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End of the Pelosi Era

The 2010 midterm elections were largely about the job that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Democrats have been doing in running the country the last two years, with huge majorities not seen in decades.  The voters gave an absolute ‘thumbs down’ on the House.  Unfortunately, Obama and Reid remain to fight another day.

But no matter what else happened, very few people will miss Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

Only for the liberal splinter of the American populace was Pelosi a good Speaker.  She must be given credit:  the was able to strong arm  her caucus into passing a ridiculous liberal agenda that will damage the country for years to come.  Whether it be the Stimulus, Obamacare, or a multitude of other bad policy initiatives, Pelosi was able to get her way for the past two years, often over even the objections of Obama and Reid.

Pelosi was also quite inept on many issues.  None stood out more than her relationship with the CIA.  In May 2009, Pelosi was accused of knowing about the specifics of the CIA interrogation plan from the very beginning.  Records would later verify that this was, in fact, the case.  But Pelosi, who had staked her reputation on fighting virtually all of the Bush-era anti-terrorism policies, instead tried to blame every but herself.  In a press conference on May 2009 is one of the great ‘deer in the headlight’ video events ever by a politician.

Pelosi had a stark inability to work with anyone who disagreed with her.  In that, she was a perfect example of someone who was a good majority/minority leader, because she could keep her caucus together, while at the same time an extremely poor Speaker.  The great Speakers of the House were those that could unite the body to some common purpose.  Even compared to divisive names like Newt Gingrich, Pelosi’s ability to ostracize the minority stood out.

It showed in her national appeal.  Pelosi has a national approval of 9%…NINE PERCENT.  There are probably mass murderers with similar approval ratings.  The midterm elections were as much about disfavor of Obama’s policies as it was about dislike of Nancy Pelosi.  She became the poster child of bad liberal government.

After what has to be one of the longest goodbye speeches in the long history of the House of Representatives, Pelosi finally turned the gavel over to Speaker of the House John Boehner.  It is Beohner’s job not to unite the conservatives, and push through much needed policies to fix the damage that Pelosi and her minions created over the past four years.

Goodbye Ms. Pelosi…the country is better off without you in the Speaker’s chair.


2011 Predictions

Well, after reviewing my predictions for the past year, I am considering buying a lot more lottery tickets.  I was pretty spot on.

That said, the law of averages pretty much guarantees that I will be completely erroneous in this coming year’s predictions.

Well, anyway, here we go…

1.  Economy

The economy will have an up-and-down year.  Most economists predict GDP growth at around 3%.  I think it will hover at around 2.5%.  Both predictions are far lower than the Obama Administration’s predictions of 4% growth by 2011, predicted at the time of the passage of the stimulus in 2009.

Other economic predictions:

  • Unemployment will not significantly drop.  I would be surprised to see it fall under 8.5% for the end of the year.
  • Business will continue to have good profits.  They are cut to the bone, with no fat dragging them down (fat being, unfortunately, excess employees).
  • The stock market will have another solid year, up 7-10%.  The financial markets will have another roller coaster year, with borderline defaults of banks and, possibly, government entities continuing.  The domestic markets will actually outperform foreign markets.  And stocks will outperform bonds and commodities.
  • Oil will surge past $100 a barrel, and gasoline will pass the $4 mark by midyear.  This will create a political crisis for the Obama Administration.
  • Gold and silver prices will rise until mid year, when the bubble finally bursts.
  • GDP will grow at 3%…a decent rate, but not enough to create significant jobs to reduce unemployment.
  • Close to a hundred localities will default on debt, and a few states will need to be bailed out to avoid the same fate.

