Steven L. Taylor
Friday, June 26, 2020
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective.
He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog).
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Black holes may merge with light of a trillion suns, scientists say
Pretty cool stuff.
US climate activists charged with ‘terrorizing’ lobbyist over plastic pollution stunt
Who knew education could be so terrifying. Also, Irony is dead:
I signed up for a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime, for the sole purpose of watching the first season of Star Trek Picard. I took advantage of the “free”* shipping to order a milk frother (sorely needed at work) and a 50 pack of disposable masks (also sorely needed at work).
I see what Trek fans are complaining about.
Spoilers for Picard follow
You’ve been warned.
Given the trailer and casting info, and avoiding reading even non-spoiler reviews and news items on the series, I was surprised by the focus of the show. I’d expected it to be about former Borg, not synthetics.
The show is really well done, and definitely not your usual Trek fare. It is more realistic, more cinematic in look and feel, and more novelistic in story-telling. We already saw this in Discovery, to be sure. However, making Picard a nominal civilian lets us into aspects of life in the future we’d only glimpsed in previous series and movies.
The stuff Trek fans dislike, IMO, is the dysfunction shown withing Starfleet, the violence, murder, intrigue, and outright cruelty used liberally as both meat and spice in the show. It’s not like they kill someone in every ep, but nearly so.
* I know shipping costs are either included in the price, made up by people who do expressly pay for shipping, or by those who pay extra for faster shipping. Curiously a Futurama mobile game, “Futurama: Game of Drones,” addresses this in their story line, where one of Mom’s businesses offers “Free Shipping That You Pay For.”
While we are watching as this country continues to be leaderless and rudderless, please spend a moment reflecting on this young man who we only know by name.
Why do they hate conservatives?
Just as applicable today, this clip from Newsroom Season 1, Ep 10:
Met chief ‘dumbfounded’ by officers’ alleged photos of murdered sisters
Those Brits could learn a thing or 2 from us. Our police don’t just take inappropriate pictures of the bodies, they create the bodies too.
If you haven’t read The New York Times article How The Virus Won , I strongly suggest that you do. The active graphics in the article clearly make the point.
They also do a great job of keeping current with state-by-state data.
Why this is specifically germane to me, today… I’ve been having a 1969 Corvette Convertible rebuilt over the last 3 years. (See Corvette Connection , their Facebook page has a lot of pic of the build).
Last October, after selling a tiny 550 sq ft condo in Colorado ski country, we bought a home not far from Pensacola FL (or as some call it, LA — Lower Alabama) for the pleasure of the local beaches. We will still be part year in Colorado as we do like the mountains as well. (yes, it’s complicated.)
So, the goal was, once the Vette was done, to have it shipped to Florida, where it could reside in comfort in an attached garage (unlike the dirt road here in Golden), and I would take my Honda PC800 cycle and Honda Element down there, and have everything tagged Florida (as I have become a Florida resident for tax purposes and that my wife and I can personally assist to turn the state blue this year come November).
So… Today we start the drive down and hope to be there Sunday night, with our Element pulling a motorcycle trailer… through the worst of the COVID-19 presidentially mandated second wave of infections.
I have to tell you, this really is a drag. On the upside, we have our disposable masks, gloves, and should be coming into hotels so late at night that we will miss most people. Thanks to automated gas pumps, interactions while traveling will be kept to a minimum. Still, the wife is freaking.
Going back to that NYT interactive map… I was talking to a couple of people yesterday and they said they weren’t worried about COVID-19 as they likely had it in January. Which, if you look at that article is absolutely impossible. The famous 15 cases (which POTUS said were going to happen and be the end of it) were mid February, and all of those were linked in some way to China. My two moron acquaintances had the regular old run-of-the-mill flu.
What I had at the end of March (following air travel through Phoenix, and eating / drinking at the Centurion Club there) likely did result in a two week COVID-19 illness, and 4 week recovery. The map shows how Phoenix was a travel migration point (thanks Am Air’s Phoenix hub!). My wife never did show symptoms… lucky gal.
But now I get to drive through COVID-19 denial country. Wish me luck.
