Should I have an opinion on Catalan Independence?

Well

“Catalonia will move on Monday to declare independence from Spain, a regional government source said, as the European Union nation nears a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy and has unnerved financial markets.

Pro-independence parties that control the regional parliament have asked for a debate and vote on Monday on declaring independence, the source said. A declaration should follow this vote, although it is unclear when Catalan President Carles Puigdemont earlier told the BBC that his government would ask the region’s parliament to declare independence after tallying votes from last weekend’s referendum, which Madrid says was illegal.”

There is a lot to unpack there, and this all seems like surprisingly major news considering it’s barely been covered in the US media, especially considering the amount of media attention the Scottish Independence Referendum received.  In fact I doubt I would have heard anything about it if I hadn’t been following Julian Assange’s twitter feed.

The Catalonia region of Spain wanted a referendum on independence, the Spanish courts determined it wouldn’t be legal, and Catalonia went ahead and had one anyway.  Independence won and now they’re pushing to go ahead and declare independence by next week.

Wow.

In some ways, the referendum resembles Crimea’s referendum, which was illegal, since the Russians occupied Crimea and ran it, but it won anyway (or maybe because). But there is no big power to help this along in Spain; obviously the EU doesn’t count.  But the EU seems to be part of the problem.  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that one of the supreme ironies of the European Union, and its goal of creating a United States of Europe, is that it’s existence is probably encouraging European independence movements.  There are multiple European independence movements that are ongoing and the idea that all of these subsidies and trade issues that are the concern of sovereign nations will be taken care of by the EU probably strengthens them.

As a rule, the EU opposes all of these independence movements among their members.  Catalonia fully expects to waltz right into EU membership, in the same way that Scotland intended to jump from leaning on welfare from London to welfare from Brussels. But the fact that the EU is there, willing to handle all of those pesky governmental problems for its member states makes it an attractive excuse/reason on any national independence movement.

But for right now, the EU is supporting Spain, and if Spain is serious about sticking with the court’s decision that the referendum is illegal, then what?  Are we looking at Spanish Civil War II: This Time it’s Regional?  And even worse, if shooting starts, what if Spain invokes Article 5 of the NATO Charter?  Is the US really going to get involved in a military conflict there? That is a real nightmare scenario.

…although, as far as military occupation duties go, Barcelona beats virtually everywhere else our military has been for the past few decades, if you have to fight a war, at least do it in a temperate climate with beautiful local girls.

As a general rule, I think the world would be a better place if each little language group and ethnicity could have their own nation. If I could wave a magic wand and make every national group its own nation, I would do it.  But not every group is going to make it as an independent nation.  It’s possible Catalonia could, but I never thought that about Scotland, even though every fiber of my being wanted to undue the results of the Battle of Culloden, I reluctantly concluded that Scotland, with the North Sea oil drying up, just couldn’t make it on its own, other than as the Venezuela of Europe.

Apparently the Scots agreed since they voted independence down.  And I feel the same way about Catalonia now.  My heart is with the independence movement, but my head is with a unified Spain.  That’s not unconditional however.  Liberals in the US view any call to “Blood and Soil” as straight out of Nazi-ville, but that’s what’s ultimately pushing Catalan secession, and all of the other independence movements both in Europe and worldwide.  Most people in the world have a sense of both place and identity, and although the West tries to pretend it’s an atavistic impulse, as outdated as the appendix, it’s still there, either just below the surface or bursting to the top.  If separation must come, best to do it peaceably.

 

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Streaming Star Trek Discovery

A new Star Trek TV show is an exciting event that only comes around every few years, and you never know when it will be the final Star Trek series.  People will get tired of this, yes?  Enterprise ended after only four seasons, and that seemed to be the death kneel for any future Star Trek show.  But then came the rebooted movies and now, yet another attempt at bringing Star Trek to television.

Sort of.           

