SciFi Friday: Ron Moore on Star Trek

Tonight will be the final episode of Battlestar Galactica to air until next winter. I will avoid any other discussion on the show to give everyone a chance to see the episode. Instead this week will deal with Ron Moore’s work, but look back at his work on Star Trek. has a lengthy interview with Moore and I will just highlight a couple of points. One frustration in writing the show was that everybody was to be perfect–reducing the potential for conflict: Piller used to refer to the ‘Roddenberry box’ as in the Gene rules that there is no greed, people are perfect, etc. Did you find the ‘Roddenberry box’ limiting as a writer?

Ron Moore: I think we all did. I think there was a general consensus in the writers room in every season that we always chaffed at the notion that there were no petty jealousies and greed and all that. We railed against that on a daily basis, found ways to get around that, found ways to get through it with varying degrees of success. It was a constant problem that we just sort of gnashed our teeth about. It never made any logical sense or any dramatic sense. It just didn’t feel like it was a logical sense of where the Star Trek universe was going. I was always saying ‘the Original Series was never like this, the Original Series has plenty of problems with humanity, plenty of with jealousies and bickering and even racial prejudices are alive in the 23rd century.’ In “Balance of Terror” Stiles is overtly prejudiced against Spock just because he is Vulcan. And that isn’t the only instance of that. It made for drama and it made for conflict. It made the world work.

So when you tried to take all that out it just made it very difficult to tell stories that had much meaning to them, or any teeth to them, because you had to keep going back and make people much nicer and people couldn’t have true conflict and it made it hard to write the show in any kind of dramatic sense. And we were always bitching and moaning about it. And my personal theory was that Gene sort of started to believe in himself as more of a visionary than a writer at a certain point. He started to believe the stuff that he was creating a utopian future and wanted The Next Generation universe to be reflective of the utopian universe that so many people had told him he had been creating for all these years. So it started to become less about the drama, less about making a television show, and more about servicing this idea of what utopianism was going to be and how perfect humanity was going to be in the future as an example of how to live our lives by, as opposed to making a great television series.


Obama Describes His Tax Policies


Republicans have been making a number of false claims about Obama’s tax plans. The video above shows Obama describing his actual proposals. As noted yesterday, the vast majority of Americans will receive a tax cut under Obama, not a tax increase as the Republicans are often claiming. In the video Obama makes it clear that those earning under $250,000 will not receive an increase in taxes–not in their income tax, not in Social Security payroll taxes, and not in capital gains taxes. The vast majority will receive a tax cut.

I’m not saying things will definitely turn out this way as we cannot predict the future, and the president does not have complete control over tax policy. However this does contradict a number of claims being thrown around by Republicans who are misquoting Obama’s tax proposals to scare people into voting Republican.

Tim Russert Dies at 58

Tim Russert, Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News, died today at age 58. Working in an era when cable news and the deaths or retirements of the great anchors has diminished the importance of the evening network news, Russert managed to dominate contemporary political coverage. One small example of his importance could be seen in May after the Indiana primary. That night Tim Russert proclaimed that Barack Obama had won the Democratic nomination (video here). And it was so.

Russert died while working on this Sunday’s Meet the Press, a show he turned into a major institution of journalism. As sad as his death might be under any circumstance, it seems especially unfair that he could not live to see the conclusion of an election year as remarkable as this one.

Does This Look Like an Elitist?

You can’t win in politics. Most of the time Obama is attacked as a wine and latte drinking elitist. This week the above picture has been posted all over where he portrays the opposite image while out on a bike ride with one of his daughters. At least Obama is doing a good job of deflecting criticism by stressing the safety factor:

Obama, at a fundraiser last night, was pretty funny discussing the pictures of him riding a bike and looking like a doofus over the weekend:

“I had an internal debate. Because I knew that the A.P. was going to take a picture, and they were trying to portray it like Dukakis wearing that tank helmet. But I wanted to make sure that the children who saw that picture knew that even the Democratic nominee for president wears a helmet when he goes biking.”

