The writing quality of online news websites is getting worse compared to print newspapers and magazines.This is a little understandable because of the instant rush to get it online first. However, usually if there is an obvious goof in print media, the respective paper or magazine will print a correction in the next issue. Online mistakes seem to be ignored and sometimes you wonder if an editor ever reads the articles before they are put online. One of the most obvious and pathetic goofs was on CNN.com on Saturday. On their front page, main article, the headline story has a picture of President Obama and Mexican President Calderon. The headline underneath it? “Bush, Calderon huddle over flu”
Are you kidding me?? How did this make it to the front page without someone catching the mistake. It took at least seven minutes before it was fixed. Either someone was playing a trick or that’s just pathetic editing.
What is going on with the world today? Many of the institutions and systems we grew up with and believed in have crumbled faster than a crumb cake in front of Santa Claus. This morning sports fans were shockingly (or not) met with news that one of the few remaining baseball superstars to not be tainted by the steroids scandal, Alex Rodriguez, failed an MLB steroids test in 2003. Considering that this news was corroborated by four independent sources, and based on past evidence of such news, this story likely has meat behind it. As the Barry Bonds’, baseball’s all-time home run king, steroids perjury trial heads to court, we wonder if there is anything sacred anymore in sportsmanship and fair play. The list now includes Bonds, Arod, Marc McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens and Raphael Palmeiro. All were heroes and idols to millions and millions of kids and sports fans.
Sports is nothing, however, compared to the deepening economic crisis affecting the country. But, then again we need to ask ourselves how did this country fall into such a dire situation in the first place? With news of unemployment reaching 7.6%, worst since 1982, most Americans are sensing a pessimism in the country and its leadership they have never felt before. Corporations that have long been stalwarts have wilted after years of trustworthy service. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG, just to name a few. Even General Electric has fallen on tough times due to untrustworthy leadership expectations and financial exposure. Then there are the frauds of individuals, such Bernie Madoff, and corporations, such as Enron and Global Crossing.
Polar bear cub
Then there is the global warming and energy crises. Due to the irresponsible and rampant use of oil and other natural resources, and the irresponsible output of chemicals into the air, river and ground, the natural balance of Earth has come under question. Dire predictions of sea levels, global temperatures, forestation, glacial coverage, droughts and diseases have left us wondering is there any hope left? Will there exist a viable Earth in 100 to 200 years?
It is truly amazing that all three of these problems have one major thing in common. Greed. Greed. Greed. What is most disturbing is that the situations did not become problems until the ultimate greed kicked in. Arod was already a once in a generation baseball player back in high school. It is fair to say that he did not do steroids as a teenager as his body structure was simply too small. Bonds was a skinny player with the Pirates but was already a five tool player on the path to the Hall of Fame. McGwire was an amazingly talented rookie with the Oakland Athletics. Why did they feel the need to use steroids and become even better than they already were? Why risk already amazing career trajectories with such greed?
Similarly, the financial companies that have gone bankrupt or bought up were very viable and successful companies (some for over a hundred years) before the ARMs and hedge funds became en vogue. Why the greed to do such risky investments in order to raise the bottom line and stock price? Was it all due to increasing stock compensation packages of executives? Was it all worth it? To dupe millions of unknowing citizens just for more personal money? What about Madoff? An already well-respected and wealthy investor; what caused him to risk everyone’s money (including hundreds of other wealthy individuals and companies), just to make more money for his firm?
Finally, the earth has remained relatively stable ever since the existence of man. However, since the Industrial Revolution and especially since the widespread use of combustible engines, there has been this disregard for the side effects of using such resources. Coupled with research in biochemistry and synthetic compounds, the effects of pesticides, mercury, lead and carbons have led to a precarious global balance. Millions of animal species extinct or on the brink of survival.