2.  Politics

  • Republicans will keep their promise to make wholesale changes to Obamacare.  They won’t be successful in repealing the whole thing; that cannot happen as long as Obama is President.  Whether Democrats are smart enough to take advantage of it is another matter.
  • Republicans will call for broad spending cuts, and may join Obama on long term deficit reduction measures regarding Social Security and Medicare.  However, the Republicans will be attacked for wanting the elderly and children to starve.
  • There will be a huge fight over raising the debt ceiling, but Republicans will be forced to ultimately pass it.
  • Obama, as arrogant as ever and possibly more so after his recent successes, will fall back into his belief that he is the greatest politician of his generation.   He will make no significant changes to the leadership of the West Wing or Cabinet, and continue on his current path.  Sure, he will compromise with Republicans on certain issues.  But he will also fight Republicans tooth and nail on certain provisions, but unlike Bill Clinton, will overplay his hand at some point.
  • Several Democrats, realizing that 2012 is going to be a replay of the disaster of 2010 for Congress, will decide to retire.
  • The focus  next year will shift from DC to the states, as gridlock hampers Obama. With huge budget problems in the states, Republican and Democrat governors, many newly elected, will have to do some painful cost cutting and budgetary measures to survive.  This will be most pronounced with MI Gov. Rick Snyder, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, IL Gov. Pat Quinn, and CA Gov. Jerry Brown.
  • Obama’s popularity will stay unchanged, in the low 40s.  Republican popularity will slowly rise, as will Congressional approval ratings.
  • Obama will not be seriously challenged for the Democratic nomination in 2012.  Liberals will whine and complain, but will fall into line.
  • Republicans will slowly narrow their list for 2012 Presidential candidates.  Sarah Palin will delay her decision, but will ultimately choose not to run.  No leading candidates will emerge, with a scrum in early 2012 for the nomination.  At least one dark horse candidate, however, will remain among the top tier, with a chance to win in 2012.  I predict that Mike Pence and John Thune will be viable candidates going into the 2012 nomination process.

3.  Sports

  • Auburn will crush Oregon for the BCS National Championship.
  • The University of Michigan will fire Rich Rodriquez, and hire Jim Harbaugh as coach.  Michigan will go 7-5 in the 2011 season.
  • New England Patriots will dominate, and win the  Super Bowl.
  • Kansas Jayhawks will with the NCAA Basketball Championship.
  • Boston Celtics will win the NBA Championship.  Miami and the L.A. Lakers will falter in the playoffs.
  • Detroit Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup.
  • Tiger Woods will have another mediocre year.
  • Philadelphia Phillies, behind their awesome new pitching staff, will win the World Series.

4.  Entertainment

  • The Social Network will win the Oscar for Best Movie.

START Treaty: Epic Fail

Last month’s ratification of the START Treaty was considered a victory for the Obama Administration.

They might not view is as such a victory in the weeks ahead.

Much of the Republican opposition to the bill centered on the ability of the U.S. military to continue their missile defense program, which is in the later stages of implementation.  This has been a critical cornerstone of Republican foreign policy since President Reagan.  To ensure that the policy would continue, President Obama signed a Presidential order that stated the START treaty in now way interfered with missile defense, even though the preamble of the treaty itself mentioned it.  The White House stated that the preamble, for whatever reason, was not legally binding.

The Russians may view it differently.

The State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, is actively pursuing language in its ratification of the treaty that would bind the US to rolling back their missile defense program:

[Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs says] “We will deal with these interpretations. The first thing is that our American colleagues do not recognize the legal force of the treaty’s preamble. The preamble sets a link between strategic offensive arms and defensive arms. The second thing is an attempt to interpret certain provisions of the treaty unilaterally.

This is our reaction on the US steps, which are not justified because you cannot selectively validate or invalidate certain provisions of the treaty. We are quite consistent here. We said that the entire treaty, the preamble and the articles have the same judicial force. This is logical and this is right.”

The irony?  Kosachev is right.  How can you arbitrarily take a line out of the treaty, preamble or not. and ignore it?  You can’t.  This is Obama trying to have his cake and eat it to.  He placated to the Russians on the missile deal, and now cannot convince the Senate that such a giveaway is worthwhile.

If the Duma changes the wording of the treaty, in any way, then the ratification must go back the U.S. Senate…in which case, a simple letter from the President will not be enough to allow for passage, assuming the Duma is now clearly tying missile defense to START, something that  has never occurred previously.

This is again the ignorance and incompetence of the Obama Foreign Policy team showing.  They rushed the vote, thinking the Duma would rubber stamp anything that came their way.  Time will tell if Putin will put his foot down, and force the Duma to pass the treaty as/is.  But Putin has little to lose by letting this fester.  And thus, Obama and the Democrats rush to pass this may come back to haunt them.

Most damaging longterm however is not the treaty itself.  It is Obama’s credibility.   The next time the President gives his promise or word, one need simply to point to his opinion on the preamble of the START treaty.  It will be a long time before anyone, Democrats or Republicans, will go out on a limb on the word of this President.


