SciFi Friday: Sayid the Assassin; Sonya Walger Gets Around; And Post Strike Television Plans

Lost had yet another excellent episode this week, both on and off the island. Since they went to flash forwards, the portions off the island have often been the more interesting parts of the episodes. This is a Sayid centered show. We both see him become the first to leave the island and in the flash forwards we see his new life. Sayid becomes an assassin, but he appears to be doing this to protect his friends. We never find out who he is protecting them from, or what secret is placing them in such danger, but the show does end with a surprise which perhaps we should have expected. Back on the island Sayid told Locke, “the day he trusts Ben is the day he’s sold his soul.” That should have been our clue that he would wind up working for Ben.

Ben is also off the island, but presumably he isn’t one of the Oceanic 6. From what we find in the secret room in his house, it also doesn’t look like it is unusual for him to leave the island. However if he could leave the island to use those passports and the money, why didn’t he do so when he needed cancer surgery?

Besides the big mysteries on Lost, there are also the smaller ones. For example, home come both Naomi and Elsa, the girl Sayid is involved with in this episode, have the same bracelet. We can be sure that is no coincidence. We get a clue that there is something strange going on with time when Daniel Faraday performs his experiments. Daniel warns Frank that he must be sure of following the exact same route back to the freighter. My bet is that if he strays off course he’ll wind up in a different time.

Now that the strike is over, five additional episodes are being produced to complete the season. This will mean a one month hiatus.

I just found out this week that Lost and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles have something, or someone, in common. Sonya Walger, who plays Penelope Widmore on Lost also plays Michelle Dixon on The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Television viewers have also seen more of her, literally much more, on HBO’s Tell Me You Love Me. Rather than that wimp of a husband on Tell Me You Love Me, I can see Carolyn being more fulfilled as part of the secrets she is clearly involved in as Penelope.

Meanwhile, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is getting more complicated with more characters getting involved. This includes finding that Kyle Reese of the original movie, and John’s father, had a brother. I suspect the Derek Reese story line will continue for a while, which seems to have more potential than dragging out the Jordan suicide storyline. At least it did set up Cameron’s line: “I’m done with grief counseling. I’m feeling much better.” I will also never trust a computerized chess game again, now that we know that it just might turn into Skynet and try to wipe out humanity if it loses.

Jericho is back and moving in a new direction. Instead of being on their own, or under attack by a neighboring town, they are now being integrated into a new government which is taking control of most of the area west of the Mississippi. We can be certain that the Cheyenne government is up to no good, and this should leave a lot for Robert Hawkins to do.

There’s a lot of other television news with the strike over. Here’s a good summary of what is going on with most shows. CBS has also started to announce their plans for next season. How I Met Your Mother , The New Adventures of Old Christine, and Terms of Engagement are all still up in the air. HIMYM is one of the best comedies on, and to end it now would be like ending Friends before Ross and Rachel got back together.


I’ve seen some speculation that ultimately HIMYM will be renewed, but that they are waiting to see how Christine and Engagement do the rest of this season to decide which of the two to fit into the schedule. If it comes down to the two, I’d vote for Christine, but Terms of Engagement also shows potential and I’d hate to see it dropped considering how few good sitcoms are now on television. My suspicion is that the show with Bianca Kajlich (above) will win out.

Being in need of material during the strike, CBS is going to show a cleaned up version of Dexter. From the reviews I’ve seen, they do a decent job with the cuts to clean it up for network television, but the Showtime version is still better.

For those, like me, who were going to make their Christmas Day plans around the opening of Star Trek XI, you no longer need to have to figure out how to convince your wife to go along with this. The opening of the movie has been pushed back to May 8, 2009. This will both allow them to take advantage of the summer movie market, and allow them to make a few rewrites now that the writers are back.

The Ignorance of the Right–And Clinton Supporters

Andrew Sullivan is fed up with conservative attacks on Obama which falsely claim that there is not enough substance to his plans. Of course this also applies to the similar attacks on Obama from Clinton supporters:

Now the reason I balk at this is that I actually sat through a long Obama speech on taxes last year in Washington. I couldn’t get through the details there were so many. It bored the pants off me. The notion that Obama has not released details and specifics on economic policy is a fantasy. It’s a product of pundit laziness. The cocoon right seems to believe that because they haven’t done their homework, Obama hasn’t.

