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Movie Review: Monuments Men raises interesting question, gives frightening answer

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First, I should say I don't automatically hate George Clooney and Matt Damon movies just because they are silly liberals. I happen to own From Dusk Till Dawn, Out of Sight, and all the Oceans movies (well, only because that whole set was $10). Matt Damon was good in True Grit, and he was at his acting best in Team America: World Police!

Seriously though, I generally like their work (I can say that because I haven't yet seen Elysium). Hey, with two toddlers and a baby I don't get to see too many movies at all, so it says something that I picked Monuments Men as the one to see on a rare Date Night.

Big mistake. It's not good. And no, not because of the message, which I'll get to later. It's criminal that they took a movie with such a great cast (Clooney, Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray, and Bob Balaban) and somehow failed to develop any of the characters, while giving them a flat, unfunny script. I suppose that's what you get when Clooney directs, writes, produces, and acts in the film, in which a group of over-the-hill professors are sent across enemy lines to find important works of art stolen by Nazis in World War II.

Clooney's failure to deliver a good film is not the worst part about Monuments Men. It's the self-important message he tries to push across, which is--art is more valuable than human life. The smug cloud still follows him around.

Now, it's one thing for the art scholars in the Monuments Men to sacrifice their lives for the Mona Lisa or other irreplaceable piece of art (and some of them do), but that's not what Clooney's message seems to be. The art is worth sacrificing others' lives too.

There is one scene where one of the Monuments Men approaches a commanding officer about finding a lost work of art. The officer chews him out and declares that he's not going to write letters home to the family of lost men because some architect wants to save "some belltower." The protagonist architect rolls his eyes and moves on to try to find some way around this unreasonable obstacle, and we're supposed to sympathize with his plight.

Except I don't. Art is important, but when it comes down to it, a canvas with some colors on it is not worth the life of people, whose death would also impact his family, friends, and so on.

I had an inkling something was wrong right away, during the opening scene where George Clooney's character describes the Monte Cassino bombing as sort of wanton destruction by Americans keen on blowing things up. I always thought of it as a sad, but necessary cost of war--if it were a key German fortification then it should have been destroyed. In my mind it was also atypical, but Clooney's character made it sound like it was routine.

Clooney would have no problem, I guess, sacrificing a few (or more) of our lives to save a historical structure, or painting, or sculpture. Interestingly, a similar theme is tackled in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, in which the question is asked "is it worth sacrificing multiple lives to save one life (ironically, Matt Damon's)?" That is a much better thing to ask, and something that Spielberg doesn't find as easy to answer as Clooney laying down lives so others can enjoy some treasures of Western Civilization.

Disturbingly, it fits into Clooney (and Damon's) progressive worldview, in which the individual not only takes a back seat to the collective, but they are easy to dispose of if the collective gain is substantial enough.

Obama's problem with the military, and its problem with him

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A record 112 million Americans watched the Superbowl this weekend, on a day that also marked the first anniversary of the murder of America's deadliest sniper.

Chris Kyle, a highly-decorated Navy SEAL sniper who his enemies dubbed "The Devil of Ramadi", racked up 160 kills in four tours of duty. That nearly doubled the record of confirmed kills that was previously held by a marine sniper during the Vietnam War. Insurgents placed an $80,000 bounty on his head. Upon returning home, his military service earned him some fame and he regularly appeared on TV, and even got to punch Jesse Ventura in the face. He also authored the best-selling book American Sniper, which is slated to become a movie starring Bradley Cooper, and even attracted the attention of Steven Spielberg. And he also helped returning vets who were struggling with PTSD.

On February 2nd, 2013, he and a friend were tragically shot to death by one such vet.

Kyle's memorial service was held at Cowboys Stadium and drew thousands, but the president couldn't even be bothered to give a public statement about his outstanding service. Nor did the White House issue a press release.

Over a hundred Navy SEALs--you know, the guys that Obama heroically sends all over the world do to things like kill Bin Laden--hand-punched Tridents into the coffin of Kyle, who earned two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. But the president stayed silent. Sarah Palin showed her support by attending his memorial. Glenn Beck showed up, and promptly raised more than $100,000 for the families of the two victims. Randy Travis even sang the closing song.

Before the 200-mile funeral procession to Kyle's final resting place, Palin unsuccessfully petitioned the president to acknowledge his death.

On February 12, 2013, President Obama had another chance to honor Kyle during his State of the Union address. He chose not to, but he let the world know that Whitney Houston's family was in his prayers after she died of an apparent drug overdose.

President Obama could not have attended Kyle's memorial, as he was fulfilling his presidential obligations at a Medal of Honor ceremony at the time. But what might be as telling as his failure to issue any kind of public statement, is the fact that at an event full of military heroes, Obama probably was not even welcome.