Most Anticipated Movies of 2011

As always, you can see my most recent movie posts here, and my list of upcoming movies of interest here.

This is always a hit or miss list.   When you go back and look at the movies that I was really looking forward to a year ago, there were some excellent choices (Toy Story 3) and some complete and utter disasters (The Last Airbender)

But anticipation is 3/4 the fun…and so, in chronological order, here are my most anticipated movies of the year…

Battle:  Los Angeles, February 18, 2011

One part Independence Day; one part Black Hawk Down.  Geeks and alien lovers everywhere are going to get excited.

Thor, May 6, 2010

Of all the superheroes in the Marvel universe, this is the one I care about least.  I honestly have never had the urge to pick up a Thor comic, even as a child.  And Thor, as a character, always seemed…well…insane.  But the preview below looks at least interesting.   Kenneth Branaugh directs, so there is hope.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, May 20, 2010

No Kiera Knightley.  No Orlando Bloom.  But no one cares…Capt. Jack Sparrow is back!  Can Disney pull off a watchable movie, after the last two were mediocre?  If it gets back to its roots from the original, then this could be a lot of fun.


Hangover 2, May 27, 2010

Hangover is the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time….and is a cultural phenomenon.  Everyone I know has watched it multiple times.  Will the sequel will be anywhere as good?

Green Lantern, June 17, 2011

Green Lantern has been a cornerstone of comic books for decades.  And although it has grown out of favor in recent years, its following is still significant.  Within the past few years, the Lantern Universe has significantly grown, and brought new readers to the series.  Whether Ryan Reynolds can reignite the character is still a question.  But this is still going to be a guaranteed blockbuster, regardless.

Cars 2, June 24, 2011

Every Pixar movie automatically gets on this list…it is a rule.  My son has literally watched the original ‘Cars’ at least 50 times, if not 100.  I am forced, as a father of sons, to go see this movie, and then buy tons of merchandise to further enrich Disney.

Rise of the Apes, June 24, 2011

James Franco headlines this reboot of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ storyline.  This, of course, is the origin story of how the apes became smart enough to overthrow man.  Of course, opening on the same weekend as ‘Cars 2′ may not be the best strategy…

Transformers 3:  Dark of the Moon, July 1, 2011

This movie is going to make a bazillion dollars, have lots of bombs and booms and explosions, and no Megan Fox.  Michael Bay knows how to makes really loud and explosive movies with no plot.  That said, this is going to dominate Fourth of July weekend.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, July 15, 2010

The Harry Potter series come to a fiery end, as the Battle of Hogwarts commences.  Anyone who is a Potterhead is hoping for a Lord of the Rings Helm’s Deep sort of battle scene.  After a decade, 7 blockbuster books, and 8 movies that now hold the record for the biggest grossing franchise in movie history…this is a must see.

Captain American, July 22, 2010

Captain America was one of the first major comic book heroes.  Arising out of  World War II, he now seems anachronistic.  But the first pictures of the movie set appear to show a movie based in that era.  Ultimately, this, as well as Thor, will set up for The Avengers movie in 2012.

Cowboys & Aliens, July 29, 2011

Now that Jon Favreau has exited the Iron Man Series, he jumps to an alien movie set in the wild, wild west.  With a cast made up of Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and the lovely Olivia Wilde, this should be interesting at least.

X-Men:  First Class, August 30, 2011

I love superhero movies…but this one worries me.  This could either be brilliant…or a disaster.  Here is crossing fingers…

Super 8, September 10, 2010

No one really knows what this movie is about.  The opening day is still shrouded in secrecy.  The trailer, posted below, is haunting.  So why the anticipation?  Mix J.J. Abrams, Stephen Spielberg, and possibly aliens?  Trust me, people will line up to pay for that.

Others To Keep a close eye on:  Red Riding Hood (3/11), Sucker Punch (3/25), Crazy/Stupid/Love (4/22), Horrible Bosses (7/29), Contagion (10/21), Sherlock Holmes II (12/16), The Adventures of TinTin (12/23).

Movies that may be interesting, or painful:  Zookeeper, Breaking Dawn, The Muppet Movie, Paul, The Thing, Fast Five, Kung Fu Panda 2


Persons Of The Year: The Tea Party Movement

It was the spring of 2009 when the Tea Party movement made its first impact.  Just weeks after Barack Obama took office, the public was already stirring.  After Congress passed a huge stimulus, and had promised to pass a budget with the largest deficit in U.S. history, the grassroots movement of the right and of disaffected independents started to take shape.  All through 2009, they fought the huge Democrat majorities from passing Obamacare, and were able to successfully kill off the public option.