And because Obama actually inspires with oratory, they also assume he doesn’t have substance. The premise is that you cannot be inspiring and detailed at the same time. Two words: Why not?

What people fail to understand is that in politics, words are also substance.  The ability to inspire people is not inherently a dangerous phenomenon. It is sometimes critical to effective governance. Conservatives used to understand this. Perhaps Churchill’s greatest actual weapon was the English language. It did things no bureaucrat, soldier, armament, or policy could do. The core of Ronald Reagan’s success was his rhetorical ability to reach over the heads of the Washington process to the people who can force Washington to change: the American people. And I don’t recall conservatives decrying the rhetoric of hope reacting to George W. Bush’s inspired speeches after 9/11.

For the most part I agree with Sullivan, except I didn’t find Bush’s speeches after 9/11 to be so inspired. What stands out in my memory of September 2001 is how first Bush hid behind a children’s book and then he dropped out of sight for a couple of days as if he was too shook up to actually do anything. The accounts of the period after 9/11 do suggest my initial impression of Bush at the time were correct. Besides, George W. Bush is hardly the person one would include in a discussion of the oratory skills of Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Barack Obama.

Newt Gingrich Shows More Respect For Democratic Principles Than Hillary Clinton

Newt Gingrich and the Clintons were on opposite sides of many issues in the 1990’s. Liberal bloggers would generally take the side of the Clintons, but here’s one time when Gingrich is right and the Clintons are wrong. Newt Gingrich understands the consequences of Hillary Clinton’s attempts to steal the nomination, both to the Democratic Party and to democracy itself. Gingrich even discusses the Democratic Party without resorting to the childish tendency of many Repubicans to distort the party’s name.

So the Democrats are caught in a double-bind: Disenfranchising the voters in Michigan and Florida while allowing party insiders to pick the party’s nominee has all the makings of a Democratic civil war.

You might think that as a Republican I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do. All of us do. A tainted or “stolen” Democratic nomination has the potential to delegitimize the election itself and its outcome. And tainted victories produce hobbled administrations. Much as I might have agreed with the outcome of the 2000 general election, the rancor and vitriol it produced created divisions among Americans where none naturally existed before, irreparably damaging the Bush administration.

Contrary to the political consultants’ handiwork and the mainstream media’s mythmaking, America is not a nation fundamentally divided between red and blue. We are surprisingly united on the core values that make us Americans and the practical solutions to the challenges we face. We need an election process with the integrity to produce a nominee who can lead this natural majority.

The question is: How?

Giving the Michigan and Florida delegates to Sen. Clinton — particularly in light of reports that she bent the Democratic Party rules against campaigning in both states — is a recipe for even more chaos.

On the other hand, leaving the Florida and Michigan delegates unseated runs the risk for the Democrats of alienating two big states they want and need to win in November.

The answer, for the integrity of the process, is a do-over: Hold the Michigan and Florida Democratic primaries again.

The voters — not the party insiders — have the moral authority to choose the nominee. Democratic voters in Michigan and Florida should get that chance. Then in November, we’ll have a fair fight. And I’ll be honest — it may not help the chances for a Republican victory in the fall. But it will help something even more important: the integrity of our political process.

With all the partisan battles, it is good to see a Republican like Gingrich stand up for the core democratic principles which do hopefully bind us together. It is out of respect for the importance of defending democracy that I’ve decided I will vote for John McCain should Clinton win the Democratic nomination by stealing it as she is now attempting.

A new vote, which Obama has supported and Clinton has opposed, would be the best solution. Clinton claims to be concerned with protecting the rights of those of us in Michigan and Florida to have representatives at the convention, but her opposition to a fair primary or caucus demonstrates that her only real concern is picking up additional delegates.

Unfortunately I doubt a new primary is going to happen. The chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party is a Clinton supporter and appears determined to give Clinton this unfair edge. The national party will need to take the lead on presenting a fair solution.

