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As if there was any doubt that David Cameron is an utter prick:

Cameron, who stood down as an MP on Monday, has refused to give evidence to the select committee. In one of his few reflections on his major military intervention, he blamed the Libyan people for failing to take their chance of democracy.

Probably some humanitarian hawks do actually care about the people they purport to liberate. But then there’s David Cameron, who seemed to have other things in mind. Don’t let the door hit you…

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Lev filed this under: ,  

I guess I missed the official anniversary of the airing of the first episode of Star Trek. The usual busyness but it is a hell of a thing. It is pretty amazing that a show that barely limped to a third season fifty years ago has had such staying power, but of course it has evolved with the times:

  • The Original Series is pretty inextricable from that old American mid-’60s moral certitude, with Kirk regularly passing judgment on societies that seemed to work okay, but didn’t conform to his own values. It was progressive on race, less progressive on gender, and ultimately incoherent about war–the show’s antiwar episodes have dominated the show’s legacy, though episodes like The Omega Glory and A Private Little War embody sentiments that would have pleased the hawks of the day. Much of the series does hold up well thanks to the writing, though going through the series becomes really tough sledding about a handful of episodes into season three.
  • The Animated Series is not entirely canonical but well worth the time of the dedicated fan. The series is overall sort of hit-or-miss, with bargain-basement animation and seemingly every voice other than the main cast provided by James Doohan. Furthermore, it is hilarious that the creators of the show basically changed nothing about the style of storytelling for the conversion from prime-time drama to Saturday morning cartoon–Roddenberry evidently figured that children had the same appetite for heady themes as adults did, and the show shockingly didn’t last too long. Still, the moments where it really clicks–Yesteryear, which explores Spock’s backstory, and The Slaver Weapon, which gives us the rare Spock-Sulu-Uhura team-up for a very well-crafted cerebral sci-fi adventure–make it well worth the time investment (which is small anyway–only about 10 hours or so).
  • The Next Generation is a show that is of its time in one way: it survived two mostly-bad initial seasons that today’s viewers would never have stuck around for. The time period when “what’s good on TV” was a list with maybe two items on it seems an impossibly distant memory now, when nobody bats an eye if The Weather Channel uncorks a prestige scripted series. Still, even despite the thinness of quality TV in the late 1980s, if ever an episode of television felt like a suicide note, it was the second season finale Shades Of Gray, a clip show that mostly just underlined how bad the series had been to that point. It’s hard to come up with a compelling “greatest hits” with at most a handful of good episodes to show for two long seasons, and one has only to imagine how dispiriting it was for the people who worked on it. Incredibly, the series rebounded to become an era-defining show, grabbing Super Bowl-esque ratings on a regular basis, successfully pivoting the series toward a more modern foundation of teamwork, diplomacy, and respect for different cultures, and remaining relevant for decades through the magic of internet memes. And the highs are so dizzying: The Best Of Both WorldsThe Inner LightThe Measure Of A Man and others make this a high point of the purely episodic TV era.
  • Deep Space Nine was the neglected child of TNG: underpromoted, neglected, misunderstood. Over the past decade or so–particularly since the advent of streaming–its stock has shot up among fans, who can appreciate as a whole what wasn’t appreciated during its original run, back when people didn’t tune in religiously every week. In a lot of ways, it marked the final step forward for the television side of the franchise to date. TNG improved on the first series in so many ways: complexity, character development, nuance. Deep Space Nine went much further than that, dabbling in serialization, moral ambiguity, and, most notably, conflict between characters. Quite a lot of Star Trek fans never forgave them for it. But those unable to stomach the darkening of Roddenberry’s moral universe should recall the aforementioned pro-war episodes and the mishmash of early TNG. Roddenberry’s vision changed over time, and looking back now, it’s even harder to make the argument that this show broke it–not only because of Battlestar Galactica being a reminder of how much darker and bleaker it could have been, but also because raising questions without easy answers and no-win scenarios of unthinkable consequence are not a departure from the bases of Star Trek: they have been at its center all along.
  • Voyager held enormous promise at first: the pilot (called “Caretaker”), which I still quite like, positioned the series as a sort of hybrid of DS9 and TNG, with the promise of both traditional Star Trek planet-exploration adventures as well as the promise of interpersonal conflict (though with the strong indication that it would ultimately be overcome). You watch that episode and you think you’re going to be in for a great series. Then you watch the first episode proper and you realize that it was all a hoax: this was just going to be The Next Generation with a not-taken-that-seriously twist. (One of my favorite episodes, The Voyager Conspiracy, functions as a late-season meta-critique of the show’s foundational premise, which holds that the ship was too well-prepared for its departure into wildly unexplored space for it not to have been a put-up job. The episode never actually refutes this critique because it is fundamentally irrefutable.) To be fair, seasons four and five are actually pretty good seasons of television, and throughout the show you see flashes of what made TNG great, like Michael Jordan in his last years on the Wizards occasionally making a shot that reminds you of what he was. But what a great opportunity lost by playing it too safe.
  • Enterprise was, on the other hand, a much riskier proposition. It reads as the franchise’s then producers trying to keep up with the changing television landscape, and largely failing. Instead of pushing interpersonal conflict to the side like TNG and Voyager, it was at the center of the show, perhaps even the main theme. The show embedded elements of serialization into the series from the beginning, which got thicker as the series progressed. It even tweaked with the look and feel of Star Trek: it had a power ballad as the show’s theme song, and it didn’t put Star Trek in the title (at first). And it sought to deal with sexuality in a more adult manner than Trek ever had before, which proved thoroughly embarrassing. The decontamination room was a smart idea to make the whole thing more lo-fi, but the porn lighting and close-ups on people rubbing gels on each others bodies wound up having the exact opposite effect as intended. As, in fact, did many of the show’s innovations. Interpersonal conflict didn’t make up for the show’s many poorly-drawn characters. And the usual two slow seasons of self-discovery model was a non-starter in the new era of good television. In the end, many long-time Trekkies (myself included) were affronted by many of the attempts to distance the series from its predecessors–having characters being into sports, watching recognizable media and the rest felt like an implicit and unwarranted franchise self-critique that its characters hadn’t been previously relatable–and the prospective new fans weren’t fooled by the absence of the Star Trek moniker. This is the irony of Enterprise: the very touches intended to modernize the show instead crippled it. Nevertheless, there is some good stuff in the latter two seasons, though given the serialization it’s difficult to say whether it plays well on its own, or whether it’s worth wading through a lot of the junk of the first two seasons, like Dear Doctor, which plays better as a desperate guilty-conscience rationalization of a genocide than as an affirmation of medical ethics and evolution (which is what it was intended as).

