Sayonara, Sci Fi?

February 22, 2010

There are good sci fi movies, mediocre sci fi movies, bad sci fi movies, and really bad sci fi movies*. And each movie flavor has something to recommend it to viewers. (I have to admit that one of my favorites is The Giant Claw.)

The unifying theme throughout, of course, is the science fiction element.  And from the great movies to those which are laughably awful, the element of science always plays a role in advancing the storyline, developing the characters, or simply defining the world in which the story is set.

But if Prof. Sidney Perkowitz has his way, you may never see another movie like “Avatar”, “Star Trek”,  “Godzilla”, or “The Giant Claw” again. The Guardian is reporting that Dr. Perkowitz isn’t a fan of bad sci in sci fi:

Science fiction movies should be allowed only one major transgression of the laws of physics, according to a US professor who has won backing from a number of his peers after creating a set of guidelines for Hollywood.

The proposals are intended to curb the film industry’s worst abuses of science by confining scriptwriters to plotlines that embrace the suspension of disbelief but stop short of demanding it in every scene.

The guidelines are by Sidney ­Perkowitz, a professor of physics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and a member of the Science and Entertainment Exchange, an advisory body run by the US National Academy of Sciences.

Let’s see… How many different ways is that idea profoundly arrogant and/or stupid?

  • There is no way to know what is absolute scientific fact… Geocentricism was the rage for centuries. Newtonian physics was the be-all and end-all in the mid 1800s. And heavens know that we can’t mess with the speed of light. The bottom line is that today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact.
  • Imagination is a wonderful thing. Consider “Edward Scissorhands”. Now that’s a sweet story, but the scientific implications are ludicrous.
  • When I was a kid, I lived for those stupid “Godzilla” movies. Yeah, they broke every law of physics and common sense, but they made me wonder, and they gave me ideas… Those ideas played no small role in my becoming an engineer.
  • As a writer, I’ll write whatever the hell I want to. So long as I don’t pen the equivalent of “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire, break copyright, or threaten public well being, I’ll write whatever I damn well please. If I write a crap screenplay and it goes down in flames, so be it.

Finally, just who does Sidney ­Perkowitz think he is? How is it that he’s so much smarter than the rest of us that he can recommend such a thing? No, his asinine idea will wither in the light of pragmatism. But it’s still frightening to witness such foolish ideas coming to the fore.

Alan Speakman

*For a list of the best and worst sci fi titles, click here.

Some Sweet Picking on a Saturday

February 20, 2010


Enjoy that wild and crazy guy, Steve Martin,along with Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka as they perform an original piece by Martin, entitled “The Crow.”

Now back to our regularly scheduled Saturday.


Amy Bishop, Destitute and Crazy?

February 19, 2010

Or a paranoid schitzophrenic who’s willing to add perjury to the list of her crimes?

Professor Amy Bishop, the tenure-seeking neurobiologist who cold-bloodedly killed three of her colleagues and seriously injured several more in her shooting spree, is now claiming indigence and has requested a public defender, rather than shelling money out of her own pocket, or that of her husband, James Anderson.

The Huntsville Times is reporting that:

“To get a court-appointed lawyer, UAH shooting suspect Dr. Amy Bishop swore on an affidavit that she had no assets, but records show she and her husband paid $190,000 cash for their south Huntsville home.

Bishop also swore she had no job, but she remains on the UAH payroll in a $66,000-a-year position as an assistant professor. The contract ends in May if UAH doesn’t fire her first, and the school is exploring its options.”

That affidavit asks various questions about Ms. Bishop’s financial situation, including:

  • Do you have a job or work for yourself?
  • Does your husband or wife work
  • Do you or your wife receive benefits from any other source?
  • Do you have any money in any bank, savings and loan, credit union or any other place including cash on hand?
  • Do you own anything of value (land, house, car, etc.) ?

The Times reports that Ms. Bishop answered “No” to each of these questions. Presuming that UAH does, in fact, fire her, she’s out of a job. But is she actually destitute?

What about that home in southeast Huntsville, which Ms. Bishop and her husband apparantly purchased outright for $190,000 back in 2003? Looks like a pretty nice home…

In a pretty nice neighborhood…

And what of her husband, Jim Anderson, chief science officer of Cherokee Labsystems in Huntsville?

