Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trump's popularity still in the 40 percent region - Why is that?

As February 2017 comes to its 28th and final day, we here at A Certain Point of View checked the Gallup Daily poll to see if President Donald J. Trump's popularity ratings have changed since Friday.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Trump's job approval rating is still abysmally low. Per today's daily poll, only 42% of Americans approve of the President's performance one month into his administration.

Of course, Mr. Trump and his base will say that all negative polls are "fake" and that a vast left-wing conspiracy led by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Bernie Sanders, Elvis Presley, and the Loch Ness monster is behind every "fake news" article, critical blog post, and angry crowd of protesters.

Perhaps the President's job approval ratings would go up if Mr. Trump wasn't such a narcissist who constantly obsesses about crowd sizes at his rallies and speeches, or if he decided to tell the truth more often. And calling off his Administration's war on what conservatives derisively call "the mainstream media" would help matters a lot. (That, of course, entails telling the press actual facts, not Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer's "alternative" ones.)

But except for choosing Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as the replacement for disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and a few other token actions, Mr. Trump and his staff keep making the same mistakes.

Regarding the wave of protests and the string of leaks that have annoyed him and his loyalists since January 20, Mr. Trump blames the previous Administration and its sympathizers still in government.

Per an article on CNN, the President told the Trump-friendly Fox News Channel that former President Obama is the main "bad hombre" that dogs his every move.

A "Fox and Friends" host asks, "It turns out his organization seems to do a lot of these organizing to some of the protests that these Republicans are seeing around the country against you. Do you believe President Obama is behind it and if he is, is that a violation of the so-called unsaid presidents' code?"

Mr. Trump replied, "No, I think he is behind it. I also think it's politics. That's the way it is."

The President also told "Fox and Friends" this nugget of paranoid delusion:

 According to Fox News itself, Mr. Trump said, “I think that President Obama’s behind it because his people are certainly behind it. And some of the leaks possibly come from that group, you know, some of the leaks – which are very serious leaks, because they’re very bad in terms of national security.”

Yeah, right. Dream on, Mr. Trump. You can sell that bill of goods to your supporters. But you can't fool the rest of us. If Americans are protesting, it's because you and your alt-right fan club are trying to turn America into a nationalist, neo-isolationist, and fascist fiefdom. You want to build a wall on the Mexican border that Mexico will not pay for, no matter how often you say it will. You want to beef up a "depleted" military at a time when we have the most powerful armed forces in the world. 

According to Business Insider, the U.S. ranks No. 1 among the world's 20 top military powers: 
  • Budget: $601 billion
  • Active frontline personnel: 1,400,000
  • Tanks: 8,848
  • Total aircraft: 13,892
  • Submarines: 72
Sure, we've been fighting a War on Terror since 2001 and our forces need upgrades and maybe an increase in personnel. But we don't need to increase the military budget as much as you want to do. 

Lastly, the President's popularity won't go up soon unless he stops pandering to his base, especially those who think Stephen Bannon should remain as a member of the National Security Council and that Muslims want to impose Sharia law on the United States, among other apocalyptic delusions. 

But if the past month is any indication, I won't be holding my breath till Mr. Trump changes his ways in the White House.






Star Trek: The Next Generation episode review: 'Unification - Part II'

In 1991, the 
Star Trek franchise celebrated its 25th Anniversary.  Although the feature films which starred the cast from The Original Series (TOS) had lost some momentum due to the lackluster performance of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Paramount Pictures greenlit writer-director Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and scheduled its release date for early December of 1991. 

Although Star Trek VI had a few plot points and one crossover appearance by actor Michael Dorn, the TNG producers came up with a clever concept: why not have an episode set in the TNG era that obliquely referred to the events of The Undiscovered Country which would star Leonard Nimoy as Spock? 

For TNG’s executive producer Rick Berman, Gene Roddenberry’s chosen “heir” to produce TNG and any possible spinoffs, this idea had a lot of appeal.  An episode which featured Spock in a major way would excite the fans and give the show great ratings, while at the same time the vague connection to Star Trek VI would generate excitement for that project and (perhaps) ensure its box office success. 

Nimoy, who was Star Trek VI’s executive producer, saw the logic behind this notion and agreed to appear in Unification, a two-part episode which would air in early November of 1991. 

Because Nimoy’s schedule limited his availability for the production of the two-parter, it was decided to film Unification, Part II first, which is why Paramount listed it as Episode 107 in its episode production roster. 

Unification, Part II
Stardate 45245.8 (Earth Calendar Year 2368) 
Original Air Date: November 11, 1991 
Written by Michael Piller 
Story by Rick Berman & Michael Piller 
Directed by Cliff Bole 

After a circuitous journey that has taken Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) from Vulcan and  the Klingon Empire and across the Neutral Zone, the captain of the Starship Enterprise and his operations manager have arrived on Romulus on stardate 45245.8.  Their purpose: to find Ambassador Spock (Nimoy) and determine why he is on that planet. 

