SciFi Weekend: Locke Returns From The Dead; Echo Conspires; STTNG Cast Reunites; And Gilmore Girl Becomes a Doctor


This week’s episode of Lost, The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham, filled in more pieces of the story off the island as we saw Locke’s story. We saw his story  from when he left the island, was killed by Ben, and then returned to life after getting back to the island. We already knew the island had awesome powers, but to bring Locke back to life when he was clearly dead takes this to a new level. Previously I assumed that we were seeing some sort of ghosts of dead people. Perhaps Christian Sheppard is also really alive on the island.  Along the way we saw Charles Widmore try to convince Locke that he was the good and honest one. I don’t think we can trust either Ben or Whidmore.


Dollhouse continues to show potential. In Stage Fright the most important part of the episode might be Echo’s acts in just a couple of scenes. Echo and Sierra come to an agreement to help each other, which appears to transcend their mind wipes between missions. While the dolls seem child like between receiving memories for a mission, Echo even managed to signal Sierra to keep their relationship hidden from their handlers. Meanwhile there’s been a lot of speculation in the blogoshere as to the identity of Alpha with Josh Wheden dropping hints that we might first meet Alpha under another identity.

Life on Mars is most interesting when it goes beyond a regular police story to deal with Sam’s life in two times. In this week’s episode Sam stops a killer due to recognizing him from a case before he went back to the 1970’s. While I liked the connection to Sam’s previous life,  I would have preferred that they pursued some of the story lines in previous episodes. This included hints of a secret organization and someone else who seems to have come back in time.

The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation will be reunited on an episode of Family Guy which will air next month. The episode includes the voices of Patrick Stewart, Levar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Wil Wheaton, Denise Crosby, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes. There are also reports that the characters of Star Trek: The Next Generation will be involved in the start of the upcoming Star Trek movie, but the validity of this rumor is doubtful.


When we last saw Rory Gilmore she was going off to cover Barack Obama before the Iowa primary. Since then Alexis Bledel has gotten involved with some traveling pants, and now she has become a doctor. Alexis Bledel will be appearing in the series finale of ER as new intern Dr. Julia Wise. Lorelei must be very proud of her.

The New Red Scare

Having run out of ideas, the right wing has returned to McCarthyism and has tried to revive red scares. We saw this during the campaign when they distorted comments made by Barack Obama to falsely claim he supported redistribution of wealth in a Marxist sense. This fictitious use of the red scare was prevalent at CPAP as reported by The New York Times:

Conservatives might be seeking a spiritual leader, organizing principle and fresh identity, but they at least seem to have settled on a favorite rhetorical ogre: socialism.

As in, Democrats are intent on forcing socialism on the “U.S.S.A” (as the bumper sticker says, under the words “Comrade Obama”).

It seems that “socialist” has supplanted “liberal” as the go-to slur among much of a conservative world confronting a one-two-three punch of bank bailouts, budget blowouts and stimulus bills. Right-leaning bloggers and talk radio hosts are wearing out the brickbat. Senate and House Republicans have been tripping over their podiums to invoke it. The S-bomb has become as surefire a red-meat line at conservative gatherings as “Clinton” was in the 1990s and “Pelosi” is today.

“Earlier this week, we heard the world’s best salesman of socialism address the nation,” Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said on Friday, referring, naturally, to a certain socialist in chief.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabeeof Arkansas decried the creation of “socialist republics” in the United States. “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff,” Mr. Huckabee said, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference here over the weekend, a kind of Woodstock for young conservatives.

“Socialism is something new for us to hit Obama over the head with,” said Joshua Bolin of Augusta, Ga., who founded a Web site, “,” which he calls a conservative analog to the liberal

Of course, there is nothing remotely new about “socialism,” or the willingness of conservatives to hit the opposition over the head with the term, just as the name callers among the liberals have bludgeoned conservatives as “fascists,” “fundamentalists” and “plutocrats” and whatnot for decades.

But the socialist bogey-mantra has made a full-scale return after a long stretch of relative dormancy.

