Trailer Review – Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Unleased


SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

That is all.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent


Well, Bill Cosby’s career is basically over. I understand he’s got an NBC deal coming up, but I suspect that’ll get canceled quickly. I think at this point he’s likely going to disappear and die quietly a few years from now. That’s a pity, because he’s a genuinely funny man, and I have fond memories of his performances when I was growing up.

Of course that was all before we knew he is basically an evil rapist.

Or so the world has decided. There’s no actual evidence, there are no charges filed, there is no confession. But clearly he’s guilty as sin, right? He has to be, because…well, he just is!

I have no idea if the allegations against him are true or not. They “feel” like they could be, but, to be fair, he is also a very famous, very rich man, and I’m sure it’s entirely possible one, some, or all the allegations could be being made by attention-/money-seekers who want a slice of the Cosby pie.

But even if he actually did do what he’s accused of, he hasn’t had his day in court. Part of that is because many of the allegations were made long ago, and the statue of limitations has expired (and despite what some people seem to think, no, it shouldn’t be extended for sex crimes. Sex crimes aren’t special. Crime is crime), and in other cases, as mentioned in the article I linked to above, there isn’t any evidence beyond, “She said, he said”.

So how should we react to these allegations? We should ignore them. Until there is something of real substance (charges filed, a confession, etc), all we have are a handful of people saying something bad happened while the accused says nothing. There isn’t anything there we should be reacting to.

A Half-Measure of Fail


The FDA is considering new rules on who is allowed to donate blood and when. Here’s a fun fact: did you know if you’re a man who has ever, at any point in your life, ever had sex with another man, you are barred from donating blood and plasma? It’s true. Why? HIV worries. To put this in some perspective, this means that the two other boys I had my “first time” with back in the mid-1980s are banned, for life, from donating blood.

Now as this article from Slate points out, HIV testing is easy, cheap and effective. It’s easy to hold off a few days on pushing the blood out into the supply lines while some testing is done, and if it isn’t already being done on all donated blood, it should be.

Thankfully, the FDA is considering changing the rules. The new rule would be that men who have had sexual contact with other men are allowed to donate blood…provided it has been at least a year since they had that contact.

So to recap. Under these new rules, you can hook up with HIV+ opposite sex partners every day for a year, have unsafe sex with them each time, and you’ll be allowed to donate blood with no restrictions. If, on the other hand, you’re in a homosexual relationship and you and your partner have been with only each other for over twenty years, and last had sex eleven months ago, and came up HIV- in a test done the prior week, well…too bad. No donating blood for you.

As Slate points out this is especially stupid when you consider other high-risk groups the FDA won’t ban from donating.

If the FDA is really committed to turning away groups of people who are statistically more likely to have HIV, they should at least start discriminating more consistently. Black people, for instance, have a much higher infection rate than whites; shouldn’t they be barred from donating blood? And non-monogamous straight people obviously risk greater exposure to HIV; shouldn’t the FDA copy South Africa and start blocking heterosexuals who’ve had a new sex partner in the previous six months?

Well-said. The FDA really should wake up and enter the 21st century on this issue. “Punish”, if that’s the word to use, unsafe sexual behaviors in everyone, and stop punishing people who engage in gay sex.

Look Back in Anger – OR – My Thoughts on Series 8


Fuckin’ “Kill the Moon”, man. That was the episode that did it to me. In over 800 episodes, hundreds of audio stories and dozens of novels, that one, and that one alone, was such an insult to my intelligence that it nearly destroyed an entire season.

But let’s back up.

We all had such high hopes for Peter Capaldi. A darker Doctor is what we expected, and someone who could shake up our expectations for what the Doctor is. And boy, from the start, he delivered. Not only did we get the “Independent State of Eyebrows” speech, but we also got him maybe pushing a bad guy off a tower. The best case scenario is that he talked the bad guy into suicide.

But despite those scenes, “Deep Breath” just felt bloated and frankly not great. It was a decent 45 minute concept stretched into 75 minutes, and it showed. Plus, frankly, I never feel the need to see the Paternoster Gang ever again.

Then something fascinating happened, and we got that rarest of things: a good Dalek story. Previously, I could count those on one hand (“The Daleks”, “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”, “Genesis of the Daleks”, “Remembrance of the Daleks” and “Dalek”). Now I’ll have to grow an extra finger, because this one really was quite excellent.

From there we moved on to the surprisingly decent “Robots of Sherwood”, which really was far better than I had expected it to be. But then came “Listen”, which…I dunno. I got what they were going for, but it really just failed for me, and became the second stumble of the season.

But “Time Heist” was very good, and canonized Abslom Daak, Dalek-killer. It was a great little romp! Then we moved on to “The Caretaker”, which was flawed, but still very enjoyable.

But then…fuck. “Kill the Fucking Goddam Moon”…The one and only good thing about this story is that it gave Clara some much needed characterization in that it gave her some as opposed to her usual levels of none. But…Jesus. The science was terrible, and the ethical conundrum non-existent.

