SciFi Friday: Gay SF, Finales, And Hot Post Finale Pics


Last weekend must have been Gay Science Fiction Television weekend, at least for those who are watching Torchwood on BBC America. They’ve hinted plenty of times that Captain Jack will sleep with anyone of any species or sex. In the second from last episode of the season the rift took Captain Jack back in time where he wound up dancing with and ultimately kissing Captain Jack Harkness. No, he didn’t kiss himself. He got involved with the real Jack Harkness, whose identity he took after the real Jack Harkness was killed during World War II. Got that straight? The first season finale will air Saturday night on BBC America and a week from Monday on HDNet. (I’m having a mini Torchwood marathon, watching Combat on HDNet on Monday, Captain Jack Harness which I recorded from BBC America on Tuesday, and will watch the finale this weekend.)

The second season of Torchwood starts in Great Britain in January and they’ve finally figured out how to reduce the number of Americans who got hooked on the show from downloading it before it airs here. BBC America will start showing the second season on January 26. No word yet on when HDNet will carry the HD version. The second season will include a character from Jack’s past (or more precisely, future). James Marsters will play a criminal time-agent. Freema Agyeman will also appear as Martha Jones but, due to her role on Doctor Who, which is technically a children’s show, she will not be appearing in any scenes involving sex or swearing. Damn it, what a waste.

The other gay relationship of the weekend took place on Battlestar Galactica: Razor (major spoilers in this section). Besides being about Admiral Cain (below right) as billed, much of the story centered around Kendra Shaw (above right). Another key character was Gina (left in pictures above and below), played by Tricia Helfer, who was having an affair with Admiral Cain. Shaw figures out that Gina is a Cylon after seeing Six as part of a Cylon attack on Pegasus. Cain has her tortured, giving added significance when Six ultimately kills her during season two.

We’ve heard many times that “this has happened before and it will happen again” and we hear it again late in the episode. Flashbacks show the original Cylons, including one who says the classic line, “By your command.” It turns out that they were also working on Human-Cylon hybrids, and the original one is still around to warn that Starbuck (below) would lead humanity to their doom. Unfortunately, if this warning is true, this is told to Shaw just before she is blown up.

Torchwood isn’t the only finale to air this week, but unlike the intentionally shorter British series, the American television series which are ending are doing so prematurely due to the strike. This week’s episode of The Bionic Woman was the last filmed before the strike, and many speculate that it will be the last of the series due to declining ratings. There have also been rumors, later denied, that even if the show returns it will be without Katee Sackhoff.

Desperate Housewives has a cliff hanger as a tornado is responsible for the death of at least one cast member (obviously not one of the main four). Another episode has been shot but there is no word when it will air and they might leave the show with the cliffhanger until the full series can be resumed.

Heroes finally got the story moving a few weeks ago, returning to the quality of the first season, but now it is already coming to an end on Monday. There are a number of loose ends, and hopefully Monday’s episode was written to be a satisfactory season finale which wraps most of them up. I assume they would not have started out the season so slowly if they realized how short it would turn out to be.

If we won’t have any further episodes of Heroes this year, at least we are bound to see many magazines featuring some of its stars. GQ has named Hayden Panetierre (above) the Obsession of the Year.


Kristen Bell has been chosen as Complex’s Woman of Next Year.


And, finally, in case anyone missed the big news of the week, Billie Piper will be returning to Doctor Who.

Christina Aguilera Latest to Pose Pregnant and Nude

First Demi Moore posed nude while pregnant.

Then Britney Spear copied her. Little did we know how much else she would soon show in pictures.

And now Christina Aguilera has jointed in on the cover of Marie Claire.

I dread to think what will happen should Lindsay Lohan get pregnant.

Kristen Bell of Veronica Mars and Heroes isn’t pregnant, but she is a cover girl this month, which will be included later in today’s edition of SciFi Friday, along with her Heroes costar Hayden Panettiere, GQ’s Obsession of the Year.

On Mandates: Choice is Not A Right-Wing Talking Point

John Edwards has explained what he means by not offering people the choice of declining participating in his health care plan:

Under the Edwards plan, when Americans file their income taxes, they would be required to submit a letter from an insurance provider confirming coverage for themselves and their dependents.

If someone did not submit proof of coverage, the Internal Revenue Service would notify a newly established regional or state-based health-care agency (which Edwards has dubbed a Health Care Market).

Those regional agencies would then evaluate whether the uninsured individual was eligible for Medicare (which covers those over 65), Medicaid (which covers the indigent), or S-CHIP (the State Children’s Health Insurance Program which targets the working poor).