The contemporary era of socialist demonizing dates to the general election campaign between Mr. Obama and John McCain. Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, repeatedly accused Mr. Obama of wanting to “spread the wealth,” an offshoot of Mr. Obama’s caught-on-tape exchange with an Ohio plumber (i.e. “Joe the,” last seen signing copies of his new book at CPAC).

“Socialism” became a star of subsequent McCain and Palin rallies in the same way that a dead bull is the star of a bullfight — an object of slings, spears and overall bloodlust.

The early fiscal activism of President Obamahas provided a heap of new fodder for anti-socialists, effectively turning a useful label meant to inspire fear into a we-told-you-so taunt. Last week’s blizzard of economic developments — the administration’s new budget, its partial takeover of another major bank — was fortuitous timing for CPAC, which ran from Thursday to Saturday, giving conservatives an opportunity to give full-throated voice to this re-fashioned refrain.

“The right would use ‘socialist’ against Franklin Rooseveltall the time in the 1930s,” said Charles Geisst, a financial historian at Manhattan Collegein the Bronx. “To hear him referred to as Comrade Roosevelt during that period was not unusual.” But while socialism is being invoked repeatedly now, Mr. Geisst said, it is a less potent slam than it once was.

As the article also points out, there is exactly one actual socialist in Congress. When the Democrats actually talk about government ownership of the means of production, we can begin to talk about socialism. Republicans have hardly been defenders of a free market system. The reality is that the economic policies of the Republicans are far closer to economic  fascism than Democratic proposals are to socialism.

Crunchy Cons vs. Limbaugh Conservatism

I have often discussed both the fact that the anti-intellectual, know-nothing philosophy of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Sarah Palin has become the dominant position in the conservative movement. I have also made a point of noting exceptions. While some partisan Democrats might relish the thought that this is their major opposition, I would prefer to have a two party system in which both parties offer ideas worthy of consideration to solve our problems. Rod Dreher has offered further criticism from the right of Rush Limbaugh’s influence over the Republican Party. As is often the case when I quote conservatives who criticize more extremist aspects of conservatism, I might not agree with Dreher on everything, but he does make several excellent points.

Dreher criticized conservatives who blame the media for their lack of electoral success and chastises them for believing that, “The unpopularity of Republican policies has nothing to do with it.” This lack of understanding of their problems also explains “why nobody inside that bubble could grasp what a flop Bobby Jindal’s reheated Republican mush of a speech was going to be ahead of time.”

The essence of Limbaugh’s worldview is hatred of anyone who thinks differently. Dreher sums up Limbaugh’s view:  “Any attempt to grapple in a public way with the sins and failings of America, the errors that got us into this ditch, is to be seen as unpatriotic.”

The Limbaugh conservatives have no understanding of why they lost and resort to blaming the media or claiming that the problem is that they were not conservative enough. Limbaugh rejects any thought of changing their failed policies arguing,  “Conservativism is what it is and it is forever.” Dreher mocks this by showing how a similar argument from the left would have been accepted:

Because, what, it was handed down from Sinai? One hardly knows what to say to this. Do they really believe politics is dogmatic religion? They must. And if so, they’re hopeless. Can you imagine going to such a liberal gathering in 1985, after Fritz Mondale had his head handed to him by Ronald Reagan, and listening to the de facto leader of US liberalism talking this way, saying that, “Liberalism is what it is and it is forever. It’s not something you can bend and shape and flake and form”? If you were a conservative, you would have chortled and taken comfort in the evidence that the opposition was going to be spending a lot more time in the woods before the light of reality dawned upon their furrowed faces…

Anybody who challenges Limbavian orthodoxy is, ipso facto, the Enemy. If you suggest reform, even from the Right, you are a useful idiot for the Media, which are the Enemy, and can never be anything but the Enemy. Limbaughism sounds a lot like Leninism.

The Next Science To Come Under Attack?

