SciFi Weekend: The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; Doctor Who; Legends of Tomorrow; Jessica Jones; Sense8; House of Cards

The Orville concluded its first season with Mad Idolatry, an episode which might have been better if the didn’t try to cram so much into the episode. Much of the humor came from Captain Mercer trying to find something to do after work, including learning about Moclan culture in a rather painful manner. While entertaining, it might have been better to do this in another episode and allow more time for the rather large themes of the rest of the episode.

Kelly was at the center of the two main story lines, both dealing with her relationship with Ed and her being responsible for the “cultural contamination” of an alien planet. Plus they threw in having the planet both spending time in two different universes and time passing at a vastly different rate. There was so much going on that it felt like none of the subjects received the time it deserved.

The result of Kelly’s interference was quite predictable, but resolved too easily. First the religious leader accepted her word too quickly, although it didn’t turn out very well for him. Then everything got resolved quite easily when they were visited by the most advanced version of inhabitants of the planet. The message delivered by the ambassadors from the planet, “You must have faith in reason, in discovery, and in the endurance of the logical mind,” certainly would fit in well with the Star Trek universe. The lack of consequences for her violation of what appears to be their version of the Prime Directive, along with Ed leaving it out of the report, both also fit in with many Star Trek episodes

Part of the drama of the episode was also to be Isaac being left on the planet for what 700 years, but this also turned out to be rather inconsequential to the entire story.

Kelly’s decision regarding her relationship was sensible and fit well into the story, but I also wish that this could have been given more time in the episode.

Besides seeing their version of the Prime Directive, we learned in this episode that the Orville’s shuttles have cloaking technology.

Another highlight of the episode was Sports Illustrated model Kyra Santoro as the scantily-clad Ensign Turco. (Video of her cleavage can be seen here). This beat out  Adrianne Palicki’s dress when she went out with Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane).

Overall the episode was enjoyable, but it could have been so much more.

For those who have not been watching, Blastr has 10 Reasons To Binge Watch  Star Trek: Discovery This Holiday Season. Wired questions why some hate the show. Note that CBS All Access does provide one week free, so it would be a good time to check out the entire first half of season one for free before deciding whether you want to continue into the next season.

Alice Eve, who appeared in Star Trek: Into Darkness, has been cast in the second season of Iron Fist.

Quentin Tarantino has pitched an idea for a Star Trek movie and might direct it. Deadline reports that it will be R-rated. Screen Rant speculates on Star Trek episodes he might turn into movies, including both from the original show and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart has expressed interest in reprising his role as Jean-Luc Picrard:

Following the news that Quentin Tarantino was working on a new idea for the franchise alongside J.J. Abrams, with plans to direct, Patrick Stewart has thrown an unlikely hat back into the intergalactic ring.

“People are always saying to me, ‘Will you be Jean-Luc Picard again?’ And I cannot think that would be possible, but there are ways in which something like that might come about,” the iconic actor told The Hollywood Reporter, speaking from the sidelines of the Dubai International Film Festival, where he received an honorary award.

“But one of my dreams is to work with Tarantino. I admire his work so much, and to be in a Tarantino film would give me so much satisfaction. So, if he is going to direct something to do with Star Trek and there was the possibility of dear old Jean-Luc showing up again and doing that for Mr Tarantino, I would embrace it.”

Stewart said one thing was sure about a Tarantino-directed Star Trek installment: it would be gripping.

“The one thing that characterizes all of his movies is that frame by frame, it always challenges, always demands your attention, always demands a very kind of open and generous response to what he does,” he said. “I also love his sense of humor as a filmmaker. So yes, he would be my first choice.”

Netflix has released trailer for the next season of Black Mirror, including U.S.S. Callister, which has the feeling of original Star Trek. Knowing Black Mirror, it is no surprised that something will be off.

BBC America has released another trailer for Twice Upon A Time, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Video above. Nerdist reports on another special to be aired afterwards:

 Immediately following “Twice Upon A Time,” BBC and BBC America will air an all-new special titled, Doctor Who: Farewell to Peter Capaldi. Narrated by actor Colin McFarlane (Jonathan Moran in “Under the Lake” and “Before the Flood”), the episode will feature archival footage and interviews, as well as a look back at Peter Capaldi’s era as the Twelfth Doctor—from his very first script read through to his very last. It will also feature, the BBC stated in a press release, “Steven Moffat reflecting upon his time as a writer and then later as executive producer, revealing some of his best and worst moments from his tenure, as well as his favorite episodes.”

Radio Times has an interview with Steven Moffat here, and an article on David Bradley, who will be playing William Hartnell’s role of the first doctor, here.

The entire Arrowverse concluded the fall season with good cliff hangers or episodes leading into the second half of the season a week after the excellent cross-over episodes with Crisis on Earth-X.

