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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is America ready for ‘Doctor Who’?

Scott Brown at Wired magazine recently came to the defense of Doctor Who, explaining why it’s so essential these days, and why it stands out:

There’s a fix I just don’t get from mainstream American science fiction, perhaps because of its grinding obsession with the imperialistic (and its depressive sibling, the dystopic), not to mention its wearisome push for ever-shinier effects. Like its not-so-distant cousin American religion, American sci-fi is fixated on final battles, ultimate judgment (particularly on questions of control and leadership), and an up-or-down vote on the whole good/evil issue. Even the most morally restless imaginings — the Losts and Battlestars — eventually prolapse into Bruckheimer-esque excerpts from the Book of Revelation.

As an antidote, I turn to the Doctor — a fussy 900-year-old neurotic who’s part Ancient Mariner, part Oxford don, with a whimsical fashion sense, a close acquaintance with defeat and futility, and a tendency to rattle on. He subscribes to no Force-like creed. No enlightened military Federation stands behind him, photon torpedoes at the ready — indeed, his race, the Time Lords, is more or less extinct. His signature gizmo isn’t a blaster or a phaser but a souped-up screwdriver. His Millennium Falcon? The Tardis, which looks to the unschooled like an old telephone booth. It’s actually a police call box, a relic from the ’50s, and the ship’s most spectacular feature isn’t artillery; it’s feng shui: It’s bigger on the inside. The Doctor is courageous and heroic, sure, but in the Mèdecins Sans Frontiéres vein. Oh so Euro!

Yes yes yes — that’s an excellent encapsulation of the appeal of the Doctor, and of Doctor Who. But it doesn’t come any near justifying Brown’s headline, which is “Why America Is Finally Ready for Doctor Who.” He attempts, in the next paragraph, to get to it:

True, Who does take a little adjusting to. Like room-temperature Guinness and universal health care, it’s an acquired taste. But in 2005, writer-producer Russell T. Davies (creator of Queer as Folk) relaunched the show — which had been more or less on ice for 15 years — as a zippy, cheeky, Buffy-esque melodrama, which grasped the appeal of the initial series of the ’60s. It was TV’s first real postimperial science fiction, devised in a time of scarcity, dispossession, and massive social deflation — but also great hope for the future.

Well, sure, we did elect that guy in the White House on the basis of his message of hope, but as he seems to forget all those promises he made, the dystopic thing looks more and more realistic.

Look: if the original 1960s Doctor Who was a reaction to Britain’s loss of empire, then it took Britain half a century to acknowledge that it had entered a postimperial phase. The U.S. is just beginning to enter that phase. I don’t think America is ready for Doctor Who — a tiny minority of admittedly already Anglophilic dorks like me aside — for a few reasons that make perfect sense through our rose-colored glasses that are still telling us we rule the world:

We obviously find it constitutionally impossible to simply air imported shows on American networks as is: We have to Americanize them. We sure as hell don’t want to see what an Americanized Doctor Who would look like — we’ve already seen it, actually, and it was that terrible 1996 Fox TV movie. But in the U.K., ER and Law and Order, for example, don’t air on “NBC UK”: they air on Channel 4 and the BBC — that is, major broadcast networks that do not require special cable packages to watch. They get good ratings: clearly no one watching has any trouble with the myriad American accents, or with the arcana of the American health-insurance system or of New York City jurisprudence.

But could we return the favor? In a Los Angeles Times article this past spring about Law and Order UK — the rare instance of an American show getting Anglocized — an American network executive nails it:

In the world of TV, there’s no end to borrowing, cutting and pasting. If the show proves successful overseas, Wolf hopes the U.K. version can then cross back to America. “I would love ‘Law & Order: U.K’ to run over here,” said Wolf. “I think it would be perfect programming for Saturday night,” referring to the period when most networks, including NBC, program reruns or unscripted programs.

NBC Universal executives appear open to the idea. “It’s definitely something we’re having a conversation about,” said Angela Bromstad, who manages NBC’s studio and network program development. “It is a really great show.”

But Bromstad, who had been running a production unit for the company in London before taking on her current duties last year, also wondered whether American audiences would have trouble grasping the series. “It’s very British,” she said. “It might do much better on BBC America than for us. Still, the show is completely reinvented, and it beautifully showcases London.”

Bromstad is probably right: mainstream American audiences probably would not stand for the very thing — its very nominal alienness — that doesn’t bother British audiences at all when they watch American shows.

If that’s not a perfect example of an American unwillingness to acknowledge that we are not the center of the world, in charge of everything, and not required to recognize even the slightest deviations in culture from ours, I don’t know what is.

Or am I wrong? Is America ready for Doctor Who?

(Thanks to reader Angelo for pointing out the Wired article to me.)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • Kim

    I’m currently sitting here agog at the fact that an American has acknowledged they are not the centre of the world ;). Seriously, though, I can see the problem with Doctor Who being popular on the other side of the pond. I spent a year living the USA (on the border of Virginia and West Virginia, of all places) and whilst almost everyone that I met was individually a great person, I found the very strong patriotism I also encountered almost frightening (from my perspective) in intensity. I can’t imagine that Doctor Who would take off at all in that sort of atmosphere.
    On the other hand, my mother is American and comes from a typical New York Jewish family and they aleady love Doctor Who. Maybe there’s enough of the city types (and I’m not casting aspersions on Southerners, I just think that you’d probably be exposed to different cultures and ways of thinking if you’re living in New York than if you live in a tiny town anywhere in the world)to make Doctor Who a success in the US?

  • Kim

    I’m also failing to understand why universal healthcare would be an acquired taste (although I’m aware it’s a big debate in America at the moment). Think I’d better go and do some political background reading.

  • Fascinating and somewhat exhausting analysis. At this point, I’m only sure that I and a couple other people I know (all Southerners, incidentally) are ready for the Doctor but have not analyzed why. As for post imperialistic, that’s probably me, but one of my friends who likes it is not exactly post-imperialistic. He likes it cause it makes him laugh and the stories fascinate him and don’t offend him enough to make him stop watching. Maybe there’s enough of us in this adolescent country to provide the “hundredth monkey effect” and push us over the nebulous threshold of “being ready for Doctor Who”.

  • i am a Doctor Who lover for many years, an anglophile since childhood, and an over-educated eastern liberal who has been very unhappy with the direction my country has taken in the past decade or more. *However*, that being said, i also happen to love my country (certainly, the ideal of my country) and i’m getting just a little weary of americans and america being the punching bag and excuse for every feeling of cultural deprivation (why aren’t our cultural exports in high demand in the US?) — it’s cheap and it’s easy, but it also seems to be a way to ignore every flaw, fault or imperialistic past of every other western nation. (yeah, i’m looking at you, Britain — especially as i understand it, you’re still pulling your ‘helping the little brown brothers bit’ on the irish, and it took you a hell of a long time to give up Hong Kong, as i recall.)

    change takes time, whether for good or ill. give us the 50 years that britain’s had and we’ll have a different cultural touchstones too. Monty Python was a reaction in the 60s to the younger generation’s weariness with wartime mentality. perhaps the dystopic s/f we’re seeing now is our cultural reaction to the belief that everything americans do and everywhere we go, we “improve” things.

    since i just saw an article in the NY Times that and estimated 165 million people worldwide wish they were living somewhere else — and that more than half of them wish it were the US — i think we must still have something to offer. britain, france and ireland have no trouble buying up and consuming our output culturally. why make the general assumption that we’re “not ready” to accept the other way around. at one time we didn’t have sushi, or mexican food, or good thai food even in the cities. now even small towns in the south have some form of all of it. change does come — just not fast enough to suit those of us living through it.

  • chuck

    I don’t think patriotism has much to do with it. I don’t think it’s a south vs. north, stupid vs. smart thing, or a conservative vs liberal thing either, I’m not even sure why Scott would try to make it a political point.

    Truth is you’ll probably find the same percentage of fans in Alabama as you would in Maine, not that I am trying to cast any aspersions on Maine.

