Doctor Who, Star Trek, Avatar Among Hugo Nominees

The Hugo Award nominees are out. As I’ve discussed science fiction television and movies far more than novels here I’ll just note those categories in this post.  There’s a number of excellent choices for among movies including blockbusters like Star Trek and Avatar:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Avatar Screenplay and Directed by James Cameron (Twentieth Century Fox)
  • District 9 Screenplay by Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell; Directed by Neill Blomkamp (TriStar Pictures)
  • Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)
  • Star Trek Screenplay by Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman; Directed by J.J. Abrams (Paramount)
  • Up Screenplay by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter; Story by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, & Thomas McCarthy; Directed by Bob Peterson & Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar)

Doctor Who dominated the nominations among television shows:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Doctor Who: “The Next Doctor” Written by Russell T Davies; Directed by Andy Goddard (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who: “Planet of the Dead” Written by Russell T Davies & Gareth Roberts; Directed by James Strong (BBC Wales)
  • Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars” Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)
  • Dollhouse: “Epitaph 1″ Story by Joss Whedon; Written by Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon; Directed by David Solomon (Mutant Enemy)
  • FlashForward: “No More Good Days” Written by Brannon Braga & David S. Goyer; Directed by David S. Goyer; based on the novel by Robert J. Sawyer (ABC)

In recent years it was easy to pick a single episode of Doctor Who to honor–which ever one Steven Moffat wrote that year. With Moffat not having written any episodes last year, this is divided between three episodes by Russell T. Davies. If I had to pick one of them quickly without reviewing them I’d go with The Waters of Mars.  Of the entire set I’d vote for Epitaph 1, which I previously discussed here. I also suspect that dividing the vote between three episodes will decrease the chances of any of the Doctor Who episodes winning. The pilot episode of FlashForward was also excellent, making it a shame the show has not lived up to this potential.

Bad News For Rush Limbaugh

The FDA has approved a new formulation of OxyContin which is harder to abuse.

Posted in Health Care. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Despite The Misleading Headline, Gallup Confirms That Teabaggers Are Conservatives

Right wing extremist bloggers, as well as Laura Bush’s former press secretary Andrew Malcolm, love to claim that the  right wing extremists who dominate the tea party movement are really mainstream. A misleading title to today’s Gallup poll appears to give them some ammunition. The title erroneously proclaims, “Tea Partiers Are Fairly Mainstream in Their Demographics.”

The first clue that they might not really be all that mainstream comes in the subtitle which notes that they “Skew right politically.” A review of their positions on the issues shows that 87 percent opposed the health care reform bill and 65 percent are “pro-life.” Most are Republicans or hold Republican views even if they don’t currently admit identification with the Republican Party.

Marc Ambinder writes, Tea Partiers Are Conservative. Moving Along…

Pay attention to terminology: it’s true that just half of those Tea Partiers surveyed called themselves Republicans. Yes, the lion’s share of the other half say they’re independent. But they’re not: they’re Republican-oriented conservative voters who are dismayed by the direction of the GOP and who don’t want to identify with the party’s brand. That’s not surprising, given how tarnished that brand is. Only 8% identify as Democratic; 7% identify as liberal; 70% percent identify as conservative; two-thirds are pro-life; nearly 90% were opposed to the health care bill.

Steven Benen looked further at this and another poll which also shows that they are conservatives.

Upscale Starbucks

Here’s how a Starbucks should be:

Heavy velvet curtains, indie movie nights, single-origin coffees, wine and beer, mouth-watering organic pastries and gourmet cheese and meat plates — this is Starbucks?

Well, sort of. It’s Roy Street Coffee & Tea by Starbucks Corp, the result of Chief Executive Howard Schultz directing his store designers to break the mold and build a neighborhood coffee house from scratch.

Unfortunately this is only being done in two test stores in Washington inspired from Italian cafes:

CEO Schultz took the inspiration for Starbucks from Italy’s cafes, which offer espresso-based drinks and alcoholic beverages ranging from beer to wine to grappa. Starbucks has never embraced alcohol sales in the U.S. or abroad — but it has tested sales of such “adult beverages”.