The biggest changes are occurring on Legends of TomorrowConstantine will, at least briefly, be joining the Legends of Tomorrow when they return. There are certainly now openings for him to stick around longer with Victor Garber and Jax Jackson both leaving recently. Wentworth Miller is only expected to be on the show for a short time.

Legends will not return until February 18, taking over Supergirl‘s timeslot for nine weeks to conclude its season. Supergirl will resume on April 16 and conclude on June 18.

Netflix has released the above trailer for Season two of Jessica Jones, which will be released March 8. Entertainment Weekly has this report:

Looks like Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is going to need a stiff drink. The super-powered PI may have killed her mind-controlling abuser Kilgrave (David Tennant) at the end of the Marvel-Netflix drama’s first season, but that doesn’t mean she’s forgotten him — or what he did. “He’s such a part of her construction and her dilemma,” showrunner Melissa Rosenberg says. “I think just having him come back and be that mirror again is really important.”

And Kilgrave’s lingering presence won’t be Jessica’s only problem in season 2. Sure, she did just (very reluctantly) help save New York City, but what happened on The Defenders was just “a blip” in her story, Ritter says. “Jessica is in a pretty dark headspace when we meet her at the top of season 2. What we’ve done again is kept the story very personal. If season 1 was in her head and in her mind, then this season will be more in her heart. It’s still a psychological thriller, but it’s more of an emotional thriller this time.” Rosenberg agrees: “She was somewhat of a mess even before Kilgrave came into her life, so [season 2] is about digging deeper into that chaos and peeling back those layers.” In the end, the mystery of Jessica herself may be her hardest case to crack.

A brief video was posted on Twitter to remind fans that there will be one more episode to wrap up Sense8 following its cancellation after the second season.

Netflix has confirmed that they do plan to resume production on House of Cards following the firing of Kevin Spacey:

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos announced the landmark original series is going into production on its final season next year, but Kevin Spacey will not be part of the show, after reports of sexual misconduct from the star.

“I can actually give you some news in the room today, because we have been in arrangement to produce a sixth season of ‘House of Cards.” It’ll be an eight episode season that’ll start production early ’18, and it will not involve Kevin Spacey,” said Sarandos at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. “It will star Robin Wright. And we’re really excited about bringing some closure to the show for fans.”

Fortunately last season did end on a good point to change the focus of the show from Spacey to Robin Wright’s character. The only downside is that I had hoped that they would wrap up the series with Frank Underwood gradually being exposed and being taken down for his crimes. Instead he will probably be killed off early next season.

Retraction Of False Russiagate Bombshell From CNN Yesterday Was Just One In A Long List Of Retracted Claims By Media

Yesterday we had yet another example of a story being promoted as a bombshell revelation about Trump and Russiagate, only to be retracted soon afterwards. CNN ran a story claiming that Donald Trump received a web address leading to Wikileaks documents on September 4, 2016 and later corrected the date to September 14. This is quite significant as the information was made public by Wikileaks by the time of this email on the fourteenth. Instead of showing collusion with the Trump campaign receiving secret information from Wikileaks as CNN’s story suggested, all they received was a web address to information which had already been released to the public. CBS and MSNBC were making the same claims of this being evidence of collusion until the story was retracted.

What is remarkable about this is that this is just one in a long string of similar events which have fueled this story. Three CNN reporters had already resigned in June over an incorrect Russiagate story.  Last week I noted that ABC News had retracted a story claiming that Michael Flynn had made contact with Russia during the campaign when it actually occurred after Trump had elected. (This, along Jared Kushner’s reported attempt to achieve a secret backdoor channel to Russia in December, also contradict claims of collusion during the election as there would be no need for such backdoor communications by either Flynn or Kushner if they had been colluding during the campaign.)

In November there was the bombshell that Russia had sent money to its embassies marked, “to finance election campaign of 2016.” Rather than evidence of rigging the US election, it turned out that this money was to fund voting in the Russian election by Russian citizens living abroad.

The claim that seventeen intelligence agreed that Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC continues to be cited by Democratic partisans long after it was withdrawn, and despite the lack of any evidence being presented by those in the intelligence community who believe this. Pro-Clinton conspiracy theories are increasingly basing their arguments on claims of secret intelligence which nobody can verify.

Other questionable stories include the Russian web site which, instead of trying to influence the election, contained pictures of puppies. The Congressional testimony showed how ridiculous the entire argument was that Russia influenced the election by using Facebook and Twitter.  It was revealed that Russian-purchased Facebook ads accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election, and many had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton. The biggest success attributed to Russia on Facebook has been to get 5000 to 10,000 people to turn out for a rally–a rally protesting against Donald Trump after the election. The impact on Twitter was not any more significant. The largest of the alleged Russian troll pages had 25,045 followers at its peak, and the others had far fewer.