And: “Now, obviously the rest of my apparel was apparently not up to snuff, because I got a hard time from all sorts of blogs. Who said I looked like Urkel.”

I imagine he’d look better without a helmet, but that wouldn’t be safe. He’d also look better if he was wearing a suit rather than jeans, but that would just be weird.

In terms of dressing like a nerd, Obama’s outfit is pretty tame. If you really want to see how to dress like a nerd, check out here. If Obama starts running around in a Green Lantern or Flash shirt then there might be some real political repercussions. After dressing like this, I bet Obama could even pass David Brooks’ test of looking like he could go to the salad bar at Applebee’s if not for the fact that Applebee’s doesn’t have a salad bar (an error revealing more about Obama’s critics than Obama).

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment on John McCain’s Views on Iraq

Keith Olbermann had a Special Comment on John McCain’s recent statement that it is “not too important” when American forces come home from Iraq (video above). To dispense with the question of whether this is being taken out of context (which sometimes was done immediately after this comment), Olbermann provided the full transcript of the question and McCain’s answer. From there, Olbermann really gives the context, with a comprehensive look at McCain’s views on the war and why he has been wrong.

The full transcript is under the fold.


The Consequences of The Candidates’ Tax Plans

Earlier I noted how Republican claims of higher social security taxes under Obama are greatly exaggerated. Later in the day a study came out from the Tax Policy Center comparing the effects of the tax policies of both candidates. (Full report here in pdf format.)

The graph above gives a quick look at who benefits the most from the policies of each candidate. Not surprisingly, those in the lowest quintile get the biggest breaks under Obama’s plan while those in the top one percent get the biggest tax breaks from McCain.

Those results could have been predicted easily. The more interesting question for myself was how the tax plans would affect all us more affluent “elitists” who back Obama. The Republicans will try all sorts of scare tactics to convince the upper middle class to return to voting for them even though in recent years their economic policies have not been of benefit to the upper middle class.

Hilzoy’s analysis helps answer this question, along with a review of the data on pages 22-24:

The cutoffs for these quintiles (in 2008 dollars) are as follows: “20% $19,740, 40% $38,980, 60% $69,490, 80% $117,535, 90% $169,480, 95% $237,040, 99% $619,561, 99.9% $2,832,449.” (p. 24.) It’s worth noting that if you check the table on p. 24, which has more detail than this graph, you can see that people below the top five percent (which starts at $237,040) do not lose after-tax income under Obama’s plan, and people making $237,040-$619,561 lose all of $12 a year, on average. It’s only in the top one percent that people take a sizable hit. But since so much of the Bush tax cuts went to them, that seems fair to me.

Based upon these numbers, it doesn’t look like the bulk of the affluent voters who are supporting Obama are going to pay more in taxes. We might receive a bit more of a tax break from McCain, but the bulk of his tax breaks go to those in the top 0.1%. For example, looking at the 90-95th percentile, Obama’s plan provides an average tax cut of $2789. McCain’s plan gives an average tax cut of $4380.

It is doubtful things would ever turn out exactly as these predictions state, but if we go by these numbers the upper middle class does do slightly better under McCain than Obama. Personally I’m willing to go with the slightly lower tax cut if it means a better chance of ending the war and undoing the other harm committed under George Bush. Despite all the scare tactics used by Republicans, we are not really talking about that much money considering the income of this group.

Of course we can expect the ultra-wealthy to go for McCain, provided they vote purely based upon taxes and not on what is best for the country. The top 0.1% receives an average tax cut of $269,364 from McCain while they would see an average tax increase of $701,885 under Obama. (Again, this is largely a consequence of them receiving the largest benefits under Bush’s plan). On the other end of the spectrum, McCain would give the lowest quintile an average tax cut of $19 while Obama would give them an average tax cut of $567.