Syfy Trying Science Fiction this Year

After years of trying everything but science fiction, from nerd reality shows, to Wrestling, it looks like the Syfy channel is coming home.

We’ve missed you.

ascensionWe started to see a few science fiction toes dip in the water with last December’s miniseries event, Ascension,   The 6 hour show, played over three nights, is the story of a secret nuclear powered generational starship, launched in 1963, on its way to Alpha Centauri.  The story is set in the present day as the ship reaches the half way point; there are factions on the ship that want to turn the ship around to head to earth.  Meanwhile on Earth the son of the founder of the Ascension program is doing his best to maintain the earth end of the program and keep it a secret.  There is a very big spoiler involved in all of this which I found absolutely delicious, and definitely defies your conceptions of what this show really is, however it’s nice to see an adult drama in a science fiction setting.  We’ve not really had a space opera like that since Battlestar Galactica.  In fact, that’s probably how the show was pitched; Mad Men meets Battlestar Galactica.  There is definitely a cultural stuck in amber effect since the crew left earth in the early 1960’s, without the benefit of women’s lib or the civil rights movement.  However the ship culture has evolved in interesting ways, and featured some political maneuvering that tops House of Cards in plausible political chess play.  Unfortunately this show wasn’t picked up, but even so, I recommend watching the miniseries when it’s available on DVD or for In Demand and streaming.

And January was the season two premiere of Helix.  This is another show that isn’t exactly what I thought it would be.  BeforeHelix season one, just based on watching the promos and trailers I would have guessed Zombies meet Andromeda Strain.  However after watching the entirety of Season one, I can’t come up with a simple description of the premise, so I really don’t know how it was pitched to the networks.  Maybe they actually did pitch it as Zombies meet Andromeda Strain and then decided to do their own thing. In any case, it worked, and season two seemed to start off as almost an entirely new show, with the same characters but facing some entirely new challenges.  I guess I’m excited about this show because I can’t guess what they’re doing.  It’s nice to be surprised with good writing without resorting to the multitude of common TV tropes.

The TV adaptation of 12 Monkeys also premiered in January.  This time travel episodic TV series is based on the movie, but diverges quite a bit in order to make episodic TV work.  The basic plot is that in the plague decimated year of 2043, a small group of scientists are trying to send someone back in time to stop the virus from killing off 7 billion people in the first place.  12 MonkeysThe show takes it’s time travel seriously and takes its characters seriously.  We don’t know much about the villains yet, but the heroes are flawed and have done some terrible things to save the world, and sometimes, their motives reveal much more personal motives than world saving.  It’s a great show and apparently enough people agree with me so that it’s already been renewed for another season.

 

And there seems to be even more, hard SF in store this year for Syfy.  2015 (sometime this year) should see the introduction of The Expanse, a space opera set within a future colonized solar system in which people living in the asteroid belt are oppressed by Earth and our heroes stumble across some sort of conspiracy.  The show sounded suspiciously like the Space Pirate idea that my son and I came up with last year over pizza.  I was almost on the phone with my attorneys, Dewey, Cheatum, & Howe, when I read that the Expanse is based on a book series by James S. A. Corey.  You may have gotten away with it this time Syfy…

Also in 2015 (again, sometime this year) two more space opera type shows are being produced for Syfy, Dark Matter is about a spaceship crew that come out of suspended animation with no memories of who they are and what they are doing there.  There is a lot of room for mystery there.  Also coming up is Killjoys about, who else, interplanetary bounty hunters. So take that Boba Fett.  That’s a lot of real science fiction on air.  So its good news, but I also hope it’s good science fiction.

 

 

Jeb Bush is Certifiable

Jeb Bush was in Iowa last week sticking his toe in the water to see if he really could win the general by losing the primary.  I have to give him credit; he’s willing to stick to unpopular positions, even if they are politically toxic.  He reiterated his support for Common Core, which is unpopular with some conservative activists, and opposed renewal fuel standards, which although they are not popular with Republicans in general, are popular in Iowa. So he’s not afraid to run against the grain. But I just can’t, in this or any other parallel universe, imagine Jeb Bush winning the Republican nomination.     Jeb Bush

David Frum wrote a piece in The Atlantic last month describing Bush as a Republican version of Obama in that they have created artificial identities to hide behind.  In Bush’s case, he is from a northeastern WASP family via Texas and now regards himself as an adopted Hispanic, speaking Spanish in the home, converting to Roman Catholicism, and moving to the Capital of Latin America, Miami.   He may be the Republican Obama, but that’s not really his problem.

I don’t think Jeb will be the nominee because:

Last name Bush. Dynasties don’t wear as well with Republicans as they do with Democrats. If Carolyn Kennedy threw her pill box shaped hat in the race, she would have a decent shot because…last name Kennedy. And this is even though she’s an incompetent who blew her chance to be appointed senator by being unable to talk in interviews. Hillary is the Democratic “front runner” now only because of dynasty.

