SciFi Friday: Season Finales and Specials For Doctor Who, Dexter, Homeland, Merlin, and Downton Abbey

It is now the start of 2012 (except for those in the GOP who remain in 1812), making it a good time to look back on the past year. 2011 ended with a few significant season finales for genre shows. The most recent to air was the Doctor Who Christmas Special: The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe.  I did not think it was up to the level of last year’s Christmas special, A Christmas Carol. There were many excellent moments, primarily at the start and the end, but it didn’t work well as a complete story. Matt Smith was wonderful as the mad caretaker, showing off features of the home which  the children would love, such as the  taps for hot, cold, and lemonade. Once the story moved from the house to the forest it went downhill but there were still good moments. (“Please tell me we can tell the difference between wool and sidearms.”)

Fortunately the story picked up as a trip through the time vortex allowed them to lead  the alleged widow’s husband home. From there we returned to the continuity of the past season where the Doctor allowed everyone to think he is dead. He was convinced to return to visit Amy and Rory for Christmas. He arrived two years later to find that River had  told Amy that the Doctor was alive. (Amy: “River told us.” The Doctor: “Of course she did.” Amy:”She’s a good girl!” ) Seeing Amy again made the episode worthwhile. This presumably foreshadows next season, with the Doctor working more in the background with most believing he is dead, along with a temporary return of Amy and Rory.

Showtime had excellent conclusions for both Dexter and Homeland. The first season of Dexter closely matched the first Dexter novel with one key difference–Debra learned about Dexter’s secret. The past season showed changes in Debra which prepared her for this knowledge, making the final moment predictable with Debra seeing Dexter kill Travis. The show is now scheduled to conclude after two more seasons, which will certainly concentrate on the changing relationship between Dexter and Debra.

Homeland was the best new show of the past season but it seemed to be a season-long story and I had wondered how they would keep matters open for a second season. The season began with questions over the sanity of CIA agent Carrie Mathison and questions over whether rescued al Quida prisoner Sgt. Nicholas Brody had been turned into a terrorist. Over the course of the season it became clear that Carrie is both mentally ill and right about at least some of her suspicions. For a brief time it appeared that another prisoner, not Brody, had been turned. By the end of the season it became clear that both former prisoners had been brainwashed. The other was to shoot at a group of top government officials, leading to them being rushed past security to a safe room. This included Brody, who was wearing a suicide vest to enable him to kill the entire group.

Carrie made a final attempt to stop the killings, which only she suspected, by having Brody’s daughter call him. At the end of the episode she was unaware that her effort was successful. The episode ended with Carrie undergoing electroshock treatment which would cause short term memory loss. At the last moment she remembered that, while they were in bed together earlier in the season, Bordy had shouted the name Issa during a flashback. Brody told Carrie that this was the name of his guard, but just before receiving the electroshock Carrie realized that this was the name of the son of Abu Nazir, who was killed in an American drone attack. This was the key to understanding why Brody had turned. Next season we will  presumably see when Carrie remembers this, or finds other reason to again investigate Brody while others do not suspect him.

Two shows which have not yet aired the United States also concluded in the U.K. Merlin had another excellent season. While I will avoid spoilers here, the story is getting even closer to the conventional King Arthur legends. The  Downton Abbey Christmas Special tied up some of  the story lines from the second season while keeping aspects open for new stories next season.

In other holiday news, David Tennant and Georgia Moffat maried on News Years Eve.  Sherlock returned in the U.K. on New Years Day.

Once Again, Ron Paul’s Views Would Promote Conservatism and Even Authoritarianism, Not Liberty

Ron Paul’s opposition to virtually any action by the federal government means that he is on the right side of issues where government is wrong, including infringements upon civil liberties and waging unjust wars. His extreme support for states’ rights should not be mistaken as a philosophy which would increase liberty. Paul opposes the extension of the Bill of Rights to the states in the Fourteenth Amendment and has on many occasions indicated that he would find infringements upon civil liberties by the sates to be acceptable. He does make an exception to this usual support of states’ rights by treating abortion as murder nationwide.