In January, spurred by the support of the Tea Party, Republicans were able to elect Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts…supposedly to be the 41st vote against Obamacare.  However, that would not be enough.  In February, Democrats were able to successfully pass their $1.5 trillion health care program through reconciliation, and against the opinion of the majority of Americans.

That was the final catalyst for the Tea Party to truly gain strength and momentum.   After almost a year of trying to convince the governing party that their health care policy was too extreme for the bulk of the nation, Democrats simply ignored them, and went against the wishes of a significant majority of the population.

Conventional wisdom from the left at the time was that the Tea Party would fade into oblivion.   However, they did not disappear.  Far from it.  Instead, they refocused their sights to the 2010 elections.  If they didn’t have the power to reform the entire country in a single move, then they would start with reform of their party.  Although not always successful, clearly the results were satisfactory.  2010 gave Republicans their largest gains since 1994, and significantly moved both Houses of Congress to the right.

When picking a person of the year (or in this cases persons of the year) one has to look at their large scale impact on society.  Within the United States, no movement or group has had the impact that the Tea Party has had over the past 20 months.  One could argue that they have done the impossible…and have successfully moved Barack Obama to the middle (well, maybe not the middle, but let us say, less far left).  They have given the Republican party focus that it had completely been lacking since the 2008 elections; some would argue that focus had been missing for much of the past decade.

If the Tea Partiers are able to keep Republican’s feet to the fire, and force them to make difficult decisions on spending, the deficit, and maintaining a small but efficient government, their power and influence will be greater than anyone else for the year 2010.


2010 Top Movies of the Year

I do this every year…and every year, I get more hate mail than support.  And yet, I come back for more.  I guess I am a glutton for punishment.  Well, for what its worth (not much, I know), here we go…

Honorable Mentions:  Millenium Trilogy, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Black Swan, 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Shutter Island, Splice, Let Me In, How To Train Your Dragon.

10.  Tangled

Tangled is the first non-Pixar movie in a long time that really captured the Disney spirit.  First and foremost, the main character was Rapunzel, a princess…a character that obviously appeals to all those little girls out there.  Mix that with a tried and true storyline that Disney has perfected over the decades, along with a beautiful cinematography, and Disney had an obvious hit on their hands.  This is a film that every little girl should be taken to.

9.  True Grit

It is a rarity when a movie remake is better than the original…but this is a prime example.  The Coen Brothers (No Country For Old Men) took the Charles Portis novel, and renewed the story with a beautiful cast and artistry.  The original, the 1969 film that gave John Wayne his only Oscar, is considered by many Western film afficionados as a classic…I still think this movie is better.   It has a deeper artistry and reality about it.  And in this time and age, when Westerns simply are not in vogue anymore, the ability of the Coen brothers to time and again make films such as these is remarkable.

8.  Winter’s Bone

You want a real, unflinching view of where the dark side of America exists?  This is it.  From Daniel Woodrell’s novel from which the story is adapted, the movie is set in Missouri’s secretive Ozarks, where families deal with their own problems, for good or ill.  Ree Dally (Jennifer Lawrence) is taking care of her two younger siblings, as well as her virtually mentally incompetent mother, while her father, a crystal meth dealer, is MIA.  The movie follows Ree as she searches for her father, and tries to keep her family together, all at the same time.

7.  Waiting For Superman

Davis Guggenheim also directed and produced An Inconvenient Truth…an excellent reason to ignore him.  But don’t ignore this movie.  Really.  The prior movie was a travesty…Waiting For Superman was a necessity.  Guggenheim weaves an emotional story of students fighting for spots in an elite school.  He doesn’t pull punches, going after traditional liberal third rails such as the public education system and the teachers union.  You think America needs to reform?  It all starts with education, and Guggenheim shows us why reform needs to start now.

6.  The Social Network

I, like many of you, are Facebook fanatics. So, it is definitely fascinating to see this documentary on the partially factual tale of how Jeffrey Zutterberg and friends created the largest and most powerful social network on the internet…and in turn, created a world wide phenomenon.