Although Star Trek Discovery had its premiere on CBS, the series is being shown exclusively (at least in the US) on the CBS All Access streaming service. As a long time Star Trek fan, I figured the show would have to be an incredible crap fest for me not to sign up for the service.  Although all networks stream their show content online, CBS seems to be unique in thinking it can compete with Hulu and Netflix by creating original content for their service.  It’s already given that a test run with the show, The Good Fight, a spinoff of their long time popular show The Good Wife.

As a strategy, it may not be a bad one.  CBS owns a lot of valuable properties and paying to produce original content, such as a spinoff of a popular network show, or a show with a dedicated fan base, might be a winning option.  Unlike network shows, streaming services have exact data on sign ups and who’s watching, so if a strategy is working, they will know immediately, and in that vein, CBS News reported that it broke the one day record for new sign ups after the Discovery premiere.

So yes, I signed right up.

Let me say this about the CBS All Access streaming service; I find it incredible that a streaming service that intends to complete with Hulu and Netflix does not have an app for Smart TV’s.  That is serious malpractice right there.  Yes, it does have apps for Windows and Apple products, as well as Roku and Xbox, but no Smart TV app?  So a show with a multimillion dollar per episode budget with movie quality special effects can’t be shown on your average Smart TV?

Come on!

That inconvenience aside, another issue with the CBS Streaming Access is that there just isn’t much else there I would want to watch.  I mean, it’s all CBS re-runs other than The Good Fight and Discovery of course.  However CBS did seem to recognize that and added a post-show gabfest for Discovery called After Trek. A post episode discussion show isn’t a bad idea if done right.  AMC’s companion show to the Walking Dead, Talking Dead, is a perfect example of how to do it right.  In the small universe of after show fan service, Talking Dead’s Chris Hardwick is the perfect post show host.  He knows how to keep the conversation flowing, and is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the source material.  Most importantly, he knows how to guide his show guests into talking about their characters, rather than themselves.  Not an easy job for Hollywood actors.  On the other end of the spectrum, HBO’s After the Thrones was a train wreck.  Apparently hosting skills for these particular types of shows are not common.

Watching the first episode of After Trek, I would definitely give it high marks in comparison to the previously mentioned After the Thrones. The show is not in Talking Dead territory, but host Matt Mira is surprisingly good.   He has some work ahead of him though in order to pull some character backstory from the actors.  When asking actor James Frain, who plays Sarek, about some of Sarek’s motivations, Frain replied that he just says the lines.  I can’t decide if that’s a terrible answer or a great one, but I’m leaning towards great.

As for the show itself (and warning, there be spoilers), there is no doubt the title should have been Star Trek Woke: The Current Year.  Prior to the premiere, there were reports that the producers were recasting the Klingons as MAGA supporters, Make Q’onoS* Great Again and all that.  Well I can report that is the case. Much of the first two episodes have a great deal of Klingon scenes (in Klingon of course) in which the political situation in the empire is one of disarray, and much is made of the mongrelization of the Federation, with all the different Federation races blending in multicultural diversity; something that’s anathema to these red State Klingons.  Luckily, the Discovery cast is there to take a knee to racist Klingons.

Of course this is hardly the first TV show that the Trump election has caused breakdowns in the writer’s rooms.  Homeland, the Showtime spy series had such a breakdown in which they threw out the outline for their last season half way through and it ended in an incoherent mess.  CBS summer replacement show Salvation had a coup d’etat against a female President requiring a counter coup to get rid of that man and put a woman back in charge, all which had nothing to do with a show about an asteroid coming to destroy earth.

As for the plot of the pilot, as one online commenter put it, “Sassy black girl teaches the Federation how to deal with warlike Klingons, gets sent to prison.”

That’s basically it for the two part show opener.  For that, just a few observations:

There is a lot of go grrrl nonsense in this show. In one scene the Captain and First Officer, both female, beam onto a Klingon ship and win a hand to hand tussle (at least initially) with a couple of Klingons. I know this is science fiction but come on!  Of course after several decades of watching 90 pound waifs’ karate chop 250 pound trained male fighters on television, the scene doesn’t look quite as ridiculous as it actually was.  I guess we’re all conditioned to accept that tiny women not only can defeat large men in hand to hand combat, but in almost all circumstances they most certainly will.

