SciFi Friday: Torchwood Premiers, Blink and You’re Dead, Battlestar Galactica, and Jehrico News

Torchwood, a spin off of Doctor Who (which is also an anagram of Doctor Who) premiered last Saturday, breaking all records for a premier on BBC America. The show second episode is tomorrow night, but I might hold off until a week from Monday to watch in high definition. Torchwood begins with the first episode on HDNet on Monday.

Torchwood is being compared to both X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Of course it is actually X-Files in reverse. X-Files started out ambiguous as to the existence of aliens. Torchwood takes place in the world of Doctor Who which has already been attacked by aliens such as the Cybermen, although some believe the attack actually represented mass hallucinations caused by terrorists. While Agent Mulder tried to spread the word about the aliens, on Torchwood Captain Jack Harkness tries to keep their efforts quiet, demonstrating the problems in the first episode of trying to use alien technology which they don’t really understand.

Last week Girl in the Fireplace, an episode of Doctor Who written by Steven Moffat won a Hugo Award. This week SciFi Channel airs another story written by Moffat which will also be a strong contender for a Hugo next year. If you haven’t seen it, don’t turn your back, don’t turn away…and don’t blink. Definately don’t miss this episode. Blink, like the excellent two episodes before it, was based upon a written Doctor Who story which is available on line here. Do not read my previous review of the episode until after you have seen it as this is one episode which is enjoyed best without any advance information.

If watching Doctor Who on Friday and Torchwood on Saturday are not enough, you can always go to a Doctor Who service on Sunday:

A CARDIFF priest loves Dr Who so much he is preaching to his congregation through the Time Lord.

St Paul’s Church, in Grangetown, Cardiff, was used as a location for an episode of the first series of Doctor Who starring the ninth Doctor played by Christopher Eccleston.

And parish priest, Father Ben Andrews, 32, says he loves the cult TV show so much he thought a themed evening would go down well with the youngsters.


I recently reported rumors that the final season of Battlestar Galactica would be split up. SyFy Portal reports:

There could be 10 months separating the first half and the second half of the final season of “Battlestar Galactica,” or there could be just a month. Either way, fans of the SciFi Channel series are in for a ride straight to the end.”We were told that SciFi was thinking about splitting the final season, but we do not know how long the gap in that split will be,” producer David Weddle told SyFy Portal’s Michael Hinman. “As far as I know, SciFi has not decided yet. The SciFi Channel executives are the only ones who will be able to answer that question, once they’ve arrived at a decision.”

SciFi Wire has news on the upcoming season of Jehrico. The writers had planned out a 22 episode arc, but instead they are forced to condense this into seven episodes. They are treating the seven episodes like an extended movie which follows up on the events of last season’s finale, leaving room for yet another season if the show is more successful when it returns. There are some minor spoilers on the season:

Among the new buildings on the freshly rebuilt main street in the Van Nuys suburb of Los Angeles was a cement facade that housed the headquarters of Jennings and Rall, a multinational organization that sets up shop in the town in season two.

There was also evidence of a continued military presence following its arrival in the season finale to suppress the hostilities between Jericho and the neighboring town of New Bern.

John Steinberg, co-creator and producer of the show, said in interviews that the seven episodes of the season will focus primarily on the introduction of these new outside elements to the town of Jericho and how its citizens respond to them.

“The first season was about that sort of invisible force, the government, the law, the financial system, all those things, disappearing, and living in a vacuum,” Steinberg said in an interview on the set. “And season two is about what happens when something comes back to replace that vacuum, and it’s not what you remembered being there when you left. And so that’s kind of the big arc of it, and how we respond to that and resist it or learn to deal with it.”

Fact Checking Bush’s Speech (An Effort Ignored by Fox)

Last night I noted several different sources which found factual errors in President Bush’s speech on Iraq. has now posted their fact checking. From the summary:

President Bush played loose with the facts in his address to the nation Thursday night as he tried to convince the American public that the surge in U.S. troops in Iraq has made the country more stable.

  • He said “36 nations … have troops on the ground in Iraq.” In fact, his own State Department puts the number at 25.
  • He said “ordinary life” was returning to Baghdad. Perhaps. In fact, news reports describe the city as starkly segregated with Shiites and Sunnis living in separate neighborhoods, which are walled off from one another with huge concrete barricades.
  • He said Baqubah in Diyala province was “cleared.” But the Washington Post quotes a State Department official as saying the security situation there was not stable.
  • He said that “the Iraqi Army is becoming more capable,” which may be true. But the Iraqi defense minister says it’ll be 2012 before the army will be even 60 percent capable of protecting the nation from external threats.
The full article is available on line here.

While many sources were interested in fact checking the speech, one “news” organization was not–Fox News. Media Matters reports that they were also the only network not to present the Democratic response.

