Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Credit to Obama Where It Is Due

I had a fairly introspective Memorial Day.

It was a quiet morning at a local cemetery followed by an afternoon with the family and some reading.

I've been thinking a lot about the military, imperialism, and the concept of building an empire. You might remember, I mentioned a couple posts back the "New Empire of Debt" book that I'm reading. It has led to a lot of reflection on the past couple decades as well as decisions made in my personal life about finances, investments, and the future.

The End of American Imperialism

Then, it kind of hit me as I was watching some coverage of President Obama visiting troops in Afghanistan.
President Obama in Afghanistan. Credit: NYTimes.com
During the "W" era and Bush presidency we did a lot of things as a nation that weren't exactly fiscally responsible. We started a war on a unknown enemy that can't be quantitatively described or defined: terrorism.

Our country spent billions to send troops to police the world. And by "spent", I of course mean "borrowed".

Actually, the cost of Iraq and Afghan operations cumulatively is about $1.5 trillion.

But you knew all this.

Here's what kind of struck me the more I thought about the issues involved: So far, Barack Obama hasn't given into the temptress that is imperialism.

Source: Associated Press
Despite political pressure, we really didn't do much in Syria --- at least not to our previously set standards. We didn't put our men and women's lives on the line there and we didn't sacrifice nearly as much treasure.

Ukrainian troops in an airborne combat vehicle. Source: RT.com
Russia/Ukraine is a similar situation. You had political pressure from all over telling the President it was time to jump in, take more authoritative action and ramp up the military presence in the Ukraine.

He didn't.

Now, Putin has backed off with the Russian military backpeddling toward the motherland.

There is now new Ukrainian president.

While things aren't back to "normal", there is certainly a good chance at sustainable peace.

I'm not saying that President Obama hasn't spent the money other places. Health-care, unemployment benefits, etc. are bills that we're going to be saddled with as entitlements mount. I'm not attempting to paint Obama as the great "budget-balancer".

4 More Years of George W. Bush?

But while I rip Obama for the economy and other doomed policies, on the foreign policy front he has been able to resist the temptation that most of his predecessors as POTUS were not.

In fact, it seems a vote for McCain back in 2008 would have led to a little different result. Unless the Arizona Senator is just playing a role and party-puppet in his questioning a president of the other party.

Courtesy: CBS News
McCain says we should have gotten involved in Syria.

McCain says we should be more involved in Russia.

It seems in some ways, the election of John McCain absolutely would have been like another 4-years of George W. Bush --- at least on the foreign policy side.

That's not to say Russia isn't still a threat and that military action may at some point be unavoidable but as of today, it sure doesn't seem that escalation is in the cards for that part of the world.

So, credit to Obama for resisting the urge to grow the empire, spend the money, and drop the bombs at a time when we really don't need the casualties, bill, or distractions.

That's worth something, right?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Enjoy Your Memorial Day Everyone

Thank you for your sacrifice in the name of freedom veterans.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Nothing to See Here!

Thanks Bloomberg.com for the photo.

"No no no. Don't look at the economy.

Look over here! It's the Super Bowl Champs with me, the Prez!"

Bloomberg has an interesting look at sports as a political refuge.

They say "political refuge", I say "diversion".

Seems President Obama has been busy chatting with the Seattle Seahawks, taking in Little League games in the D.C. area, and even visited Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Never mind everything at Veterans Affairs right now.

Also, please don't notice that unemployment claims are up once again.

Go Seahawks I guess.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Good Guys vs. Bad Guys (with Guns)

I've posted about John Stewart before.

I hate to admit it, but I don't hate the guy or the show as a whole.

In fact, I watch it fairly often when I'm at home for the replay at 7 p.m. (Sorry, the first-run 11 p.m. is far too late for my lifestyle!)

It's a little preachy and often comes out pretty "progressive" for my personal taste.

But I think he's good at what he does.

With this latest commentary about the whole Chipotle situation... we pretty much agree. At least once you get through his snark and mocking of gun owners of the first 1:30 of the segment:

But wait, there's more.

It seems Stewart also had to weigh-in on "Smart Guns".

Apparently a gun shop owner in Maryland was getting threatened by 2A supporters because he was willing to sell Smart Guns.

I don't get it. It's probably the same class of gun owners that caused the uproar at the Dallas Chipotles.

Personally, I'm not a fan of Smart Guns but death threats to a gun shop owner for carrying a product isn't exactly what we need to be projecting as a community.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stupid Chipotle... Irresponsible Open Carriers?

I wasn't going to write anything about this.

After all, when Starbucks had to go forward with a pseudo-statement that asked gun-owners not to be idiots and open-carry into their coffee shops, I thought we were all on the same page.

Now, open-carry idiots in Texas are forcing Chipotle to do pretty much the same thing.

Unknown Source on the Photo. Sorry.

"The display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers" - Chipotle
ABC News also quotes Moms Demand Action in their story:
Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for the group, said she thought the move by Chipotle was a "bold statement," especially considering its previous stance of complying with local laws.
Was this really a "bold" statement? I mean, Chipotle is a business. They sell food. With, what, say 40% of the population completely freaked out by guns, let alone "scary looking" Armalite rifles do you blame them for asking gun owners not to bring the firearms into the restaurant with them?