We are well aware of the attacks on evolutionary biology from the religious right. Their attacks on science which contradicts fundamentalist religious beliefs also extends towards other fields. This includes attacking cosmology when it discusses the origins of the universe and geology when it contradicts their views on the age of the earth. Via Andrew Sullivan and Mind Hacks, there is another area where science might come under attack–neuroscience. Sullivan quotes from this letter on Neurosience and the Soul appearing in Science:

Most religions endorse the idea of a soul (or spirit) that is distinct from the physical body. Yet as neuroscience advances, it increasingly seems that all aspects of a person can be explained by the functioning of a material system…as neuroscience begins to reveal the mechanisms underlying personality, love, morality, and spirituality, the idea of a ghost in the machine becomes strained.

Brain imaging indicates that all of these traits have physical correlates in brain function. Furthermore, pharmacologic influences on these traits, as well as the effects of localized stimulation or damage, demonstrate that the brain processes in question are not mere correlates but are the physical bases of these central aspects of our personhood. If these aspects of the person are all features of the machine, why have a ghost at all?

By raising questions like this, it seems likely that neuroscience will pose a far more fundamental challenge than evolutionary biology to many religions. Predictably, then, some theologians and even neuroscientists are resisting the implications of modern cognitive and affective neuroscience.

Why I Blog About The Direction Conservatives Are Going

Maintaining a blog as a hobby can be a challenge for those of us with a busy professional as well as personal life. We are at a tremendous disadvantage in competing for attention against those who work for political publications and can devote much of their work day to this. One way to maximize the use of time is to avoid wasting  time on commenters who do not have anything meaningful to contribute. There are plenty of other sites out there for those who just want to argue.

Some who comment on blogs read only one post and extrapolate a wide variety of views upon the writer, generally within a limited left versus right framework. This problem is compounded when they believe that liberals actually hold the views attacked by some right wing pundits in their never ending straw men attacks.

Generally when I receive a comment which is based upon attacking me for views which are quite different than the views I actually hold and express here I will not waste any time on it. It is just generally not worth my time to correct their misconceptions, especially if they have not taken the time to actually read the blog before launching an attack.

One reason I will generally not waste time posting and responding to uninformed comments is that a blog post might be read by thousands (including subscribers to the RSS feed, Kindle subscribers, and readers of posts picked up by online versions of newspapers through Blogburst).  A comment is read by a much smaller number of people, making it a poor use of time to respond to attacks which have little to do with what I actually wrote.

I did make an exception today in responding to this comment. Having spent the time to write it, I thought it was worth bumping up to a new post, primarily as it once again shows my interest in the direction conservatives are moving in. This is for those who see every criticism of conservatives as coming only from Democrats and ignore the importance of independents. My response (much of which holds up alone, and other parts of which are more directly in response to the preceding comment):

Your open hostility towards free debate and freedom of expression is really disturbing. Political debate is an important part of a democracy. If you oppose such freedom of expression, you at least might avoid the blogosphere as such expression is a basic part of what blogs do.

Beyond that there are major errors and contradictions in your argument. You write about winning and one side having its way, assuming that all of politics comes down to just two competing ideas. The world is far too complicated a place to divide it between two views as you and many ideologues of both sides too often do.

Before commenting with generalities to a blog post you should read the blog and respond to the actual beliefs being expressed, not the beliefs you project upon others. You believe I only need a pick up of three Senate seats, assuming incorrectly that I am a Democrat or wish for one party to have total control of government. If you actually read this blog you would realize I am an independent who often has been critical of both parties. I have written of the dangers of one party, regardless of which party, having total control, and expressed a preference that the Democrats remain shy of sixty Senate votes. Ideally I would prefer that we do not even have one party control both houses of Congress as well as the White House.

There is a problem with a preference for divided government when one party has ceased to be able to respond meaningfully to current problems. There is a reason why independents have been moving towards the Democratic Party in recent years. Rush Limbaugh is a showman. He has no coherent political views beyond a set of simplistic talking points. People like Limbaugh, Coulter, and Hannity appeal to the worst parts of human nature and ignorance and do attract an audience. This does not mean that their views should become the guiding principles of a political party. Hoping to see the restoration of a viable two party system, I am interested when some conservatives support rejecting the anti-intellectual, authoritarian, no-nothing mindset which has taken control of the conservative movement.