Best of luck. Just mask up and avoid contact with other people as much as you can. It probably wouldn’t hurt to carry some spray disinfectant for hard surfaces in the hotel rooms.
Pfffffffffftttttt ! I strongly disagree.
If Star Trek Fans disliked that so much then why are episodes like Star Trek’s Mirror Mirror Episode so popular? Who didn’t like an evil Machiavellian Spock?
Sure, the “evil parallel universe” thing is a trope… but when done well, fun to explore. I would say that Star Trek: Discovery spent a bit too long a visit there, but that is a different conversation.
Yes, Star Trek TOS was based on Roddenberry’s optimism, but a turn dark is always good. With ST Picard you have a view of the the United Federation of Planets slightly skewed due to an over-reaction from planetary terrorism. Rules not making sense, people playing for power, resentments… something that we can all relate to a bit right now. Hasn’t Star Trek always been a mirror of our NorthAm societal problems?
Thanks to Roddenberry’s influence, we know that in the end it will all straighten out. And Picard is just the guy to do it. But here, he has to do it without the power of the Federation behind him.
I look forward to Picard Season 2, as well as the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which is set to take place 10 years before Kirk’s Star Trek (TOS). Young Spock, Captain Pike and Rebecca Romijn as Number One — doing a fine Majel Barrett look from the Star Trek TOS pilot: The Cage.
So many wasted hours. 🙂
Did George Washington sign a health insurance mandate?
According to Harvard Law professor Einer Elhauge, in 1790 the first Congress, which included 20 framers of the Constitution, passed a law mandating that shipowners purchase medical insurance for their seamen. The bill was signed into law by President George Washington.
In 1792 Congress passed, and Washington signed, a law mandating the purchase of firearms by all able bodied men.
In 1798, when five framers were still serving in Congress and framer John Adams was in the White House, Congress passed, and Adams signed, a mandate requiring seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves.
According to Elhauge – who joined an amicus brief supporting the mandate’s constitutionality – no one in Congress at the time thought to object to the laws on Constitutional grounds.
I don’t know what role this brief should or will play in the Court’s deliberations, but assuming the facts are correct in Elhauge’s New Republic piece it’s much more evidence of original intent than I ever would have expected.
Trump administration asks Supreme Court to overturn Affordable Care Act
In The Atlantic, Peter Beinart argues that “Trump Gets Trumpier Under Stress.”
@Liberal Capitalist: I understand, to a point, why some Trek fans didn’t like it. I had a mild argument with an old friend of mine who refused to even watch it because of stuff he had read online (and keep in mind he and I wrote a spec TNG script together and submitted it back in the day–it was, of course, rejected, but he was a true Trek nerd). I thought (and still think) he was being really unfair, but such is life (I think I was more frustrated with how adamant he was about it, but to each his own, of course).
Still, this whole complaint about Starfleet being always awesome ignores the fact that the Admiral/Commodore/Federation Bureaucrat of the Week was often problematic, incompetent, or at times the antagonist of the episode. This was especially true of TOS but was also true in TNG on many occasions (and the Admiral in Star Trek: Insurrection was straight-up a bad guy–same deals in Star Trek into Darkness, come to think of it).
The plot of Star Trek VI is about elements within Starfleet willing to assassinate the Klingon Chancellor so as to maintain their cold war with the Klingons.
The whole Maquis plotline from TNG through DS9 and into Voyager was about the Federation failing a huge group of planets, and the people thereon, so as to make peace with the Cardassians (so much so that many members off Starfleet quit to join the resistance).
And politics suffused Trek. I always get extremely amused, and annoyed, when fans gripe about Disco being about diversity and/or inserting social issues. It makes we wonder if they have any clue what they have been watching.
(And yes, I have all of that useless information, and more, at my fingertips).
@Liberal Capitalist: I’m with you. I loved Picard.
I did a double take on this. Japan is one of the most racist countries in the world. If you don’t have “Japanese Blood”, you can’t become a citizen. The CMO of a Medical devices company I worked for visited Japan for the first time in that capacity and was invited to a government meeting, with attendees at the cabinet level, where a video was shown to “educate” him on how Japanese are so genetically distinct from other races that we should do separate testing on racially pure Japanese before introducing our products. Fortunately merely a strong suggestion and not a law.