Thing about that. Forget about politics, parties and ideology. Start with a blank slate, and then think how unusual it would be for any sitting president to disrespect such an American military hero, and for so many other heroes to not even want him to be there.

The distrust between Obama and the best of America's best doesn't stop there.

Marcus Luttrell, another SEAL hero whose military exploits became the best-selling book and #1-movie Lone Survivor, also doesn't like Obama.

The father of Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, who was killed in Benghazi trying to save people, said Obama wouldn't even look him in the eye, Joe Biden was disrespectful, Hillary Clinton lied to him, and he didn't believe the Administration's story about how the attack unfolded. He believed "cowards" in the White House could have sent in support to save his son and the others killed that night, but their failure to do so constituted "murder". He told Sean Hannity:

And, you know, he kind of -- it wasn't in a powerful voice it was more of just a whiney little voice I'm sorry. You know, and I could tell by his voice he wasn't even sorry.

It would be like a little kid that is told by the teacher to go apologize to Johnny out on the playground and when looked at me his face was pointed towards me but he couldn't look me in the eye. He was looking over my shoulder and like I say, I thought, you know, political -- literally like shaking hands with a dead fish. I did not believe him at all as far as his being sorry and now we understand why.

Was he one of those cowards that was in the White House watching my son being murdered on TV and refusing to do anything? That is a question that he will probably not have the courage to answer publicly but I would like to personally know that answer and one of these days, the whole I'm sure that we will have that answer.

Think for a second of all the attention that Cindy Sheehan got. Now compare the media's coverage of what this father of a SEAL who died heroically saving others said about the President of the United States.

But we're not done.

In 2012, former and current Navy SEALs slammed Obama's reelection campaign for taking too much credit for the Bin Laden raid.

It's not just guys on the ground that seem to not like Obama. His Secretary of Defense questioned his leadership and commitment, nearly resigned, and said Joe Biden was wrong on just about every foreign policy issue of the last four decades. This from a guy who served under Bill Clinton and is widely reputed as a bi-partisan moderate.

There even seems to be tension between the Obama Administration and those who are tasked to protect its members. When the owner of a bakery in Virginia declined to be used in an Obama campaign photo-op because of the president's "you didn't build that comment," Secret Service agents visited the shop, thanked him for standing up and saying 'no', and bought a bunch of pastries. Others subsequently flooded his store and he had to close early when he ran out of cookie dough.

Maybe they're upset about Joe Biden pocketing $26,000 by charging them rent to use his cottage to protect them, something that the Clinton's refused payment for a decade earlier.

Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan (who also voted for Obama), said Obama appeared "uncomfortable and intimidated" in a room full of military brass, did not seem as "engaged" in the war as he was with photo-ops. He was fired and replaced with General Petraeus. In a follow-up book, McChrystal said there was "a deficit of trust" between Obama and the Pentagon.

Obama has fired at least nine other senior military commanders, some who critical of his handling of Benghazi.

Obama doesn't seem to have the support of the military rank-and-file, either. Before the 2012 presidential election, a Military Times poll had Romney beating Obama two-to-one, by 40 points. In 2011, a Gallup poll found only 37% of military approved of the job their boss was doing (and it's likely lower than that--how many of you would pretend you liked your boss for fear of retribution).

These are unprecedented stories about the strained relationship a Commander-in-Chief has with the members of the American military--from rank-and-file soldiers, to top military brass, to celebrated national heroes. If any one of these had occurred during the Bush Administration, the media would make it a big deal for weeks. Imagine, Bush not calling the family of America's best sniper to offer his condolences. Or the Secret Service thanking people for not supporting him. Or military polls consistently weighing against him. Or, SEALs slamming his reelection campaign. The media made Cindy Sheehan is a big deal for years, but the examples in this article are mostly ignored.

The media should be highlighting these stories and asking why--why is it that there seems to be a breach of trust between the most honored among us, and this president?

The rest of you row faster! Labor participation rate drops to 35-year low

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What happens when the welfare state pays you not to work? People don't work! As simple as this might sound, it comes as a surprise to progressives.

Forget official unemployment numbers. What really counts is how many people are not in the labor force. And the rate of such people has dropped to levels not seen since the Carter Administration.  

Ninety-nine week unemployment benefits, disability, welfare, Obamacare, food stamps, even Social Security all encourage people not to work. So a lot don't, which means they must be supported by those who do.

Simple rule: you get more of what you subsidize and you get less of what you tax. If you give money to people not to work and tax people more to pay for them, guess what you'll get more of and what you'll get less of? (For one thing, you get twice as many able-bodied adults without dependents on food stamps.)

Furthermore, the burden falls largely on the private sector, who must also pay for an ever-growing public sector with their taxes.

A dysfunctional system encourages unproductive behavior and punishes productivity. Such as system--whether it be a company or a country--is unsustainable.

