Obama’s Achievements Year One

Some people who base their views of the Obama administration on skits from Saturday Night Live are under the impression that Obama has not accomplished very much during his first year in office. Nathan Newman has made a lengthy list of Obama’s achievements. If he can add the passage of health care reform his record will have probably wind up achieving more than any president other than FDR.

This is not to say he has made the right decision every time or that his record is perfect but it does show that he has done far more than to give speeches about hope and change as some of his detractors claim.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek; The End of Time; Forbidden Planet; And Howard Wolowitz’s Bath With Kattee Sackhoff


Movieweb has interviewed J.J. Abrams about his Star Trek movie and the upcoming sequel:

“I think that the challenge, the advantage and the opportunity of this world is just how unlimited it is in terms of what we can do,” continued Abrams. “Having said that, I think the first movie was very much just about the characters meeting, so you can only go so far in terms of the depth of experience and it’s all pretty urgent. Now that they’ve gotten to be together for a period of time, whether it be a day, weeks, months, or years, that next chapter feels sort of like there are some roots that have grown. So it won’t be meeting new people as you go it will be going on this adventure with this pre-established family. So that just means a different set of challenges. So I’m very excited to play that out,” he concluded

One aspect of the film that surprised new and old fans alike was the love triangle between Kirk, Spock and Uhura, something that had never been explored before in any of the previous films or TV series. “I think it was that Kirk was so clearly the romantic lead and the fun of it was to play with the expectations of where it was going to go,” said Abrams. “I think now that we’ve done that you can’t play that same joke again so it’s got to be about what is their relationship and who are these people? That’s why I think the next one, hopefully while still having the sense of fun and adventure, can go a little deeper in terms of the story,” he added regarding the love triangle appearing in future films.

The Blu-ray version of the Abrams Star Trek movie was released. SciFi Squad offers a review, including a listing of the special features included.


The BBC has released the synopsis of the two part Doctor Who special, The End of Time which will air on Christmas and New Year’s.

It’s the Tenth Doctor’s final journey – but his psychotic nemesis the Master has been reborn, on Christmas Eve. With both determined to cheat death, the battle ranges from the wastelands of London to the mysterious Immortality Gate, while the alien Ood warn of an even greater danger approaching, as a terrible shadow falls across the entire Universe.

Part Two:

The Doctor faces the end of his life as the Master’s plans hurtle out of control. With the sound of drums growing louder, and an ancient trap closing around the Earth, the Doctor and Wilf must fight alone. But sacrifices must be made, and the deadly prophecy warns: “He will knock four times.”

\<i\>Babylon 5\<\/i\> creator reboots a sci-fi classic ... and a sequel?

J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, discussed his upcoming rebooting of Forbidden Planet with Sci Fi Wire:

The 1956 original, which was loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is famous for its Oscar-nominated and groundbreaking visual effects, as well as for the introduction of Robby the Robot, and told the story of a shuttle crew (led by a then-serious Leslie Nielsen) that lands on the planet Altair IV to investigate a missing colony that landed there decades earlier.

“We’ve actually decided to show more of the first ship when it first arrived 20 years earlier to sort of counterpoint what’s happening in the present story,” Straczynski said in a group interview Saturday in Hollywood. “If you’re a fan of the original, as I am, and have always been, I think it’s very faithful to that.” Warner Brothers owns the rights.

The biggest worry about the Forbidden Planet remake could be that the studio would turn it into a straight-up action movie. The original was carried by dialogue as Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), one of the planet’s two survivors, explained scientific theory to the visiting astronauts. Tension between the astronauts and Dr. Morbius’ daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis), filled in the rest.

Straczynski says not to worry. “There’s a little more action, but it’s still a strong character piece, because it’s based on The Tempest and the idea of a father whose daughter is being courted by, in the original play, sailors that are washed up on shore,” Straczynski said. “You need to have that dynamic still in place to respect the original and the source material. So there’s a fair amount of talking, but there’s some really cool action pieces in it as well.”