When you have lost the Japanese because you are too racist, that is saying something.
@MarkedMan: I think they are merely worried about their markets outside of Japan.
I find that especially interesting because medical insurance wasn’t really a thing until the 20th century. I know elements of it had already begun to emerge by the mid-19th century, though I was unaware there was anything remotely resembling it as early as 1790. Keep in mind that through most of history, there was no medical field in the modern sense, and the average person hardly ever saw a doctor. So there wasn’t the same value to being insured for medical expenses.
The above discovery might be relevant to the current proceedings (not that I expect the right-wing thugs on the Court to care), but the larger point is that health insurance is yet another example of an aspect of modern life the Framers couldn’t possibly have anticipated in a broad sense, so it’s silly to limit discussions of its constitutionality to what they would or wouldn’t have done regarding health insurance specifically.
Today thebulwark.com has “100 Reasons Trump is Unfit to Be President,” by Amanda Carpenter. I’m on reason #30. It’s quite enjoyable.
I suppose an article entitled Zero reasons Trump is fit to be president would have been too short.
It would have been non-existent.
I actually liked Picard, and think that the emergent dysfunction in Starfleet makes sense. What institution would remain perfectly managed in perpetuity? Things break down. It’s not just a good storytelling device, it’s logical.
This reminds me of all of the Star Wars fans who were incensed about the idea of a Grumpy Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi. It made perfect sense to me that someone who had been through what he had and who chose to retreat as he did would become disillusioned and irritable (also, age).
After being in quarantine for a few months I know people like that. It’s completely within the realm of possibility, and logical.
@Monala: Timing is everything. Even I can’t imagine Roberts, and maybe Gorsuch, being dumb enough to throw out Obamacare during a pandemic. On the other hand, they won’t hand down the decision until after the election, so it’s still a crap shoot.
@Steven L. Taylor: Once again, I am compelled to talk about the great forum for political allegory that was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It had lots of dark moments for the Federation, such as the Maquis, which you mentioned, plus a couple of others. Starfleet almost tore itself apart, and the Federation with it, because militarists tried to stage a coup, using the Changeling threat as a pretext for martial law. Section 31 was a real state within a state.
All that, on top of the interesting politics of the Bajorans, the Cardassians, the Klingons…What a great show.
I’ve been looking forward for many years to a good TV or film adaptation of the Foundation series. I’m going to watch Apple’s series with no expectations, just to avoid disappointment.
@Kingdaddy: I meant to mention DS9 and Section 31, among other things.
As noted in an earlier convo, I have never finished it. We started a rewatch/completion recently and are currently in season 2.
@Steven L. Taylor: Probably my favorite Star Trek character, after Spock, is Garak. Talk about a morally complicated individual.
Windsor Mann says that Trump is a guy in whom “incompetence, stupidity, derangement, bigotry, corruption, and dishonesty are each struggling to take the upper hand.”
I can’t think of a more concise statement of Trump’s failings.
@Steven L. Taylor: I think you meant Cisco. 😉
Great points, overall. Reminds me of the recent dust-ups by certain fans who are shocked that Rage Against the Machine is “becoming political.” (!)
@Kingdaddy: DS9 is my favorite of the Star Treks. Beside Garak, the Ferengi always made me laugh. And then there is this insightful conversation about the Federation:
Quark: I want you to try something for me. Take a sip of this.
Garak: What is it?
Quark: A human drink; it’s called root beer.
Garak: I dunno…
Quark: Come on. Aren’t you just a little bit curious?
Garak takes a sip, wincing as he tastes it.
Quark: What do you think?
Garak: It’s vile!
Quark: I know. It’s so bubbly, cloying…and happy.
Garak: Just like the Federation.
Quark: And you know what’s really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you begin to like it.
Garak: It’s insidious.
Quark: Just like the Federation.