    The success of Doctor Who now has more to do with what we accept as “common knowledge”. People have either never heard of DW or they have heard it’s reputation a poorly made nerd/kid program. So it is dismissed by all but the few open minded people who at least gave a few episodes the benefit of the doubt.

    I have tried to get a few friends to watch the new series, but mostly they respond with “Doctor What?” or “Oh that cheesy thing”, or “it’s badly made isn’t it?” They won’t even give it a chance because it’s common knowledge that it’s unworthy.

    That’s a tough problem, even for a consistent award winning program like DW.

    Let the masses be the masses, I know I’ll be watching the next series of DW and loving it.

  • Kathryn

    yeah, i’m looking at you, Britain — especially as i understand it, you’re still pulling your ‘helping the little brown brothers bit’ on the irish

    Can someone explain this remark to me? I’m British, and genuinely have no idea what it is referring to. Possibly because I’m too young….?

  • i apologize to the British readers for using the “little brown brothers” remark… that was a particularly condescending remark by one of our presidents when we took over the phillipine islands, basically implying they weren’t fit or civilized enough to govern themselves. i used it — awkwardly — to point out that the british are still hanging onto some 14 overseas territorial possessions, using as an example the province of northern ireland, with the same attitude.

  • LaSargenta

    @bronxbee, we are still doing the same with Puerto Rico, Guam, US VI, and several others.

  • Mark

    I agree with those that say Americans are too hard on themselves. Of course as any great military power, you have done a lot of wrong, but the mistake is to blame all Americans for this. As a British lover of free speech and liberalism, I am inspired by that very large minority of brilliant Americans who are essentially the definition of what it means to be a liberal, who are shining beacons of free speech. You know who you are. And so do we. And I am not at all surprised you love Doctor Who!

  • i do not deny it, la sargenta, nor do i condone it, nor do i like it. i am merely pointing out that many of those throwing stones still have a few glass houses of their own — small and tucked away though they may be. i’m not trying to start a cultural flame war, but asking for a bit of balance on the whole topic of american “cultural” imperialism at least.

  • Leigh

    ‘the province of northern ireland’ as an overseas territorial possession? What on earth?

  • is northern ireland not separated from england by the irish sea? is it not a territory of britain? has it become a commonwealth, or independent, or been reunited with the republic recently?

  • Leslie Carr

    I think we can agree that post-imperialism being-cut-down-to-size experience sucks, but I don’t think that the British are overly into blaming Americans for their own shortcomings. We’re quite capable of beating up on ourselves.

    I am pleasantly surprised that Doctor Who can chime with contemporary American sentiment – I’ve never imagined that the DW “run for your life” vibe would resonate with the “to boldly go” action hero theme. But then is the US currently inhabiting the Star Trek universe or the Watchmen one?

  • Lisa

    yep Northern Ireland still belonging to the British isles but apparently they got a Waters of Mars ad this evening and we didn’t

    treated like second class citizens I tell you! won’t even accept outr legal tender and it’s got sterling all over it

    rant over

    you’re getting David Tennant anyway in Rex is not your Lawyer

    please don’t watch it so that he can come back home

  • Bluejay

    Well, sure, we did elect that guy in the White House on the basis of his message of hope, but as he seems to forget all those promises he made, the dystopic thing looks more and more realistic.

    MaryAnn – that seems quite a sweeping statement to me. Which promises are you referring to?

    (If you’ve discussed this in detail elsewhere, maybe you could point me the right way.)

  • Leigh

    Bronxbee, you’re being facetious. Northern Ireland is part of the UK and is therefore not ‘overseas’ and it has not been ‘reunited with the republic’ as the current majority don’t want that. However, it has now got it’s own Assembly (as have Wales and Scotland) and there has been an incredible amount of hard work put in to calming a very harrowing process for everyone involved over the last 90 years. It’s only been 10 years since the Good Friday Agreement and you can’t expect 90 years of enmity and distrust to evaporate overnight.

    The particular tone you’ve taken has a very Nationalist ring to it and I know that there were many American supporters of the Nationalist cause and of the IRA. However, unless you lived through it and the effect it had I really think you ought to think before you start throwing your superiority complex around. I was living in Manchester during the 1996 bombing by the IRA, my sister was very badly injured. A friend of mine from school was Northern Irish and lost a family member in the Omagh bombings. Considering that the Troubles and the terrorism affects so many people in Eire, in Northern Ireland and in mainland Britain I actually think we’re all doing pretty well.

  • Angel

    I adore Doctor Who – and every year I run a Sci-fi club for my middle school students to introduce them to New Who. Guess what? My 11 to 12 year olds love it and have no problem understanding what is going on. I think the great stories and amazing scripts can resonate with anyone willing to give Who a chance. Our discussions are wonderful at the end of each episode. Don’t sell our kids short!

  • Lisa

    sorry to hear about your sister and I hope she is ok now and didn’t suffer any long lasting ill-effects.

    but I don’t know why Britain wants to keep us tho – If I ruled Britain I would wish we were the Republic’s problem loads of people here work for the government we must be costing you loads of money plus all the terrorism crap just when you think things are better, tensions rise, people are knee capped, buses are burned , you’re late getting into work cos they’re stopping cars in one area and you work in a DIFFERENT area I would think they’d be happy to get rid of us

  • MaryAnn

    I agree with those that say Americans are too hard on themselves. Of course as any great military power, you have done a lot of wrong, but the mistake is to blame all Americans for this.

    It’s not just about military adventurism. It’s also about the many, many Americans who continue to insist that America is the greatest country on the face of the planet when clearly, some things are done better by others. Like universal health care.

    MaryAnn – that seems quite a sweeping statement to me. Which promises are you referring to?

    The promise to end the bullshit of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The promise to close Guantanamo Bay. The promise to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The overall promise of “Change We Can Believe In.”

    Instead, gays have been thrown under the bus, the policies of the Bush administration regarding the “war on terror” have been continued, and I don’t see much change from the prior eight years.

  • Lisa

    Like I’m not an expert but it seems to me that Democrats hold their presidents to a higher standard than Republicans do.

    Obama’s been in office for a year give him a bit more time – he came into the job with some pretty awful problems war on terror, economy in the toilet I think it’s hard to follow an agenda when you have so many things pushing against that

    whereas George Bush came into the job and the economy was doing great / no wars and he fucked up on so many levels and he still had huge (Republican) support – leastways seems that way to an outsider

  • Lisa

    anyhooo anyone seen the new trailer for Waters of Mars – think you guys are getting it in December?

  • Bluejay

    MaryAnn – I wouldn’t consider those promises broken as much as problems still being worked on.

    And what about these accomplishments:
    http://www.esquire.com/the-side/richardson-report/obama-timeline-110309

    He hasn’t delivered everything progressives want (yet), but he hasn’t done *nothing* either, despite what SNL says. I guess I’m not as inclined to be as sweepingly dismissive as you seem to be.

    I also understand that all victims of injustice have every right not to be patient. I hope that frustration translates into more pressure and activism, rather than throwing up our collective hands and walking away.

  • AJP

    To tell the truth, I am completely unsurprised that Obama hasn’t made the sweeping type of changes that he talked about on the campaign trail. The previous administration didn’t implement their policies as part of some evil Doofenshmirtz plot while cackling with evil laughter. The policies were implemented to deal with various problems, and those problems haven’t gone away. Unless there is some way to address those concerns, Obama isn’t going to be able to wave a wand and change things without having some even worse problems to deal with.

    (Also, I don’t recall Obama saying he would get the U.S. out of Afghanistan. I seem to recall him making it a point to call that a “war of necessity” and criticize the Bush administration for not committing enough resources to that conflict. I seem to recall him promising to get even more involved in Afghanistan once the U.S. began to leave Iraq.)

    Being president is hard. I think it is harder than Obama thought it would be, and it is certainly harder than Obama’s sunshine supporters and summer partisans think it is. I’d be surprised if at the end of his first term in office Obama had managed to accomplish as much as one-third of his campaign promises.