Posted in George Bush, Iraq, News Media. Tags: , . No Comments »

Shocking News: Ad Rates Vary, And Few Pay Full Price

The manner in which the right wing blogosphere invents issues gets rather tedius as they never run out of ways in which to try to divert attention from the real issues. Yesterday we saw them fabricate a case of political correctness. The other big issue in the conservative blogosphere this week has been their allegation that MoveOn was charged less than others for their ad criticizing General Petraeus (yet another item blown out of proportion.)

Knowing how negotiable advertising rates are, and that large discounts are common place, this argument never passed the smell test. Jake Trapper looked into this:

New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis tells me that it’s Times policy to not “disclose the rate that any one advertiser pays for an ad. The rate that is charged for an ad will depend on a variety of factors including how frequently the advertiser advertises with us, the day of the week, is it color, is it black and white, what section it appears, all of those kinds of things.”

I wonder if the conservatives who are shocked that it is possible to purchase advertising below the list price also paid full price when ever staying in a hotel. (In case they are unaware, it was pretty easy to get rates well below listed price in four and five star hotels even before Price Line.) Sometimes I’m amazed at how little conservatives understand how the free market works despite their rhetoric.

Responses to Bush’s Speech on Iraq

Little by little the news media has been returning to work since their prolonged vacation during Bush’s first term. AP does some fact checking on Bush’s speech which is well worth reading.

Editor and Publisher looked at what Bush promised back in January and found that “None of this happened.”
Even Chris Matthews debunked one of Bush’s statements:

The fact we have 36 countries fighting on our side in Iraq must be news to the soldiers over there. I don’t know who these people are or how many divisions they have. All we read about in the papers are American GIs getting killed by IEDs and terrible accidents and all kinds of enemy action over there. … The idea we’re one of 36 countries fighting the war I think is ludicrous and why the President would throw that out there, I think it only opens him up to ridicule.

This is just one of the items factchecked by AP in the article linked above:

There may well be 36 nations contributing to the cause, but the overwhelming majority of troops come from the United States. For example, Albania has 120 soldiers there and Bulgaria has 150 non-combat troops in Iraq. Bush visited both nations this summer as a thank you.

The United States has 168,000 troops in Iraq.

Needless to say, many Democrats have also responded, such as Barack Obama:

“It is long past time to end a war that never should have started. President Bush was wrong when he took us to war, he was wrong when he escalated this war in January, and he is wrong to stay the course now. I opposed this war from the beginning, I introduced legislation in January that would have already started to bring our troops home, and I will continue to lead the fight in the Senate for a fixed timeline with a deadline for the removal of all of our combat troops. The American people are not going to be fooled by the same false promises of success that got us into Iraq. Iraq’s leaders are not making the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge, but the President wants us to keep giving him a blank check. We must not continue the enormous sacrifice of our troops, our military readiness, our treasury, and our standing in the world just to keep the violence at the same unacceptable levels it was at in 2005 and 2006. That is why I have proposed an immediate and sustained removal of 1 to 2 combat brigades each month to conclude by the end of next year. We have to come together — not as Republicans and Democrats — but as Americans to turn the page in Iraq so that we can recapture our unity of purpose at home and our leadership around the world.”

Broken By Water Boarding, A Red Head, Or A Craving For Tea?

Both opponents and proponents of techniques such as water boarding could find aspects of this story to use to defend their position. The Blotter describes how water boarding was successful in getting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to speak, but there was also another interesting aspect to why he broke:

When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was strapped down to the water-board, he felt humiliated — not by the treatment but by the fact that a woman, a red-headed CIA supervisor, was allowed to witness the spectacle, a former intelligence officer told ABC News.

The al Qaeda mastermind, known as KSM, stubbornly held out for about two minutes — far longer than any of the other “high-value” terror targets who were subjected to the technique, the harshest from a list of six techniques approved for use by the CIA and Bush administration lawyers, sources said.

Then KSM started talking, in idiomatic English he learned as a high school foreign exchange student and polished at a North Carolina college in the 1980s, sources said.

“It was an extraordinary amount of time for him to hold out,” one former CIA officer told “A red-headed female supervisor was in the room when he was being water-boarded. It was humiliating to him. So he held out.”

“Then he started talking, and he never stopped,” this former officer said. KSM was never water-boarded again, and in hours and hours of conversation with his interrogators, often over a cup of tea, he poured out his soul and the murderous deeds he committed.

“He was sitting across the table from his interrogator, and he just blurted out, ‘I killed Daniel Pearl. I killed him Hahal (slit his throat in a ritual fashion).’ There was no water-boarding, no belly slapping; just two guys sitting across the table having a cup of tea.”