@Kingdaddy: I loved his conversation with Bashir, when Bashir tried to convince him that lying was wrong by telling him the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. When he finished listening, Garak said that “don’t lie” wasn’t the point of the story at all: “The real point is, you should never tell the same lie twice.”
@MarkedMan: Oh, the “Japanese are so racially/culturally/whatever different that you foreigners can’t possibly understand/sell/learn” is always the first argument out of the grab bag when the negotiations start. I’ve seen it done with a) apples b) beef c) computers. When the difference in price between the Japanese product and the foreign product gets large enough some new player on the Japan side decides to take advantage of the potential market and the dam breaks in spite of all the protestations by the old guard, usually sweeping it away or squashing its market power. This is exactly how Apple and Microsoft finally cracked the Japanese market. Don’t forget that you can also play parts of the gov’t off against each other as well because the ministries are also always jockeying to carve out new areas of control.
…..been there, done that….
Yup, play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
Keep in mind that the SC at the end of the day is a political animal, despite what their judicial philosophies are. Roberts knew that declaring ACA unconstitutional a few years back was a political disaster waiting to happen, so he found a convenient excuse to allow it to continue. Biden’s ACA speech the other day had an audience of 9 in hammering home the mess they would create by tossing the law on what are flimsy grounds. There are lots of precedent reasons that the states/administration petition can be denied and Elhauge adds a nice originalist argument as to why the ACA is constitutional and a safe philosophically consistent argument for a politically minded conservative jurist.
Heads will explode at the Federalist Society, but their version of history is uniquely their version.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I recall reading somewhere, ages ago, that Gene Roddenberry said that every episode ofStar Trek: TOS could be interpreted as an allegory of the Vietnam War.
@Kingdaddy: Garak is fantastic.
Actually, no, I was referring to gripes about Star Trek: Discovery (i.e., Disco).
@gVOR08: ” On the other hand, they won’t hand down the decision until after the election, so it’s still a crap shoot.”
Thus giving Biden and a Democratic house and senate not only an opening but mandate to pass a better version. I suspect it will be called the “Hey, Mitch, Stick This Up Your Ass” bill.
@wr: Oh, at the same time giving the entire Democratic party an easy way to bash the Roberts court as hopelessly corrupt and partisan and opposed to everything average Americans want.
I think Roberts is a slimebag, but he’s not this stupid. In fact, his very slimebaggitude argues against such a ruling.
Trump holds a pity party:
He told Hannity that Biden is “going to be president because some people don’t love me, maybe. And all I’m doing is my job.”
Cue the violins, maestro.
@Kathy:..Starfleet, the violence, murder,..
@Jen: What I disliked about the new trilogy — well, one of the things I disliked — was that the victory against the Empire in ROTJ basically accomplished nothing. We never saw the New Republic, and they were wiped out in TFA.
Grumpy Luke might have been the right character for that story — and the best that could happen with the setup in TFA — but it wasn’t the right story.
Rather than trying to parallel the original trilogy so closely, I wish that they had tried to parallel the prequel trilogy, but have the New Republic survive the assault from within. Set the saga up as a cycle that is then broken.
Also, show the fall of Ben Solo, rather than just start with him fallen.
The story they went with was a plausible continuation of the saga (up until Rise of Skywalker), but it wasn’t a good story, imho, and it wasn’t the right story.
Bringing this back to Picard… many of the pieces of the starting status quo were set up previously (the fall of the Romulan Empire, and corruption of Starfleet), but I can definitely see people feeling it wasn’t the right story.
I enjoyed the show, up until the final two episodes, but most of what I enjoyed was given short-shrift. I think they had about two seasons worth of ideas, and packed it in too tight and didn’t deliver, and packed in too much dystopia. Just exploring the Romulans would have been enough. Or the Borg. Or the Synthetics. Or the corruption of Starfleet. Or pick two so there is an A-theme and a B-theme.
But as it was, it felt like they were telling the wrong story.
And, to go off on another tangent, HBO’s Watchmen was amazing. They veered pretty far from the original source material and the themes of that, but they hit the tone and delivered on what they did. Being excellent excuses a lot of surprising choices.