  • @leigh: as a matter of fact, i wasn’t being completely facetious; nor am i an active Nationalist or IRA supporter. however, merely stating that a “majority” of northern irelanders wish to remain part of britain discounts a century or two of british population engineering, which gives the area the majority referred to and even ignores the “peace agreement” in the early 20th century that led to the unnatural creation of the northern ireland area. however, that being said, i do think it would be impossible to reunite northern ireland with the south — i am merely asking for a bit of acknowledgement that the current situation did not arise overnight nor without a considerable bloody background. i’m glad there’s peace — i think they’re own assembly is a great thing and i agree with Lisa — i don’t know why britain wants to hang onto such a troublesome and expensive area.

    again, i reiterate. the US is in a mess, we’re failing in our promises to ourselves and our overseas neighbors but we are not the be all and end all of the world’s problems, nor are we the center of prejudice and ignorance, and there are many of us who are self-aware.

    all of which is a strange wandering from the original question. or perhaps it isn’t.

  • Leigh

    @ Bronxbee – I think at this point it’s less of ‘wanting to hang onto’ Northern Ireland and more feeling a responsibility for a nation that’s been ripped to shreds for the last century and is only just beginning to be stable enough to manage itself (and I’m not being condescending). I fully realise that the US is not the centre of prejudice and ignorance (hell – we’ve got the BNP and chavs aplenty and you don’t get more prejudiced and ignorant than them). All I’m saying is that the general feeling non-American’s get from America is very ‘holier than thou’, often with little understanding of the facts (and without the self awareness to realise that the US often does the same thing – although this does not apply to you, obviously).

    My feeling about the UK is that I love it dearly, small and crowded though it is, but I also fully acknowledge its faults. I just wish that more Americans could have that attitude about their own country.

  • Gee

    I wonder if there are some cultural differences with the notion of ‘patriotism’. In the UK, patriotism has historical associations with the British Empire, where it was ‘my country right or wrong’ and ‘might is right’ (gunboat diplomacy.) We get so many examples in our media and educational systems of the bad things that happened as part of the Empire that people are reluctant to embrace partiotism. I think there is almost an automatic, mental substitution of ‘blind patriotism’ when we hear ‘patriotism’. Thus, patriotism expressed by nationals of other countries can make us nervous.

    Additionally, many expressions of patriotism, such as using the Union flag, have been hijacked by far right, white supremesists. This is a very hot issue at the moment, as they have recently made gains in the European Parliament and local councils. Someone wearing a Union flag badge would be regarded with suspicion as supporting rascist policies, unless it was clear it referred to a sporting context.

    Also, remember British understatement! Take an American (for example) declaring that they are patriotic, which might be seen by a fellow American as hitting 5 out of ten on a scale of ten. A British person, compensating for understatement, could misinterpret this as 11 out of 10 and way too much for comfort!! :-)

  • chuck

    Mark- ..the definition of what it means to be a liberal, who are shining beacons of free speech..

    It my experience that liberals are no more free speech loving than conservatives, don’t believe me? Try taking a conservative view point on campus, or at the next gathering of your liberal friends and see what happens.

    Lisa – .. Like I’m not an expert but it seems to me that Democrats hold their presidents to a higher standard than Republicans do.

    Obama’s been in office for a year give him a bit more time – he came into the job with some pretty awful problems war on terror, economy in the toilet I think it’s hard to follow an agenda when you have so many things pushing against that.

    Since when is giving someone more time holding them to a higher standard? Sounds like a excuse making. Do you not see how the media in general apologizes, ignores and glosses over the mistakes and errors of this administration?

    When SNL does a skit critical of Obama, WHY DOES CNN FEEL THE NEED TO FACT CHECK A COMEDY ROUTINE?

    George Bush didn’t ask for or create 911 and if you believe that this conversation isn’t worth having.

    Obama has not fulfilled his campaign promises for a variety of reasons.

    1. Because some of the policies of the Bush admin where correct, but you can’t win the presidency by saying the other side is doing the right thing. You can’t just drop the middle east thing. Gitmo has advantages and Obama knows it. Clinton gave us “Don’t ask Don’t tell” and was no better at resolving that issue.

    To gain back power the Democratic party had to hit Bush and the Republican for everything they were doing, good and bad. The sheep just followed along and believed it.

    2. Because the type of hope and change that was at the forefront of Obama’s campaign are not his real goal. The subtext and in between the lines of Obama are what we are really getting. The redistribution of wealth, the socialization of the economy, the centralization of power. If you don’t think that is what he is about then you’ve missed the bus. If you agree that is what he is about and like it, that’s another story altogether.

    The corner stone of Hope and Change is the Health Care reform. If you are thinking that the current plan(s) are anything like what is done European nations then you are grossly out of touch. You really need to look at the nearly 2000 page monstrosity that is up for vote.

    I think it’s interesting that as America slowly creeps into more and more socialist ways, that more and more people comment that America isn’t what it used to be, that it’s best days are over.

    Duh!

    It was rugged individualism, entrepreneurial spirit, a capitalist system that made America the shining beacon of HOPE and led so many to come here to CHANGE their lives. And over the last half century we have been moving away from that, so yes America isn’t what it was, god help us.

  • Bluejay

    I’d be surprised if at the end of his first term in office Obama had managed to accomplish as much as one-third of his campaign promises.

    That would be one-third that we would never have gotten under McCain, or a third term of Bush. I really think that “Obama equals Bush equals No Change Whatsoever” is not a valid argument.

    Honestly, as pressing as many problems are right now, I’d be grateful if his only accomplishment in the end was meaningful action on climate change. In the long, long, long term, that’s what matters for the planet.

    One more point: a lot of what Obama is “supposed” to do actually depends on Congress taking action. He can’t wave a magic dictatorial wand precisely because we’re a messy democracy that won’t allow it. I completely understand frustration and (constructive) criticism, but I think some of it needs to be directed at targets other than the president.

  • Bluejay

    America isn’t what it used to be

    I’m glad it’s not, chuck. In the old America, I couldn’t marry my wife.

    Oh, and the Post Office? The interstate highway system? The police and fire department? Public schools? Roads and bridges? Medicare?

    Socialism.

    “You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya

  • @leigh: “All I’m saying is that the general feeling non-American’s get from America is very ‘holier than thou’, often with little understanding of the facts (and without the self awareness to realise that the US often does the same thing – although this does not apply to you, obviously).”

    and not just me. i think the current perception of all americans as obdurant and close-minded is a case of squeeky wheels and patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel sort of thing. those of us who love our country and want to keep it right (as in following it’s ideals — not neo-conservatism as practiced today) and crticise (in a loving way) don’t get the media attention, or even the recognition that the shouters and bamboozlers and crybabies get.

    that doesn’t mean other, more rational americans, aren’t hurt or offended by invective and abuse that seems to be constantly bombarding our country in the world’s media without any recognition of it’s history of good works and generosity to other nations. it’s kind of like, i can criticize my family, but when an outsider does, it stings and makes you band together. not all of us, of course. there are some americans only too happy to gleefully point at the bad decisions and definitely not-perfect aspects of our culture and policy, and insist it’s more perfect elsewhere, without considering what social ills or political follies another nation might have on its plate.

    i think i’ve worn out any more i have to say on the matter. but thanks for the very rational discussion.

  • “i think i’ve worn out any more i have to say on the matter.”

    well, except, please bring on the Doctor Who! (and more Torchwood… etc.)

  • JoshB

    The corner stone of Hope and Change is the Health Care reform. If you are thinking that the current plan(s) are anything like what is done European nations then you are grossly out of touch. You really need to look at the nearly 2000 page monstrosity that is up for vote.

    Have you actually looked at it? Because if you had you wouldn’t be going on a screed about it being two thousand pages long. Each of those two thousand pages has like ten words on it.

    The redistribution of wealth, the socialization of the economy, the centralization of power.

    The centralization of power where exactly? The executive? The legislative? PACs? Corporate interests? That’s a cheap, vague statement.