One possibility would be to only allow the delegates of both states to participate after the nominee is chosen. It is possible that events in the final contests will settle the issue and it won’t matter. The super delegates could ensure that this isn’t an issue. Should Obama have a clear lead and enough super delegates then commit to Obama to guarantee the nomination, there will be no reason to allow Clinton the minor victory of having majorities in the Michigan and Florida delegations if Obama is certain to receive the nomination.

If the nomination is still uncertain going into the convention, the best compromise might be to allow Michigan and Florida to have delegations composed of an equal number of delegates for each candidate. This way Clinton will not benefit from violating the agreement among the candidates not to campaign in these states, Michigan and Florida will both be represented at the convention, and supporters of either candidate will probably accept this without becoming angry enough to sit home in November or vote Republican in protest.

The Clintons vs. The Media

One of the great annoyances of the Clinton campaign is that they are continually trying to distract from the real issues and differences between the candidates by depending on side shows. The biggest was when they brought in their top performer, Bill Clinton, who proceeded to destroy his legacy of being called the first black president by resorting to a racist strategy to attempt to prevent a real black from being elected. In Wisconsin they are relying on ads arguing that twenty-two debates are not enough and that Obama doesn’t deserve to be president because he won’t agree to a twenty-third. Yet another side show is the attacks on the press.

There certainly have been some inappropriate comments from the news media, but that is part of the territory. Eugene Robinson notes that attacks on the media have been a part of the Clinton strategy:

The theme of press bias, however, is woven through the Clinton campaign’s narrative of the story thus far. There are two basic allegations: that journalists look at Obama uncritically while subjecting Hillary Clinton to microscopic scrutiny; and that we react with hair-trigger reflexes when attacks on Obama have the slightest whiff of racism but don’t seem to notice, or care, when Clinton is subjected to rank sexism.

The first charge is just bogus, in my view. Like Clinton, Obama has developed position papers on all the major issues. Clinton has been able to highlight the differences between her proposals and Obama’s — for example, the fact that her plan for universal health insurance includes a mandate, whereas Obama’s does not. In debates, she has had the chance to challenge his approach and defend her own. It is not the media’s fault if voters do not agree with Clinton that nominating Obama would be a “leap of faith.”

It is true that the candidates’ stump speeches are markedly different: Clinton’s is about competence and diligence, Obama’s about hope and change. But journalists didn’t write those speeches, campaign speechwriters did. And any reporter or commentator who failed to note that Obama is an exceptional public speaker would be guilty of journalistic malpractice.

Reporters are busy combing through Obama’s personal, professional and financial history, just as they have examined the lives of the Clintons. Obama has facilitated this process by releasing his tax returns, which Clinton has declined to do. It is not unfair to point this out.

The contention about racism vs. sexism is harder to dismiss out of hand. Being unapologetically racist or sexist is no longer acceptable in this country, at least in most settings. The social censure for being publicly racist, though, is well codified; the perpetrator must recant and repent, and may never completely eliminate the taint. There’s also a pretty solid consensus on what’s racist and what isn’t. The views on sexism are less settled.

When John Edwards, in one of the early ensemble-cast debates, mentioned Hillary Clinton’s attire, I think everyone agreed he had made a mistake. Yet it’s not always out of bounds to comment on a presidential candidate’s wardrobe and appearance, or else we wouldn’t have chuckled at Edwards’s $400 haircut or Mitt Romney’s game-show-host mien.

When people refer to Hillary Clinton as strident, is that a sexist code word? I think it probably is.

But when her speaking voice is described unfavorably, is that blaming her unfairly for physiology that’s obviously beyond her control? Are male journalists just not used to hearing a woman’s voice speak with presidential authority? Or are they making a valid observation about dynamics and tone, which are within her power to modulate?

Is sexism in the coverage of the Clinton campaign excusable? No, and we deserve to be called on it. But it wasn’t the media that decided she should take for granted all those states that Barack Obama has been winning.

Military Accused of Infringing Upon Religious Freedom

The Founding Fathers set up a secular state in order to guarantee the rights of all to worship, or not worship, as they choose. In the early days of the nation, religious leaders such as Roger Williams were among the strongest defenders of separation of church and state. In 1960 John Kennedy said while campaigning,  “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” In this presidential campaign, Barack Obama has explained:

For my friends on the right, I think it would be helpful to remember the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy but also our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves.