Once again, the dollar speaks more loudly to corporations than The Constitution. Why can't we learn this lesson as a community?

Sebastian at PA Gun Blog is one of the gun owners who has spoken out about this repeatedly and even tried to mount a counter campaign to the Moms Demand action over the weekend.
Unfortunately, the responsible actions of many couldn't make up for the showboating of a few tactical fanboys. Now, my lunch options are further limited if I listen to the pleas of many of my 2nd Amendment supporting brothers and sisters. Although, I'm not sure that the free market side of my mind can blame Chipotle for their actions following the display we saw in Texas over the weekend.

Don't be stupid.


While this will surely help my diet that damn Chipotle cilantro rice will surely be missed.

Debt and Depression - The New Empire of Debt

I'm in the middle of reading "The New Empire of Debt".

I'm sure you've realized, we're broke as a nation and so far, this book does a pretty thorough job of explaining the why and how of the situation.

I'll spare you the majority of the details in this 350-page saga but essentially, the spirit of empire-building intoxicated our leadership and at about the time of Woodrow Wilson's presidency, we got on the gravy-train of printing money that we'll never get off. It's the same story with great empires of the past such as the Romans, Mongols, etc...

I'm not saying the authors are wrong.

But, damn. It's depressing.

As a younger guy with minimal personal debt, is there something we should be doing as individuals to get ready for this collapse? I know prepping is one outlet folks lean to and I've done some of that. But, in all seriousness, if we are in a place where we need to have our own food, water, and safety for an extended period of time I'm not sure if I trust myself to be militant enough to protect what is mine.

Further, should we be convinced that at some point in the coming decades we will be forced to lower our expectations from thriving to merely surviving? It sounds somewhat petty, maybe a little immature, but if we don't have "hope" to cling to and our best days are behind us, what's the point?

(Please note, this use of the word "hope" and use of the word "hope" in any political campaigns past or present are merely coincidental and absolutely do not indicate an endorsement!)

I find the prospects depressing. I know a lot of you think it's worth fighting for here on the homefront through education and political awareness but I'm not convinced it's a battle that can be won. Looking around our communities, seeing the type of people we share society with, I just don't see the drive, personal ambition, and desire to get off the government teet.

So, where do we go?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Godzilla: Trailer Myths and a Review

So, like billions of other people. I went to see Godzilla this weekend.

How was it? In a nutshell, "meh".

There are going to be a few spoilers in here, so please bear with me and you may want to bypass this post if you have plans to see it.

Although, come on, the Godzilla movies are 60 years old so isn't the whole premise of a Godzilla movie a spoiler? It's not like things are going to seriously change and all of a sudden Godzilla is on a ruthless mission for belly-rubs.

The film itself was ok. The special effects were better than I expected. Although, I must admit, I was a fan of the original Godzilla films as a child so I might be comparing the modern day special effects to the robotic tricks they had in the 1950's.

The original Godzilla in 1954.

As for plot, it was about what you'd expect from an action film: Pretty thin.

I expected better because of Bryan Cranston's involvement in the film. (More on that in a moment). Really, I guess knowing it was Godzilla with no major changes to the premise occurring other than the country being "attacked", I probably shouldn't have set the bar so high and just have entered the theater expecting a popcorn movie. That's my fault but I do feel like the trailer misled me to expect a few things I didn't see in the film itself.

So, What's Deceiving About the Trailer vs. the Actual Film?

There are a few things that'll get you if you enter with expectations set by the trailer.

1.) This movie isn't about Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston). This movie is about Joe Brody's son, played by Aaron Taylor Johnson, which is too bad. In the trailer embedded below, Cranston's voice or face is featured for about 20 seconds total. Taylor-Johnson --- only about 4 seconds worth of coverage. I'd say Taylor-Johnson is on camera or a major part of the action about 10x more than Cranston in the film itself.

Cranston, featured in front of Taylor-Johnson on set of the film.
2.) While a significant portion of this film is set in the United States, a lot of the story takes place in Asia. You'll see the devastation left behind in the United States throughout the trailer but the movie starts out giving a lot more background about how Godzilla "feeds".

Screen grab taken from the Godzilla trailer.
3.) There are certainly a lot of special effects in the film but the cinematography was outstanding. I expected to see a ton of flash and bang done by computer animation but there was a lot of beautiful shots throughout the film that I really enjoyed as a hobbyist-photographer.

Did you see it? What'd you think?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Uninvited: Maybe it's for the Best

So you might have heard, Russia says the United States isn't allowed to use their space station anymore.

Good for them. They're hitting us where it hurts.

Or are they?

Spoiler alert: now how is Sandra Bullock going to get home? (Sorry folks that haven't seen Gravity yet).

As it turns out, not being allowed in their space instruments may be a blessing in disguise.  Russia's not as good at "space" as I might have thought.

A Russian Proton-M rocket crashed in Kazakhstan early this morning. It was the air about nine minutes and carrying some sort advanced satellite that my capitalist mind cannot understand.

Luckily, nobody was injured.

Courtesy: RT (Russia Today)
I just think it's funny and somewhat interesting that Russian continues pushing in the space race... long after the U.S. has dropped out and decided to stay in the pits. Maybe we'll regret the decision as a nation but that's not going to stop me from dancing when Russia fails and burns resources (so long as nobody gets hurt).