One clue which Picard picked up while visiting the dying Sarek on Vulcan was the revelation that Spock may have come to Romulus to contact Senator Pardek (Malachi Throne), a Romulan politician whom Spock had met years earlier at the Khitomer Conference of 2293. 

But before Picard asks Spock about Pardek, he must first tell the Ambassador that his father has died on Vulcan, as well as chiding him somewhat for carrying out what Picard labels “cowboy diplomacy.” 

"If you wish to undertake a mission with obvious repercussions for the Federation, then you should discuss it with the Federation. I'm here as their representative.

Spock tells Picard that he has been working secretly with Senator Pardek with the goal to reunify the Vulcan and Romulan peoples, which were sundered 2,000 years earlier when some Vulcans refused to accept the peace-through-pursuit of-logic teachings of Surak and left their home system to establish the Romulan Star Empire. 

When Picard inquires as to why Spock decided to act on his own and not through the Federation, the former Starfleet officer explains that he was the one who initiated the first peace overture to the Klingons in 2293, and it was he who cajoled Capt. Kirk into participating in the almost disastrous last mission of the Enterprise-A. 

"It was I who committed Captain Kirk to that peace mission, and I who had to bear the responsibility for the consequences to him and to his crew." 

Unwilling to risk any other Federation personnel’s lives, Spock thus decided to carry out his unification discussions in secret, hoping to avoid any negative consequences to anyone but himself. 

While Picard, Data and Spock work with Pardek and other Romulans who support unification with Vulcan, First Officer Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and the rest of the Enterprise crew are at Qualor II, a combination spaceport and surplus ship depot.  Riker is determined to find out more about a smuggler whose ship was destroyed by the Enterprise during the early stages of the investigation.  Riker is especially keen to know what role was played by Omag (William Bastiani) in the theft of parts and even entire Vulcan vessels. 

As both investigations continue, disturbing signs appear that the Romulan government is on to Spock and Pardek’s small but growing underground movement to promote peaceful reunification between Romulus and Vulcan, and that one of Picard’s most cunning adversaries may be the mastermind of a cunning and dangerous plot to carry out a different type of unification. 

My Take:  Though it is obvious that part of Unification’s second half is essentially a teaser for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the return of Leonard Nimoy as Spock is clearly a major milestone in the Star Trek production crew’s efforts to “bridge the generations.” 

Spock, after all, has always been one of the most favorite TOS characters, so to many fans of the 1966-1969 show, a significant appearance by actor Leonard Nimoy in TNG was a very big deal that said, “Okay, the new show has blazed its own trail, but it’s definitely part of the Star Trek continuity now.” 

Michael Piller, to his credit, does a great job of writing a suspenseful teleplay with many interesting twists and turns. This is not an easy feat to accomplish, given that almost every Star Trek: The Next Generation has two storylines to depict: the A (or main) story and the B (or secondary) subplot. 

Here, the A story is Picard’s search for Spock and its immediate consequences, while the B story (which is somewhat weaker than the Stewart-Nimoy-Spiner half) is Riker’s supporting investigation of the smuggled Vulcan ships and ship parts.  They are separate parts of the puzzle and the focus alternates between each, but eventually they merge in a satisfying fashion. 

Cliff Bole (for whom the blue-skinned Bolian race was named) is a very experienced Star Trek: The Next Generation directorlike his colleague Les Landau, Bole gets superb performances from the established TNG regulars and the various guest stars. Nimoy, whose appearance in TNG would be his last in the chronology of the Star Trek universe until 2009’s Star Trek reboot, is simply marvelous. His rapport with Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner is flawless, leaving some viewers to wish that he had made another guest appearance on TNG before the series ended in 1994.

Star Trek: The Next Generation episode review: 'Unification - Part I'

1991 – the same year in which a U.S.-led coalition forced Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to retreat from Kuwait and the world witnessed the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union – was particularly noteworthy for Star Trek fans. 

In September, the franchise celebrated its Silver Anniversary; 25 years before (on Sept. 8, 1966), Star Trek: The Original Series had had its premiere on NBC and won over an initially modest but loyal fan base which embraced the spacefaring adventures of the Starship Enterprise and her crew. 

Though Star Trek was never a Nielsen ratings champ and lacked a great deal of support from either NBC or Paramount, it was kept on the air (barely) by the fans who wanted to see Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Dr. McCoy carry out the Enterprise’s five-year mission “to explore strange new worlds.  To seek out new life and new civilizations.  To boldly go where no man has gone before.”  (Alas, the five-year mission was cut short when NBC canceled the series in 1969.) 