5.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

J.K. Rowling’s saga of the magical world takes a turn to the dark side, as we see the forces of good and evil battling to the death.  We see destruction, murder, and mayhem.  And all that stands between the totalitarian magical takeover and peace in our time is…three teenagers, led by Harry Potter.  This movie is nothing like those that came before it in the series…this is a war film, a film about rebellion and jungle warfare.  I know people think that I am taking that too far, but that is what I believe.  This movie sets up beautifully for the climactic battle in part 2, arriving next summer.  I can’t wait.

4.  KickAss

This is a violent and dirty look at what happens when an ordinary kid is dumb enough to think he can be a Superhero.  In a movie that is certainly NOT for children, this movie does not show any of the glory or heroism you see in most superhero flicks.  It is bloody, gory, and downright disturbing at times.  But if you don’t think HitGirl is one of the best new characters this year…you simply are missing something.

3.  Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

This is a movie that most of you won’t get.  I know that, and accept that.  This is a very, very geeky movie.  Basically, if you were born before 1970 or after 1990, you don’t have a real chance of getting this movie.  But it is a novel way of showing what is, at its heart, a simple concept:  boy is geek, boy falls for girl, girl has baggage, boy has to deal with the baggage.  Now mix in ninja fighting, video game type artistry, a very gay roommate…and you have what I considered one of the more entertaining movies of the year.  But beyond those superficial things, this is a movie about all the difficulty that comes with being in a relationship.   We all enter relationships with a lot of baggage, and figuratively have to fight through the ‘Evil Exes’ of our past to really stay with the one we love.

2.  Toy Story 3

A top 10 list is not complete without a Pixar movie…and Pixar didn’t disappoint.  Toy Story 3 may be the best of the ‘trilogy’, a movie where men cried, children relearned the joy of ordinary toys, and we all continue to be amazed at the magic of Disney/Pixar.  May it never end.

1.  Inception

Inception is one of those unique films that blend visual artistry, a fundamentally unique story, and superb acting, and puts it all together into a beautiful story.  Christopher Nolan is turning into one of the great Directors of our time, with this coming after maybe the best superhero movie of all time, The Dark Knight. Nolan’s view of dreams, with the futuristic prospect of invasion of those most protected spaces of our minds, is a movie like no other…and I believe, by far the best movie of the year.


The Census and Electoral Shift: Palin Is Right…She Could Beat Obama


Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No.

I am not Sarah Palin’s biggest fan.  I am not a hater either.  In fact, when she was chosen by John McCain in the summer of 2008, I was pretty excited.  Here was a young, attractive, conservative governor, who could have been the new voice of the Republican Party.

Ms. Palin then went on to have, in polite terms, a less than successful interview circuit in 2008. Her interviews with Katie Couric and Charles Gibson were not exactly the best coming out party in modern political history, to say the least.  Some was the mainstream media was attacking her, to be sure…but much was her lack of preparedness.  Some have blamed the Palin camp, the others the McCain camp, but in the end, it didn’t matter.   Ms. Palin did not rise to the occasion.

Now, as Ms. Palin and others start to think about a run in 2012, the hardest knock against her candidacy is the conventional wisdom that she simply cannot beat President Barack Obama.  There is evidence to support that.  In most polls, Palin is by far the most polarizing candidate, and her favorables right now are upside down.  So, with those ‘facts’, at least, the political elites and beltway pundits do have something to support their thought process.

In lieu of that conventional thinking, Sarah Palin shocked many in the mainstream press by stating her belief that she could beat Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential election.  In an interview with Barbara Walters last month, Palin was quite open about considering a run for the top job.

“I’m looking at the lay of the land now, and … trying to figure that out, if it’s a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family, if it’s a good thing,” Palin said, according to a short video clip released by ABC News.

Walters followed up with the key question: “If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?”

Palin’s response: “I believe so.”

Almost every pundit I have heard on TV and elsewhere laughed at the suggestion.

There is only problem:  Sarah Palin could be right.

How is that possible?  How am I, and Palin for that matter, challenging the conventional wisdom of the smartest of the smart?

Well, first of all, today the results of the 2010 census returned.  The results?

