Gordon Campbell on the Dotcom/Obamacare rulings and Star Trek

A good morning for the rule of law. The High Court here finds the search of Kim Dotcom’s house to have been illegal and ditto for the seizure of his belongings. While in the US, the Supreme Court reined in its self-destructive tendency to rule along politically partisan lines, and has decided – albeit by a narrow 5:4 margin – that the individual mandate requirement in the Obama healthcare plan is constitutional, after all. Chief Justice John Roberts proved to be the swing vote from the conservative bloc who made the difference, by voting this time with the liberal judges plus the alleged centrist, Anthony Kennedy.

It is still unclear whether our High Court decision will have any meaningful bearing on the more important issue of Dotcom’s extradition to the US, but it’s hardly a good start for the authorities in making that case. Similarly, you’d have hoped that any US Supreme Court bench worthy of the calling would have had difficulty in finding the individual mandate measure to be unconstitutional. Oh I know, it hasn’t stopped them before from being completely outrageous…as with the Bush v Gore ruling that decided the 2000 presidential election, or in the Citizens United case that held corporations to be people, too. And Justice Antonin Scalia has clearly become a national embarrassment.

Obamacare never was a very convincing example of socialism on the hoof. Originally, the individual mandate measure had been added to the Obama plan as a conciliatory gesture to the Republican Party – by offering them an idea first floated by the Heritage Foundation and formerly used as the central plank in the Massachusetts healthcare plan signed into law by a Republican governor called….Mitt Romney. None of which stopped the fruitcakes now running the Republican Party from recoiling from the idea in horror when Obama embraced it, and denouncing it all the way to the steps of the Supreme Court.

Ironically, the Supreme Court decision gives President Obama a short term political victory and a long term liability – in that he will now have to take into the election battle a healthcare plan that has been so distorted and demonised by the Republicans that it is going be a genuine liability on the campaign trail. Whatever the Supreme Court has said, Obamacare is still going to be reviled as socialism by the loony right…but it is also regarded negatively as a watered down compromise by many of Obama’s own supporters – some of whom would have quite liked the Supremes to strike it down, so that the Democrats could start all over again, this time with federally supplied provision of universal healthcare. What would Obama’s critics have called that? Socialism?

john key, star trek, captain kirk, james kirk, gorn
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Star Trekkin’

From all points of the political compass, it seems agreed that the second term of the Key government has been a rolling disaster. In fact, if you’ve started to wonder whether New Zealand isn’t beginning to resemble one of those weekly television series that’s totally jumped the shark and is being kept onscreen solely by the inexplicable popularity of its main character….wonder no more. At his press conference on Monday, Prime Minister John Key unveiled the template. In announcing those vacuous 14 goals for social achievement, Key said that he considered those targets to be “pushing the boundaries” and going “where no previous government has gone before.”

Ay caramba. Star Trek. But of course. Captain James Kirk and Prime Minister John Key have the same initials. James Kirk was born in the year 2233 and had a father called George. John Key was born in 1961 and had a father called George. Kirk captained a ship called the Enterprise to which he claimed to be ‘ married” and which he valued above everything else. Key is married to private enterprise which he values above everything else. Kirk had Spock, the vehicle of pure rationality devoid of human emotion. Key has Steven Joyce. It all fits.

Even the ending. Remember how when Kirk’s successor Captain Picard tries to motivate Kirk to come back from the Nexus for one last battle with arch villainy, what finally swings the deal? It is because Kirk realises that if he stays in the Nexus he won’t be able to make a difference. And when he gives his all in the attempt, what words of consolation does Picard offer to the dying hero? “You made a difference.” Turn to the current issue of the Listener, and how does Key’s vapid non-interview with Guyon Espiner end? With Key saying : “I’m going to stay for as long as I think I can make a difference.” Spooky.

There are, in fact, some (other) genuine links between the mission of the starship Enterprise to strange new worlds, and New Zealand. For starters, there’s the conscious James Kirk/James Cook linkage, which Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry made explicit in the William Shatner pilot episode called “Where No Man Has Gone Before” – which stole its title directly from Captain Cook’s journals: “Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.” Ambition, eh? Which in latter life, turned into the hubris that finally saw Cook killed and eaten in Hawaii, the favourite holiday destination of you know who.

Gene Roddenberry at least, knew that he should quit was while he was still ahead. In 1976, he wondered aloud to the Associated Press whether the simple faith that his followers had in his creations wasn’t in fact based on a sham:

I’m just afraid that if it goes too far and it appears that I have created a philosophy to answer all human ills that someone will stand up and cry, ‘Fraud!’ And with good reason.

Right. We know all about that process. Yet still, the Key government presses on further….because it can’t find reverse. In case you feel like singing along, here’s The Firm with “Star Trekkin’”