In the build up to the show the look of the Klingons is so different from any earlier look of that species that the producers had to explain that Klingons were a very diverse race and there were many types of Klingons depending on which “house” the Klingon belonged to. So in a scene that showed the heads of all the Klingon houses, they all looked the same, the new version. Why not just do a different alien species if you want a new look? Not sure I get that. It definitely breaks canon though.

As far as the characters go, the only really likeable one seems to be Lt. Commander Saru, a weird looking alien ( he’s a “Kelpien”) who manages to do more to inject a little humanity into the show than any of the other characters, including titular star of the show Commander Michael Burnham, played by Walking Dead alum Sonequa Martin-Green. That being said, the unique backstory of the character; orphaned human girl raised by Sarek on Vulcan and graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy, lends itself to being played as a little less human.  In that regard, Martin-Green does have the acting chops to carry the lead for a show like this.  A flashback to the first time she meets her captain on the USS Shenzhou, introduced by Sarek, gives every appearance of a human trying hard to be Vulcan, contrasted to present day when she has a much more relaxed and “human” demeanor, but still with traces of a Vulcan upbringing. So if anything, the show does have a strong lead.

But that’s just my impressions from the first two hours of the show which really isn’t even a proper pilot; it’s more like a prequel to the set up.  The ship Discovery doesn’t even make an appearance.  So the third episode is more the actual pilot, and from viewing that, my impressions are that the episode ought to have been called, “Starfleet is the New Black.”  Prisoner Burnham is the most famous mutineer in Starfleet and responsible for starting the current Klingon war. When her prison shuttle is accidently waylaid to the USS Discovery, she’s drafted into the crew. Or was it an accident?  This was an episode that I actually got into and enjoyed both as a bit of escapist adventure TV and a bit of horror TV as well.

So we’ll see how it goes. As a long time Star Trek fan, I want to see what they do with this and having seen the third episode, feel a bit more hopeful this show will actually be entertaining. Knowing that Discovery will have a Harry Mudd episode and a Mirror Universe episode, the show has the potential to either knock it out of the park or flop. I guess I’ll know by the time we get to the Mirror Universe episode. If they screw that up…

 

*The Klingon home world for all you non nerds

McCain’s ‘No’ Not the Worst Thing in the World

Shocker!  Like every other Obamacare repeal bill before it, McCain is against it!

Senator John McCain of Arizona announced on Friday that he would oppose the latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving Republican leaders with little hope of succeeding in their last-ditch attempt to dismantle the health law and fulfill their longstanding promise to conservative voters.

Who could have seen this coming?       

Right leaning reaction to this has been pretty scathing, just like it was last July when McCain did exactly the same thing.  My view on this is that although McCain’s no vote has zero to do with healthcare and 100% about giving Trump a big FU before he dies, in a backhanded way he’s doing the GOP a favor. The real villains in this story are the GOP leadership, McConnell and Ryan. They know what a real Obamacare repeal should be because the House came up with one in 2013, the Options Act. It was vetted by conservative think tanks and Tea Party groups. If they really wanted to “repeal and replace,” they could have used that as a starting point. Instead, they didn’t care about Obamacare repeal at all; they wanted to cut Medicaid to get funds to finance tax cuts without it effecting long term deficit projections. Reforming Medicaid is not a bad thing, but it has nothing to do with repealing and replacing Obamacare; Medicaid was around long before Obamacare. All of the GOP bills were terrible and none of them repealed and replaced Obamacare.

In terms of fixing healthcare, it seems the GOP is a lost cause.  The only avenue I see is Trump taking it out of Congress’s hands and creating a Presidential commission to come up with a repeal and replacement plan.  Of course I nominate my plan as a template for America’s new healthcare model.

On The 60 Minutes Steve Bannon Interview

I missed the original airing of this on 60 Minutes, but I went back to watch it and folks, It’s actually worth watching.

Try Viemo here or the 60 Minutes site here.