It is possible Warner has eyes for more Forbidden Planet adventures beyond one remake, said Straczynski. “Warners is very excited about it, thinks it’s a big franchise for them and a huge budget, so they’re very much oriented toward getting it done.”


TV Guide has interviewed Simon Helberg, who plays Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory, following his bath tub scene with Kattee Sackhoff:

TVGuide.com: Katee is your dream sci-fi woman and she gives you some relationship advice in your fantasy.
Simon Helberg:
Yeah, she’s almost like my conscience. She’s much prettier than Jiminy Crickett. She just basically says, “C’mon, you’re not going to get me! You have this great girl and you’re dropping her for a fantasy.” I get disillusioned and I know what’s the wrong thing to do.

TVGuide.com: Since Katee is your conscience, that means she can come back, right?
There’s definitely a possibility that she could continue to be his conscience. I don’t know how much they plan for, say, the entire arc of the season. Who knows? Maybe next time they’ll be in a Jacuzzi, maybe even the shower. I don’t know if I have to be wet and naked. Maybe he always has to be in a compromising position. It is his fantasy!

Conservative or Liberal Sets of Views

Josh Marshall wonders why people believe what they believe. He begins with the common tendency among conservatives to deny climate change:

There’s been a lot of recent evidence not only that Republicans disproportionately disbelieve the evidence for man-made global warming but that their skepticism is growing. I think that trend is fairly classed under the general heading of Republican/conservative hostility to science.

He misses a step here. The fundamental problem is not that conservatives desire to oppose science but that they are willing to ignore scientific evidence when it conflicts with their views. If there was a commonly held belief in global warming but the scientists came out against global warming, then conservatives would agree with the scientists.

Conservatives primarily reject the scientific consensus on climate change for two reasons. It is preferable that global warming not be true since it leads to undesirable real world consequences, and conservatives exhibit a strong tendency to ignore facts when they conflict with what they want. Secondly, climate change is a problem which can only be solved with government coordination. As conservatives oppose government action which does not involve invading other countries or torture, it is simpler for them to deny the science than to concede there is a problem which where government coordination is necessary.

Josh extends this to other areas:

Another way of looking at this is that in our politics and society, group association seems to give certain beliefs or policy positions a mutual ‘stickiness’ even if they do not seem to be connected together in any logical or consistent way, or any way that would make sense out of the context of our culture and society.

George Lakoff, among others, has presented arguments as to why conservatives and liberals share a set of views. There are also other people such as myself who do not generally agree with the traditional set of views associated with either party. Prior to 2006, Republicans did a far better job of sticking issues together which did not necessarily need to belong together. They found ways to convince social conservatives to support the goals of fiscal conservatives, and vice versa. Over time this has broken down, contributing to the end of their governing coalition.

It is also not necessarily the case that those who are liberal on social issues or foreign policy will support traditional Democratic issues on the economy and taxes. It was far easier for many to vote Democratic when they were the main opposition to an increasingly extremist Republican Party, but it is harder to keep people with a variety of views united behind a governing party. That is partially why Democratic support is in some ways weaker now than it was before the election.

Report Released on Bush’s Failure To Capture Bin Laden At Tora Bora

I’ve mentioned the failure of the Bush administration to capture bin Laden when they had an excellent chance  at Tora Bora multiple times in the past.  The New York Daily News reports on a Senate report on this failure. John Kerry, who criticized Bush for his mistakes at Tora Bora when running against him in 2004, requested this report:

Osama Bin Laden was within military reach when the Bush administration allowed him to disappear into the mountains of Afghanistan rather than pursue him with a massive military force, a new Senate report says.

The report asserts that the failure to get the terrorist leader when he was at his most vulnerable in December 2001 – three months after the 9/11 attacks – led to today’s reinvigorated insurgency in Afghanistan.

Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, requested the report, which came as President Obama prepares to send as many as 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Kerry has long argued the Bush administration botched an opportunity to capture the Al Qaeda leader and his top deputies when they were holed up in the forbidding mountainous area of Tora Bora.