If the individual was not eligible for either of those existing public programs, the regional-health care agency would enroll the individual into the lowest cost health-care plan available in that area. The lowest-cost option could be a new Medicare-like public option or a private insurance plan.

The newly covered individual would not only have access to health benefits but would also be responsible for making monthly payments with the help of a tax credit…

If a person did not meet his or her monthly financial obligation for a set period of time (perhaps a year, perhaps longer) the Edwards plan would empower the federal government to garnish an individual’s wages for purposes of collecting “back premiums with interest and collection costs.”

The process, according to the Edwards campaign, would resemble the process used to collect money from Americans who are delinquent on federal student loans or child support payments.

Just what most Americans want–more involvement by the IRS in their lives. Student loans and child support hardly provide good models for a health care plan. John Edwards has moved full circle from personally evading Medicare taxes to wanting to use the IRS to enforce his health care program. There’s still no explanation as to how he’ll enforce his requirement for mandatory preventative care. Perhaps he’ll resort to water boarding those who are noncompliant.

Anyone who thinks that its a good move to use the IRS to force people to sign up for a health care plan misses why Clinton’s previous plan was rejected and why the Democrats lost control of Congress. We’ve finally reached the point where scare stories about “socialized medicine” don’t cause people to reject the entire idea of reforms to make health care more affordable. This time around opponents of Democratic plans won’t need any Harry and Louise ads. All they will need are clips of John Edwards talking about using the IRS to force people into their plan, or how he will make preventative care mandatory.

Barack Obama has taken a lot of heat from the left for discussing the problems with mandates, including attacks from John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Paul Krugman. Krugman believes that Edwards somehow called Obama’s bluff after Obama said, “Their essential argument is the only way to get everybody covered is if the government forces you to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy it, then you’ll be penalized in some way.” Krugman apparently believes that having the IRS garnish your pay does not constitute being penalized.

Krugman’s makes the same mistake in attacking Obama as conservatives commonly do in reverse when attacking all government involvement in health care:

Mr. Obama, then, is wrong on policy. Worse yet, the words he uses to defend his position make him sound like Rudy Giuliani inveighing against “socialized medicine”: he doesn’t want the government to “force” people to have insurance, to “penalize” people who don’t participate.I recently castigated Mr. Obama for adopting right-wing talking points about a Social Security “crisis.” Now he’s echoing right-wing talking points on health care.

Just as it is erroneous to label any government involvement in health care “socialized medicine,” it is incorrect for Krugman to say any criticism of a government plan based on maintaining choice represents the same type of argument. Just as not all government action is necessarily “socialized medicine,” not every effort to avoid mandatory programs is the same as screaming “socialized medicine.” Attempting to keep programs as voluntary as possible is not in itself bad. In fact, striving to provide choice is a virtue.

The main argument for mandates is that without mandates in a program which prohibits exclusions for preexisting conditions people would be motivated to delay purchasing insurance until they have a medical problem. It doesn’t take much imagination to find ways around this problem while preserving choice. You could prohibit exclusions for preexisting conditions at the start of the program, when people change from one insurance plan to another, and at other predetermined times, but still allow exclusions in cases of people who chose not to have insurance. It might make things a little more complicated, and it might be argued that this would allow people to make foolish decisions, but that is what freedom is all about. Freedom is both messy and includes allowing people to make bad decisions. Contrary to what Krugman claims, providing people with choice is not a right-wing talking point. It is a fundamental liberal value.

Related Story: The Edwards Mantra: “You Don’t Get That Choice”

Meals with Michael

Michael Bloomberg has been going out to eat a lot recently. Following his recent dinner with Chuck Hagel there are now reports of Bloomberg having breakfast with Barack Obama. There’s no word on what they talked about, but we do know that Obama paid for the breakfast and didn’t make a mistake Hillary Clinton recently did. Obama left a $10 tip on a $17.34 meal.

Health Care, Ron Paul Style?

Ron Paul supporters say the darndest things. Bill Sardi gives his vision of health care in the year 2050. He predicts we’ll have half as many doctors, which presumably would make it much easier to slash and ultimately eliminate government spending on health care. There won’t be any need for antibiotics either as we will use Vitamin D to treat bacterial infections, and for the really stubborn infections we’ll turn to a garlic derivative. Similarly vitamins will replace chemotherapy to eliminate cancer.