Just a couple of observations:

Charlie Rose barely asked any questions, he mostly let Bannon talk, or at least he did on the original full hour and twenty minute version I saw (sadly now gone from the web). Rose might have looked like an interviewing tiger on the portion that actually aired, but on the full interview, Rose could have been asleep for large stretches and no one would have noticed.

Rose only seems to become animated when discussing the Access Hollywood video and immigration.  It’s as if he still doesn’t understand why the Access Hollywood video didn’t end Trump’s Presidential bid.  As for immigration, he simply repeated the rote “nation of immigrants” line and had no argument to Bannon’s counter arguments.

Because of Rose’s general lethargy, Bannon totally dominated the direction of the entire and really got to show just how brilliant the guy actually is.  His discourse on his history with Donald Trump included dates, meetings, and important news articles and the reporters who wrote them.  All off the top of his head.

Bannon gives every indication of being a backseat driver to an administration he is technically no longer a part of.  If you support Trumpism, that’s good news.

 

Outlander, a Couples Show

Outlander is a show that’s not really meant for me.  Based on a series of Romance novels by author Diana Galbaldon, the Starz Network show premieres its third season this Sunday night and Hurricane Irma permitting, I’ll be sitting down to watch it along with some millions of cat ladies.

And I’m not ashamed.                                 

 

OK well I guess I’m ashamed a little.  As I said, this is not a show meant for a guy; it’s based on a romance series summarized by IMDB as:

…the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world in which her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate relationship is ignited that tears Claire’s heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

And it does have all of the usual romantic tropes. Claire travels through time (through some ancient magical means) from a post-World War II belated honeymoon to 1743 Scotland, where she is forced into a marriage with a young good looking Scottish bandit who, wait for it, isn’t really a bandit after all, but a Scottish lord (Laird) on the run from the English. So he’s both a bad boy bandit, and somewhat rich landowner.  All he’s missing is the eye patch and pirate ship.  Naturally he loves her from first sight, and many other men are interested in her.  What’s a girl to do with so many suitors?

So with a show that tries to cram nearly all of the romance novel tropes into one couple, why am I interested in it?

Three things:

Scottish Stuff.  The show really digs deep into Scottish culture and the show actually gives you a taste of the life of both the Scottish landed class and the peasantry.  I found myself fascinated with the customs and culture of that time and place.

Duh, Time Travel.  The show does have time travel, and I admit I’m sucker for a good time travel story, and in this case, there actually is a time travel angle beyond it being used as a device to get our heroine from 1945 to 1743.  It turns out the sneering English villain of 1743 is actually the ancestor of Claire’s 1945 husband.  Kill him (and this guy needs killing) and will it wipe out the existence of her future husband?  And if it did, wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems since she is far more in love with her 18th Century lover than her boring 20th Century one?

A Show we can watch together.  This is a show my wife and I watch together and there are not a lot of those, since she tends to think of the type of shows I watch as garbage, and I worry that the type of shows she likes (true crime shows in which a woman kills her husband or lover) as a how to guide.  So the less time she spends learning how to beat CSI analysis of a crime scene and more time ogling over true love, the better.

When the News No Longer Resembles News

I honestly think I’ve had about enough.  If you happened to catch Chuck Todd’s apoplectic reaction to President Trump’s news conference on Tuesday.

What made me reach my breaking point came at about the 1:34 mark, “…when was the last time you saw a President of the United States defend the cause of White Nationalists?”

It’s an insane smear, but I’ve no doubt that Todd was being totally sincere in his belief that Trump was rooting for the Nazi’s.  As for me, I’ve been a news junkie for decades. Up until the internet made it ridiculous, I had a subscription to the local newspaper and I would make sure I caught a steady stream of news shows on cable and the traditional nightly news. Most mornings I would have the morning news shows on in the background while I worked. So generally, I’ve watched a lot of news.  Not just hours a week but hours a day.

But I’ve never felt so estranged from what newspaper columns and talking heads on cable are babbling about as I have this year. It’s as if they are living not just in a different moral universe, but a different factual one as well. Their editorial decisions seem like they are being made by college student government rather than seasoned, professional editors. How can you spend 8 months on wall to wall Russia when there has yet to be any actual evidence of a Russia collusion story?  It’s simply a daily rehashing of a burned out conspiracy theory.