This is of course ignoring the Star Trek films, which I’ll go over some other time.

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Bill Clinton might well be the top candidate for luckiest person of all time. The economy was so good that he got away with maybe the worst staffing skills in the history of the modern presidency, Dubya excluded. From making an insane neocon his first CIA Director, to appointing an FBI Director who spent his entire time in office investigating Clinton himself (and totally missing 9/11), to appointing a successor at CIA who was George Tenet, not so good. This is not to mention the likes of Janet Reno, Madeleine Albright, Alan Greenspan (twice), etc. Admittedly, some of these people were not first choices, like Reno. Regardless, here’s hoping Hillary Clinton takes Bill’s advice on staffing with a grain of salt given that the aforementioned first CIA Director is a Trump guy.

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How is this appropriate in a civil society?

[Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said:] “If Hillary wins, what’s our lot? … I say to you churches … we will see a heightened level of vindication coming out of a Hillary Clinton White House, where I believe there will be prosecutions for churches, for nonprofits, for anyone that opposes the Hillary Clinton agenda. Open your eyes.”  Bachmann warned activists at the Values Voter Summit in Washington that the U.S. “may not survive” another eight years of a Democrat in the White House. “It will either be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, one of the two, and just like the Book of Deuteronomy teaches us that: I have set before you life and death, which will you choose?” Bachmann said.

It’s stuff like this that really makes me furious.  Sure, Trump and the media are in a happy frenzy over the constant dribble of new Clinton email news.  But at least it has some shred of substance.  It speaks to an issue, it speaks to Clinton’s truthfulness and character.  Trump is perfectly within his rights to yell about it all day long.

However, when the conversation turns into “DEMOCRATS ARE HERE TO EAT YOUR CHRISTIAN BABIES AND BURN YOU ALL IN A LAKE OF DEMON-SPAWN HELLFIRE”, how are normal people supposed to react to that?  It poisons the well for everyone.  I don’t really have a cogent point to make — shit like this just infuriates me this much.


Rep. Louie Gohmert, a man mainly known for regularly issuing genuinely unhinged quotations, questions the state of Hillary Clinton’s mind.

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Remember when Tom Hanks used to play fictional characters?

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As many of you know, there is a select group of supremely despicable people whom I find to deserve not a modicum of respect, in life or in death.  People always gasp but, when prodded, always admit they have a list too.

Today, on this episode of I Dance On Your Grave, Phyllis Schlafly.  Thankfully, she finally died yesterday.

Here are some of her greatest hits.

Mrs. Schlafly’s pronouncements drove her antagonists to distraction, though they suspected that her biting language was calculated precisely to provoke their outrage. She said that “sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women” and that “sex-education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.” She called the atom bomb “a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God”…

In 1981, speaking at a Senate labor committee hearing on sexual harassment in the workplace, Mrs. Schlafly said that “men hardly ever ask sexual favors of women from whom the certain answer is ‘No.’ Virtuous women are seldom accosted by unwelcome sexual propositions or familiarities, obscene talk or profane language.”

Dirty office sluts.  And don’t get her started on feminists and women who claim to be raped by their husbands:

Last year, Phyllis Schlafly spoke on the campus of Bates College where , among other things, she “belittled the feminist movement as ‘teaching women to be victims,’ decried intellectual men as ‘liberal slobs’ and argued that feminism “is incompatible with marriage and motherhood.”  She then went on to top herself by claiming that a married woman cannot be sexually assaulted by her husband, saying, “By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape.”

Also, too, Muslims:

Earlier this year, Schlafly’s Eagle Forum almost dissolved thanks to a civil war caused by Phyllis’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president. Even though her life mission has been to espouse family values, Schlafly is all in for Trump, mostly because of his plan to ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. (Many European countries have “let these Muslims overrun their country,” Schlafly said last month).

Oh, and lest we forget one of her favorite topics: Gays:

Schlafly said the purpose of same-sex marriage is to “wipe out the Christian religion…”  “I do think that the main goal of the homosexuals is to silence any criticism,” she said in 2013. “Most of them aren’t interested in getting married.”  Her other theory was that LGBT activists actually wanted to get rid of marriage for straight people…

Ahead of the Supreme Court ruling favorably on marriage equality, she called on governors to ignore the justices, who she said “think they’re God or something.” And after the ruling, she kept right on insisting “we don’t have to obey it just because a few judges said so”…

Schlafly was by no means focused exclusively on same-sex marriage, though. She ranted about sodomy — “a central feature of same-sex marriage” — and longed for the days when it was criminalized.

In her universe, I hope she’s correct about there being a Hell, so may she burn in it, for ever and ever. (It makes the Motorhead song doubly poignant, no?)