SciFi Friday: The Battlestar Galactica Finale

Galactica finally reached earth in the final episode we will see until the series completes the final season next year. Unfortunately earth was not what they were expecting. While we only see a small portion of the planet, it appears that there has been a nuclear war, or perhaps a Cylon attack. Many viewers, such as The Remote Island, believe we are looking at Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge. Another example is here.

The finale certainly gave us much to wonder about until next year. Most likely this area is representative of the planet but we do not know for sure. We do not know for certain if this really is earth, or whether there is only one “earth” considering how we have frequently been told that, “All of this has happened before. And all of this will happen again.” It certainly does not look like the earth as seen in the finale of season three. In the original series, the fleet went to Terra Prime initially believing it was earth, and later discovered otherwise.

Assuming that this is earth, the big questions are when it is and what happened to the planet. Was earth destroyed by building their own Cylons, possibly leading to the settlement of the colonies in the past? With all the talk of human/Cylon hybrids, perhaps they are to be the Adam and Eve to rebuild the earth. This could either make them our ancestors, or the rebuilders of an earth we destroyed. If they do rebuild the earth, are their descendants fated to rebuild Cylons who will again destroy this civilization?

Before reaching earth, one mystery was answered. We were told that the four Cylons in the fleet would lead the way to earth but from what we could tell they had no such knowledge. Instead it turned out that they were instrumental in finding the signal in Starbuck’s viper which led them to earth.

The identity of the fifth Cylon remains a mystery. D’Anna’s statement that only four of the final five were in the fleet could be a clue. As she couldn’t know everyone in the fleet, in order to say that the fifth is not in the fleet suggests that she knew where the fifth was. This might involve information we do not have yet, but it could also suggest that it is one of the members of the fleet who were already on the Cylon basestar. As half the fleet was over there, we can only speculate.

Obama on the FISA Compromise

Following is Barack Obama’s statement on the FISA compromise:

“Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

“That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

“After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year’s Protect America Act.

“Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President’s illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance – making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

“It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.”

This was somewhat disappointing but not a terrible shock. One reason I supported Obama was because out of the choices available among viable candidates I believed he will do the best with regards to civil liberties. That has not changed.

I remain hopeful that Obama will do better when he is leading the country as president than in a situation such as now where he must vote upon legislation proposed by others. I remain hopeful that we will see a major improvement in civil liberties once Obama is elected. In any event, there is little doubt that he will be better than George Bush or John McCain.

Unlike the stereotype of Obama supporters spread by his opponents, I have never been under any illusions that either he will be right on all matters or that he is not a politician. You have to be a pretty sharp politician to get as far as Obama has. My suspicion is that this is Obama the politician speaking today, motivated by a reluctance to appear weak on fighting terrorism.

This might be understandable. It is also the same mistake that many made in voting for he Iraq war. Obama knew the right course then. At least, unlike those who voted for the war, he will hopefully get a chance to redeem himself for this vote by changing government policy after he is elected.

I have used variations on hope several times in this post. Supporting Obama is partially about hope. That is hope that he will do the right thing once in office, and that his knowledge of Constitutional law will lead to the changes we are hoping to see.

Veterans Who Served With Kerry Take On Swift Boat Lies

Back in November T. Boone Pickens offered $1 million to anyone who could dispute the claims of the Swift Boat Liars who he helped finance during the 2004 election. Kerry took him up on the offer, but Pickens reneged. Kerry issued this response, and the Chicago Sun-Times posted this recap.

Ten veterans who have served with Kerry or witnessed his actions have written to Pickens again trying to take him up on the challenge. Sam Stein reports on the letter they sent along with evidence:

“Dear Mr. Pickens,” the letter (pdf) begins, “We are the crew and individual servicemen who served on or with Patrol Craft Fast 94 in Vietnam in early 1969… Regrettably the lies of the SBVT, which you helped bankroll and apparently still defend, tarnished the sacrifices we made, called into question the medals we were awarded and challenged the very authenticity of our service… We have children and families who were deeply affected by these lies and we believe you and the SBVT whom you supported owe us and the American people an apology for the tactics you bankrolled.

“We are aware of media reports that at a dinner in Washington D.C. on November 6th, 2007, you made a public challenge that you would give a million dollars to anyone who could show that anything the SBVT said was false. We also know that Senator John Kerry, who was the skipper of the PCF-94, contacted you to take you up on that challenge. We are writing to you now as a group to accept your challenge and document how you funded lies and character assassination.”

What follows, aides to Kerry say, is one of the most comprehensive conglomerations of evidence disputing the SBVT attacks. Taking on the argument that, somehow, Kerry didn’t deserve his Silver Star, the signatories dispute ten “falsehoods,” including the claim that Kerry chased and killed a “young Viet Cong in loincloth” (it was an actually a “man of normal military age” carrying a B-40 rocket); that he only was in combat with this one individual (there were “multiple VC scrambling to get away”); and that Kerry made a tactical error in captaining his boat that day (“there was no ‘plan’ to charge the bank”). The letter concludes with perhaps the most poignant and currently relevant point.

“Finally, the continued insistence that Kerry has not released his full military record is refuted by the Navy, which has publicly certified he has, and by three newspapers which have independently received signed releases and reviewed those records.”

Indeed, it is important to remember that in 2004, Kerry posted military records on his campaign’s website and allowed selected reporters access to his military medical records. After the campaign, he signed a 180 waiver, authorizing the release of his complete file to three publications.

It is amusing that many right wing blogs continue to post false claims that Kerry refused to release his military records even though they have been posted on line and reviewed by the media. They don’t care about the facts any more than Pickens does. Any doubt that he will once again renege on his challenge?

Update: Scot Lehigh challenges Pickens to put his money where is mouth is.