You ever watch Star Trek?
Sure you did.
Each Trekkie has their own favorite flavor, from The Awesome Original Series to the excretable Enterprise.
Whenever I think of Star Trek, I think of the Captain James T. “I can’t hear you over the clanging of my enormous testicles” Kirk version, but for the purpose of this discussion any of the various iterations will do.
Now I love me some Star Trek, I do, but if you watched the show you were forced to accept a lot of outright absurdity: convenient time travel (until it wasn’t), critical equipment that always malfunctioned when you really needed it but otherwise worked without a hitch especially that damned unreliable transporter (Windows Vista is apparently still with us in the 25th Century), physics better suited to a Road Runner cartoon, biology that defied the basic laws of nature including pervasive inter-species breeding resembling the social norm of Appalachian hillbillies (or Scottish sheep herders, depending on which continent you happen to be reading this from), selective causality (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Ensign Redshirt beam down to the planet, guess which one gets his insides liquefied into a thin gruel), miniskirts and fishnet stockings and the Twin Torpedoes Miracle Bra (Who designed the TOS Starfleet Girl Uniform? Hugh Hefner? Of course, that was way better than that “unitard” uniform all the girls in later generations wore. Ugh), the utterly predictable moral failing of the frailer sex (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Ensign Suzy beam over to the Burly Barbarian Ship, guess which one will succumb to her hormones and sell them out), the techno-babble verging on gibberish disguised by pig Latin, and engineering usually indistinguishable from magic (and not the cool Arthur C. Clarke kind of magic technology either).
And then there was the Prime Directive – which the heroes managed to boldly disregard with such predictable regularity that you really had to wonder if that wasn’t the whole damned purpose of their five year mission in the first place.
But hell, Trekkies didn’t watch the show for any of that.
See, they say that enjoyment of science fiction stems from the willing suspension of disbelief. And while Star Trek often stretched that idea to truly ridiculous proportions, it was a great show anyway (well, except for the aforementioned excretable Enterprise).
We watched the show for the characters. And as a diehard science fiction fan, I could happily suspend my disbelief for an hour each week and the enjoy the show.
Except for one little thing.
There was always one thing that bugged the ever living green blood out of me.
And that was this: Anybody, and I mean anybody, could relieve the Captain of his command.
Seriously, embarked admirals, Starfleet Commodores, the First Officer, the doctor, Starfleet cadets, visiting politicians, the Computer, random passengers, time travelers, potted plants, anybody, could relieve the Captain of a Federation Starship. Robot Space Janitor 3rd Class Roomba could relieve the Captain whenever it felt like it. Hell, I’m pretty sure I remember an episode of the excretable Enterprise where Captain Archer was removed from his command by his pet beagle (Just go with me on this. Besides, it could be true, it’s not like anybody actually watched Enterprise anyway). Every single time the captain did something that somebody didn’t like, he was threatened with being removed from command – but in the end, somehow, he (or she, if you’re one of those weirdo Voyager types) always managed to just squeak through and hold onto the Captaincy.
Pithy observation, Nerd Boy, I hear you say in that dubiously apprehensive tone you use when you suddenly find yourself sharing a hotel elevator with a bunch of drunken Appalachian hillbillies dressed up as a Klingon war party. What brings this up?
Well, see, I was reminded of that bit of Trek trivia over the last three days as I watched various politicians threaten, yet again, to shut down the US Government.
Honestly, is it just me? Or does it seem government shutdown is the go-to threat these days?
Better do it my way, or I’ll shut down the government! Yes, Sir, I will and don’t think I won’t! I’ll shut it right the hell down, turn off the lights, take my toys and go home.
Seems anybody can threaten a government shutdown. Don’t like the president? We’ll show him, let’s shut down the government! Don’t want to compromise? It’s my way or I’ll shut down the government! Need to score some political points? Hey, if I have to shut down the government it’s not my fault, it’s those other guys they made me do it! Junior Freshman Congressman? Make your mark, get national recognition, become a household name, shut down the government! Running for president and want to grab some free attention? Look at me shutting down the government! Congressional dining room made your roast lamb filet medium-well instead of medium-rare? The filthy Nazi bastards! Shut down the government! Come on, who’s with me? Let’s shut her down!
Shut down the US Government?
Honestly, when did that become an option?
And not only an option, but the option?
Every damned week it’s another threatened government shutdown. Thursday, the media announced with breathless relief that the House had managed to pass another stopgap spending bill. Yay! The government can stay open!
Right. Big whooptee fucking doo.
The bill managed to avoid shutdown for a whole week. And then? Well, next week lawmakers will have to drag their raggedy asses back from vacation and pass another stopgap bill, or – wait for it, waaaaaaiiiit for it – the government will shut down!
That bill, if it passes, will keep the government clunking along for seven more whole weeks. And then? Well, then the real show begins, because that’s when next year’s budget is due. And, man, if we can’t pass that, well you know what happens then, right?