What of her other associations with the University, particularly as regards her invention of a new type of cell incubator, and the prize money that garnered?

“Dr. Amy Bishop along with her husband Jim Anderson, developed a “portable cell incubator” which was placed third in state-wide contest, and won them $25,000 of beginning money in a business contest.”

What of her seat on the board of directors of the business founded to market and sell her invention? The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that:

“…Apart from her problems with tenure, Amy Bishop was quite happy and successful in her relationship with the university over her invention of a new kind of cell incubator, according to a business partner.

The invention, called the InQ, is an integrated machine for growing and examining cell cultures, in a manner that its developers are touting as wholesale advance over the archaic 133-year-old system of Petri dishes.

Its use could drive scientific advances against nerve-related ailments—such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke—because nerve cells don’t survive more than a day or two in a Petri dish, said Richard E. Reeves, chairman of Prodigy Biosystems, which is making and marketing the device…

The university, which owns the invention, brought it to BizTech, a business-incubator company, which used financing from Mr. Reeves’s Huntsville Angel Network to create a firm, Prodigy Biosystems, to make and sell InQ. Ms. Bishop serves on Prodigy’s Board of Directors.

Mr. Reeves said he could not discuss financial terms, though he said that the profit-sharing arrangements with the university followed a standard model and that Ms. Bishop was satisfied with the relationship.” [emphasis mine]

So here’s a woman who killed her brother with a shotgun, tried to flee by threatening workers at a local car dealership with the same gun, may have sent pipe bombs to a professor reviewing her dissertation, punched a woman in the head in a restaurant, and now has killed three more people.

Do you really think she’s worried about perjury? Me neither.

So we will all continue to pay that “Stupid” tax

UPDATE: Dan Riehl has a round-up of Bishop information. As does Gateway Pundit.


The “Stupid” Tax

February 19, 2010

UPDATE: Here’s a great essay that was written 13 years ago on the same subject, incorporating a terrific analogy. Don’t miss it. 

Yesterday, I read a spot-on article by Dave Ramsey, a best-selling writer, financial expert, radio personality, and author of the weekly column, “Dave Says“. The article so struck me that I requested (and received) permission to reprint it in full here on Grand Rants. It’s really a micro view of what’s happening all over our country today, and in its larger incarnation, it’s a huge reason Tea Party people are mad upset angry active. 

Responsibility leads to wealth

Dear Dave,
Why is it that some people have enough money for pizza, lottery tickets, cable television and cigarettes, but they don’t buy something as inexpensive as renter’s insurance, and then they expect someone else to bail them out when a fire destroys their home?

Dear Keith,
This kind of behavior falls into the Stupid Tax category. It’s an aggravating thing, but at the same time there’s something about fire that elicits sympathy from me. Even if there’s stupidity involved in what happened, it’s such an emotionally devastating event. But I think it’s important to talk about what you’ve brought up. 

Let’s put it another way. Why are there people who get mad at others for building wealth, or expect other people to bail them out after they’ve behaved irresponsibly? Ninety percent of America’s millionaires are first-generation rich. They started with nothing, and instead of buying lottery tickets and smokes, they saved money and bought things like renter’s insurance. They kept things like car insurance and health insurance in place, so that if they totaled their car or had to have an operation, they could pay for it instead of filing bankruptcy! 

In other words, they were responsible. They stayed out of debt because they were mature enough and responsible enough to delay pleasure, and then after years of living this way, they looked up and discovered they were millionaires. That’s how it happens. You delay bits and pieces of fleeting pleasure for a quality life in the future. Now, you don’t trade away all momentary pleasures. You don’t have to completely give up fun to win with money, but you trade impulsive, immature decisions and purchases for the reward of a better life later. 

Most poor people delay none of the pleasures. They live only in the moment, and that’s why they stay poor. If they want a better washer and dryer, they’ll rent-to-own instead of saving up for a little while and buying a decent, used combo in the classifieds. I understand that bad things sometimes happen to good people, and you can end up broke that way, too. But I firmly believe that in most cases, it’s not that they don’t have the money, it’s more a case of they don’t have a vision for the future. They surrender a great life down the road for “Thank God it’s Friday. Oh God, it’s Monday!”