Still, we went on from there to “Mummy on the Orient Express”, which shouldn’t have worked, but did, and did a wonderful job of showing just how unpleasant Capaldi’s Doctor could be when he had to be. Sure, it was for a good reason, but yikes!

This was followed by “Flatline”, and I began to believe again. It felt like an older Moffat story, and I began to really hope he was back on track.

Then came the second-worst episode of the season, and one of the worst of the new series. Yes, kids, “Forest of the Night”, where somehow a global forest springs up overnight (even at the poles, the oceans and the desert), and then disappears quickly after protecting us from some sort of solar flare. We get hit by those periodically, by the way, and aside from some “fun with technology” antics, they don’t actually do much to our planet. Also, I fail to see how a global forest pumping highly-flammable oxygen into the atmosphere provides any real protection. Also, it smacks of Gaia Theory, and that concept can go suck a bag of dicks.

We wound up the season with the two-part Cybermen/Master (Mistress) stories. The first part was very excellent, and the second part existed! Oh, it wasn’t bad, but much of it didn’t make much sense (how did the Mistress get an army of Cybermen? If Danny Pink is did, wither Orson Pink?), and the bit with the Brig was more than a little twee. On the other hand, Danny’s revelation about his past, while a bit predictable, was still heart-wrenching, as I’m sure it’s a nightmare shared by every soldier and every cop. The eventual sacrifice Danny made at the end of the second part worked and worked well. The story also bid farewell, we hope, to Clara, who finally started to emerge as a character, but it was too late, too late.

Twelthdoctor

And so we look toward the future. We know Santa Claus will be paying a visit this Christmas (shades of “Iris Wildthyme and the Claws of Santa“, though probably with slightly less gin), and we know that a man named Frost is playing Santa, which is kind of magnificent.

Beyond that…series nine comes out sometime next year. We haven’t had any confirmation, to my knowledge, about who the showrunner will be, but I suspect Moffat. That’s a shame. He’s generally an excellent writer, and he’s done a lot of good for the show, but I think he’s burned-out, and it’s time to pass the reins off to someone else.

As for what I want to see in series nine…a series without Daleks would be nice. I’d like the Ice Warriors to come back, but only if they can keep their armor on. It would also be nice to see a return from an old companion, say Jo Grant, or perhaps the Doctor could visit Scotland and hang out with the Laird McCrimmon. And of course I want to see the Mistress again. She’s still a bit more over-the-top than I’d like (I really miss Delgado), but she’s quite entertaining.

And of course, I very much want to see Gallifrey come back. It’s been set up and teased. Now we need it to happen.

What do I not want to see? No more Clara. No more “dark fairy tales”. No more “Doctor Emo” type stories, where emotions rule the day, and the world is saved through the power of love. Less new series “flavor” and more old series.

But new-style or old, I’ll still watch it. Even if they don’t get Gallifrey back, even if Clara returns and brings Rose with her, even if the Master now regenerates into a penguin and changes his name to Frobisher, I’ll still watch it. Because I love Doctor Who, despite the problems, and there are many worse things than that.

About the Other Night


I was working Tuesday and Wednesday, so I haven’t had a chance to really chime in with my opinions on what happened on election night. Let’s go over a few things.

- Marijuana legalization moved forward
– Minimum wages were increased by four states
– Abortion access was protected
– The Republicans got a majority in the Senate

During the time Obama has been in office, we’ve seen unemployment cut nearly in half, from a height of 10% during the mid-point of his first year in office down to the current rate of 5.9%. The stock market has, and continues to have, record highs. Bin Laden is dead, GM is alive. The GDP is up. The deficit is down. We’re out of Afghanistan, for the most part, and barely in Iraq (though stay tuned). Syria’s chemical weapons are gone. We’re engaging in talks with Iran. Russia is reeling from the economic sanctions imposed upon them. Millions of Americans have health insurance who did not (myself, two of my friends), and millions of others are paying way less for their medical coverage (my mom). That’s all coverage that can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions and can’t be cancelled when you’re sick.

So, yes, a litany of failures, and extremely poor poll numbers, as the Republicans would have us believe (though the poll numbers aren’t bad and have actually been steady). The sad part is that for some reason, the Democrats believed it, too. If you’re a Democrat, whether you voted or not, you share some of the blame for the fact that the GOP somehow won in the Senate.

For those of you who did vote Republican, let me ask you this: if there had been a president who accomplished all of those things, but was a Republican, would you have voted for him? Don’t lie. You would have. You know you would. You know this because Reagan did way less than that and still managed to get re-elected.

Though, to be fair, Reagan was white and not a Democrat.