While many libertarians and civil libertarians have seen through Paul’s faux-libertariansm, especially since his relationship to white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups were exposed during the 2008 campaign, some remained deceived by Paul’s rhetoric. Glenn Grenwald is the latest to write in favor of Paul without really understanding his views, while continuing with his pattern of exaggerating  and distorting Obama’s faults.

The issues regarding Paul were discussed at length in 2007 in the lead up to the 2008 campaign. In early 2008, while substituting for Steve Benen at his former blog, The Carpetbagger Report, I cross-posted a summary of my previous posts to show it would be a mistake for liberals to support Ron Paul. (Steve has since moved on to The Washington Monthly.) The previous post remains relevant and I will repeat the bulk of it below:

Seeing Ron Paul debate his fellow Republicans on Iraq, and even criticize their lack of respect for civil liberties, brought Paul justifiably favorable attention. This has included the support of some liberals who have not looked carefully at Paul’s views beyond these issues. Paul has lost a considerable amount of respect the last few days after an article in The New Republic reported on the racist writings in his newsletter, but there were reasons for both liberals and libertarians to question Paul even before these revelations.

To bring those up to speed who might not have followed the events of past week, The New Republic‘s exposure of racist writings in Ron Paul’s newsletter was the final straw after which many libertarians who had previously ignored Paul’s past realized they must disassociate themselves from Paul if they wished to retain any credibility. I have quoted the responses of several libertarians here and here. Paul’s defense was that the articles were ghost written by others and that he had not read the articles. He also claimed that he disagreed with the views expressed.

Back in November I discussed how libertarians were beginning to dissociate themselves from Ron Paul, and even half jokingly suggested that Reason would eventually do so on its cover to differentiate themselves from Paul’s markedly non-libertarian views. This week Reason clearly did realize the danger to their reputation in being linked to Paul. This led to Reason doing investigative work to debunk Paul’s defense.

Reason has reviewed public statements from Paul over the years which are quite incriminating. At times Paul defended the writings, and the context of the news reports suggests Paul was aware of them even if a ghost writer assisted him. For example, the May 22, 1996 Dallas Morning News contains this (emphasis mine): “Dr. Paul denied suggestions that he was a racist and said he was not evoking stereotypes when he wrote the columns. He said they should be read and quoted in their entirety to avoid misrepresentation.”

This hardly sounds like someone who is either denying that he wrote the articles or denying that he agrees with what is published. My post on this topic yesterday includes another quote from a libertarian, Megan McArdle, which further debunks the arguments of many of Paul’s supporters, as well as dismissing the question of whether it matters if Paul is personally a racist or enabling racism.

I’ve been following Ron Paul at Liberal Values for quite a while. Initially, despite some disagreements, I found aspects of his campaign to be of interest. Besides his views on Iraq and civil liberties, I saw Paul’s campaign as a sign of the general anti-government sentiment in the country, which liberals would be wise not to ignore. As I continued to follow Paul, and reviewed his writings well before The New Republic did, I found many disturbing aspects beyond the questions of racism.

One policy I generally followed in my criticism of Paul’s views was to hold him to a standard of supporting freedom, but generally ignored disagreements based upon basic libertarian views. We might disagree with Paul over issues such as eliminating certain government programs, but in discussing libertarians that goes with the territory. Such disagreements with liberals are to be expected. Objections are much more interesting when they pertain to areas in which the so-called libertarian’s views are contrary to principles of individual liberty.

Paul’s views are far better characterized as social conservatism with extreme support for states’ rights as opposed to libertarianism. Despite his reputation as a libertarian, Paul is actually hostile towards First Amendment rights where they conflict with his religious views. Besides the Iraq war, and related abuses in the “war on terror,” the greatest threat we now face to civil liberties comes from the religious right.