    I don’t usually like to tell people that their opinions are not their own, but chuck, you make that difficult. Your post reads like a freakin’ checklist of right wing radio crying points.

  • allochthon

    Bluejay @ (Thu Nov 05 09, 12:35PM)

    That was awesome. Thanks.

  • AJP

    That would be one-third that we would never have gotten under McCain, or a third term of Bush. I really think that “Obama equals Bush equals No Change Whatsoever” is not a valid argument.

    I doubt that. I especially doubt that McCain would have been a “continuation” of the Bush administration. McCain was very opposed to a lot of Bush’s policies. I’m reasonably certain, for example, that had McCain been President, X-Ray would be closed by now.

    Honestly, as pressing as many problems are right now, I’d be grateful if his only accomplishment in the end was meaningful action on climate change. In the long, long, long term, that’s what matters for the planet.

    Well, then my prediction is that you should prepare for disappointment. That is somethign that has to get through Congress, and too many Democratic representatives and senators are tied to the current energy policies for anything of any meaningful content to ever pass, even without any kind of action by the Republicans.

    One more point: a lot of what Obama is “supposed” to do actually depends on Congress taking action. He can’t wave a magic dictatorial wand precisely because we’re a messy democracy that won’t allow it. I completely understand frustration and (constructive) criticism, but I think some of it needs to be directed at targets other than the president.

    Not the primary ones he’s ducking. Closing Guantanamo, that’s an executive order away from happening. Ending “don’t ask, don’t tell”, also an executive order. Moving troops around, that’s in the description of being “commander-in-chief” (yes, he needs Congressional help to deploy troops, but to take them out, not so much). In fact, the bulk of the promises he hasn’t moved on at all are ones that are entirely within his power as chief executive. The ones he’s been working on are legislative (possibly because his only governmental experience is as a legislator), and those are a mess and whether they actually pass at all is somewhat iffy at present. That they will likely be entirely unsatisfactory is almost certain, and that failure is entirely the fault of the Democratic party as a whole, as they hold all the cards right now.

  • AJP

    Damn. My formatting in the previous post got all screwed up. I wish there was a way to edit posts.

  • chuck

    Bluejay –
    I’m glad it’s not, chuck. In the old America, I couldn’t marry my wife.

    Oh, and the Post Office? The interstate highway system? The police and fire department? Public schools? Roads and bridges? Medicare?

    What did the new goverenment arrange your marriage? Social issues and socialism not necessarily the same thing.
    Post office? A miracle of efficency, yeah I want more things like the posr office.
    Public schools? Dismal failures and can’t compare to the privatly run schools. I have two teens, one in public and one in private, no comparison.
    Roads and Bridges? You must be talking about the rotting infrastructure, like the bridge that collapsed in Minn.
    Medicare? Bankrupt and being taken apart by congress as we talk.

    Police and Firemen you got to love em, true Americans with a selfless spirit. But certainly alot of cities are turning to private enterprise to run the fire department / emergency services, way more efficent then the gov. Heck even some prison systems are being turned over to private companies.

  • Lisa

    Since when is giving someone more time holding them to a higher standard? Sounds like a excuse making. Do you not see how the media in general apologizes, ignores and glosses over the mistakes and errors of this administration?

    as they did under Bush but he lied about going to war which is worse than anything Obama has done (so far!)

    that’s it Dr Who is too good for you – we’re takin him back!

  • Lisa

    maybe americans have a better sense of national identity

    with the British all those sorts of sentiments tend to be associated with the far right

  • chuck

    The centralization of power where exactly? The executive? The legislative? PACs? Corporate interests? That’s a cheap, vague statement.

    I don’t usually like to tell people that their opinions are not their own, but chuck, you make that difficult. Your post reads like a freakin’ checklist of right wing radio crying points.

    Cheap and vaque, maybe, I just didn’t think I’d need to spell it out in gory detail. But it is evident from your comments as to which side you sit, and it evident how much you know about it. It’s just as probable that you have crossed of a few points on your liberal whiny checklist as well.

    Since you think what I say is coming from somewhere else then I’ll make you happy with this quote.

    “The 10th Amendment simply and clearly says if the Constitution does not permit the federal government to do something, then the federal government doesn’t have the right to do it. You tell me where in the Constitution is there delegated authority for federal involvement in education, retirement, health, housing, transportation, handouts and other activities representing more than three-quarters of federal spending.”
    -Walter Williams

    Smart man, and he says it better than me.

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    Hang on….there, another box checked.

  • JoshB

    Cheap and vaque, maybe, I just didn’t think I’d need to spell it out in gory detail.

    Apparently you still don’t. Just as well for you I suppose.

    But it is evident from your comments as to which side you sit, and it evident how much you know about it. It’s just as probable that you have crossed of a few points on your liberal whiny checklist as well.

    Ah, but I didn’t give any of my opinions. You know nothing about my beliefs except that I think yours are stupid. And in fact it’s worse than that. You lack the brainpower to conjure these idiocies on your own. No, you had a pack of hyperemotional wankers implant their nonsense in the yawning void where your mind should be. Rugged individualism indeed.

    Note for instance that you didn’t respond to my spanking you over the length of the health care bill. You have no counter to what I said, so you just kinda slinked off into the corner on that one.

    I ask again: have you looked at the bill, or did you just listen to some chucklehead complain about it being a “2000 page monstrosity” (gasp, what horrors!)? If you have read the bill did it somehow escape your attention that it’s written in bazillion point font, double spaced? Or maybe it was active dishonesty. Did you realize that you were making a bogus point, and you were hoping no one would call you on it?

    Smart man, and he says it better than me.

    Being more articulate and independent-minded than you is not a convincing sign of intelligence. But I do recommend that you keep letting other people do your talking (and thinking!) for you.

    But since you got Mr. Williams to ask:

    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

    Whoops. See, I’ve actually read the Constitution for myself, so I know these things. I also know about implied powers and the history of the Tenth Amendment, so I know that the Framers specifically left out a clause that would have limited the Federal government to powers expressly stated. Oooh, and also, people have gone before the Supreme Court and made this very same inane argument that you’re making about the Tenth Amendment and been told where they could stick it.

    You bit off more than you could chew here, son.

  • Bluejay

    Closing Guantanamo, that’s an executive order away from happening. Ending “don’t ask, don’t tell”, also an executive order. Moving troops around, that’s in the description of being “commander-in-chief” (yes, he needs Congressional help to deploy troops, but to take them out, not so much).

    AJP: He *did* sign an executive order to close Guantanamo, on his first day in office: http://tinyurl.com/abafaw – Whatever is gumming up the works, it’s not because of lack of an executive order.

    Iraq? He’s set a timetable for withdrawal by August 2010 (and obviously we’re not there yet): http://tinyurl.com/c3brac

    Afghanistan? As far as I know, he hasn’t finalized his decision on troop levels – and it’s not an easy decision to make. I’m withholding my judgment until I see his decision and what its impact is.

    He’s also signed an executive order reversing the Bush policy of withholding aid from international family planning groups, as well as an order lifting the ban on stem cell research.

    DADT – now there you have me. I certainly think he should end it, although from where he stands it might be a more complicated affair than it seems. I will say that he hasn’t ignored his gay supporters completely, as he signed the Matthew Shepard hate crimes act. But I agree that more could be done here.

    All I’m saying is, give the man credit where credit is due.

    I certainly take the point that legislation on health care, climate change, etc. can be disappointing because of Congress’s tendency to slow things down and muck things up. I guess I see even imperfect legislation as a start. I seem to recall Bill Clinton saying, in a speech, that when Social Security was passed the minimum age was 65…at a time when the average life expectancy was 60. So even imperfect laws are a way to get a foot in the door, and improvements can be made from there.

  • Bluejay

    Post office? A miracle of efficency, yeah I want more things like the posr office.

    Setting aside your sarcasm, chuck, I completely agree with you. I get my mail every day, and the bills and letters I send out reach their destination. I’m glad I don’t have to FedEx all my Christmas cards. More agencies like the Post Office, please.