By 1991, Star Trek was more than just a canceled TV shows resuscitated by means of syndicated reruns: it was a full-blown multi-media franchise, boasting a brief (and non-canonical) TV rebirth as a Saturday morning animated series, a quintet of theatrical films, a (non-canonical) line of novels and other books published by Pocket Books an d, airing since the fall of 1987, a popular TV spin-off set in the 24th Century, Star Trek: The Next Generation. 

Though 1991 would also be marked by the death of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, Paramount would close the Silver Anniversary by releasing two closely-related productions within a few weeks of each other: the made-for-theaters Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s  Unification, Parts I & II

Although Star Trek VI was the last feature film in which the cast of the original series (TOS) appeared, it did have several direct connections to Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG).  Not only did TNG’s Michael Dorn appear as Col. Worf – who, according to Paramount’s press package, was Lt. Worf’s grandfather – but one of its main stars – Leonard Nimoy – has a big role in the two-part Unification, which makes references to some plot points from the then-upcoming Undiscovered Country. 

" ’Cowboy diplomacy?’ " - Spock 

Unification, Part I 
Stardate: 45233.1 (Earth Calendar Year 2368) 
Original Air Date: November 4, 1991 
Written by Jeri Taylor 
Story by Rick Berman & Michael Piller 
Directed by Les Landau 

Two days after being recalled to Starbase 234 from a terraforming mission to Doral I, the Galaxy-class starship Enterprise (NCC-1701-D), it is boarded by Fleet Admiral Brackett (Karen Hensel), who wishes to brief Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) about a troubling incident involving an important Federation diplomat. 

Brackett informs Picard that one of the most respected figures in both the Federation diplomatic corps and Starfleet had vanished three weeks before from his home world of Vulcan.  He’d left all his affairs in order, so it doesn’t look like he has been abducted, but Starfleet Security fears that he may have defected to the Romulan Empire.   Although the Vulcan seemed to have gone off the grid, intelligence agents have found video records showing him on Romulus, the Empire’s capital world. 

The imagery Brackett shows Picard is of poor resolution and at first the Vulcan’s facial features are not recognizable.  However, the ship’s computer, prompted by the admiral, cleans up and enhances a portion of the image, and Picard recognizes the missing diplomat: it is Ambassador Spock (Nimoy), the same Spock who had served as the original Enterprise’s science officer and second in command a century before. 

Brackett tasks the Enterprise and her captain to carry out a very covert mission with various goals.  First, Picard must go to Vulcan and see if he can discover any leads as to why Spock may have defected to a potential enemy power.  Second, there’s the matter of the mysterious explosion of Ferengi freighter which was carrying parts of Vulcan spacecraft in mislabeled containers.  Third, Picard must go to Romulus itself, find Spock, determine if he is a traitor or if he was indeed abducted and, if possible, return him to the Federation. 

In order to accomplish this vital assignment, Picard will not only have to visit a very ill Sarek (Mark Lenard) to get any insight into Spock’s disappearance, but he will also need to make a side jaunt to Q’onos, the Klingon home world to seek help from Chancellor Gowron’s government in order to cross the Romulan Neutral Zone. 

As Picard and Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) begin their trek to Romulus, First Officer Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and the Enterprise follow a series of leads to determine why parts of missing Vulcan ships would be found in a now-destroyed Ferengi freighter. Riker hopes to find out who is behind that mystery, and to determine if there is a connection to Spock’s alleged defection ….. 

My Take:  For many Star Trek: The Next Generation  fans, Unification, Part I was the episode which truly united the new series with the original version of Gene Roddenberry’s 1960s show. 

Airing only a few weeks after Roddenberry’s death at the age of 70 and almost a month before the theatrical release of Star Trek VI, Unification’s two-episode story arc not only served as a clever teaser for the last “original cast” movie, but it marked the first substantial appearance of a major character from the first Star Trek TV series on TNG.  (DeForest Kelley, who played Dr. McCoy in TOS, had reprised his role in TNG’s pilot episode Encounter at Farpoint, but that was only a cameo.) 

Though it was actually shot after Unification, Part II to fit actor Leonard Nimoy’s schedule, Unification, Part I is essentially a ‘setting up of the chessboard” story, albeit a complex and entertaining one. 

Here, Jeri Taylor, working from a story written by producers Rick Berman and Michael Piller, plausibly splits the Enterprise-D crew in order to carry out a two-pronged investigation.  Picard and Data must somehow find their way to Romulus without being captured as Federation spies, while Riker (literally) pieces together the mystery of the purloined Vulcan ship parts 

"I have come on an urgent mission from the Federation. I'm looking for Ambassador Spock."

