.

But as we get to the midpoint of 2011, elections near.  And of course, in due process more and more criticism will come from the right.  Obama cannot avoid reality.  The Obama stimulus has largely failed.  Its self proclaimed goals was to increase employment and hasten GDP growth.  It has done neither.

We may still avoid entering a’ true’ economic double dip recession.  But slow growth of less than 3% is virtually as bad, as it means there will be no significant overall increase in employment.  At 1.8% growth that is predicted for the rest of the year, monthly job creation of 50-100,000 is likely, meaning that overall we are losing jobs, and thus, the unemployment rate is likely to tick upwards.  If we do truly go into a recessionary state again with negative growth, it is Barack Obama who deserves all of the credit and blame.

 

 

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