I’m tuning out the news more and more these days.  I can get all my news online with a lot less wasted time and no smug pomposity; which is particularly galling with their track record of inaccuracy.  After the election, it occurred to me that I would have been better informed if I had spent 18 months leading up to the election just reading Scott Adams’ blog than the hundreds of hours wasted watching Morning Joe.

Hopefully, when this age of mass hysteria and moral panic has passed, and the news media has returned to some sort of semblance of normalcy, I can return to getting my media news junkie fix.  But for now, I’ll be a lot healthier if I’m off the stuff.

12 steps…

Knocking Down History

In the same way that Dylann Roof improbably led to the banning of The Dukes of Hazzard from the airwaves, it seems almost inevitable now that the protest in Charlottesville, VA will lead to the razing of the Jefferson Memorial. The thought occurred to me when I saw the video of a statue of a Confederate soldier being toppled by a “group of more than 100 that included anti-fascists and members of organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America, the Workers World Party and the Industrial Workers of the World…”

 

 

The word and thought that crossed my mind when viewing this was, “barbarians.”

As a southerner, my view on confederate war memorials, graveyards, and statues are a bit too nuanced for a tweet or for your typical CNN news reader, so it’s a perspective that gets no airplay, even though it’s shared by millions of people.

The South was on the wrong side of the war fighting for the wrong cause that devastated the region. But the country went through a pretty long period of healing and reconciliation that included honoring the service of soldiers on both sides, a view that was made pretty clear at Appomattox and has mostly carried the day for a century after the war. Confederate soldiers were legally considered US veterans.

Now, a new generation wants to come along and undo that reconciliation. There are people in the south who have ancestors buried in confederate cemeteries who are now viewed by the SJW set as descendants of the equivalent of Nazi’s. They want those grave stones kicked over and pissed on, and every visible sign of history wiped away because it doesn’t confirm to a 2017 version of twitter morality by twenty somethings who are without a knowledge of history.

Part of this is the logical result of the leftist hatred of the south and its culture. They hate hate HATE people like me; southerners from the South. It’s a very popular bigotry but if I complain about it, I’m the bad guy.  Of course, I do appreciate the irony that I’m being judged by the circumstances of my birth, but under current year rules, what I was born as is far more important than who I am.

However I feel deep sadness that we’re going to plow over every historical site in the south and replace it with…nothing. A great loss for the entire country, but much of the country won’t realize it until it’s too late.

So getting back to the Jefferson Memorial; the “problematic” nature of the Memorial first publicly came up after the Charleston shooting.  Per the LA Times:

“CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield this week questioned whether the Jefferson Memorial should be taken down because Jefferson owned slaves. “There is a monument to him in the capital city of the United States. No one ever asks for that to come down,” Banfield said.

Fellow anchor Don Lemon responded by saying Jefferson represented “the entire United States, not just the South.” But he added: “There may come a day when we want to rethink Jefferson. I don’t know if we should do that.””

We are getting much closer to the day that we “rethink” Jefferson.  Al Sharpton discussed the Jefferson Memorial on Charlie Rose last night and frankly, if you follow the logic, why wouldn’t we get rid of any mention of Thomas Jefferson?  He was a slave owner.  He did a lot of other stuff to, like help found the country and established our founding documents, but heh, slavery.  And of course, how could the Washington Monument be anything but an insult to every non binary gendered person of color?  A large pale phallic symbol soaring up to the sky, a patriarchal reminder of white supremacy…

To me, this seems like a more than bizarre self-hating fetish to destroy anything and everything that doesn’t match the narrow lines of acceptability of “the current year.” But since I’m an artifact of an earlier time, it only seems bizarre to me because I’m a relic of an earlier time.  To the millennials who danced around that fallen confederate soldier monument in Durham North Carolina, like a tribe of primitive savages, I’m the savage.  And thanks to time, they win.  They inherit the earth.