Being a Paul supporter we even have a conspiracy theory. All those journal articles I’ve read showing that intensive treatment with Statins can reverse plaque in coronary arteries, as well as decrease inflammation which contributes to heart disease, are part of a government plot to tamper with our precious bodily fluids:

Cholesterol-lowering drugs are no longer employed since they never were shown to lower mortality rates and it was later revealed that government health authorities created this misdirection long ago in an effort to covertly reduce birth rates and population growth (cholesterol being a precursor for sex hormones – estrogen and testosterone).

This is the most shocking revelation since General Jack D. Ripper informed us that “fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face” in Doctor Strangelove.

Sardi knows about all the changes to come in health care because this is information now available but kept hidden (yet another conspiracy) and Ron Paul will put an end to this:

The striking disappointment is that all of this was known over 40 years ago but entrenched financial interests prevented these health practices from being implemented in a timely manner.

These changes began in 2008 with the election of Ron Paul as the 44th President of the United States, which signaled a major change in the direction of healthcare.

Ron Paul supporters truly do live in an alternative reality. Its too bad there’s not another Republican YouTube debate so that someone can ask Paul his views on antibiotics, chemotherapy, and cholesterol-lowering medications just as he was asked his views on conspiracy theories in the last debate. We already know that Paul doesn’t see a distinction between a zygote and a fully developed human. Without another YouTube debate we might not learn if Sardi’s ideas are another area where Paul shares views with his followers since the mainstream media generally doesn’t seem to care to look at anything more than his opposition to the war.

Bloomberg and Hagel Continue to Show Signs of Considering Independent Run

Although Michael Bloomberg denies having plans to run for president, the topic of a Bloomberg-Hagel ticket keeps coming up. Last week Sam Stein reported on Bloomberg’s efforts to study foreign policy.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been receiving foreign policy briefing sessions on a wide variety of topics, providing the strongest indication yet that he is considering a run for the White House, the Huffington Post has learned.

The sessions, which were confirmed by multiple sources, have been conducted with Nancy Soderberg, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and a Clinton Administration foreign policy adviser. One source described her as “Bloomberg’s Condi.”

A range of topics have been discussed, from non-proliferation to the defense budget, with a specific focus on the war in Iraq.

These sessions dramatically contradict Bloomberg’s denials that he is planning to run for president. The one aspect of his possible candidacy that is considered missing is foreign policy experience. These strategy sessions with Soderberg seem clearly designed to fortify that weakness.

Hagel helped build up his independent credentials, and gave Ron Paul supporters yet another reason to panic, when he spoke before the Council on Foreign Relations criticizing George Bush:

Sen. Chuck Hagel, a leading Republican lawmaker who has come out against the Iraq war, had some harsh words for the Bush White House Wednesday, calling it “one of the most arrogant” administrations he’s ever seen.

“I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus — almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade,” Hagel said during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York…

“I think of this administration, what they could have done after 9/11, what was within their grasp,” he said. “Every poll in the world showed 90 percent of the world for us. Iran had some of the first spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Tehran supporting America.”

“There’s where they have failed the country,” Hagel continued. “They’ve squandered the time and the opportunity that they had, and the next president is going to take four years to not only dig out from under that.

Hagel denied any plans to run, but did joke about the order of a potential ticket:

“Bloomberg’s got the money — I think it’d be Bloomberg-Hagel,” the senator joked when asked about the speculation.

After the speech, Hagel  had dinner with Bloomberg, and Hagel kept speculation alive:

After Bloomberg and Hagel shared another not-so-secret dinner in Washington last May, Hagel said in a television interview that it was time for a third-party candidacy to shake things up. He also mused about the idea of him and Bloomberg running together.

“We didn’t make any deals. But I think Mayor Bloomberg is the kind of individual who should seriously think about this,” Hagel said. “It’s a great country to think about – a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation.”

Yet Another Reason I Don’t Feel My Congressman Represents Me

Details at Think Progress

Republican Debate Sharpens Divisions in Party, With Libertarians the Big Losers

While watching the debates the one item which caught my attention as worthy of an immediate post was the question to Ron Paul about whether he agrees with his supporters on believing in conspiracy theories. Otherwise the debate came off pretty much as expected. We already knew that the Republicans are a bunch of xenophobic, homophobic warmongers and they didn’t disappoint us. I’ve long felt that Mike Huckabee is the best proponent of social conservativism and the post-debate polls show that more Republicans realize this. He would make an excellent candidate if he wasn’t wrong on so many issues. It will be interesting to see how the the nomination battle plays out as this might turn out into an all out battle between the social conservatives and fiscal conservatives.