The gainers:

Arizona +1
Florida +2
Georgia +1
Nevada +1
South Carolina +1
Texas +4
Utah +1
Washington +1

The losers:

Illinois -1
Iowa -1
Louisiana -1
Massachusetts -1
Michigan -1
Missouri -1
New Jersey -1
New York -2
Ohio -2
Pennsylvania -1

With the above electoral changes, and the shift we have begun to see after the 2010 midterm election, you have to make significant alterations to the Presidential map.  Here are my predictions, as of today, for 2012 in a theoretical matchup of Palin v. Obama:

Palin 275, Obama 263

Conventional Wisdom?  Let me show you to the window.

Couple points are key to this analysis.  First of all, what, if anything, has changed since 2008?

  • First, electoral votes have shifted from red to blue states, giving Republicans a slight edge.
  • Second, Obama is no longer viewed as a moderate.  In 2008, he was able to convince center-right suburban women that he was a middle of the road pragmatist.  That belief no longer exists.
  • In 2008, Obama’s favorables, even in deeply red states, was quite high.  His popularity is now in the tank.

So what changed on the map itself?

  1. I think we can safely assume that Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana will switch back to Republican hands; it was shocking they went to Obama in the first place.  All three states have been solidly in the hands of Republicans since then.   Electoral Votes:  39.
  2. I feel safe in saying Nebraska’s one split vote will go red.  Electoral Votes:  1.
  3. Ohio and Florida seem to have shifted rightward in the 2010 campaign.  For example, look at the Ohio Congressional map today…that, my friends, is dominance.   The same goes for Florida.  I don’t think either state should be considered a lock, but a decent get-out-the-vote apparatus, and solid campaigning, and it is very reasonable to believe both states could switch from Obama to Palin.   Electoral votes: 47.

4.  Now comes the hard part; and admittedly, on my part, a leap of faith.  Assuming my above guesses, that would give Palin 265 electoral votes.  She would need to pick up 5 more somewhere.  There are a lot of choices.  I think the most likely is Wisconsin (which is what I used in the map above), where Russ Feingold was crushed.  That would give her 10 votes, and the Presidency.  Other options would be Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, or a combination of Maine and New Hampshire.  All of those states had either close elections in 2008 or 2010, and could potentially trend Republican in 2012.  Many of those states are unlikely, to be sure. But at the same time…would any of us put a significant bet that a Republican, even Sarah Palin, couldn’t flip just one of those states?

Now, I am not saying Palin, or any Republican for that matter, would definitively win in 2012.  That would simply be ridiculous at this point. But for the media and conventional wisdom to discount any Republican, even Palin, with the above dynamic, now seems foolish beyond reason.


Voyager 1…Leaving The Solar System

Voyager 1, a space probe launched in 1977, was planned as a 20 year trip to photograph the most distant aspects of our local neighborhood.  Since its launch on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 has traveled almost 11 billion miles, giving us spectacular pictures of Earth and our closest neighbors.

Voyager has become one of the most famous of items of ‘space junk’.  Several movies, including the first Star Trek movie, had Voyager as a core plot point.  A series of messages and sounds were added to the probe, intended to be a greeting to any alien race that encounters the probe.  In recent years, Stephen Hawking lamented the sending of the message, stating that any race that encounters it will likely lead to humanity’s doom.

Crescent-shaped Earth and moon

Earth and the Moon, 1977

Voyager also gave us some perspective of our small place in the Solar System, let alone the universe…

Earth as the 'Pale Blue Dot', 1990

It gave us our first look at our neighboring planets as well.

Great Red Spot

Jupiter's Great Red Spot

Most of the great space adventures of our generation have passed with the end of the cold war…but Voyager simply keeps going on into the depths of the eternal darkness.


2010 Predictions…A Look Back

So you can see my predictions of the year 2010 here, if you wish.  My 2010 predictions weren’t too bad…but in hindsight, I have to say that I have outdone myself.  Regular typeface is my original prediction, and bold is my current commentary…