    Public schools? Dismal failures and can’t compare to the privatly run schools. I have two teens, one in public and one in private, no comparison.

    So why aren’t *both* your teens in private school? Is it a financial situation? If so, then it’s a good thing there’s a public school for one of your teens to attend.

    And not all public schools are failures. My daughter’s happens to be great. Yes, many have problems – but that just means those problems should be fixed. It doesn’t mean those schools should disappear.

    Roads and Bridges? You must be talking about the rotting infrastructure, like the bridge that collapsed in Minn.

    Which is why *more* taxpayer money should be put into infrastructure, not less.

    Medicare? Bankrupt and being taken apart by congress as we talk.

    I highly doubt it. But even if you’re right, what does your statement have to do with the principle of Medicare? Do you think it’s a bad thing?

    Look, I agree that talented individuals and competitive companies should thrive. But government should, and in many cases does, provide taxpayer-funded (or “socialist”) public services that benefit everyone and insure that the weakest among us are taken care of. Some public services are great. Some are not as good as private ones, but they’re there for those who can’t afford the private ones. And poor public services should be *improved,* not eliminated.

    If the New Testament means something to you, you might remember that Jesus said “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me” (Matthew 25:40).

    When you find the passage where he said “I got mine, you get yours,” let me know.

  • chuck

    So why aren’t *both* your teens in private school? Is it a financial situation? If so, then it’s a good thing there’s a public school for one of your teens to attend.

    The waiting line to get into the (new)private school was long, and the delay was such that my oldest was nearly through with high school and we felt that it would be less disruptive for him to continue where he is. Additionally the the school recommended that high school students at that school should have also completed 7th and 8th grade at that school because of the vast difference.

    Money had nothing to with it, just timing. However, my youngest was able to secure a spot at seventh grade, and is now a freshman. The difference in curriculum is truly staggering. The private school requires a much deeper understanding of the subject matter.

  • chuck

    I have to save that its interesting to compare the response of BlueJay and JoshB

    I appreciate BlueJays remarks and I can tell that he is a thoughtful considerate person with strong passionate views. The kinda of guy you like to sit down and have a beer with..then drag out into the parking lot and …. wait…I digress.

    I am worried about JoshB. How someone can become like this I just don’t know. It’s sad, but maybe with a little more time an maturity he will grow out of it. You see this sort of red faced blind anger on the fringes of both side of political debate and it usually accomplishes nothing.

    JoshB’s bigest problem is that he confuses propaganda techniques for discussion. The technique in this case is name calling, here’s an interesting definition from wiki –

    Name calling is a cognitive bias and a technique to promote propaganda. Propagandists use the name-calling technique to incite fears and arouse prejudices with the intent that invoked fear based on fear mongering tactics will encourage those that read, see or hear propaganda to construct a negative opinion about a person, group, or set of beliefs or ideas that the propagandist would wish the recipients to denounce. The method is intended to provoke conclusions and actions about a matter apart from an impartial examinations of the facts of the matter. When this tactic is used instead of an argument, name-calling is thus a substitute for rational, fact-based arguments against an idea or belief, based upon its own merits, and becomes an argumentum ad hominem

    This technique is also a favorite of Alinsky followers.

    It doesn’t bother me one bit, because anyone who reaches this level has just simply run out of ways to defend their own position. At that point I know that the game is over with that person.

    I like a spirited argument, it forces you to re-evaluate and think through your position. That is why I have enjoyed BlueJays responses, Yes, we disagree on how much government is good government but be don’t need to call names to do it. I want the government the heck out of my life and BlueJay see’s the common good in it. The truth is probably somewhere in between and that gives us something to consider in our daily musings.

    I have my opinions, some are newly formed and some have been around for 30 years or more. I won’t be coward or swayed by anyone who not capable of expressing their own opinion in a logical and thoughtful manner.

  • chuck

    Almost forgot. Yes, I have been keeping up with the bill’s as they are made available to the public to read. Indeed there are fewer words to the page than the average book, usually a single thin column down the middle.

    The problem that I see with this bill is that is does little to help the situation while creating a new bureaucracy to oversee it’s execution.

    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

    That’s a good point and one that could be argued. For example go to

    http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#A1Sec8

    scroll down to Article 1 section 8 and click on the definition of welfare.

    Welfare
    welfare n. 1. health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being. [

    The last sentence means that this too is up for debate. Now it’s your turn to chew son.

  • chuck

    Why do I think the Doctor would just line us all up and individually slap us.

  • JoshB

    JoshB’s bigest problem is that he confuses propaganda techniques for discussion. The technique in this case is name calling, here’s an interesting definition from wiki

    How delicious. You’re upset because I was more insolent than you. See, it’s not that you weren’t insolent, just that you weren’t as cheerful about it as I was.

    Here’s your problem: yeah, I was being a dick, but I was also making actual points that you can’t fight back on. You still haven’t answered my question about the length of the health care bill, because you can’t.

    You didn’t respond to my points about the Tenth Amendment, because you can’t.

    You’re obviously gonna dodge the fact that I accused you of not thinking for yourself, and you responded by quoting someone else.

    You can’t go around calling people “sheep” and “grossly out of touch” and then clutch your pearls when you get taken to the woodshed. Or you can, but you’re just adding ‘hypocrite’ to the list of names they’ll call you.

  • Bluejay

    I appreciate your reply, chuck. I’m glad your youngest is getting an excellent education. And I’m glad money wasn’t the issue for you, but it *is* an issue for many others. For those who can’t send their kids to private school, for whatever reason, the government “redistributes the wealth” of its citizens and provides a taxpayer-funded and therefore “socialist” option. In many cases it may not be the best, and its problems should definitely be addressed. But it is there as an option.

    I go on and on about socialism because it seems that you, and many conservatives we hear about in the media, are afraid of “socialist government.” But I think that in many ways our society is already organized around socialist principles, often to everyone’s benefit. I encourage you to check out this link, as a good breakdown of how much (good) government is already in our lives, without our realizing it:

    http://www.governmentisgood.com/articles.php?aid=1

    Maybe, just maybe, “socialism” isn’t as scary as you think.

    By the way, the fact that we’re having this conversation shows that I’m considering your statements and vice versa, and we’re both enjoying free speech. So you might want to reconsider your statement that “liberals are no more free speech loving than conservatives.” I am absolutely willing to listen to you if you back up your statements with good arguments and good evidence.

    Oh, and apologies to everyone for taking the conversation waaaay beyond Doctor Who.

  • LaSargenta

    @ chuck and anyone else who is going to argue for the total privatisation of every function of goverment:

    On The Topic of Infrastructure

    Yes, we’ve got some MAJOR infrastructure problems in this country due to loads of neglect. (See the current and past ASCE Infrastructure Report Cards http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/ — click on the tab “Report Cards” at the top of the page — especially the 1988 one with its clear thumbnail history lesson about transportation in the United States: http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/sites/default/files/reportcard1988.pdf Read these reports and you may never leave your house again…which won’t protect you because sewers are part of infrastructure, too. Oh, and by the way, the lousy grade next to the word “Schools” is about the buildings and other facilities, NOT the teaching. This is from the Am. Soc. of Civil Engineers, after all.)

    If you own a business, you benefit from the fact that we MOSTLY have (taxpayer) publically-owned and funded infrastructure. We don’t want to go back to the days of only toll roads and bridges and cess pits on each individual’s land. If you make something or sell something that is a material thing or if you ever buy anything that is a material thing (IE: not music downloads on the web, or movie reviews, etc.) you need our roads, bridges, airports, and maritime ports.

    As it is, we have mostly private energy generation and delivery and that has been a major problem. (Well, on paper much of it is what is called a “public-private partnership” but that is a beast that is frequently driven by the “private” bit. I’ve worked on P/P projects. The “public” part of the admin. is so terrified of appearing inhospitable to corporations that it ends up refusing to flex any muscle even if the “private” management is a collection of morons!) We have delivery systems often built by stockholder-owned companies that choose where to put their lines by profit, not by any other factor: Not civil defense, not future business development, not needs of citizenry UNLESS those needs and future business development can be quantified in the here-and-now and a profit can be gained quickly. Really quickly. This is why we have nearly no redundancy in some major delivery system bottlenecks. Remember the Northeast blackout in 2003? To quote Monty Python, Say No More!