There’s no word that they will be doing this at your neighborhood Starbucks.

Posted in Food and Drink. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

Straw Men Arguments On The Economy

In a column yesterday Glenn Reynolds managed to bring up some of the most common straw men arguments used against liberals, and more recently against health care reform. I’ve dealt with these issues in the past, but this provides an opportunity to  review these points.

It is very common for conservatives to attack liberals based upon straw men arguments–attributing beliefs to liberals not commonly held by liberals and then attacking these beliefs as opposed to actual liberal beliefs. Reynolds devotes a considerable amount of time attacking “command economies.” Many of his points are true, but irrelevant as few (if any) liberals support a command economy. While at times in the past the liberal/conservative divide might have been partially based upon such economic views, this has no relevance to current liberal views.

This leads to a second straw man argument I frequently hear, claiming that liberals believe that government regulators are more intelligent than businessmen and more capable of making business decisions for them. Again this has no relevance to what most liberals believe. Liberals, going all the way back to Adam Smith, understood that the “invisible hand” does not always work correctly and that a certain amount of regulation is needed for markets to work. We do not want the regulators to take over running the companies. We do not believe that the regulators are any more intelligent, but we do understand, as conservatives do not, the perils of allowing the fox to guard the hen house.

It is true that government regulations will often result in undesirable consequences. Government regulators are human and both make mistakes and sometimes act improperly. Despite this, we often need regulations to prevent abuses by  business. It is not necessary for the regulators to be smarter than the businessmen to intervene when businesses act in abusive manners. The system is far from perfect, but also far better than going without necessary regulations.

One example of how the “invisible hand” has failed has been in the individual insurance market. Insurance companies developed a business model based upon denying coverage to increase profits. Government action was needed to preserve the individual market and enable more people to purchase insurance coverage.

Conservatives claim that health care reform was some type of radical government take over of health care. Actually it is a fairly conservative effort primarily aimed at placing necessary regulations on insurance companies. While Reynolds claims this to be an example of the “command economy” supported by liberals, the ideas in the legislation are actually based upon ideas from the Heritage Foundation and promoted by the Republican Party in 1993 as the opposition proposal to the Clinton plan.

Reynolds also repeated one of the bogus arguments used since passage, citing companies which claim health care reform is “hurting companies and killing jobs.” What the health care reform legislation actually does is plug loopholes provided during the Bush years which lower their taxes. For example, the Bush administration gave these companies subsidies to cover their employees who are eligible for Medicare. In addition these companies are allowed to write off the money spent on their taxes despite the fact that the money came from the government. It will cost them money if they are no longer able to receive subsidies and then write this off as a business expense, but they never should have received this break. They managed to stay in business and provide jobs before receiving this break, and they will manage to do so in the future.

Boeing, among other companies, is complaining about the cost of health care reform but they pay a trivial amount in federal taxes due to tax breaks such as this. Boeing’s tax rate was just 3.2 percent on average over the last 4 years and just 0.7 percent averaged from 2002 to 2007. Boeing’s three-year effective tax rate from 2001-2003 was negative 18.8 percent. They paid no federal income tax in 2009 and received $132 million back from the IRS. In 2008, Boeing paid just $44 million in federal income taxes while having earnings of $2.7 billion.

Health insurance reform will create jobs, not kill jobs. It will make American companies more competitive with foreign companies. It will also reduce the burden on small companies of providing health care coverage allowing them to hire more people. It will enable entrepreneurs to leave large corporations and form their own companies when their health care coverage is no longer tied to their jobs. It is our former health care system, not the reformed system, which stifled business and killed jobs.

These complaints show that businessmen are smart–smart enough to protest losing tax breaks they never should have received. This also shows why we need people who understand the need for regulation in government as opposed to Republicans who see the role of government as enabling their corporate friends to avoid taxes and regulations.