You also contradict your own premise. If the world was really divided into two political sides your argument against debunking the other side when wrong would still make no sense. You totally contradict yourself when you write of parties rising and falling. If political dominance is transient, this would only provide increased reason to continue to show where the other party is wrong to delay the chances of them returning to power.

Of course in a two party system it is inevitable that the other party will return to office. It was the conservatives who lived in a fantasy bubble, believing they had built a permanent Republican majority. It is the Republicans who crashed quite hard. It is both inevitable and desirable that the Democrats will not remain in power forever. A Democrat would therefore have interest in internal debates among Republicans as to which ideas will dominate. As an independent, I have an even greater stake in this.

Some partisan Democrats do hope that the Limbaugh/Palinization of the GOP continues as it will make it harder for them to win in the future. As an independent I totally reject that line of thought. I believe the country would be better off with two viable political parties which are presenting different but sensible plans to respond to the nation’s problems. This means that the Republicans will need to change their direction. They must abandon the anti-intellectualism of the Limbaugh and Palin followers which ignores any facts which do not fit into their extreme ideology. They also must abandon the form of social conservatism which advocates using the power of government to impose their religious views upon others. It is not a matter of whether anyone is right or wrong on these social issues but that they do not belong in government policy. Hatred of others, which is the core belief of Limbaugh and his followers, has no place in a political party.

The Two Goldwater Myths

David Frum argues that believing the Goldwater Myth will make it hard for conservatives to recover:

Conservatives live in thrall to a historical myth, and this myth may soon cost us dearly.

The myth is the myth of the Goldwater triumph of 1964. It goes approximately as follows:

In 1964, after years of watered down politics, Republicans turned to a true conservative, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Yes, Goldwater lost badly. But in losing, he bequeathed conservatives a national organization – and a new champion, Ronald Reagan. Goldwater’s defeat opened the way to Reagan’s ultimate triumph and the conservative ascendancy of the 1980s and 1990s.

This (the myth continues) is the history we need to repeat. If we can just find the right messenger in 2012, the message that worked for Reagan will work again. And even if we cannot find the right messenger, losing on principle in 2012 will open the way to a more glorious victory in 2016.

The Goldwater myth shuts down all attempts to reform and renew our conservative message for modern times. And it offers a handy justification for nominating a 2012 presidential candidate who might otherwise seem disastrously unelectable. Altogether, the myth invites dangerous and self-destructive behavior by a party that cannot afford either.

Frum continues to poke holes in this myth, but the most important point is that “The Goldwater myth shuts down all attempts to reform and renew our conservative message for modern times.” As a result we see conservatives who are in denial over the fact that they were thrown out of power because their policies do not work and are not relevant to current times. Instead they make the absurd argument that they lost because they were not conservative enough.

Frum is also right in questioning whether conservatives can believe history will repeat itself. There were many factors which contributed to both Goldwater’s defeat and to later Republican victories. Going down to defeat with an extreme conservative in 2012 does not mean this will be followed by Republican victories as occurred after Goldwater’s 1964 loss.

There is yet another aspect to this myth which I do not believe Frum realizes. Barry Goldwater was at approximately the same point on the left to right spectrum of 1964 as many Republicans are at today. This misleads them into thinking that they are pursuing the policies of Barry Goldwater. This is an unfortunate myth as current conservatism has little to do with Goldwater’s beliefs.

As I noted just over a month ago, Barry Goldwater would barely recognize the current Republican Party. It came as no surprise that two of his granddaughters backed Obama over McCain. Goldwater was a strong opponent of the influence of the religious right in the Republican Party, supported a woman’s right to abortion, and believed gays should be able to serve in the military. Whenever in office (as opposed to their empty rhetoric when in opposition) the Republican Party has totally abandoned any support for small government or fiscal responsibility. The social conservative views which Goldwater strongly opposed have become the dominant and defining philosophy of the conservative movement.

If conservatives think they can return to power by using  Goldwater as a model, they must get past the myth that their views have anything to do with the views of Barry Goldwater. Only after realizing that their views are neither the views of Goldwater or views which are relevant to the twenty-first century can they also consider the arguments presented by David Frum.