A single case can hardly be used to make policy decisions with regards to torture. The post does also review some of the arguments against the use of torture.

“If one water-board session got him to talk, you could have gotten him to talk (without it), given time and patience,” said Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant and former FBI agent. Garrett has 30 years of experience interrogating terrorists such as Yousef, the Pakistani man who killed two CIA employees at the gates to the agency’s Langley, Va. headquarters in 1994 and hundreds of violent criminals.

“If in fact it’s true that they water-boarded him once and then he started talking and provided reliable information, then he falls under the category of the small minority of people on whom it works. But torture seldom works. Most people start talking…to get the pain to stop,” Garrett said.

But in many cases, the harsh intelligence techniques led to questionable confessions and downright lies, say officers with firsthand knowledge of the program. That included statements that al Qaeda was building dirty bombs…

“Using torture says that we aren’t any better than countries that historically tortured people. What are we telling the world about the United States?” Garrett, who has lectured on the subject of interrogation and torture and the perception of a nation, asked.

Posted in Terrorism, Torture. Tags: . No Comments »

Edwards Attempts to Reduce Political Harm From Relationship To Companies Involved in Katrina Foreclosures

The Wall Street Journal has an article to follow up on the previous story (discussed here) regarding Edwards’ connections to a private-equity company which has been responsible for foreclosures on Katrina victims:

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, whose personal investments have been linked to foreclosure suits filed against three dozen victims of Hurricane Katrina, has helped set up a charitable organization to help the homeowners.

His campaign said Mr. Edwards had also redirected the investments, a $16 million stake in Fortress Investment Group LLC, within the private-equity company to ensure they no longer had ties to its subprime-mortgage businesses.

The Louisiana Home Rescue Fund will be seeded with $100,000 — much of which will come from Mr. Edwards’s own pocket, the campaign said, without specifying an amount.

The program will be administered by the nonprofit ACORN Housing Corp., and will provide loans and grants to 34 families in the New Orleans area whose homes were seized or are in danger of foreclosure following the August 2005 hurricane.

The move aims to put to rest a politically embarrassing chapter for the former senator from North Carolina, a wealthy trial lawyer who has often found the trappings of his lifestyle overshadowing his populist, pro-working man platform.

From a PR point of view such a gesture might succeed in putting the story to rest, however Edwards’ investments in the company are just one aspect of this. At the time I cared far less about his investments than the fact that he worked for the company “primarily to learn” the business but claimed to be unaware of what they were doing. Regardless of the political implications, at the very least it should be of help to the 34 families involved. However I also wonder how impressed many voters will be impressed by his contribution of an undisclosed sum of money under $100,000 when compared to his $16 million dollar stake in this investment alone.

Considering how little support Edwards has nation wide, with only 30% of the country and slighlty over half of Democrats saying they would vote for him, Edwards needs far more than gestures such as this.

Richardson Receives Major Endorsement in New Hampshire

Richardson remains a long shot, but he continues to show signs that he could pull an upset. The latest sign came today when he received the endorsement of former Manchester Mayor Bob Baines. Baines will be one of five co-chairs of the New Hampshire Steering Committee. Baines called Richardson the only candidate “who can bring both change and experience to the White House.”

Endorsements are hardly enough to bring about a victory, but in small states like New Hampshire and Iowa endorsements such as this can help bring out the vote. While the media concentrates on who people such as Al Gore will endorse, despite lack of any benefit in the 2004 election, influential supporters from New Hampshire and Iowa can have a real impact. One reason I felt Kerry could pull off the upset before the Iowa caucus was the number of key endorsements he received in Iowa and New Hampshire compared to his opponents.

Posted in Politics. Tags: . 2 Comments »

California Probably to Remain Winner Take All

Slate has a good argument as to why the plan to help Republicans by splitting California’s electoral votes will not work. The idea is that California’s 55 electoral votes would be divided up based upon the winner in each Congressional district as opposed to the current winner take all system. This could shift 20 of the electors over to the Republicans, which could make the difference in a close election. Slate argues that this cannot be changed by referendum:

But there’s a big problem with this referendum that has so far gone unnoticed: It’s patently unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution prohibits a ballot measure that would trump a state legislature’s chosen method of appointing electors. In Article II, Section 1, the Constitution declares that electors shall be appointed by states “in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” That’s legislature. California’s could scrap its current winner-take-all approach and adopt a district-by-district system for allocating electors (as only Maine and Nebraska currently do). But the voters—whom the initiative supporters have turned to because they don’t have the support of the Democratic-controlled legislature—cannot do this on their own.

Allocating electors may actually be a good idea but, even though there is no Constitutional requirement for this, it would be preferable if all states allocated electors the same way.

Posted in Politics. Tags: . No Comments »