    If anyone reading this was born in a rural area and grew up in a house that was built before 1940, there is a HUGE chance that you, personally, directly, benefitted from the Rural Electrification Project. Before the REP was started, there had been private electrical line building. The companies put up some large lines to major population centers, but further line building to, let’s say, get power to the farm 4 miles out of town and wanting electricity in the barn to be able to get one of those new milking machines and a cooling tank and an electric water pump since there wasn’t enough wind in the area to use a windmill water pump all the time, did NOT happen unless the farmer was rich enough to pay for the lines. I don’t know what the cost was in 1930, I do know that these days it costs about a whole lot — it differs between power companies, so your mileage may vary. I have some land I’d like to build on and the house site is about 4000 feet as the crow flies to the nearest pole. If I want to hook in, and I get a right-of-way from three (3) neighbors, that will be a cost of $8500 just to put up the poles and lines — transformer not included. If I don’t get the right-of-ways, then it will be a LOT more money ’cause I’ll have to go around their land. And, note, I’m less than a mile from the nearest line. Right there, that’s a huge savings to me.

    Anyhow, the reason the REP worked was because the Federal Government got involved. This wouldn’t have worked on a state-by-state basis. The states didn’t have the money or the power to make this happen and not everyone saw it as a priority.

    Now on the topic of sewers, something near and dear to my heart. Did you know that a few years ago there was a massive international poll of what the greatest all-time advances in health care? [I believe it was published in The Lancet; however, I cannot find it right off in their search engine as when I type “water treatment waste” into the box, I get scores of hits dating back to the early 1830’s.) And guess what beat out every other advance? Every single one?

    Antibiotics? Nope.
    Anesthesia? Nope.
    Vaccines? Nope.

    Wait for it….

    SEWAGE TREATMENT! CLEAN WATER!

    You know, that’s the kind of thing that prevents us from getting most diseases. Do you want to have to finance this privately?

    I doubt it as the best way of accomplishing this is through the government. It requires central planning, investigation of what needs to be treated, the power to declare certain areas watersheds and to implement and enforce LAWS to prevent poisoning of the populace at large.

    I could continue this argument with the whole meat-packaging and distribution system and e-coli, but I think everyone reading this will make the connections on their own.

    I’m not going to go down the infrastructure list item by item. I think that if anyone thinks these things should all be privatised, s/he doesn’t know how they are planned, designed, built, maintained, or all the purposes for which they are used.

    Public services are public and need to stay public because everyone benefits from them when everyone benefits.

    Even Ayn Rand accepted a form of enlightened self-interest. Sheesh.

    Kudos to Bluejay.

  • LaSargenta

    Lol.

    By chuck: Why do I think the Doctor would just line us all up and individually slap us.

    Actually, speak for yourself, boyo! If he met me, not only would I get to travel on the Tardis, but I’d be allowed to work on the guts of her, including the randomiser and the chamelion circuit.

    :-p

    (Mind you, I’d only want to do this if it were either the 3rd or 9th doctors!)

  • JoshB

    I hate crossposts.

    So you decided to debate on the merits. I’ll give you credit for that.

    Welfare welfare n. 1. health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being

    You could argue it. I don’t see what argument you could make. That definition is sufficiently vague that you could include making mandatory the giving out of treats at Halloween as within the authority of the Federal Government. It certainly could include healthcare and education.

    That is exactly what the founders intended. They had the opportunity, and some of them pushed for this, to include language in the Constitution that would have limited the Federal government to powers expressly enumerated in the Constitution. They didn’t. That clause tried to get in and failed. We can conclude that the majority of the framers did not want to hamstring the Fed in dealing with unforeseen situations.

    The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States

    You’ll note that this language says nothing about an Air Force. The framers were wise.

    Don’t take my word for it. Here’s SCOTUS, taken from gpoaccess.gov:

    There is nothing in the history of its adoption to suggest that it was more than declaratory of the relationship between the national and state governments as it had been established by the Constitution before the amendment or that its purpose was other than to
    allay fears that the new national government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the states might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers.”2 That this provision was not conceived to be a yardstick for measuring the powers granted to the Federal Government or reserved to the States was firmly settled by the refusal of both Houses of Congress to insert the word “expressly” before the word “delegated,”

  • chuck

    Actually, speak for yourself, boyo! If he met me, not only would I get to travel on the Tardis, but I’d be allowed to work on the guts of her, including the randomiser and the chamelion circuit.

    :-p

    Fine by me, but I get first shot at reversing the neutron flow when ever that needs to be done. And in my spare time I want to work on some additional TARDIS desktops.

  • NorthernStar

    Bronxbee’s comments on Northern Ireland are very saddening, particularly coming from a poster I respected.

    She seems to lack understanding of UK devolution and to have a black-and-white view of the Troubles(and waded in with sarcasm, which is never a good place to start.)

    America has been scarred by terrorism in recent times and I honestly thought that would give a new perspective. I find myself questioning that now.

    This is a very personal issue for me for reasons I won’t go into so I’m sorry if I upset anyone.

  • Lisa

    I actually think the Dr would be loving this! political debate a good discussion – he’s there

    mind you he did vote for Obama and he would win this argument

  • Bluejay

    America has been scarred by terrorism in recent times and I honestly thought that would give a new perspective. I find myself questioning that now.

    Hi, NorthernStar: Please don’t generalize to an entire population based on what you think of an individual’s perspective. There are many viewpoints on this blog, and in this country, as there are in all countries. Peace.

  • chuck

    LaSargenta,

    I do think there are times and places for gov. spending on public projects. It just seems out of hand and inefficient. After all we still have the National Helium Reserve, ya never know when you might need a bunch of helium.

    On The Topic of Infrastructure

    Yes, we’ve got some MAJOR infrastructure problems in this country due to loads of neglect.

    Well, there it is, who neglected the infrastructure, you, me, our appointed representatives, or bureaucrats? Who was in charge while it rotted. Who do we hold responsible? Do we give the same people even more money to fix what they neglected before?

    Where has the money gone that was earmarked for infrastructure replacement? I’m not talking about this year, I’m talking about over the last 50 years.

    The money has been spent, and in some visible ways, but how well? You do see road repair and construction, but is there any excuse for having bridge fail?

    I just visited California a few weeks ago, the highways were horrific, bumpy, choppy, pot holes, poor signage. It was a relief to cross back into Arizona, smooth, good roads. A stark difference between a state that’s been teetering on bankruptcy for years and a state that is forced by law to balance its budget every year no matter how painful.

    Why the difference though? Where’s the waste? California has some of the highest taxes in the land, so what are they doing with the money? Who do we fire? Where are the priorities?

    I discovered exactly the same thing when traveling from Illinois to Wisconsin. Illinois was just horrible.

    The government often sets themselves up as unaccountable on these issues. The most you can do is kick someone out of office. So without clear cut rules and guarantees that things will improve by having government run any program, I am inclined to look at history, and ask for an alternate choice.

  • chuck

    I actually think the Dr would be loving this! political debate a good discussion – he’s there

    mind you he did vote for Obama and he would win this argument

    Maybe, I haven’t know the Doctor to vote regularly.

    But the way things are going he might look at Obama and say 6 words, just 6 words.

  • Bluejay

    A stark difference between a state that’s been teetering on bankruptcy for years and a state that is forced by law to balance its budget every year no matter how painful.

    “Forced by law,” chuck: *exactly.* Laws come from government, not private enterprise. You say you “want the government the heck out of my life,” but you may want to rethink that. Again, I ask you to consider checking out http://www.governmentisgood.com/articles.php?aid=1 and see how many invisible benefits government actually gives us. And no, like any manmade institution, it’s not perfect.