Are humans, the supposedly most “intelligent” species with opposable thumbs, in fact, the dumbest species ever? Just imagine outsiders writing about the history of man and what they would write about, especially the past 150 years. Just imagine what they would write about western civilization. Just imagine what they would say about the population numbers. Or about technology and medical research? Is this the final goal of evolution? We have reached the ultimate in special survival… our only enemy is ourselves? The whole purpose of natural selection is the survival of the strong. However, part of natural selection is natural balance. A species never wants to become too powerful because then their food sources and natural enemies would disappear. Humans have, in essence, overcome both these natural laws. Through natural selection (our brains and opposable thumbs) we are far and beyond the most powerful species. In a relatively short time, our population and power increased beyond control. Humans have no more natural enemies. The machines we have created are unmatched and only destructible amongst ourselves. So what does this all mean?
The human world does not have a checks and balance system. Nature and other species have always acted as the equalizers. The closest thing that comes to that is the United Nations, and everyone knows how ineffective it is. Additionally, idealistic political systems such as communism and socialism have proven futile. Even checks and balance systems, such as the one in the United States, has a limited efficacy, as witnessed by the politics, lobbyism and other issues. Nature is having a difficult time balancing the effects of human greed and power. Diseases and natural disasters are becoming minimal in damage due to medical research and better disaster predictions. Without any natural enemies, we are left to govern ourselves and our future. As exciting of a possibility that is, the track record of that has been phenomenally pathetic.
At first glance, the concerns of Kucinich and Poe make sense. A company that is taking valuable taxpayers’ money because of its financial situation should not be spending $400M simply to put their name on a baseball stadium. However, is this politics as usual? There are several issues here that show that public perception is not always reality.
New York Mets
The obvious issue here is that the marketing deal is a legal binding agreement between two corporations. How can politicians force a company to renege on a legal business deal? Does giving $45B equate to complete scrutiny of the said company? Doesn’t the company still have some independence in fulfilling previous agreements and decisions? What about the Mets? They have made other business decisions since then based on having that revenue stream. Is it fair that politics might force a legal deal to be reneged?
The second issue here is marketing. As financially strapped as companies are, they still need to spend a portion of their budget on marketing. This is the case even if they are receiving money from the federal government. What do the politicians expect them to do? Use 100% of their budget on selling loans and improving the credit crisis? That’s unreasonable because marketing helps increase the financial business. Maybe Citigroup continues to decide that Citi Field will in fact have a positive effect on its financial business.
A third issue is the actual effect of the $400M. The number seems large but it is over the course of twenty years. That amounts to $20M a year. Now we know (at least with very high probability) that the economy won’t be in the doldrums for the next twenty years. That means the deal, as affected by the economic crisis, is in the range of $20-$60 million. This is chump change for a large corporation like Citigroup. More specifically, it is 0.04% to 0.13% of the $45B in assistance! When you look at the fact that Citigroup has revenues of over $19 billion and has a cash/debt ratio of $763B/691B then you start wondering is this worth the time to criticize over?
This reminds me of the grilling that the auto industry received last fall when they tried to get some assistance from Congress. The amount was tiny compared to the bailout received by the financial industry. Yet, politicians were focusing on politics as usual. They focused on these tiny expenditures that have bad public perception (such as private airplanes by executives) instead of worrying about reality and where the real money is going. The auto industry did not cause this mess. The auto industry also employs millions of hard working Americans. The financial industry and politicians caused this mess, and instead of them getting grilled, the politicians gave the financial industry a massive bailout without any public hearings. Talk about fairness. Now we have more politicans worrying about a stadium marketing deal that although has a bad public perception, when analyzed in further detail really has no financial bearing on the situation. It’s absurd and once again, politics at its best.
Here are my 2009 predictions. None that are too far out there. Just a basic assessment of what I think might happen in 2009.
Barack the Celebrity
Obama’s approval ratings remain historically high but lower than the inauguration euphoria – Obama’s ability to inspire change and leadership at such a dour time in America gives him public leeway not seen since, well, 9/11. However, Obama’s pragmatism will help him keep the country on course and inspired throughout 2009. He has already made key changes in ethics regulations and state diplomacy in his first days in office. The only thing that will stop him will be… Congress.