Global-warming alarmism off to a cold start in 2014

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Is this the year that global-warming hysteria jumps the shark? If last week's events are any indication of the rest of the year, then yes.

Wednesday, fifty scientists on a research mission in Antarctica finally broke free of the ice they've been trapped in since Christmas Eve. If it weren't for the alternative media, you might not have heard about what they were doing on the South Pole. Almost none of the mainstream media wanted to report that they were there to study the melting ice caps when they became trapped in the ice that was supposedly disappearing.

Global-warming alarmism likewise is made more difficult when the majority of the country is frozen in the in the worst winter weather in decades. So, that's why they call it Climate Change--so they can have it both ways! Consider Time magazine blaming the 1974 polar vortez on global cooling, and in 2014 blaming it on global warming.

Then, there's what a leading climate scientist had to say on the subject, which I read in the Weekly Standard today.

If [MIT's Richard Lindzen] is right about this and global warming is nothing to worry about, why do so many climate scientists, many with résumés just as impressive as his, preach imminent doom? He says it mostly comes down to the money--to the incentive structure of academic research funded by government grants. Almost all funding for climate research comes from the government, which, he says, makes scientists essentially vassals of the state. And generating fear, Lindzen contends, is now the best way to ensure that policymakers keep the spigot open.

My own view is that yes, the climate is changing. It always has. Yes, greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere. However, one does not necessarily lead to the other, and if it does, it may not to be to the "degree" that global-warming alarmists predict. And yes, there is a consensus among scientists that I am wrong. But the consensus was against Galileo too, wasn't it? Just like many organized religions, I sense the global-warming alarmism industry is motivated more by emotion and personal gain, than truth.

New York Times makes it OK to support Snowden

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Edward Snowden is a whistleblower and not a traitor, according to the nation's newspaper of record. The New York Times and The Guardian newspapers published editorials Thursday that threw support behind the former NSA contractor who's been in exile after exposing America's dirtiest secrets. With three words--Edward Snowden, Whistleblower--the Old Gray Lady and friends paved the way for others to be more vocal in their support Snowden.

For the last six months, we haven't been able to decide if he's a hero or a villain. On one hand, he almost single-handedly started a global conversation on the extent to which our government is spying on us. On the other hand, he embarrassed this country. And, he appealed for asylum in countries that are not exactly on the friendliest terms with the U.S., taking our secrets with him. Doesn't that make him a spy? President Obama thinks so. John Boehner thinks he's a traitor.

Conservatives, I think, generally support what Snowden did while being somewhat turned off by how he did it. At least that's what they said. I suspect many had to parse words to make sure they didn't sound like they were too supportive of a man who is an enemy of the state, even though they were privately rooting for him. We just know how you guys work.

With the Times proclaiming he's practically a hero, I think we'll hear more and more support for him, from all sides. There will be more editorials, articles, and news stories about him. I assume a movie will be made--probably a mix of the Terminal, All the President's Men, and Enemy of the State. Even President Obama will have to soften his stance. I mean, his biggest cheerleaders just criticized him. At least they gave him about seven months to mull it over--had Snowden leaked these documents when Bush was president they'd be calling for Bush's impeachment and for Snowden to be canonized on Day One.

President Obama is really looking like the bad guy here, for defending the egregious invasions into our private lives and for chasing Snowden all over the globe.  Snowden's father said he suspects Obama is misleading the American people for suggesting that his son had other, legal avenues for exposing what the NSA was doing.

Really? He's supposed to trust a man who has prosecuted twice as many whisteblowers as all the previous presidents combined? If he listened to that advice, Snowden would be rotting in a prison somewhere and we wouldn't know anything about the American government's domestic spying abuses.

Put yourself in his shoes. You want to do the right thing and alert the American people. You first try to tell your superiors. They want nothing to do with it. You know whistleblowers are being prosecuted at a rapid rate. You have crucial information the public needs to know. Would you flee the country and leak it to journalists? That sounds like the right thing to do. But you'd have to go to a non-extradition treaty country like Russia. Just like Snowden did. So, unless new information comes to light, we should take the Times' lead and assume he's trying to help Americans, not hurt America. Good on the Times and The Guardian for saying it.
This blog attempts to add perspective and context to local and national politics, through a variety of disciplines, such as history, economics, and philosophy--all tempered with common sense. About the author

Eric Ingemunson's commentary has been featured on Hannity, CNN, NBC, Inside Edition, and KFI's The John and Ken Show. Eric was born and raised in Ventura County and currently resides in Moorpark. He earned a master's degree in Public Policy and Administration from California Lutheran University. As a conservative, Eric supports smaller government, less taxation, more individual freedom, the rule of law, and a strict adherence to the Constitution.
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