As I’ve previously noted, Paul has incorrectly claimed that, “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.” He has also supported keeping “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, has co-sponsored the school prayer amendment, and supported keeping the Ten Commandments on a courthouse lawn. Paul has both criticized secularism and claimed that the founding fathers envisioned a Christian America. Paul has supported the Sanctity of Life Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, and the Marriage Protection Act.

Paul’s views on abortion show both his lack of respect for the rights of the individual as well as how he is willing to ignore his principles on federalism to promote his personal views. Besides supporting the federal ban on so-called partial birth abortions, Paul has supported federal legislation to over ride state law which differentiates between a zygote and a fully developed human. I would expect someone with training in Obstetrics to be concerned about such scientific nonsense, but this is less surprising after hearing his views on creationism versus evolution.

Ron Paul supports a Constitution which is quite different from that envisioned by the framers. Besides failing to understand the intent to form a secular state, Paul’s views on federalism stem from a lack of understanding of the plan to have over-lapping sources of authority with blurred jurisdiction between federal and state power. Paul ignores the reasons why the framers supported a stronger federal government following the failings of the original Articles of Confederation.

The fight for liberty is an on going process, with the American Revolution and later establishment of our democracy being steps along the way. Few would return to the conditions of our early days when slavery was allowed and women were denied the right to vote. While some of the founding fathers wished to have the Bill of Rights extended to the states, this was a battle which had to be left for a later date. The Fourteenth Amendment ultimately extended such rights, but this view is rejected by Paul and many of his supporters.

The consequences of these views are of tremendous consequence. While traditional views of liberalism and libertarianism deal with rights as being inherent in the individual, Paul’s view of states’ rights leads in practice to a situation where state governments trump the rights of the individual. I discussed this a couple of weeks ago from the context of Paul’s view that state governments have the right to ban flag burning. Similarly, Paul’s views would have prevented the federal government from taking action against Jim Crow laws. With the Bill of Rights not being seen as applying to the states, any violation of our Constitutional liberties might be justified if coming from a source other than the federal government.

This also explains why extremist groups such as the white supremacist Stormfront have endorsed Ron Paul. They understand that, even if their views might differ from Paul’s personal views, Ron Paul’s philosophy of government would allow them the chance to impose their views upon others. It is far easier for extremist groups to receive a majority vote in a local area, or even an entire state, than nationally. A campaign which started with well-deserved opposition to the Iraq war has turned into one where the main freedom they are defending is the freedom to discriminate and oppress. Paul’s refusal to return a contribution from Stormfront founder Don Black was the point when many first recognized that there is something seriously wrong with Paul and his supporters who defend this. In addition, to see that he shares the xenophobia exhibited by his fellow Republicans, check out this ad which he ran on illegal aliens and those people from “terrorist nations.”

I’ve been criticizing Paul on these issues for several months. Thanks to all the talk around the blogosphere among libertarians following the story in The New Republic I find that some libertarian sites (such as here and here) have raised very similar objections.

Since this was posted additional contradictory statements from Paul have been publicized, further demonstrating the lack of credibility of his denials of involvement with the racist and homophobic material published under his name.  More material has been posted here under the Ron Paul tag. Also see the rebuttal to Greenwood written at Lawyers, Gun$ and Money, including this accurate assessment of the consequences of Paul’s beliefs, tying in his racism and extreme view of states’ rights:

It’s wrong to think of Ron Paul’s racism and his libertarianism as two distinct parts of his political persona, when in fact they are deeply tied together. White supremacists understand what Glenn, apparently, does not; the absence of Federal authority makes it easier for private actors and local governments to repress the civil and political rights of minorities. Paul’s libertarianism emerged in a regional and cultural context that was deeply hostile to Federal efforts at integration. The newsletters give strong indication that none of this is lost on Ron Paul. A notional President Paul is just as likely to use the powers of the office to gut Federal enforcement of a wide range of civil liberties protections as he is to do any of the things that Glenn would like him to do.