And “being excellent” is where Picard fell down. The ending was rushed and uninteresting, and depended on a giant fleet being inspired offscreen by a beloved character who was otherwise just given a supporting role in the current story.
Oh, Rise of Skywalker did the same thing…
@Gustopher: The Disney Star Wars trilogy was a strong disappointment to old fans of the Expanded Universe.
Basically, after Lucas completed Return of the Jedi he licensed several prominent sci-fi authors to write books about the events following that film. It started with the Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn, and continued from there with lots of books by various authors. I haven’t read more than a few of them, but I’ve spoken with dedicated fans, and the impression I get is of a complex and detailed timeline that covers several decades, going into to the rebuilding of the Old Republic, Han and Leia getting married and having kids, Luke’s attempts to pass on the Jedi tradition (he also gets a love interest), and so on.
When Disney acquired the rights to the franchise, they appropriated a few ideas from these books but cast most of it in the dustbin, pissing off the old fans to no end. (The Expanded Universe has now been renamed “Star Wars Legends” and been dubbed non-canonical to the series.) Worse still, the new post-ROTJ narrative by the Disney trilogy is just plain sloppy and compares poorly with what the EU created.
As for “grumpy Luke,” this isn’t just a complaint by grumpy fans. Hamill himself publicly said his character from the Disney trilogy was “not my Luke Skywalker” and was a poor and unconvincing interpretation of the character from the original series.
@Gustopher: The Picard finale was a dissappointment for reasons you noted. But I still enjoyed the series.
I 100% agree about Watchmen.
I agree about TFA and the Empire/New Republic/First Order business.
I thought TLJ had a lot of promise, and actually thought the grumpy Luke stuff was great, and was the attempt to democratize the Force. ROS reverted to bloodline jedism, which I didn’t care for.
In re: grumpy Luke, I thought there was a potential to really explore a post-Jedi universe int he next film. After all, despite the romanticism of the Jedi in IV-VI, they really weren’t so great in I-III. A couple of Sith is all it takes to take out the entire Jedi order? And Yoda just slinks off (which Luke does as well).
There is just much richer exploration that could have been done that was abandoned.
It is amazing to me that they didn’t actually create a coherent plot arc for the most recent trilogy. Such a wasted opportunity.
And that will be when the death of the filibuster is finally acknowledged by all. If we have a Dem Pres and both houses of congress, there is no way that Dem leaders will let ACA die because some racist POS like Rand Paul wants to phone in a filibuster.
I am enjoying Picard, 8 episodes in.
I’m ok with the Federation having a psychotic episode*, but I’m a bit disappointed with all the deaths.
Not so much when the odd Romulan or generic bad guy gets violently killed, but beginning with Dahj, then Maddox, and then Hugh. Some are killed as a plot trick. Maddox, for instance. If he had stayed alive, they’d have had one less episode, as Hugh could have sent Picard and Soji straight to the android home world. But then we’d have missed catching up with Will and Deanna, right?
*What signals to me how far the Federation has fallen is a line by Picard early on, to the effect that no one knows why some synthetics “went rogue” and burned down Mars.
But speaking of that, having androids as slaves wasn’t exactly cricket, either. Of course,t hat goes all the way back to Voyager, when we were shown versions of the emergency medical hologram being used to work mines. So the moral rot goes back decades.
So first it was “If we ignore the virus it will go away. And now it’s “If we ignore the rise in cases it will go away.”
The good news for Trump, is that at this rate he probably won’t be in charge when the second wave hits.
This report is stunning. (Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says.) If this is accurate, our Russia-apologist president has a lot to answer to, IMHO.
You know that’s what the response of the cultists is going to be–if they even hear about this. Trump doesn’t read the NYT any more than he reads any other newspaper, and I doubt anyone in the West Wing who sees this will dare to bring it to his attention. I have no doubt that, as the article says, some people in the administration have known about this for months.
