11 April 2010

Rebooted Enterprise vs. TOS/Movie Enterprises

JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot finally came onto my Netflix queue a few months ago and I finally got around to seeing it. I have mixed feelings about the movie, though one of the three things that worked for me was the rebooted Enterprise.

Up to this moment, the movie version of the original Enterprise had held pride of place in my heart, followed closely by the Enterprise-E, first seen in First Contact (without doubt, the only good TNG movie). The TOS Enterprise is a beautiful ship but it suffers from being so "1960s."

Now for grace and aesthetic appeal, I think the rebooted Enterprise has stolen my heart, pushing everyone else down a rung:
  1. Rebooted Enterprise
  2. Movie/First Contact Enterprise (tie)
  3. Enterprise-C (from the TNG episode "Yesterday's Enterprise")
  4. TOS Enterprise
The less said about the Enterprises -B and -D the better. The former was too "fat"; it looked like the pretty girl's ugly friend (in comparison - from some angles she could look decent). The latter was too wide and suffered from the same gracelessness as its second-generation cousin.

Of the Federation's neighbors', the Klingon D-7 is hands down the best ship in the quadrant, every angle radiating menace and aggressive intent. Back in the day, FASA, the RPG company, produced a series of Romulan ship miniatures that were pretty neat looking - especially their Winged Defender and Bright One classes. They couldn't quite capture the Federation's ship designs, though. And Task Force Games produced a similar series for Star Fleet Battles, which had some interesting designs. In their case, my favorites were the Romulans (esp. the Sparrowhawk), the Lyrans (though I wish they had had more detail) and the Interstellar Concordance.

But back to the Abrams' movie: I mentioned three things that worked for me. The first was the crew - I liked them. Without exception they worked for me. Unfortunately, they were trapped in a story that made no sense.

The second thing that I enjoyed was that Spock was unable to "fix" the timeline. The best he could do was salvage things so that they resembled his future (presumably, the Federation will alert the Romulans about the imminent destruction of their homeworld in the future).

Militarism = parasitism

In a vein related to my WikiLeaks posting, I wanted to opine about a distressing trope I've noticed in the soi-disant liberal talk radio programs I listen to. Further evidence of how the corruption of militarization continues to progress.

It should not have escaped anyone's notice that Congress finally passed a healthcare insurance bill recently. (I deliberately do not use the word "reform" because the systemically disfunctional for-profit, private insurance industry remains firmly in control despite a few cosmetic - if welcome - tweakings along the margins.) It should also have not escaped anyone's notice that many right-wing pundits as well as their low-information audiences have been hysterically throwing around the words "socialist" and "socialism," as if America were only an executive order away from becoming the Soviet Union (or, worse, France).

Often the response of the left-leaning (but still quite moderate) hosts of my shows to callers who complain about Obama's socialist agenda is to mention the military as a prime example of successful socialism. I can only cringe in dismay and rail against the appalling of both caller and hosts. "Socialism" is an economic system where the means of production and the wealth therefrom is controlled by the producers. At a minimum, a socialist-leaning country ensures that its wealth is equitably distributed. A condition unknown in the U.S. since the Reagan administration. Eisenhower and Nixon were better "socialists" than Obama has shown himself to be.

By contrast, a standing army (which the Founders abhorred) is a parasite - it consumes the wealth and returns nothing (sort of like a tribble, and they at least emitted a soothing sound that had a strangely calming effect on...the...human...nervous...system....).

It could be argued that a standing army is necessary in the dangerous world of the 21st century. I would counter that standing armies are a significant factor in making this world so dangerous to begin with (Costa Rica manages to get by without one, why can't anyone else?). But for the moment, let's grant the argument a measure of validity and agree that we need a standing army. It still can't possibly justify a near-trillion-dollar war budget ($700B+, about $500B for the Pentagon plus some gravy for related ministries [Homeland Security, Energy, etc.]). And the means of production and wealth produced are most definitely not in the hands of the producers.

In a body, parasites can be tolerated as long as they don't threaten that body with death. Healthcare, economic stimulus, education, crumbling infrastructure, and all the other problems facing this nation are never going to be resolved without defunding the legions and reining in the military-industrial complex (if you want to see just how out of control things have become, read this TomDispatch).

Unfortunately, humans being humans and, as a group, a bit dull witted, it's unlikely anything short of utter economic collapse is going to stop our march to "victory" around the world.

Addendum: Speaking of the cost of the military parasite, check out the latest blog from TomDispatch.

America's Army - Now we know what those video games are for

In case you've missed it, here's the link to, where you can watch the U.S. Army's own footage of the murder of Iraqi civilians by "our boys." (Don't worry, the gunship's camera is too far away to detail anything graphic so it's a PG-13 on the rating scale.)

Anyone who has followed these infrequent posts knows my attitude toward the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, and to the military in general, so I'm not going to belabor the point beyond observing, sadly, the utter disregard for the lives these "patriots" are stealing displayed on this tape. (Catch the crack about bringing kids into a war zone or the mirth when a tank driver runs over one of the Iraqis. Do we even need to mention the firing on the van that was picking up wounded?)

This joins the myriad examples of the bankruptcy of the "war on terror" and our campaign to bring "democracy" to the Middle East.

And, please, don't tell me these men were in immediate fear of their lives. There was no "fog of war," no justification for firing weapons on a group of men openly gathering in the middle of a public square. If that's the quality of the insurgents, then why haven't we quashed them?

If we're incapable of prosecuting our war criminals for the crimes they've committed (are committing), at the very least can't we prosecute the military leadership displayed here for gross incompetence?

Taxes - Why do I owe any?

It took me close to two months to install it but I finally did - the 2009 TurboTax edition.

It confirmed what I suspected all along - According to the IRS, I owed taxes on my 2009 income. Not a huge amount. I'm not going to be sharing the food bowl with the cats, and I can still indulge in Trader Joe's chocolate peanut butter cups.

I can't help but wonder why, though?

Why is it that I, a single man with no outstanding debts nor dependents (beyond the cats), who made less than $50,000 last year, owed money to the feds while ExxonMobil, a company whose profits would make many developed nations envious to say nothing of third-world countries, paid zilch, zero, nil, nada, less than bupkiss?

I can't come up with anything moral or legal. (Well, maybe it was all licit but it certainly wasn't moral.)

Massey Coal and the need for a new Labor movement

The saddest thing about the Massey Coal catastrophe last week (beyond the personal tragedies of the 29 families who lost husbands, sons, cousins, etc.) is the apathetic response I heard while listening today to an interview with one of the widows.

She was responding to the inevitable question about what she was going to do next and replied that she would pray to God that no more accidents happen and that others wouldn't be killed if they did.


She's going to get down on her knees and pray that God doesn't allow any more accidents to happen?

She's not going to organize with her fellow workers and mine families to demand decent wages and safer working conditions from a company whose management has clearly made the calculation that it's cheaper to weather the occasional accident and fines?

I hope that some miner or a surviving relative is inspired to start an organizing campaign, and make it in Massey's interest to give a damn about its workers.

If nothing else, maybe we can look into charging Massey with manslaughter - after all the SCOTUS says corporations are people (and here we thought it was soylent green all these years).