"Indeed. You have found him, Captain Picard."  – Picard and Spock, setting up Part II 

Because Nimoy’s busy schedule severely limited his availability for his appearance on TNG, Berman, Piller and Taylor had to figure out a way to keep viewers glued to Unification, Part I until the short “tease” at the end of the episode. 

Because Paramount had promoted Spock’s appearance – along with the show’s link to Star Trek VI – quite a bit, most viewers knew that the episode would have a cliff-hanger ending and that Nimoy would somehow be in it.  Knowing this, the writers came up with a mix of subplots that  eventually lead to the payoff encounter between Picard and Spock without spoiling the various “big reveals” of Unification, Part II. 

Though it might seem that Unification, Part I has too many subplots – including a big one that involves Sarek – and takes its time getting from Point A to Point B, Taylor’s teleplay manages to blend drama, comedy, suspense, and pure Star Trek synergy. 

[Sarek has died] 

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The tenor of this mission has changed, Mr. Data; at least, it has for me. We were sent to confront Spock about his disappearance, and now I also have to tell him that his father is dead. 

Lt. Commander Data: I do not entirely understand, sir. As a Vulcan, Ambassador Spock would simply see death as the logical result of his father's illness. 

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: It's never quite that simple, not even for a Vulcan - certainly not for Spock, who is half-Human. Years spent in conflict. And now the chance to resolve those differences is gone. 

Lt. Commander Data: Considering the exceptionally long lifespan of Vulcans, it does seem odd that Sarek and Spock did not choose to resolve those differences in the time allowed. 

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Father and son - both proud, both stubborn, more alike than either of them were prepared to admit. A lifetime spent building emotional barriers; they are very difficult to break down. And now the time has come and it's too late... it's a difficult moment. It's a lonely one. It's a moment that Spock is about to face. 

Director Les Landau, who helmed 58 episodes of four Star Trek spinoff series, gets great performances from the established TNG regulars and the various guest stars.  Mark Lenard makes his final appearance – in the Star Trek chronology – as Sarek, whose death is the first of a major character that remains permanent.   Watching Lenard portraying the former Ambassador to Earth as a Vulcan version of King Lear is definitely a can’t miss viewing experience; there is a sense of awe and great sadness as we see a once formidable diplomat struggle with the Alzheimer-like symptoms of Bendii Syndrome. (There’s also a nod to Dorothy Fontana’s Yesteryear, an episode of the 1970s Star Trek: The Animated Series. TAS is considered by Paramount as non-canon because it was produced by Filmways, but the Spock backstory alluded to in Unification is used to good effect in this scene. 

If there is a problem with Unification, it’s that it does require some familiarity with both TNG and TOS. The issue of Romulan interfering in Klingon domestic policies, which has been depicted in previous episodes (The Mind’s Eye, Redemption, Parts I and II and Reunion) is touched upon here, and some of the TNG characters’ personal issues – depicted in previous shows – are referenced, including Riker’s uneasy relationship with his father.  

All things considered, though, Unification, Part I works well as the first half of a two-part arc; it is tautly paced and well-written, and it’s good to see TOS veterans Nimoy and Lenard in the same episode, even though they don’t share any scenes toget

Book Review: 'Desert Victory: The War for Kuwait'

Military history comes in various flavors, just like ice cream. On one side of the spectrum, you can find books that analyze the wider strategic and tactical aspects of a conflict, with emphasis on politics and the commanders on both sides. On the other, you find books that not only deal with the "big picture" but also strive to show the conflict from the combatants' vantage point.

Desert Victory: The War for Kuwait is one of those "big picture" books that focuses more on the strategies and tactics used by both Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and President George H.W. Bush and their respective military commanders. Written shortly after the war (it was published in the fall of 1991) by noted historian and military analyst Norman Friedman,

Desert Victory traces the roots of the first Persian Gulf War to Saddam's rise to power in the late 1970s, his disastrous foray into Iran in 1980, the misguided policies of moderate Arab countries and two U.S. administrations to support Iraq (a mostly Shi'a Muslim country ruled by a Sunni Arab minority) against the perceived threat from Shiite Iran and the genesis of Saddam's invasion of the tiny but oil-rich emirate on his southern border.

Friedman explains the events of the Persian Gulf War ably and intelligently, analyzing the tactics, strategies and forces employed by both sides. It is a well-researched account of both Operations Desert Shield (the buildup) and Desert Storm, with particular attention being paid to the diplomatic and military forging of the coalition that would liberate Kuwait in February of 1991.

However, readers who prefer the "Cornelius Ryan/Stephen Ambrose" approach to military history are going to be disappointed. There are few eyewitness anecdotes in the text, and the prose does tend to be rather dry.

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 435 pages
  • Publisher: US Naval Institute Press; 1st edition (September 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557502544
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557502544