FL reported just shy of 9,000 new cases today. Up from 5,000, up from 2,000, up from 1,000.* Our beloved /s Governor DeSantis has done the least he could do. Literally, the least. He doesn’t even have the stones to close the bars again. Someone named Halsey Bashear, secretary of the Dept of Business and Professional Regulation, tweeted earlier today that alcohol sales in bars are halted, effective today. The bars can stay open, they just can’t sell alcohol, FFS. Restaurants deriving less than 50% of revenue from alcohol can stay open at the current reduced capacity and can continue to sell booze. (I see higher meal prices, lower drink prices, and a lot of creative accounting in our future.) I saw someone describe DeSantis as a store brand Trump.
* It’s a pet peeve of mine that each jump is reported as a new record. It’s exponential growth. A new record every few days is not news. It’s like reporting the Dow hit a new record. It’s in the nature of things that it hits a new record every now and again.
The one Vlad assigned him?
We haven’t been going to bars or restaurants or much of anywhere else except self serve gas stations and grocery stores. Had to take the Honda to the dealer a couple days ago. About half the staff masked, including the service writer who had it below his nose. Didn’t say anything because I’d like to actually get the stuff I paid for done. Took another car in for tires today. Bunch of hillbillies with no masks, except the manager who had one around his neck. No wonder we saw 9,000 new cases today.
Red shirts, usually associated with Security. It’s where the title of John Scalzi’s Star Trek parody novel Redshirts comes from.
I was once tuckerized in a Star Trek novel by L. A. Graf, as a red shirt. I ended up smeared all over the walls in a transporter “accident”. There were lots of us; the novel is titled Death Count.
The very one.
There were a bunch of cops standing around on a corner near what Trump did to the Old Post Office Pavilion this afternoon. One of them had a mask; he was not wearing it. For a silent message, it’s sure loud and clear.
“Red shirts, usually associated with Security”
Sam Rockwell as Guy Fleegman in Galaxy Quest:
What…exactly is this supposed to accomplish? Isn’t it the fact that people are out, packed into indoor spaces, that is the problem, not what they are consuming?
Not to mention providing the perfect argument to expand the size of the court…
This is an ongoing issue with so many movie franchises…not just SW and ST but others like 007…everything depends on the creative forces behind the latest version of the franchise…sometimes it works, often times it doesn’t…
Oh? So they borrowed that from Philip K. Dick, did they…
I suppose they’re thinking that a bar that doesn’t sell booze will be a bar that’s mostly empty.
Suggestion: How about a special permanent forum dedicated to the discussion of Star Trek in its various incarnations and Star Wars?
Appeals Court: Trump Wrongly Diverted $2.5B for Border Wall
The ruling was the latest twist in the legal battle that has largely gone Trump’s way. Last July, the Supreme Court allowed the $2.5 billion to be spent while the litigation continued, blunting the impact of the latest appeals court action.
Question to any Constitutional scholars out there: Does D.C. statehood require a constitutional amendment?
@Jen: I have no idea what sense it makes to say bars can stay open, but they can’t sell booze. But it’s of a piece with our original “shutdown”. Governor, and I use the term loosely, DeSantis closed down bars, restaurants, and gyms. He couldn’t bring himself to actually order more businesses to close so he declared a ban on nonessential travel. He was hoping to push the onus of actually ordering anything down to city and county officials, with some success. Especially onto Democrats in South Florida.
(Hope every one is back soon…)
@CSK: You could do just like I do and ignore all such conversations. Jus’ sayin’…
The Saturday Open Forum is up. It’s apparently not showing on the front page for many folks.
@Jen: He found out about this in March. Three months ago. And he has done nothing…except push for Russia’s readmission to the G-7.
What more evidence do we need that he is fully compromised? Good God.
No new forum for Saturday?
Is everyone else also waiting for someone else to post a comment?
@An Interested Party:
Not a Constitutional scholar but we’ve had versions of this debate many times.
1. Congress could, without amending the Constitution, create a new state out of residential DC and just leave a carve-out for a tiny Federal District.
2. But that would create a new problem that would require a Constitutional amendment: the 26th Amendment gives DC three Electoral College votes. Absent amendment, the new state would have three Electors but so would the rump District. While there’s an argument from a Democratic Party perspective that this would balance out inequities in the current system, it would be untenable.