I love Dave’s concept of the “Stupid” tax. And of course it applies to far more than the example cited above. Renter’s insurance, health insurance, getting an education, not having babies at 16 years old, every sensible person can recite the litany of self-indulgent, self-centered, and, frankly, stupid behavior that we all end up paying for. 

And so often this behavior is assisted by vast and expensive government programs which while nominally providing a “safety net” for society, actually end up rewarding the bad behavior and encouraging more of the same. And who pays for all those government programs? Why we do, of course. 

We all pay a “Stupid” tax by subsidizing bad behavior and poor personal choices. And we’ll continue to do so until we as a society require a higher level of personal responsibility of ourselves and each other. And until we elect leaders who do the same. This is part of what the Tea Parties are about, and it’s why Tea Partiers work so hard for Congressional candidates who understand and support this concept of personal responsibility. 

Until that happens though, “Stupid” will drain our monetary resources, as well as sap the lives of those who are dumb enough to rely on social programs for their well being instead of doing for themselves. 

But for now, “Stupid” pays. 


Liz Cheney’s Arm-Candy Surprise

February 18, 2010


Back in May of last year, blog pal Sissy Willis observed that former VP Dick Cheney was the ultimate antidote to Obama. She was correct last May, and based on the response from the CPAC audience, I’d say she’s still correct.

“I think Barack Obama is a one-term president.”

Handsome, direct, smart, succinct, conservative: what’s not to love?


Obama’s Next Tactic – The Executive Order

February 18, 2010

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” – P.T. Barnum

There’s been speculation whether it was really P.T. Barnum that said that or, perhaps, actually Abraham Lincoln who first used it. No matter. Barack Obama seems to have based his entire political career (and his socialist agenda) on the assumption implied in James Thurber’s variation: 

“You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.”

To a political extremist (left-wing or right-wing), the best-kept secret for years has been the sleeping constituent. An American more concerned about the outcome of American Idol than what’s taking place in Washington has been a dream come true. And it’s worked especially well for Barack Hussein Obama, hasn’t it?

But like the Japanese in World War II, Obama pushed the American people until we awoke “with a terrible resolve.” Suddenly, the big smile and teleprompter sincerity aren’t swaying the masses like they used to. And the backlash has begun.

We’ve seen Obama’s approval rating falling faster than any other President as more and more of his socialist agenda becomes known, and as more and more of his “Czars” are exposed as tax-cheats and worse.

Now, key election losses by Democrats to Republicans in several states have served notice: Obama-mania has officially run its course. The recent Senate election in Massachusetts won by Republican Scott Brown to replace Ted Kennedy also ended a filibuster-proof Senate. Given these recent events, it would be easy to think we are well on our way towards regaining control from the Obama-socialist agenda.

But don’t pop the cork on that champagne just yet. We are far, far from the point of celebrating, folks.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has advised Obama to  utilize the “Executive Order” technique used by many Presidents (including Bush and Clinton) to jump-start his agenda. In doing so, he would effectively bypass a Congress whose members are getting more and more reluctant to slit their own political throats by supporting the administration’s agenda. 

What We Can Look Forward To

Obama has  been frustrated by a Congress that has failed to confirm a number of his Cabinet nominees. As Donald Borsch Jr. writes on, Emanuel has been quoted as saying:

“We are reviewing a list of Presidential Executive Orders and directives to get the job done across a front of issues.”

Translation: Obama is going to confirm, by himself, several appointments that Congress hasn’t acted on. And if that works, bend over, folks. If  Congress won’t pass President Obi-Wan Conniver’s  Health Care or Cap & Trade, he may well choose to force it down our throats with an executive order (What the heck did you think this is, folks… a democracy?).

As Borsch writes:

With the Senatorial recess approaching, it would be the perfect time to confirm those (nominees)  he wants with no fuss. In a meeting at the White House, President Obama told Mitch McConnell of Kentucky that he would use his Executive power to confirm nominees if the Senate didn’t get them done before their recess.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing illegal about doing this, believe it or not. Executive Orders do not require Congressional approval to be implemented. They have the same legal status as if passed by Congress. The same with recess appointments which are a bit more short-termed, as recess appointments expire at the end of the Senate’s next session.