Let me address the second part of that sentence first. The Democratic party is full of a bunch of pussies. They absolutely refuse to stand up for the things they believe in, and do so loudly and with passion. We finally have something approximating universal health care, something that was in the works for one-hundred years, and the Democrats couldn’t run from it fast enough. We have a president who stood up for gay marriage and eliminated Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Yet someone like Clay Aiken, who now one presumes is on his way back to whatever he has left of a musical career, had the temerity to claim that he, Aiken, wasn’t interested in same-sex marriage rights, and turned down a chance for the President to come and campaign for him.

Let me restate that: an openly gay, first time politician was running for office, and refused to speak up for gay rights and let the President come campaign for him. Aiken did this in a cynical ploy to somehow get get votes from the sort of people who wouldn’t vote for him if you held a gun to their heads. He lost, by the way.

But that’s just the start. Here in Arizona, I got to watch all sorts of unpleasant campaign ads. The Republican ones were generally awful, but the Democratic ones were just as bad, though in a different way. They were bad because it was the Democrats running rapidly away from their party and their president. They couldn’t distance themselves fast enough.

They won handily, by the way, but thanks to the huge advantage incumbents have, mixed in with massive levels of gerrymandering, they were going to win no matter what.

Democrats were almost certain to lose control of the Senate regardless. That’s what usually happens in off-year elections; the party of the President loses seats in Congress (especially in a year like this, where it was mostly red states voting for Senators). There are a bunch of reasons for this, most of which center around the reality of governing verses the promises of the campaign. I know there are many, many liberals out there who didn’t vote this time around because they’re disappointed in various aspects of Obama’s presidency, like the NSA spying on Americans, the drone strikes, the fact that the ACA is a big blowjob to the insurance industry, and other things.

Hey, those are all valid reasons to not vote. I’m sure the Republicans will be waaaay better on those issues anyhow.

To be fair this is not a new thing for Democrats. We’re very, very good at running from ourselves. This started back in the day when we allowed the Republicans to turn “liberal” into a dirty word. I am a liberal, a Socialist to be exact. Even I instinctively cringe a bit from the phrase, “latte-sipping liberal” and want to try and make excuses. What I should be doing, what we should all be doing, is standing up and saying, “Yeah, so?”

We have a thirty-plus year legacy of rolling over and ignoring our positions. We need to knock that shit off and be proud of who we are. We need to stop being a slightly left centrist party and embrace our liberalness.

Now to the racial issue. Don’t even pretend there isn’t one. You know there is. It might get dismissed, but it is there. Bill Maher once observed that not all Republicans are racist, which is very true, but that if you are racist, you’re more likely to vote Republicans. The Republicans never, ever, express this openly, but it’s a fact, and they campaign on those points. Why else do you think there was all this stuff about Obama as an outsider? A Muslim, a Kenyan, an anti-colonialist (that being against colonialism is a negative in this of all countries makes me laugh and weep), and basically everything except a red-blooded American. Muslims, Kenyans, and people who were against British colonization in recent years have all been, you know, not white. So even if the Republicans are too cowardly to openly cater to the racist vote, they’re happy to do so in various non-subtle ways.

Now…on a practical level, what does all this mean? Well, I expect either more gridlock, since now the Democrats can prevent things from exiting the Senate with a mere 51% of the vote, or just possibly some sort of detente where the Republicans realize that now they have to govern. Maybe they’ll give up on their impossible quest to kill Obamacare and get into the much more reasonable quest of fixing it, because there are some problems with it that need fixing.

I’d like to hope that’s the case. I’d like to hope that now they have some power, the Republicans will actually be allowed to govern. But that’s not up to me, the Democrats, or the President. It’s up to the Tea Party Republicans. It’s up to those people who have been elected on a pledge to never compromise, and to fight to destroy everything Obama has touched, no matter the consequences.

If the Republicans can successfully stifle that wing of the party, well…things might happen. Maybe even some good things. If they don’t, well, there’s a solution coming up in 2016. Maybe we on the left can, as a group, go back to embracing what makes us great. Maybe we can retake the House and the Senate. The White House is…well, I don’t want to say it’s a given, but it’s pretty likely we’ll have that, too.

And if we fail, and if we lose in the elections, let’s fail by standing up for who we are, and not pretending we’re something we aren’t.

Another One Gone


Yet another African dictator has been toppled. In this case, Blaise Compaore, 27 year long dictator of Burkina Faso, has gone down in a series of events that have been favorably compared to the Arab Spring.

From what I can tell, it looks like this bastard took power in the 1980s, following a coup, and was anti-Communist, so I’m sure we propped him up while he did miserable and unpleasant things to his people, because standing up for freedom is something we do only when convenient. He also kept company with Charles Taylor and Qaddafi, so…yeah. Hell, as recently as two months ago, this is what he was doing.

Blaise_Compaoré_with_Obamas_2014

Hopefully Burkina Faso can move forward and have a better existence. It would be nice to have another African success story, as there are way too few currently.

A Modest Proposal


We really do need to reform our electoral system. The current version (winner-takes-all), is kind of a mess and doesn’t really work that well. CGP Grey has an interesting series of videos about reforming the electoral process. Here’s the latest.

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