Congress is already making noises about how they might have to shut the government down, oh noes Captain! I dinnae think she can take it! Woop! Woop! Woop! Red Alert!
Frankly, I’m getting more than a little sick of this bullshit. Since 1977, the House has threatened government shutdown, with varying degrees of will, more than one hundred and fifty times – one hundred and fifty seven times, to be precise, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. That’s an average of four times a year. In fact, since 1978, Congress has managed to complete and pass the annual appropriates bill, i.e. the federal budget, by the due date only three times.
Three times out thirty-three.
You should be able to do the math in your head, but for those who went to the schools where they teach that cavemen frolicked with dinosaurs, your sworn representatives have managed to meet what is arguably their most important constitutionally mandated obligation a bit less than ten percent of the time.
Honestly, what employer would put up with that kind of piss-poor performance?
The federal budget has been due in October every single year for more than two centuries – it’s not like it’s a surprise.
Sure it’s complicated.
Sure it’s fraught with partisan passion.
Sure, about half the time you have to compromise with parties and a president you don’t like.
Sure it’s damned hard and it gets harder and more complex and passionate every year. So what? That’s the job. That’s what congress gets paid to do. That’s why, and I’m just saying here, maybe they ought to get ahead of it, instead of waiting until the last minute, instead of grandstanding and chest beating, instead of threatening us with yet another goddamned government shutdown.
It’s always something. It’s always a crisis. There’s always a growing national debt or communists or terrorists or a war to be fought or an evil empire to be contained or an election to be won or jobs to be created or a bunch of earmarks in states that don’t deserve them or foreign aid to some blighted place. And, hey, if none of that can be used to threaten government shutdown, well then guaranteed Jesus is pissed off about something or other involving a poor woman’s uterus and healthcare for solar powered gay environmentalist weapons manufactures. There’s always some goddamned thing Congress can find to fight over instead of getting the job done on time. Honestly, who acts like this?
The issue this time was disaster funding for victims of the recent east coast hurricane.
Now, to be clear and before we go any further, I do think that we have to get federal spending under control. I don’t think that we can just keep borrowing money from our kid’s future. I do think that American taxpayers have every right to be pissed that their hard earned money went to bankrupted companies or industries that don’t, in fact, need the money. I do think that FEMA and other federal agencies should be held accountable.
However, try as I might, I fail to understand how repeatedly threatening to shut down the government accomplishes any of that.
Just like the bit with the Enterprise’s Captain, this shutdown threat has become a trope – something that happens so often that it’s become a predictable cliché. They have come to the point where they disregard their Prime Directive so often that it’s business as usual. That’s what the US Congress has become, a tired dysfunctional cliché. With every day that passes, it takes a greater and greater suspension of disbelief to put up with exponentially increasing levels of absurdity.
Honestly, it’s really starting to look like a recycled science fiction TV show.
Yesterday there was the mirror universe episode, the one where everybody has a Fu Manchu mustache and is the reverse copy of themselves. You know, the one where the sissy liberal gave the orders to zap the terrorists inside the boarders of an allied country and the conservatives rail about the civil rights of Americans and fair trials.
The day before it was the time travel episode, the one where they go back to Earth in the 1960’s and there are missiles in Cuba – and, of course, it all turns out to be an alien plot.
The week before that it was the bizarro world episode where nothing makes sense – like a rich guy demanding to be taxed more and the greedy politicians demanding to see his tax returns because they think he should give them less money. Meanwhile, banks that were bailed out by taxpayers after cutting 30,000 jobs imposed new fees on the same people in kind of a crucifixion and lions bit of irony, charging them to use their own money while giving the rich a free pass along with the same assholes who caused this mess in the first place. The only thing missing was a large rabbit and the Black Knight.
There was the episode where the smarmy bastard with good hair raises an army of shambling Yahoos with protruding brows in order to overthrow the government, or in this case the Department of Education. My favorite part was the impassioned comment by the Yahoo King where he explained why the masses don’t need no education, “i keep reading ‘republicans don't want education’ i dont think they are the ones who need it, some of you dems do. read this piece and then look at our education levels compaired to the rest of the world. we spend more per child than most and we are producing dummer than most. does this make sence to you, it does not to me. [sic]” It didn’t make sence to me either, they must have let Shatner direct again.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Star Trek if there wasn’t one of those weird sexual mores episodes – you know, the one where they beam down to planet Santorum and the entire army is supposed to be celibate, then Riker causes an interstellar incident by boning some nubile Lieutenant.
You know, I’d be willing to suspend my disbelief, I really would, if the cast was at least likeable. Or if they at least advanced the story. But, seriously, the same damned clichéd crap week after week, a disagreeable cast of b-string actors, and a ten percent accomplishment rate?
If this was Star Trek, these childish idiots would have been dumped unceremoniously out the airlock and left on the planet of ravenous flesh eating space zombies long, long ago.
Of course, if it was left up to me, I’d beam a whole bunch of tribbles right into their …
Uh, never mind.