Don’t expect much from Congress – Congress had lower approval ratings than President Bush in 2008, even with the Democratic majority and push for change. Expect the same from Pelosi and Reid, who are not strong leaders and have plenty of personal ambitions to prove Congressional strength to the Executive strength. Couple with the Republicans fight for relevancy, expect a 2009 of posturing and tit-for-tats. 2010 seems like a better year for Congress because the public will side with Obama over the frustrating bureaucracy in Congress in 2009.
The market moves sideways – There will be strong forces pulling the economy from both the recession side and the growth side. It is what I call the economic paradox. As the economy falls, oil prices drop and the US Dollar rises (somewhat surprisingly). However, as global growth resumes, oil demand and commodity prices rise again and the US Dollar falls (since investors will begin investing in riskier assets instead of US Treasuries). Both are problems for America. Obama seems focused on passing bills and bailouts that will help light a fire under the economy, especially job market. However, the more he does the more inflation becomes a risk. Expect several major rises and several major slides, but by the end of 2009, the Dow Jones will still be in the 7500-9000 range.
Gold surpasses $1000/oz again – Because of the economic paradox, gold will continue to maintain its safe haven status in 2009. One of these days, gold will surpass $1000/oz again. In looking at the GLD chart, gold hit a low in mid-Nov 08 and has since built a nice rising linear resistance that it bounded in early Dec 08 and mid Jan 09. If gold breaks the upper linear resistance of $900/oz expect $1000/oz in Feb 09. If it does not expect a pullback. Aside from the technicals, 2009 is still a year of unforeseen economic strife and that will keep the price of gold high. Depending on where the economic paradox is at the end of 2009, gold will either be well above $1000/oz or testing it’s multi-year lows of $700/oz again.
Gold (GLD) prices from Jan 2008 to Jan 2009 (12-EMA green, 50-EMA red)
There will only be one viable American automaker by year’s end – The Big Three is already, in essence, the Small Two. Chrysler’s recent gift of 35% stake to Fiat for its access to technology and services is a desperation move to prove to the U.S. government that it has a viable plan to survive. However, the U.S. government is not going to perpetually support a half-foreign owned company at taxpayers expense. As for GM and Ford, 2009 will still be a very tough market. Any uptick by buyers will simply be for fuel efficient cars built by Toyota, Honda and even Hyundai. GM is effectively surviving on federal assistance, which runs out every few months. A radical solution has to found soon. Don’t fret though, because of the uniqueness of this market, hopes abound for small automakers that can make a difference in “green” vehicles.
Yankees back in business – Sorry non-Yankees fans, but 2009 is appearing to be the Year of the Yankees. A new stadium, a team salary in excess of $200 million, a re-focused Arod with Mark Texeira pushing him, injury free Posada, Matsui and Chamberlain? It’s gonna be a great three-team AL East battle all summer. Yankees will win the division and make it to the World Series once again.
The year is now 2009! Just ten years ago, the country was at the height of the dot com era. I was in my last year of my undergraduate years and very eager to graduate and join the exciting dot com workforce. It seemed like paradise at the time. I remember getting about ten job interviews and declining several others. I remember the offers that came in from startup companies to established corporations. I also remember gasoline in Pittsburgh being around 90 cents because it was the only semester I had a car with me. The only thing that scared people in 1999? The Y2K problem. I also remember people being relieved that the Clinton presidency was coming to an end because of the Lewinsky embarrassment. That was ten years ago…
Now it’s 2009. A lot has happened the past ten years; the first decade of the 21st century. The decade that I grew up, age wise, at least. It is a different country now. A more sober country. A battle-tested country and a depressed and pessimistic country. Although most people heaved a sigh of relief when the Y2K problem never materialized, it wasn’t long before the country would begin a string of events that has led to the current depressed state. 9/11 occurred. The dot com bubble busted. The telecom industry collapsed. The Afghanistan War began. The Patriot Act was passed. The country went into and out of a recession. The Iraq War began. The energy crisis began. Hurricane Katrina happened. The housing bubble inflated and popped. The credit bubble inflated and popped. The country went into another recession. And not to mention the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2000. It has been a very trying decade.