It was the forbearers of Evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they didn’t want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it. Given this fact, I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism.

Despite this tradition of a secular government, there is one portion of the government which is controlled by religious fundamentalists who, unlike religious groups of the past, fail to respect separation of church and state. A news report from yesterday shows the latest example of the lack of respect for religious freedom in the military:

Since his last combat deployment in Iraq, Jeremy Hall has had a rough time, getting shoved and threatened by his fellow soldiers. The trouble started there when he would not pray in the mess hall.”A senior ranking staff sergeant told me to leave and sit somewhere else because I refused to pray,” Hall, a 23-year-old US army specialist, told AFP.

Later, Hall was confronted by a major for holding an authorized meeting of “atheists and freethinkers” on his base. The officer threatened to discipline him and block his re-enlistment.

“He said: ‘You guys are being a problem and problems can be removed,'” Hall said. “He was yelling at us and stuff and at the very end he says, ‘I really love you guys, I want you to see the light.'”

Now Hall is suing the major and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, accusing them of breaching his constitutional rights. A campaign group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is waiting for the Pentagon to respond to a lawsuit filed in a Kansas federal court on Hall’s behalf.

It alleges a “pernicious pattern and practice” of infringement of religious liberties in the military.

The group’s founder, former Air Force lawyer Mikey Weinstein, said he has documented 6,800 testimonies by military personnel — nearly all of them Christians — of sometimes punitive or humiliating attempts to make them accept a fundamentalist evangelical interpretation of Christianity.

“I am at war with those people who would create a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in the technologically most lethal organization ever created by our species, which is the United States armed forces,” he said.

With perhaps a bit of snark, P.Z. Myers finds this to be a major barrier to secularism:

I’m not the violent sort, and I think we need to achieve an enlightened society through reason and education … but that’s all futile when the other side is busily gathering the guns.

John Lewis Switches to Obama

Now that she is losing in the primaries and caucuses, Hillary Clinton is hoping to still win the Democratic nomination with the support of the super delegates. The flaw in this plan is that many of the super delegates will realize that it would be harmful to the party to overrule the decisions of the voters in such a manner. Many super delegates are holding off on making a decision, but some committed early. It is a sign of Obama’s momentum that some who have committed early are now changing their support from Clinton to Obama. John Lewis is the latest:

Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.

“In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” said Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who endorsed Mrs. Clinton last fall. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.”

Mr. Lewis, who carries great influence among other members of Congress, disclosed his decision in an interview in which he said that as a superdelegate he could “never, ever do anything to reverse the action” of the voters of his district, who overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama.

“I’ve been very impressed with the campaign of Senator Obama,” Mr. Lewis said. “He’s getting better and better every single day.”

His comments came as fresh signs emerged that Mrs. Clinton’s support was beginning to erode from some other African-American lawmakers who also serve as superdelegates. Representative David Scott of Georgia, who was among the first to defect, said he, too, would not go against the will of voters in his district.

Andrew Sullivan quotes from Lewis’s original endorsement of Clinton and says:

If Lewis’s original endorsement of the Clintons was a huge blow to Obama, then his reversal is an even bigger blow to the Clintons. The Obama campaign has now not only built a rival machine to the Clintons’, it is poaching loyalists. A figure like Lewis also brings, for good reason, a vast moral credibility with him. He gives permission – even encouragement – for other Clinton super-delegates to move to prevent a bruising and bitter fight through the spring. It’s a tipping point. I predict others will follow.

Obama Ad Responds To Clinton Attack Ad


Barack Obama’s campaign shows that they are prepared to respond to attack ads with the response above. I’ve previously posted Clinton’s attack ad running in Wisconsin and added quite a lengthy list of misleading statements in the ad in this post.

For a more humorous response to the Clinton attack ad, see this parody ad.