His family is messed up.  His wife isn’t comfortable in English (probably because of the practice of speaking Spanish at home), She also has a shopping problem. All of his kids have been arrested at least once and his daughter was a drug addict.  Not exactly a picture perfect first family.

But the real clincher is that the only national issue Jeb is associated with is amnesty, which is unpopular with the base.  Now of course whoever does end up with the nomination will probably be pro amnesty too since any anti-amnesty candidate won’t be able to get the funds to run. Republican donors are as pro amnesty as Chuck Schumer. But the other candidates will be associated with other issues. Jeb won’t. And on that issue he looks vacillating and contradictory. As I have written about previously, he came out with a book in 2013 about amnesty in which he proposed not offering a path to citizenship. Since he had always supported amnesty with citizenship before, on day 1 of his book tour he was asked why he changed his mind, and he stammered and it turned out he hadn’t changed his mind at all. So the first day of his book tour he disavowed the central premise of the book he was trying to sell. That will come up over and over in 2016.

Of course, what Jeb was hoping for was that by the time 2016 rolled around, amnesty would have been a done deal, and he could have pointed to the book to say, “See? I was opposed to citizenship!” That would place him to the right of the actual policy. I think the odds look poor for that now.

As a governor he wasn’t bad and was pretty tight with the State dollar, however he didn’t have any input in Federal areas like immigration. Frum’s article does make a good case for the similarities between Jeb and Obama, but I think the real take away is that when it comes to immigration, Jeb is certifiable. He seems to have no other passions other than illegal immigrants. And it’s not even a logical obsession.  It’s actually more about preferring Latin Culture and people to the more Anglo variety that Jeb hails from.  How else to explain the illogic of wanting to grant people who illegally cross the border amnesty (who are mostly Hispanic), but deport people who actually entered the country legally, but overstayed their visas (and who are primarily not Hispanic)?   Never has an American politician been so blatant about replacing me and my family with someone else that he likes better. Bush is obviously carrying around some mental issues about his fellow Americans.

The Democrats are far more circumspect than this.

I hate to be one of those, “I’ll never vote for…” types who swear they’ll never vote if McCain/Romney/fill in the blank wins the nomination, but I think Jeb would actually be worse than any conceivable Democrat.  Except maybe Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, and even then, I’m not sure Gutiérrez is as obsessed with illegals as Jeb is.

 

 

My Burwell Bet

Supreme Court

 

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today for yet another Obamacare case, this time, it’s King v. Burwell.  What’s the case about?  In short, from the text of the ACA:

“…the monthly premiums for such month for 1 or more qualified health plans offered in the individual market within a State which cover the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, or any dependent (as defined in section 152) of the taxpayer and which were enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State under 1311…”

The key phrase is “an Exchange established by the State.”  So since most States didn’t set up an exchange forcing people into the Federal exchange, none of the subsidies given for health plans through the Federal exchange are legal.  The ACA plainly stated that subsides could only go through State exchanges and the IRS, which crafted a rule allowing subsides through the Federal exchange, overstepped its boundaries outside of the text of the law and is in error.  This should be an open and shut case.  The IRS violated the text of the law, it was wrong, and subsidies should be halted from going through the Federal exchange, right?

Heh!

I don’t believe the law has anything to do with how the Supreme Court arrives at decisions.  If there were any questions to that, the way the Court handled the individual mandate should settle them.  The Court is a political animal.  If it were ever truly interested in a just and reasoned weighing of law and the Constitution, those days are long passed. Of course that makes it easier for me to predict the Court’s behavior.

That’s how I was able to predict the Court’s decision over the individual mandate.  As I wrote then:

“My gut feeling is that the odds are better than even that the court will uphold the mandate.  I base that on the fact that the mandate has 4 automatic votes for.  So that means that only one vote is needed to be swayed among the other five Justices who actually have to study this case (unlike Ginsberg and Breyer, who will be windsurfing instead of reading law books). “

I was right because the Court decision (Robert’s changing his vote) was purely political.  So since I’m feeling cocky, I’ll go ahead and lay my marker down now.  So in spite of the actual text of the law limiting subsidies to State exchanges, I predict that the Court will find against the plaintiffs and rule that the subsidies can pass through the Federal exchange.  The 4 liberal judges will of course vote to uphold the subsidies because…Obama.  The magical swing vote will either be Kennedy or Roberts.  If Kennedy votes against the plaintiffs, then Roberts, to save the law, will vote for.  But if Kennedy votes for the plaintiffs; abolishing the Federal subsidies, then Roberts will vote against, since he will then have a free vote to show his independence; as long as it means nothing.

Of course, I could be totally wrong and the Court could surprise me.  But no breath holding on my part.