However, the country and myself are in the same situation as we were ten years ago. I will be finishing my studies and looking to enter the workforce once again. The country is full of hope again that a new presidency can bring much needed change. Although the hope and environment are different this time around, we must draw strength from what we have endured and learned in the past ten years. Personally, I am a much more patient, practical and, believe it or not, optimistic person than I was ten years ago. Although I was more energetic and sharper back in my early twenties, the experiences I have gone through in my twenties has made me a much more balanced person that cherishes even the simple things in life. I believe this country is similarly in the same state. During the dot com era, the country seemed to move about with reckless abandon, as if the paradise would last forever. Now after ten years of hardship, the country must learn from these experiences and come together as one country to come out of this recession stronger and more optimistic.We have to because we have plenty more challenges to face in the second decade of this century.
I am excited at what the last year of the first decade of the 21st century brings. I am excited at the future of America. The 2008 elections were one of the most exciting ever and to see Americans rise up and meet the challenge was very refreshing. 2009 marks the end of an era and the beginning of another, for this country and for myself…
Another story from the arrogance and incompetence of the Bush administration. Today, Vice President Dick Cheney was quoted in an AP interview,
In an interview with The Associated Press, Cheney also said that Bush has no need to apologize for not foreseeing the economic crisis.
“I don’t think he needs to apologize. I think what he needed to do is take bold, aggressive action and he has,” Cheney said. “I don’t think anybody saw it coming.”
The last part is what really got me mad. A LOT, and I mean A LOT of people saw this economic crisis coming. Let’s take a quick look at some of the groups of people that saw this coming:
1. Gold bugs – Gold investors have been preparing for this economic crisis since the crash of the dot com era. Gold has steadily risen from the mid $200s/oz to a high of $1000/oz, and now at ~$850/oz today.
2. Currency investors – The euro to dollar ratio was at 0.85 at the beginning of the dot-com crash in 2001. Since then it has flipped and risen so quickly to 1.60 in early 2008. Most people familiar with the dollar index, fiat currencies and supply/demand saw this as a huge omen of future economic turmoil. It was only a matter of when.
3. Housing investors – The term housing bubble was surmised to be occurring well before the height of the housing bubble. Many people burned by the dot-com era and became fiscally responsible saw the non-stop rise in housing prices as a major deja vu.
4. Economists – There have been so many books written on this exact economic crisis in the past ten years, of which two have been reviewed on this blog (Crash Proof, The Coming Economic Collapse). Anyone who has read one of these books realized that the American economic system has been living on borrowed time and money.
5. Historians – History comes in cycles because the leaders don’t learn from history. The Iraq War and the recession afterwards first played in the first Bush administration. Instead of learning from it, the younger Bush repeated the exact same historical events.
6. Most sane people – I saw this economic crisis coming a few years ago when I started reading about the US economic system. A lot of my friends saw it coming. A lot of people knew that we only got out of the tiny recession after the dot-com crash and 9/11 because Greenspan and the Feds loosened the credit spigot and money-printing machine. What ensued was the housing bubble and more mortgaging of America’s future.
If all these people, including lots and lots of Americans saw the economic crisis coming, you are telling me the Feds and the economists that govern this country didn’t see it coming? Please… They just chose to look the other way. Why not? They are rich. There is no accountability. Leave it to the next administration or future generations to clean up the mess.
It’s really absurd that Dick Cheney deflects the Bush administration’s responsibilities by claiming that NO ONE SAW IT COMING. To put it nicely, the arrogance, narrow-mindedness and stupidity of the outgoing administration continues. The Bush administration continues to hope that in time history will judge them nicely, but I believe this second recession under their watch pretty much locks in their incompetence regardless of how well Iraq or Afghanistan turn out.