Democrats From Bloggers to Al Sharpton Protest Clinton Attempts to Steal Nomination

Most likely the next President of the United States will be Barack Obama or John McCain. It is becoming increasingly difficult to see how Hillary Clinton can win the Democratic nomination without alienating so many Democrats by her tactics that they will either stay home or vote for McCain. Ezra Klein has also commented on this problem:

If Hillary Clinton does not win delegates out of a majority of contested primaries and caucuses, her aides are willing to rip the party apart to secure the nomination, to cheat in a way that will rend the Democratic coalition and probably destroy Clinton’s chances in the general election. Imagine the fury in the African-American community if Barack Obama leads in delegates but is denied the nomination because the Clinton campaign is able to change the rules to seat delegates from Michigan, where no other candidates were even on the ballot, and from Florida, where no one campaigned. Imagine the anger among the young voters Obama brought into the process, and was making into Democratic voters. Imagine the feeling of betrayal among his supporters more generally, and the disgust among independents watching the battle take place on the convention floor. Imagine how statesmanlike John McCain will look in comparison, how orderly and focused the Republican convention will appear.

This demonstrates not only a gross ruthlessness on the part of Clinton’s campaign, but an astonishingly cavalier attitude towards the preservation of the progressive coalition. To be willing to blithely rip it to shreds in order to wrest a nomination that’s not been fairly earned is not only low, but a demonstration of deeply pernicious priorities — namely, it’s an explicit statement that the campaign puts its own political success above the health of the party and the pursuit of progressive goals, and one can’t but help assume that’s exactly the attitude they would take towards governance, too.

I’ve already stated that should Clinton steal the nomination in this manner, my concerns for the preservation of the democratic process would out weight my considerable disagreements with John McCain on other issues. Preventing the election of Hillary Clinton would become my top electoral priority and I would vote for McCain. If I believed that Clinton’s election was likely, I would also be tempted to vote Republican for Congress and the Senate to increase the chances that, like with her husband, we would have a Republican Congress to keep her under control. (Hopefully they would exercise conventional checks and balances without going to the absurd extreme of impeachment.)

Of course that’s just my vote, but I bet that many others who would otherwise vote Democratic would do the same, or at least stay home on election day. We now have evidence that at least some blacks would also protest should Clinton steal the nomination. Al Sharpton has threatened protests and possible legal action:

Sharpton wrote: “I firmly believe that changing the rules now and seating delegates from Florida and Michigan at this point would not only violate the Democratic Party’s rules of fairness, but also would be a grave injustice.” The Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday said the Democratic Party would commit a “grave injustice” if it seated delegates from Florida and Michigan at the party’s national convention – and he threatened a march on the party’s Washington headquarters…Sharpton told The Post, “I think the DNC is playing a dangerous game . . . [and could] open the door here for everything from litigation to demonstration.”

He said his National Action Network is discussing a possible march on DNC headquarters, adding, “This smacks of the same stuff we accused the Republicans of in Florida in 2000 . . . changing the rules.”

Bloomberg Criticizes Washington and Praises Obama on Economic Plans

Back when there was talk of Michael Bloomberg running for president I predicted that he would not run if Obama was the candidate because they would be competing for essentially the same voters, and the candidate from a major party would have a tremendous advantage. Once again Bloomberg was critical of other politicians, except Obama:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has unleashed another flurry of jabs on Washington, ridiculing the federal government’s rebate checks as being “like giving a drink to an alcoholic” on Thursday, and said the presidential candidates are looking for easy solutions to complex economic problems.

The billionaire and potential independent presidential candidate also said the nation “has a balance sheet that’s starting to look more and more like a third-world country.”

President Bush signed legislation Wednesday that will result in cash rebates ranging from $300 to $1,200 for more than 130 million people.

The federal checks are the centerpiece of the government’s emergency effort to stimulate the economy, under the theory that most people will spend the money right away.

But Bloomberg does not believe it will do much good. And his harsh words at a news conference Thursday reflect the view among some of his associates that the country’s economic woes present a unique opportunity for him to launch a third-party bid for the White House.

Once he got to Obama, he sure sounded different:

In his answer, he praised Democrat Barack Obama for the plan the Illinois senator outlined on Wednesday that would create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to rebuild highways, bridges, airports and other public projects. Obama projects it could generate nearly 2 million jobs.

Last month, Bloomberg and Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania announced a coalition that would urge more investment in infrastructure.

“I don’t know whether Senator Obama looked to see what I’ve been advocating, or not — you’ll have to ask him — but he’s doing the right thing,” Bloomberg said.