The report calls then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks, the top military commander at the time, to the carpet and asserts the U.S. had the means to mount a rapid assault on Bin Laden with several thousand troops.

Instead, fewer than 100 commandoes, working with Afghan militias, tried to capitalize on air strikes and track down the ragged band of terrorists.

That “Kerry was Right” file sure is getting big.

Arguments for Dick Cheney to Run in 2012

Yesterday I mentioned that some are pushing for Dick Cheney to run in 2012. Jon Meacham makes an argument for this in Newsweek:

Why? Because Cheney is a man of conviction, has a record on which he can be judged, and whatever the result, there could be no ambiguity about the will of the people. The best way to settle arguments is by having what we used to call full and frank exchanges about the issues, and then voting. A contest between Dick Cheney and Barack Obama would offer us a bracing referendum on competing visions. One of the problems with governance since the election of Bill Clinton has been the resolute refusal of the opposition party (the GOP from 1993 to 2001, the Democrats from 2001 to 2009, and now the GOP again in the Obama years) to concede that the president, by virtue of his victory, has a mandate to take the country in a given direction. A Cheney victory would mean that America preferred a vigorous unilateralism to President Obama’s unapologetic multilateralism, and vice versa.

Republicans also tend to nominate their obvious leader and in this case there is none. The last Republican vice president would fit this pattern if not for Cheney’s age, unpopularity, and record of being wrong on all the major issues of the last several years.

Meacham makes an additional argument:

A campaign would also give us an occasion that history denied us in 2008: an opportunity to adjudicate the George W. Bush years in a direct way. As John McCain pointed out in the fall of 2008, he is not Bush. Nor is Cheney, but the former vice president would make the case for the harder-line elements of the Bush world view. Far from fading away, Cheney has been the voice of the opposition since the inauguration. Wouldn’t it be more productive and even illuminating if he took his arguments out of the realm of punditry and into the arena of electoral politics? Are we more or less secure because of the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Does the former vice president still believe in a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda? Did the counterterror measures adopted in the aftermath of the attacks go too far? Let’s have the fight and see what the country thinks.

It is true that this is the closest we could have to an election between the Bush and Obama administrations, but that is not a good thing either for the Republicans or for the nation.  Republicans would be foolish to nominate Cheney as it would make it even harder for them to move beyond the disasterous Bush years. Republicans must find a way to do this if  they are to become a viable party again. The Republicans who won races in 2009 did it by moving towards the center, not by embracing the policies of George Bush and Dick Cheney. This would be even worse for the country as repeating the mistakes of the Bush years is something we should never risk again, and there is no doubt that Dick Cheney’s advice is responsible for much that went wrong during that period.

The State Dinner

I’m happy to see that I’m not the only one to think that the media has been paying way too much attention to the party crashers at the White House dinner.

The mainstream media’s over-coverage of this at least wasn’t as bad as he coverage in the right wing media. Fox, The Washington Times, and the right wing blogs were whining about Republicans not being invited. Actually top Republicans were invited but did not attend.

They Must Be Kidding

News so ridiculous that they had to sneak it in over a holiday weekend: New Group Tries to Convince Cheney to Run in 2012. I suspect this is one of those End of the World in 2012 cults who believe human intervention is necessary to bring this about.

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Britain Expected To “Prove Saddam Was Guilty” After Invasion

Reports that the Bush administration was trying to blame the 9/11 attack on Saddam, and that they ultimately went to war without evidence of WMD, are hardly news. Reports from the Iraq War Inquiry in London do add more background to this, including that former British ambassador to the United States, Sir Christopher Meyer, has described how one of the expectations of the British military was to “bloody well got to try and prove he’s guilty.” As we suspected at the time, the mission was to invade first and then search for evidence to attempt to justify the war.

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A Thanksgiving Message From Barack Obama

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Happy Thanksgiving

This year we can be thankful that George Bush is no longer president.

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