George Stephanopoulos asked Arnold Schwarzenegger what he thought if Barack Obama selected Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. After saying it would be a great move, Arnold goes on to talk about how Obama has to make sure that he and Clinton can work well together. This is what he said,
“And also that you maybe want to learn from that person and admire that person so much that you want to pick up some pointers and learn from that person, so that they together can go out and do this.”
Hehehe… Arnold’s so cool. Can’t believe he’s a freaking politician. When WILL he be back?
The crisis from the 2000 presidential election continued to leave a bad taste in the mouths of the voting public during the 2004 election and even the recently removed 2008 presidential election. To the outsider, the hanging chads and the recount after recount in Florida gave the impression that every person’s vote must count. However, everyone knew that it was one of those rare instances in American presidential politics that a single vote could actually make such a dramatic a difference. A single vote that could potentially give Florida’s electoral college votes to the winning candidate, and thus the presidency. When Florida and the presidency finally went to candidate George Bush, people were at least somewhat happy that the judicial and election systems of America had held its ground.
However, another interesting statistic left the Al Gore camp more perturbed. Candidate Gore had won the popular vote over George Bush. That means more people in the country had voted for Gore over Bush. But due to the electoral college system, Bush won the presidency. Mathematically speaking, each vote cast for Gore was actually worth less than one vote. Or, each vote cast for Bush was worth more than each vote cast for Gore. “This doesn’t seem fair”, the Gore supporters argued. Bush supporters responded, “Well, that’s the system for hundreds of years and it’s always worked. Stop complaining.”
Why did the founding fathers use an electoral college instead of a popular vote to determine the winner of the presidential election? In short, the founding fathers were skeptical of the will of the people or their ability to intellectually vote for the candidate of their choice. By inserting a safeguard, the electoral college, the founding fathers believed that if by that rare chance the will of the people was either misguided or that some populated region in America dominated the popular vote, the safeguard would protect American democracy.
Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska
Which leads me to why I think the electoral college, although in many cases a frustration and hints at unfairness, it is a necessary safeguard. Let’s look at one Senate race this year that could have used something like an electoral college. The Alaska Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Stevens and Democratic challenger Mark Begich.Ted Stevens was convicted of seven counts of making false statements and taking bribes worth more than $250,000 to make renovations on his personal home. The evidence was overwhelming. After the announced conviction, bipartisan calls for Stevens removal were prominent, reaching up to federal level, including John McCain and Barack Obama. Even the governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin said at the time that he had broken his trust with the people and she planned to ask him to step aside. However, the news of the corruption did not affect Stevens attempt for an eighth term in the Senate as he won the Senate elections in November! This is a man who epitomizes the corruption in government and the Alaskan people still voted for him!!! He won by a 1.43% margin (roughly 3200 votes) over Begich. To make it more interesting, Sarah Palin switched her tone and declared that the will of the people had spoken and she would not ask him to step aside. In other words, she was okay with supporting the first felon elected to the US Senate in history!! What about the 46.61% of the people? Is the 48.04% that voted for Stevens the “will of the people.” It is not even a majority. However, the question that really needs answering is why did the people still vote for Ted Stevens? Had they no shame that they were electing a felon to the US Senate for the first time ever?
The corruption scandals associated with Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young. The inexperience and ethical issues of Sarah Palin. The hilarious attempt of Mike Gravel to win the Democratic primary. The Bridge to Nowhere. And finally, the “will of the people” voting for convicted felon, Stevens. What is going on in Alaska?? I just think the people there live their own merry little lives and are disconnected with reality or don’t care for it. If the presidential election was ran the same way Alaska is, this country would be in big trouble. Are you telling me that if McCain or Obama was convicted as a felon, that they would still win the general election?
This example clearly demonstrates that the will of the people or the ability of the public to vote with due diligence and conscience is not always dependable. The electoral college works for an overwhelming majority of the time. It is only at times of a close race that it has the potential to rear its ugly head. However, if a race is that close anyways, theoretically it won’t really matter who wins since there is no definitive will of the people.