  • President Barack Obama will sign a health care reform bill…but not until well after the State of the Union, and only with a lot of difficulty.  Democrats will fight another civil war on the public option, taxes, abortion, and illegal immigrants.  CORRECT!
  • Democrats will try for a third stimulus, in which Obama will try to focus on tax cuts, but progressives in the House will push him to spend more on government programs.  CORRECT!  ASSUMING YOU ARE COUNTING THE CURRENT TAX BATTLE.
  • Obama’s Budget Director forecasts a 4.0% growth rate next year…the rate of growth will be much less, closer to 2.5% for the year.  SO FAR, ACCURATE.
  • We will see narrowing of job losses in the beginning of the year, but some of it will be smoke and mirrors as the government hires 700,000 temporary workers to carry out the 2010 census.  By the end of 2010, the overall rate of unemployment will still be in the double digits.  CLOSE.  WE ARE SLIGHTLY UNDER 10%.
  • The stock market will have a mediocre year, rising 7-8% to around Dow 11,300 by the end of next year.  Businesses, however, will again be profitable.  Hiring will start in earnest in the end of 2010.  NOT BAD…THE DOW IS UP ABOUT 8% FOR THE YEAR.
  • The Federal Reserve, in a bid to halt inflationary pressures, will increase Fed rates by middle of the year.  The dollar will actually gain value…and gold will stabilize or drop in price.  However, oil prices will rise to around $100/barrel.  WRONG.  THE FED IS STILL TRYING TO FLUSH MONEY INTO THE SYSTEM.  OIL IS AROUND $80.
  • Legislatively, Democrats will have greater and greater difficulty in passing anything.  Cap-and-trade, immigration reform, and card check will all die an ignoble death.  TRUE.
  • Obama’s attempts at budget deficit control will go to naught, as Democrats fight among themselves over which they should do:  tax increases or budget cuts.  Ultimately, nothing will be done, and the deficit for 2010 will be around $1.5 trillion…or about the same as 2009.  In other words, matching the largest national yearly deficit in world history.  CORRECT!
  • Almost nothing will get done by Congress, as Democrats (not Republicans) will virtually bring the legislature to a standstill.  FALSE.  REPUBLICANS STOPPED MOST EVERYTHING, TO THEIR CREDIT.
  • By summer, Tea Party protests will be ravaging the nation, as the protesters fight for control of the Republican Party.  Conservatives will be pitted against moderates, and in most races, the conservative will triumph; for example, Rubio probably will oust Crist in Florida.  Democrats will giggle in glee, remembering the outcome of NY-23.  But who has the last laugh?  ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY CORRECT!
  • Obama’s poll numbers will stabilize in the spring, as unemployment numbers artificially are leveled off.  However, as the year progresses, and unemployment stays in double digits, Obama’s popularity will drop below 40%.  As time goes on, Obama will be blamed more and more for the economy, and his laying the blame with the prior administration will sound more and more like whining.  FALSE.  ALTHOUGH MUCH IS TRUE, OBAMA’S POPULARITY HAS LEVELED IN THE MID-FORTIES.
  • Republicans will gain 8 Senate seats.  I will be more specific in my 2010 election prediction article, but briefly I predict Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and New York to flip (I know, I am an optimist).  I predict Republicans will pick up 40 seats in the House, just short of the majority, but will try to entice additional Blue Dogs to switch parties.  It will be that close.  2010 will be a historic landslide, ala the Second Republican Revolution.  NOT BAD!  REPUBLICANS GAINED 6, NOT 8, SENATE SEATS.   AS FOR CONGRESS, I WAS CLEARLY PESSIMISTIC, AS THE GOP PICKED UP 63 SEATS…BUT CORRECT ABOUT THE LANDSLIDE!

As for my ever pathetic sports predictions:

  • Alabama will defeat Texas for the BCS Championship.  CORRECT!
  • The San Diego Chargers will finally break through and win the Super Bowl.  NOT QUITE.
  • Kansas Jayhawks will win the NCAA Basketball championship.  NOPE.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins will repeat as NHL Champions; the L.A. Lakers will repeat as NBA championships in a classic series over the Boston Celtics.  LAKERS CORRECT, PITTSBURGH NOT SO MUCH.
  • The United States will finish 3rd in the medal count at the Olympics.  WAY TOO PESSIMISTIC!
  • The Red Sox will outduel the Yankees, and win the World Series.  NOT EVEN CLOSE.
  • O.K., my ‘homer’ picks were horrendous last year.  Here we go:  The Pistons will miss the playoffs, and get the 8th pick in the Lottery.  The Red Wings will lose in the 2nd round of the NHL playoffs.  The Tigers will miss the postseason once again, this time by 5 games.  The Lions…who cares; I am a Redskins fan!  The Skins will get Mike Shanahan as coach, dump Jason Campbell as QB, and will draft Sam Bradford with their first round pick, which will guarantee that he will be a major flop in the NFL.  And my beloved Michigan Wolverines will get back to a bowl…but only an average one.  FRANKLY, NOT BAD, NO?