    I am inclined to look at history, and ask for an alternate choice.

    What would your alternate choice be? Can you spin out a scenario where completely unregulated private enterprise does a better job on all the issues listed in the link?

  • Paul

    Actually, my favorite too little known amendment is the ninth: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    One of the reasons some of the Founding Fathers were afraid of a Bill of Rights was their fear that people would say, hey, it’s not in the Bill of Rights, so it’s not a Right! So they added the Ninth, which means people have rights not menetioned in the Constitution, such as privacy, for example.

    Go Constitution!

    Coming from Iowa, a relatively well run state, with good public schools, a continuous battle to keep the roads up in the face of violent winters, and politically moderate leadership, I don’t have a problem with Adam Smith’s contention that a government’s job is to do things for the long term benefit of the people that would not provide short term profit for a company. And as writer who used the Post Office all the frakkin’ time, I thought the other customers were more of a problem than the people who worked there.

    As for Obama, he has only been in office for a year and has to fight against the Bush Legacy, an economic disaster that’s been brewing since Reaganomics came into vogue, and the forces of history that are sapping our economic muscle and shipping it over to Asia. Give the guy a break, and some time.

    Oh, wait, Doctor Who? Ah, er, given that most British sitcoms end up on public television, I’d guess not.

  • allochthon

    I just visited California a few weeks ago, the highways were horrific, bumpy, choppy, pot holes, poor signage. It was a relief to cross back into Arizona, smooth, good roads.

    I discovered exactly the same thing when traveling from Illinois to Wisconsin. Illinois was just horrible.

    Hmmm.

    State ……….Population density (persons per sq. mi)
    CA ………… 234.4
    IL ………….. 231.2
    WI ………… 103.1
    U.S. Avg …. 86.2
    AZ ………… 55.8

    Gee, I wonder why CA and IL have poorer roads than WI and AZ?
    (from Wikipedia)

  • Bluejay

    By the way, chuck:

    After all we still have the National Helium Reserve, ya never know when you might need a bunch of helium.

    You make fun of it, but (according to Wikipedia) the reserve was established in 1925 as a supply source for airships, and was used as coolant in the 1950s for the space race and the Cold War. Besides balloons and blimps, it’s used in fiber optics, microchip production, and other vital technological applications. The Earth has a limited supply, and it’s a nonrenewable resource. And apparently we’re running low:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080102093943.htm

    So the Helium Reserve was actually established and is being used with a long view beyond short-term profit: another thing that government can be good at.

    It’s like the government-funded fruit-fly research that Sarah Palin laughed at: turns out it led to advances in understanding autism.

    Yay Government!

  • Getting back to the original question:

    Question of the day: Is America ready for ‘Doctor Who’?

    I always thought that we were already ready–and have been since the 1970s–when the show first started showing up on American TV and getting positive reviews in American sci-fi magazines like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

    Heck, even when it debuted in Dallas and started playing on the same local station that played The 700 Club, it caused less controversy than the debut of syndicated Wonder Woman reruns on that same station.

    As for the reasons for liking Dr. Who….

    Well, as it has already been said, many people from different groups like Dr. Who and as a hardcore sci-fi fan who’s not of English descent, not particularly Anglophilic* and not even as liberal as MaryAnn**, I can’t help but find it funny to read how so many erudite people are reading their own views into the show and automatically assuming that it only has appeal for people like them. (In other words, people like me are invisible in their world. Gee, thanks a lot.)

    Perhaps we should phrase the question differently.

    No one is particularly surprised by the popularity of Sherlock Holmes, Emma Peel or James Bond among Americans. Why then is there so much fuss and feathers about the Doctor?

    * My late father had told me numerous stories about the discrimination he faced for refusing to pretend he was Anglo. And if you think Bronxbee’s opinions on Ireland are radical, thank God you never had to listen to any of my Mexican relatives talk about the Malvin–excuse me, the Falklands.
    **I’ve been described by a former acquaintance of MaryAnn’s as “conservative-leaning” and yet on some issues, my family considers me a radical liberal. Oh, the irony.

  • allochthon

    It’s like the government-funded fruit-fly research that Sarah Palin laughed at

    Or, remember “volcano monitoring?”
    Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NkBamBzbs0

    Mt. St. Helen’s, Vesuvius, etc.

  • @Northern Star: if you had continued to read my further posts, you would have seen that i have a fairly good grasp of the complexities of the NI situation today, and some extensive knowledge of history. it may not agree with your interpretation of the historical and current situation. however, my ideas about a solution or a feasible change in NI is not black/white and would take a dissertation to go into, and this is not the forum for that.

    if you had continued reading, you would also have noted my comments about the Assembly, the problems britain has with governing such an area and the unlikelihood of reunification of the north and the south. i merely point out that all colonial and/or imperial political powers, past and present — not just the US (or britain) — have to deal with the inherited societies and cultures based on the changes they have wrought by force and/or by absorption which works both ways.

    also, the use of sarcasm adds a dash of heat to a conversation, somewhat like using hot sauce on your food. to have continued on in all posts sarcastically would have dulled the tool.

    finally, i have relatives and friends in both the north and south of ireland who have been affected on both sides of the “troubles” as i have had dear friends and acquaintances who were affected by the events of 9/11. i was downtown on that day myself. you say you won’t bring up your personal reasons for your pain, but you did, then failed to explain yourself. i don’t bring in such personal experiences but just because i do not choose to use my pain as part of a sustained conversation does not mean i don’t feel any.
    d i only ask that

  • JoshB

    LOL @ allochthon’s roads post and especially Bluejay’s helium post. They are composed of premium quality win.

  • CB

    Paul wrote:

    One of the reasons some of the Founding Fathers were afraid of a Bill of Rights was their fear that people would say, hey, it’s not in the Bill of Rights, so it’s not a Right! So they added the Ninth, which means people have rights not menetioned in the Constitution, such as privacy, for example.

    Right to privacy is in the Constitution; it’s synonymous with “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”. Everything you can imagine the government doing to violate your privacy — spying on you in your home, reading your (e-)mail, listening to your phone conversations, and so on — are subject to the 4th Amendment.

    That’s not getting into how various laws (roving wiretaps) and extralegal programs (NSA) have violated the 4th. But they violate the 4th to exactly the extent they violate privacy.

    Nevertheless I agree with you about the 9th and how it’s awesome. But also sadly forgotten these days… it’s hard enough getting people to acknowledge the rights that are explicitly spelled out.

    MaryAnn wrote:

    The promise to end the bullshit of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The promise to close Guantanamo Bay. The promise to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The overall promise of “Change We Can Believe In.”

    He ordered Gitmo closed. Be mad at the politicians who refuse to have those detainees that can’t be released held in their states so they can go through the traditional justice system like Obama wants. And the countries that refuse to take their own citizens back. He can’t just undo these problems without running roughshod over people and don’t tell me you’d want that!

    He is getting us out of Iraq according to the timetable that was agreed upon before he took office. And a responsible timetable if I say so myself.

    He never promised to get us out of Afghanistan. He promised to focus on it like we should have been doing instead of getting distracted by the Iraq debacle. We’ll see what his actual strategy is and how well it will work, but he’s doing exactly what he promised.

    He has done nothing with regard to “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, that’s very true. And he may never, either. But on the other hand, if he’s going to do the previous two things, it’d be better to not have the military revolting at the same time. If he gets to that later, is that enough? If he has to break one promise, which would it be?

    Which leads me to “Change you can believe in.” To me, change I can believe in is change that actually has a hope in hell of happening. That means it’s going to be modest change that takes into account political and practical realities. Not my ultimate fantasy, because there’s no way that could happen and it would end up a disaster if he tried. Fantasy-based leadership is what we had for eight years, and no way in hell I’m going for that again even if it’s a fantasy I like! No, I voted for Obama because he seemed to be reasonable and intelligent, aware that ideology is trumped by reality, and capable of making realistic decisions and compromises to actually accomplish things.