While the social conservatives and fiscal conservatives each have strength in the Republican Party, the libertarian component is pretty much dead with Ron Paul destroying any possibility of them being taken seriously. It is particularly a shame as Paul’s brand of libertarianism is hardly recognizable as libertarianism and is far more in the tradition of the Birchers and other far right wing extremists while being quite inconsistent in actually supporting pro-freedom positions. Paul’s belief in a variety of conspiracy theories will keep most from taking him seriously, and unfortunately risks discrediting libertarianism. While I mentioned the exchange last night, the actual transcript is now available:

Q Good evening, candidates. This is Seepser (ph) from Arlington, Texas, and this question’s for Ron Paul.

Now, I’ve met a lot of your supporters online, but I’ve noticed that a good number of them seem to buy into this conspiracy theory regarding the Council on Foreign Relations and some plan to make a North American Union by merging the United States with Canada and Mexico. These supporters of yours seem to think that you also believe in this theory.

So my question to you is, do you really believe in all this, or are people just putting words in your mouth?

MR. COOPER: (Off mike) — Paul, 90 seconds.

REP. PAUL: Well, that all depends on what you mean by “all of this.” The CFR exists. The Trilateral Commission exists. And it’s a, quote, “conspiracy of ideas.” This is an ideological battle. Some people believe in globalism. Others of us believe in national sovereignty.

And there is a move on toward a North American Union, just like early on there was am move on for a European Union, and it eventually ended up — so we had NAFTA and moving toward a NAFTA highway. These are real things. It’s not somebody made these up. It’s not a conspiracy. They don’t talk about it, and they might not admit about it, but there’s been money spent on it. There was legislation passed in the Texas legislature unanimously to put a hold on it. They’re planning on millions of acres taken by eminent domain for an international highway from Mexico to Canada, which is going to make the immigration problem that much worse.

So it’s not so much a secretive conspiracy. It’s a contest between ideologies, whether we believe in our institutions here, our national sovereignty, our Constitution, or are we going to further move in the direction of international government, more U.N.?

You know, this country goes to war under U.N. resolutions. I don’t like big government in Washington, so I don’t like this trend toward international government. We have a WTO that wants to control our drug industry, our nutritional products. So I’m against all that, but it’s not so much it’s a sinister conspiracy; it’s just knowledge is out there. If we look for it, you’ll realize that our national sovereignty is under threat.

Most are well acquainted with the conspiracy theories surrounding the Council on Foreign Relations, the United Nations, and the Trilateral Commission. The NAFTA highway is another plot which exists purely in the minds of conservatives, as Steve Benen has pointed out. After this exchange it will be far harder for Paul apologists to claim that the views of his supporters don’t reflect upon Paul’s personal beliefs.

Just Say No–To Funding Abstinence Based Education

The following letter was sent to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid by a group of prominent researchers in adolescent reproductive and sexual health urging and end to funding of abstinence only programs:

Dear Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid,

As a group of leading scientists who have recently conducted research on adolescents, reproductive health, and abstinence-only education, we are writing to express our strong concern about increasing federal support for abstinence-only education (AOE) programs. This federal support includes monies going to states (Section 510 of the Social Security Act) and those going directly to community and faith-based organizations (the Community-Based Abstinence Education program). Recent reports in professional publications by the authors of this letter have highlighted multiple deficiencies in federal abstinence-only programs. As such, we are surprised and dismayed that the Congress is proposing to extend and even increase funding for these programs. In this letter we identify key problems with abstinence-only education. We also have attached recent scientific reports that are pertinent to the debate over these programs. We note that many of these studies have used nationally-representative data from surveys sponsored by the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The federal programs promoting AOE have prompted multiple scientific and ethical critiques. These critiques were summarized in a January 2006 paper by Santelli, Ott and others. By design, abstinence programs restrict information about condoms and contraception – information that may be critical to protecting the health of young people and to preventing unplanned pregnancy, HIV infection, and infection with other sexually transmitted organisms. They ignore the health needs of sexually active youth and youth who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning for counseling, health care services, and risk reduction education. Withholding lifesaving information from young people is contrary to the standards of medical ethics and to many international human rights conventions. International treaties and human rights statements support the rights of adolescents to seek and receive information vital to their health. Governments have an obligation to provide accurate information to adolescents and adolescents have a right to expect health education provided in public schools to be scientifically accurate and complete.