In the case of Ted Stevens and Alaska, I wish the founding fathers put the electoral college into Senate races as well. But of course they wanted to separate representation at the federal and state elections. Then again, I don’t know if I would trust the electoral college in Alaska either.
Tomorrow is one of the most important days in recent American history. It is a day that will affect the short term prospects of America and the standing of America in the world for the next century. The events and actions of the past eight years have accelerated the damaging path the country has embarked on for the past thirty years. The irresponsible actions have left America crippled economically, politically, morally and psychologically. Both parties have been hijacked by the special interests of corporations, ideological groups and personal interests. The values in which America was founded on have been distorted. The decision made by America tomorrow will go a long way in determining if we continue this egregious path of self-destruction.
The debt at the national, local and consumer levels are not only due to the actions of the past eight years. The decision by the Supreme Court in 1978 (Marquette National Bank of Minneapolis vs. First of Omaha Service Corp.) to deregulate interest rate caps at the state level was the precursor to the inundation of credit cards and the mortgaging of personal futures for the present. Although Reaganomics has been credited with bringing the country out of the vitriolic stagflation of the late 1970s, it has had a long term effect that has eaten away at the fiscal responsibility of the federal government. At the core of Reaganomics was reducing tax rates by reducing government spending which in turn was achieved by reducing costs associated with regulation and social programs. However, unexpected costs from the burgeoning Cold War resulted in large trade and federal budget deficits. In order to cover such deficits, the government began borrowing heavily both domestically and abroad. This decision to mortgage the future of the country for the present instilled a belief that debt is good, even to other countries, such as China, Japan and India. America became a borrower nation instead of a loaner nation, which it had been for decades during its prominence.
The deregulation of these two critical issues are the main causes of the current economic problems. It instilled bad habits at all levels of society. Although quality of life continued to increase the past thirty years, it was mostly at the cost of the future. Both politicians and individuals began feeling entitled to such luxuries and expected it to last forever. However, as analyzed by Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond (Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), it is this infectious mindset that causes great societies to fail. This country is at that critical juncture. Do we reinstate the values, sacrifices and hard work that made this country great or do we continue down this destructive path?
In addition to the present economic and ideological problems that endanger the quality of life of America, there are many massive elephants in the near future that can derail any sense of comfort in the nation. A fundamental restructuring of social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is required in the next one or two presidencies before the effects of the baby boomer population cripple the flow of aid from the system. The high quality of life has left Americans lazy, fat and indifferent, and the medical costs associated with treating related diseases and health issues threaten to destroy the already broken health-care system. The super-highway system that supported the rise of American power is also the bane of the country’s dependence on foreign oil and its lavish automobile lifestyle. Furthermore, the infrastructure of America is crumbling and poses a danger to the lifeblood of a large country like America. A massive government infrastructure initiative is required within the next twenty years. The only question will be where does all the money come from? As globalization continues to redistribute the wealth and power of the world, the education system and America’s ability to compete are also being tested. American children continue to fall behind other countries at all levels of education, from middle school to college to graduate school. This country has been able to sustain its technological competitiveness partly through the immigration of top-level students from countries such as China and India. However, the current backlash on immigration coupled with the increasing prestige of other countries’ higher education systems, begs the question of how America will sustain its technological edge? Corporations and special interest groups as super-humans continue to eat away at the fabric of America. Their selfish narrow-minded view of profit and ideology permeate all levels of society, from individuals to the government. Ideology has especially polarized the country into two hardened stances, secularity versus ideology. The effects of this has left the country fearful and suspicious of each other. Finally, the effects of the internet and other entertainment-related technologies cannot be understated. Although they have created luxuries beyond anyone’s belief and increased the free flow of information, they have also created a schizophrenic society of 24 hour media frenzy and questionable freedoms of morality. The neutrality of journalism and the mental well-being of society are at stake. Coupled with the constraints of global warming and moral responsibility, the above problems must be faced responsibly.