    So far I have very little to complain about. My biggest concern is that he went after health care so soon. Trying to get that done, while simultaneously trying to get done everything else that can’t wait, means even bigger compromises and I am very concerned about the result. But the health insurance companies seem to hate it, so that’s at least a positive sign.

  • chuck

    Hmmm.

    State ……….Population density (persons per sq. mi)
    CA ………… 234.4
    IL ………….. 231.2
    WI ………… 103.1
    U.S. Avg …. 86.2
    AZ ………… 55.8

    Gee, I wonder why CA and IL have poorer roads than WI and AZ?

    So are you saying that a state with 0 people per square mile would have perfect roads? The weather might have something to say about that.

    I read that the same data as meaning California has 4.2 times the people per square mile than Arizona or potentially a lot more tax revenue per square mile.

    So unless only a fraction of the people in California work and pay taxes as compared to Arizona, where did the money go.

    Sure California has a lot more roads, but those roads service a lot more people.

  • chuck

    Bluejay,

    I just returned from looking at the Government is good web site. It’s interesting but I could not help becoming a bit nauseated as I read it. Really, actually had a physical reaction to it. Not much does that these days.

    Starting at about 7:01am with –

    “On a more practical level, the federal government actually gives you money every year to help pay for your house. It’s called a mortgage interest tax deduction”

    Am I the only one who sees something wrong with the above sentence?

    The problem that I have with that sentence is that it implies that all of my money really belongs to the government. And if I buy a house, the government lets me keep a bit more of my money.

    There is nothing on that link that I am not unaware of, but to see it all gathered together in one spot…yikes.

    As I read on I just kept tallying up in my head what this all must be costing us and really brings into even more focus just how out of control things really are. Is this why America is the largest debtor nation ever, Trillions of dollars in debt that if left unchecked will strangle this country.

    I thank you for pointing out this site, but I don’t think it had the effect on me you were hoping for. I’d like to comment more on this site but I’d be here all night and I’m getting the feeling it would be pointless. I will point it out to my friends though.

    For the rest of you reading this, please take Bluejays advice and read this site for yourself. But step back and look at it dispassionately and see if it sounds a little like something that might have been written in Pravda 30 years ago.

  • NorthernStar

    Bronxbee posted –

    my ideas about a solution or a feasible change in NI is not black/white and would take a dissertation to go into, and this is not the forum for that.

    Fair enough.

    also, the use of sarcasm adds a dash of heat to a conversation, somewhat like using hot sauce on your food. to have continued on in all posts sarcastically would have dulled the tool.

    My point was not your use of sarcasm, but that you started with it. That “dulls the tool” before you even use it and puts any responder on the defensive. That’s not a good way to begin a discussion.

    you say you won’t bring up your personal reasons for your pain, but you did, then failed to explain yourself.

    I believe I did. I was acknowledging that this is a subject I find difficult to discuss calmly and apologised in advance for any rudeness in my reply. I don’t feel I needed to discuss details to do that.

    but just because i do not choose to use my pain as part of a sustained conversation does not mean i don’t feel any.

    I never suggested that you did not.

  • Paul

    @Chuck: the government is trillions of dollars in debt because Reagan and Bush cut taxes while raising military spending, not because of anything we’ve talked about on this website. Certainly not infrastructure construction or the post office. Someday Medicare and Social Security will go red, and then oh boy will we see the debt rise.

  • Lisa

    to get back to org question – I think David Tennant put it best when he described Dr Who as being a bit hand made

    I think when Americans think of sci fi they think of star trek and slick production values and the BBC never really had the money for that until recently which made the show more about ideas than flash visuals

    which again may be a bit too much for a general american audience

    it’s also about a very english eccentric dude with a cheeky sense of humour which sometimes doesn’t always translate see Robbie Williams

  • Bluejay

    Hey, chuck, if you’re still reading:

    Thank you for taking the time to check out the link, and I’m sorry you don’t feel the same way about government’s benefits.

    To be fair, you’ve made some good points about government waste, inefficiency, and corruption. I won’t deny they exist. But I submit that those are *human* problems, not inherently government problems. After Enron and Wall Street and Bernie Madoff, you can’t tell me that corruption isn’t a problem in private enterprise as well.

    So what’s the solution? You seem to feel it’s getting rid of as much government as possible. I think that’s a fantasy that has dangerous consequences. I contend that government is necessary, and needs to be reformed, not eliminated. I *like* having laws that keep me safe in traffic, keep my food from being poisoned, and stop my employer from keeping me on the job 20 hours a day. I *like* the GI Bill that created the middle class, and the government-funded military that keeps us safe, and the National Weather Service, and the funny-sounding science research projects that somehow wind up giving us better medicine and technology.

    Big problems do exist. But the solutions may not be the ones you think. If you’d still like to keep an open mind, go back to governmentisgood.com but check out the links “What’s Really Wrong With Government” and “How to Fix It.” You might actually agree with some of the proposals.

    One last thing: saying “It sounds like Pravda 30 years ago” is vague, incorrect, and not helpful. Saying “I want an alternate choice” without spelling it out is not helpful. I would be genuinely interested in hearing some concrete conservative proposals that amount to more than just “government is too big and I hate socialism.” If you can suggest or point me to a well-reasoned, good-faith plan that isn’t just about tearing Obama down, a plan that has *details* (if we cut waste, how? if we cut programs, which ones? if we reduce or eliminate government, what replaces it?) I’ll be happy to hear you out.

    Peace, and Happy Carl Sagan Day!

  • Bluejay

    it’s also about a very english eccentric dude with a cheeky sense of humour which sometimes doesn’t always translate see Robbie Williams

    I think you’re onto something there, Lisa. I saw Robbie Williams’ televised performance for Live 8 and thought, “Why isn’t this guy bigger over here?” He was completely self-aware and hamming it up and loving it. I grokked what he was doing but I wondered how many others here would.

  • It’s also about a very english eccentric dude with a cheeky sense of humour which sometimes doesn’t always translate see Robbie Williams.

    Which, of course, explains why so many people don’t read Terry Pratchett novels, watch Blackadder or even watch anything with that Hugh Laurie fellow in it.

    Of course, it doesn’t quite explain why all those things became popular in the U.S. anyway.

    And translation is a rather dubious thing. Spanish-language telenovelas have an even bigger language barrier than British shows yet those shows have done quite well both in the U.S. and in other countries outside of Latin America. And not every one who watches them is necessarily Hispanic.

    Plus there’s no guarantee that you’re going to like anything just because it’s in your native tongue.

    I can think of a lot of American items–Woody Allen movies, gangsta rap albums, Dave Matthews songs, etc.–which I don’t necessarily like even though I’m a part of the culture that produced them.

    And my Mexican-born father liked many things–Mozart tunes, Andrew Wyeth paintings, Tammy Wynette songs, Johnny Cash records, Seinfeld episodes–that aren’t normally linked with Mexican culture.

  • CB

    So are you saying that a state with 0 people per square mile would have perfect roads? The weather might have something to say about that.

    No, Smartiac, he’s saying that a lot of the damage to roads is caused by the vehicles using them and that this damage is proportional to the number/mass of cars that drive over it. and if you doubt that, any transportation engineer on earth could set you straight. Btw the gas tax is, to a large extent, a proxy for a road use tax.

    So why does Arizona have better roads than California, and Wisconson better than Illinois? Less traffic. It’s that simple. They all experience wear and tear from weather (Arizona and southern california much less so), but it’s wear and tear from vehicles that’s making the difference.

    And now, Captain Slowly and Patiently Explaining the Obvious Yet Bewilderingly Misunderstood must be off! *flies away*

  • LaSargenta

    I’ve got to say, I agree with Tonio about sweeping generalizations. And I think it is ludicrous to think that there is a political component in an audience that would prevent people from liking a show.

    Personally, I think it has much more to do with access.

    Also, Doctor Who has a long history. There are references to long-ago events in the show. Maybe the fact is that just not enough people knew about it before and might not get enough advertising about it now to suck them in.

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