Rigorous evaluations of AOE programs find little evidence of efficacy for federally-sponsored abstinence education. Several weeks ago Dr. Douglas Kirby, working with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, released a comprehensive review of prevention programs for youth (Emerging Answers 2007). This review found that none of the well-designed evaluations of abstinence-only programs presented strong evidence of an impact on abstinence behaviors. (By contrast, Kirby finds clear evidence that many comprehensive sexuality education programs, which include information on both abstinence and contraception, do help young people delay initiation of intercourse.) The large-scale Mathematica evaluation of the Section 510 program, released in April 2007, found no measurable impact on increasing abstinence or delaying sexual initiation among participating youth or on other behaviors such as condom use. This well funded and very well conducted evaluation examined four exemplary local programs, tracking youth over four years. One of the few measurable impacts of the programs was a decrease in adolescent confidence regarding the ability of condoms to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Similar results on program efficacy were found by Underhill, who reviewed abstinence-only programs in a spring 2007 systematic review.

Virginity pledging, one aspect of abstinence programming, appears to have little long-term benefit in preventing outcomes such as sexually transmitted infections, although prevention of these infections is a stated goal of the programs. A spring 2005 longitudinal study by Bruckner and Bearman found that abstinence pledgers, when compared to non-pledgers, experienced similar rates of sexually transmitted infection. Pledgers did delay sexual intercourse for a limited period, but when they did start having sex, they were less likely to use condoms. They were also less likely to seek reproductive health care compared to non-pledgers.

Abstinence until marriage is another stated goal of the federal program; however, evidence from the past several decades indicates that establishing abstinence until marriage as normative behavior would be a highly challenging policy goal. Teitler has shown that over the past 40 years, the median age at first intercourse has dropped (and stabilized) to age 17 in most developed countries. (more…)

Edwards Forms Web Site to Attack Hillary Clinton

In July John Edwards criticized Clinton and Obama for feuding with each other:

“We’ve had two good people Democratic candidates for president who spent their time attacking each other instead of attacking the problems that this country is facing,” Edwards said to a mixture of groans and applause.

I’ve repeatedly provided examples of Edwards violating this himself, both before and after his call for Democrats not to attack other Democrats. Edwards has escalated this further in forming a web site to attack Hillary Clinton, making him look increasingly desperate. From Washington Wire:

Former North Carolina Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards launched a Web site today that takes a cloaked strike at front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Called “America Belongs to Us,” the site is essentially a petition seeking one million voters who promise to withhold their vote for any candidate who “accepts campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists’’ and lobbyist political action committees. The target is clear: Of the three leading Democrats — Edwards, Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama — only Clinton has refused to turn down special-interest money.

In keeping with Edwards’s increasingly strident (some would say angry) stump rhetoric, the site includes an “outrage of the day.” The debut outrage takes on credit-card companies, which the former North Carolina senator all but accuses of usury by deliberately making credit contracts opaque and confusing to the average consumer. The site says credit-card companies and banks have spent nearly $750 million on political contributions and lobbying since 1998.

Edwards’ hypocrisy is seen when his own record is compared. A tremendous percentage of Edwards’ contributions come from a single source–trial lawyersEdwards also didn’t come out too well when The Washington Post looked at how pure the candidates were on campaign finance issues. Edwards was the most secretive with regards to revealing the identities of his big fund raisers:

Edwards is no less tainted by the trial-lawyer money he scoops up by the bucketful than he would be by lobbyist contributions…

Indeed, who takes money from lobbyists is the wrong question about an essential subject. Instead, voters who care — and I think voters should care — ought to ask: What is the candidate’s history on campaign finance reform, lobbying and ethics rules, and open government generally? How transparent is the candidate about campaign and personal finances? What steps will he or she take to limit the influence of money during the current campaign?

On these, there are revealing differences among the Democratic front-runners.

Edwards was part of the legislative team working to pass the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, but lobbying and campaign reform were nowhere near the top of his agenda in the Senate.

During the 2004 campaign, Edwards gave a useful speech outlining his plan to limit lobbyists’ influence. But, unlike the other Democratic candidates, he refused requests to reveal the identities of his big fundraisers. This time around, after considerable prodding, Edwards agreed to release the names of fundraisers — all his fundraisers, with no specifics about how much they had collected. His campaign argues vehemently that it should be praised for this avalanche of information, not faulted. But the candidate knows who has reeled in $1,000 and who raised $100,000. Why shouldn’t voters?

In concentrating his attacks on Hillary Clinton, Edwards risks repeating the mistakes made by Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt in 2004. Not only might this lead to a victory for Obama, but it might open up the possibility for a second tier candidate such as Bill Richardson moving ahead of Edwards, as David Yepsen recently suggested.