These problems will definitely be difficult to face and resolve. Most of these have been simmering for years, but have been effectively ignored. However, what has always made America great has been its ability to come together as a country and sacrifice for the greater good of the country and the world. The sacrifices by this country during the Civil War and World War II for the greater good cannot be forgotten. Although society was simpler and less polarized then, the country must come together once again to face the unprecedented wave of issues that threaten to send America down the road of self-destruction.
Tomorrow begins that choice. Tomorrow the country decides which path to take, one of sacrifice for the greater good or one of continued wantonness. Tomorrow begins the day where America can begin reinstating the values that made this country so great. A country of uniqueness not found anywhere else in the world. A melting pot that protects individual rights and helps others at times of need. A constitution so strong that the thought of a revolution is unfathomable. The land of opportunity and openness. A land of thousands of parks and natural resources. The separation of church and state and the freedom of religion. The land of the best medical care and higher education system. A land of tolerance and hope. And the land of the free and the home of the brave…
Whomever you vote for tomorrow, please think openly and clearly. Without any bias of age, race, religion, and fear, think who will be better for America. Who will lead America towards a path of redemption and strength. A path that requires sacrifice but cherishes American freedoms. A candidate that realizes that what America needs now is a problem solver with pragmatism and humility, and not one fixated on idealism, intolerance and fear mongering. Look closely at your choice, and know that when you go home afterwards, there will be a better America tomorrow. A better America for yourself and your family, and also for its great citizens of today and tomorrow.
A quick review on the Iraq War movie, Stop-Loss. Although the movie only grossed $11 million on a $25 million dollar budget, it’s pretty apparent that the low numbers were impacted by the country’s disdain for the war and the setting in of war fatigue. America is still not ready to confront the many negative effects of the war because the reason for the war is unpopular. In a way, it’s unfortunate because the deaths and injuries of the many young soldiers still have not received the honor and attention they deserve. Instead the country has focused on the politics of the war, the economic effects of the war, and the negative treatment of enemy combatants. Stop-Loss is an attempt to address the controversial rule that allows the government to extend a soldier’s tour of duty without his consent. What the movie calls a back-door draft. The reason is to maintain combat strength and readiness in the war zone due to inadequacies in soldier numbers or experience. According to the movie, over 80,000 soldiers have been stop-lossed during the first five years of the Iraq War.
The movie follows Staff Sargeant Brandon King’s return from the Iraq War and then shockingly stop-lossed right when he is ready to begin civilian life again. In leading up to the stop-loss, King realizes that the war has dramatically changed his soldiers and himself. Many of them are having difficulty adjusting to civilian life and patching up previous relationships. These observations contribute to his increasingly disdain for the war and the stop-loss was the ultimate last straw. He escapes from the barracks and becomes a fugitive. The rest of the movie follows his journey in seeking justice and also how he copes with his soldiers, the ethics surrounding the stop-loss, and his love for the country.
Ryan Phillippe and Channing Tatum
This movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, considering all the negative reviews about it. However, it is a very simplistic movie where the story line hinges on King’s belief the stop-loss is unjust. In trying to bring attention to the stop-loss process through the actions of King, the movie fails to develop any supporting characters. King’s best friend, Sargeant Steve Shriver’s actions are stereotypical and somewhat inconsistent at times. Michelle, Steve’s fiance, who joins King on his journey has no personality at all. It’s difficult to understand where her loyalties stand. The movie also fails in expressing the urgency of King’s fugitive status. King and Michelle drive her blue car throughout the entire process without any thought of trying to ditch the car. Any sign of the chase by police is glossed over several times by simply showing a random police car slowly driving around.
The movie is listed as 1 hour, 51 minutes, but it could have been roughly 20 to 30 minutes shorter. Phillippe actually does a decent job portraying King, and what he was given, a character with little actual development and stereotypical Texan life of cowboy hats, rifles, beer, country dancing, etc. Tatum also does a decent job with what he was given with, but Tatum has not fully proven himself as a lead dramatic role.