Oh, and of course, the obligatory JibJab piece:


Obama On Tax Cuts: Read My Lips, Or Triangulation?

Political Cartoons by Lisa Benson

This may be the most pivotal moment in Barack Obama’s Presidency.

After passing his stimulus, which produced negligible results, and Obamacare, which is now disliked by 3 out of 5 Americans, it is ironic that his moment comes regarding, of all things, the much despised Bush tax cuts.

The surprise is that Obama would be forced to compromise such as he did, when he had huge majorities to do as he wished for the last two years.  So why did Obama agree to the this largely Republican compromise?  The reason, ultimately, is simple.  First, Obama ultimately realizes (and has in the past clearly stated) that raising taxes in the midst of a recession is a bad idea.  For all his liberal ideology, Obama wants to get re-elected…and that takes primacy over his belief in higher taxes.  So, it was in his self interest, as well as in the country’s interests, to keep tax levels as they are.

In return, Obama needed a carrot to liberals.  That came in lieu of extension of the unemployment benefits.  Sure, it is not much of a carrot, but Obama has little to no leverage with Republicans, especially with the Republican majority taking over the House in early January.

So, Obama made the best deal he could in the very short window available to him. It was not much of a deal, but had a few attributes.  First, it is relatively popular with the public at large. Since Obama has spent much of the last two years going against public opinion, this is a major plus.   Second, even liberal Obama believes that this will likely help, not hurt, the economy…and definitely short term will spur the economy much more than more spending.

But this is where the rubber hits the road.  If Obama becomes as politically adept as Bill Clinton (and there is absolutely no evidence to show that at this point in time), this could be Obama’s beginning of a triangulation strategy:  make Republicans and Democrats look like novices and children, and show himself above the fray, looking out for the best interests of the American people.

That might have begun to work…except for Obama’s sniveling and, ultimately damaging, press conference.  He spent much of it on the defensive, against liberals who should be protecting him.  The press corps was having a field day.  And even worse, when he had the chance to look like ‘the adult in the room’…he couldn’t bring himself to do it.  Instead, he accused Republicans of ‘hostage taking’ in discussions over taxes.  He just could not be the bigger man.

The risk, of course, is the ‘Read My Lips’ pledge.  George H. W. Bush was never a true red-blooded conservative.  And when he made his ‘no taxes’ pledge, he was firming up his political base in 1988 from the likes of Pat Robertson.  When Bush ultimately broke his promise because of threats from Congressional Democrats in 1990, the economy dropped further into recession, ultimately leading to the election of Bill Clinton.  Bush never recovered his base.

This could be Obama’s equivalent moment.  Obama, like all Democrats since 2003, have promised to remove the ‘evil’ Bush tax cuts.  For him now to reinstate those tax levels is, to liberals, almost an act of treason.  Remember, liberals are still infected with Bush Derangement Syndrome; nothing Bush did should ever stand.  So after electing the ‘anti-Bush’ in Obama…they get more of the same.  Obama now has virtually the same policy as Bush on Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Iran.  He capitulated on Gitmo on terror trials.   And now this.  The anger from the left is palpable.  And thus, liberals may not be willing to blindly support this President anymore, unless he can give them a reason to Hope.

Could this possibly lead to a primary challenge, ala Bush in 1992?  Possible…but unlikely.  Obama was wise to remove the main challenge to his re-election back in 2008, by nominating her to be Secretary of State.  No one else of the stature necessary remains.

Joan Walsh of Salon.com has a piece which is quite emblematic of where progressives stand right now.  This is the most informative part:

Still, the rush to proclaim Obama the one, true progressive in 2008 was foolish, and I’d suggest that those who wound up disappointed in Obama think more about what they can learn from that race, rather than plotting to bring him down in 2012. Switching candidates now would be just another symptom of progressives’ inability to dig in for a long haul of taking our country back from the plutocrats who now run it. It’s tough work. I think, sadly, Obama is probably the most progressive Democrat who could be elected right now.

That is far from a glowing endorsement of the most progressive President in modern history.

This doesn’t mean that Obama doesn’t  have opportunities to redeem himself.  He certainly does.  At this point in Reagan’s Presidency, Reagan was all but assured to be a one term President.  Same for Bill Clinton.  Obama could do the same.  But that would take a level of political aptitude that this President is so far lacking.

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