Authorization for Executive Orders is specified in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution which grants “executive power” to the President. Section 3 of Article II further clarifies, stipulating that the President “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

There is, of course, a fair amount of controversy when Presidents resort to Executive Orders.  From

Executive Orders are controversial because they allow the President to make major decisions, even law, without the consent of Congress. This, of course, runs against the general logic of the Constitution — that no one should have power to act unilaterally. Nevertheless, Congress often gives the President considerable leeway in implementing and administering federal law and programs. Sometimes, Congress cannot agree exactly how to implement a law or program. In effect, this leaves the decision to the federal agencies involved and the President that stands at their head. When Congress fails to spell out in detail how a law is to be executed, it leaves the door open for the President to provide those details in the form of Executive Orders.

Controversy is no stranger to the previous occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Most Presidents have resorted to using it but sparingly. Some of the more notable uses:

  • Integrating the armed forces (President Harry S. Truman)
  • Desegregation of schools (President Dwight D. Eisenhower)
  • Barring racial discrimination in federal housing, hiring, and contracting  (Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson) 
  • Barring the use of federal funds for advocating abortion (President Ronald Reagan but later reversed by President Bill Clinton)

Now while that would seem to give Obama the green light in regards to things like healthcare and the Cap and Tax bill, there may be some issue as to whether a sitting President can implement something as sweeping as completely doing away with the health care system as it currently exists or fundamentally changing (some say “scuttling”) the free enterprise system by forcing Cap and Tax in this manner.  Nothing as sweeping as these two would-be changes has ever been done via Executive Order… but leave it to Barack Obama to want to be the first. This is the man with the golden ego who, in his own estimation, was destined to do great things.


There are two types of recourse available if he should dare go this route. The first would be legislative recourse. This would require, essentially, a Congressional 2/3 majority which, being an election year, would give some Democrats a chance to redeem themselves with voters if they were to vote to reverse such an executive order. This would, however, require guts on the part of the Congressmen and women, and we all know what a shortage there is in that department.

The second form of recourse is through the courts. This would normally be done on the grounds that the Executive Order exceeds the President’s constitutional powers. Should Obama decide to act on either of these two issues via executive order, there could easily be a case made for a judicial course of action.

In the end, Obama would be wise not to try to implement either healthcare reform or Cap and Tax in this manner. Either one might just stand a chance of being reversed in Congress if enough Democratic members who would like to see their political careers continue vote for what they know their constituents prefer.  

If that doesn’t work, a legal challenge could take long enough to delay implementation until the fall elections give Americans the chance to register their displeasure. Even if that failed, the next President would be able to issue an executive order to reverse Obama’s damage… if it’s not too late to save our economy and free enterprise system. Or if the country simply revolts (Obama would be wise to consider that possibility).

In the end, I believe democracy will prevail. While Obama might be able to thumb his nose at the American people now that he’s in office, the American people may well have ability to reverse his damage.

In any event, if Barack Obama is fool enough to follow Rahm Emanuel’s advice and attempts  to strong-arm his agenda down the throats of the American voter, all he will accomplish in the end is to validate what so many of us have been saying: That he has a socialist agenda that is designed to break our economy, nationalize health care and reduce Americans to relying on the Government for virtually every aspect of life.

Back off, Mr. President.  You don’t have the skills, the knowledge, or the talent to pull this off successfully. You have arrogance, ego, and nothing more than an ideology that has proven itself a failure wherever it has been tried. The American people (you do remember us, don’t you?) have made it abundantly clear we do not want these changes you seek. We may have been sleeping during your campaign, but we are wide awake now and now let us be perfectly clear. Any attempt to implement your socialist agenda against the will of the American people would be seen by millions as nothing less than an act of treason; your legacy reduced to being remembered as the President who sparked the next American revolution.

And you thought Bill Clinton’s legacy was a stain…

Gerry Ashley

Go, West!

February 16, 2010

Now here’s an example of change we can believe in!

If Col. West were to run for President in 2012, I believe I’d vote for him. Does that make me a racist?