There have been many other false claims which have been retracted, including the hacking of the US electrical grid and even of our election systems. The Intercept has provided just a small sample:

  • Russia hacked into the U.S. electric grid to deprive Americans of heat during winter (Wash Post)
  • An anonymous group (PropOrNot) documented how major U.S. political sites are Kremlin agents (Wash Post)
  • WikiLeaks has a long, documented relationship with Putin (Guardian)
  • A secret server between Trump and a Russian bank has been discovered (Slate)
  • RT hacked C-SPAN and caused disruption in its broadcast (Fortune)
  • Crowdstrike finds Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app (Crowdstrike)
  • Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states (multiple news outlets, echoing Homeland Security)
  • Links have been found between Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment fund under investigation (CNN)

Many of the Russiagate claims are are looking no more valid than the claims of WMD in Iraq which precipitated that war, or the lies which the United States has used to become in wars elsewhere. This is very risky when applied to a nuclear power–where neoconservatives have also desire to seek regime change.

While Donald Trump very likely has had illegal financial dealings with Russia, and the campaign did seek to obtain information on Clinton from Russia, there is no evidence either of actions by Russia which altered the election result, or of active collusion during the campaign. Even if such evidence should arise in the future, it is clear that Democrats were making such claims without evidence at the time. As was revealed in Shattered, Hillary Clinton devised a strategy of blaming others, including Russia, for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing. The claim that Russia affected the election result was largely based upon the Steele Dossier. Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability.

I suspect that Clinton’s claims that Russia was responsible for her loss continue to receive credibility from much of the media because many are unwilling to believe that Donald Trump could have beaten Hillary Clinton, despite all the evidence that Clinton was an extraordinarily weak and unpopular candidate long before the election. Their personal biases might have led to these repeated examples of journalistic carelessness in which they ran with stories which seemed to confirm their suspicions without doing sufficient fact checking. Retracted stories with false information continue to be cited by Democratic partisans.

Democratic Commission Recommends Changing Rules Which Rigged Primary For Clinton And Cost Democrats The White House

The Democrats lost an election they should have won in 2016 due to rigging the nomination for a candidate too weak to win the nomination on her own, and who was unable to beat a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump in 2016. Having been exposed for rigging the nomination has also alienated many potential voters, putting the party in danger of further losses. The party created a “unity commission” to make recommendations to change some of the party rules which led to the catastrophe in 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s strategy was to promote the view that her nomination was inevitable, and the party’s rules played into this. This included restricting debates so that opposing candidates would receive far less coverage and have less of an opportunity to build early momentum, along with superdelegates and front loading of southern states. While in 2008 the popular vote in Iowa was released, this was not done in 2016, harming Sanders who probably won the popular vote but did not receive a proportionate number of delegates due to having his voters more heavily concentrated in college towns. Failing to announce the popular vote also harms candidates who might receive a significant number of votes but fail to receive delegates.

These rules played into Clinton’s strategy of appearing inevitable by having the news media reporting a strong lead for Clinton in delegates after the votes in New Hampshire and Iowa, despite Sanders receiving more votes. Then there were the shenanigans by Harry Reid in Nevada, followed by favorable states for Clinton on Super Tuesday.

On the other hand, if Clinton had been faced with more debates prior to the primaries, had no lead due to  superdelegates, she didn’t receive assistance from the party in Iowa and Nevada, and didn’t have the southern states coming up next, it is doubtful she could have own. The party also helped in other ways including  changing of fund raising rules to help Clinton, voting restrictions, and giving Clinton unprecedented control over the party during the primary campaign.

Although Bernie Sanders showed an ability to bring many new voters into the party, primary and caucus rules often prevented many of these potential Democratic voters from participating. This both helped Clinton in the primaries and hurt the Democrats in the general election

ABC News reports:

Sources close to the commission who have seen working drafts of its current report tell ABC News the panel plans to recommend dramatic cuts to the individual voting power of superdelegates and new rules around caucuses and primaries to improve access for voters and recordkeeping.

Sources close to the commission say the group’s likely recommendation on superdelegates will be for some select superdelegates such as Congress members, governors and former presidents to continue as unbound superdelegates, but to change the rest of the system so the votes of all other superdelegates are pooled or bound in another way to match up with to the popular vote totals from their respective states.

“One of the big problems you had in the 2016 election was that one candidate had 400 or more quote-unquote “delegates” before a single voter had cast a vote,” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told ABC News of the primary race between the eventual nominee, Hillary Clinton, and Sanders. Weaver now sits on the unity commission.

“So you had Iowa, which was basically a tie, and after New Hampshire the pledged delegates were close to even, but the reporting on TV was 400 for one [candidate] and 50 or 60 for the other candidate. It creates the perception of inevitability from the get-go,” Weaver said.

Sources tell ABC the group will also likely recommend that caucus states allow absentee voting, written votes to facilitate recounts, and record-keeping — all of which would enable voters who can’t participate in long caucus events to quickly write and submit a first-round vote and leave.

In addition, there will likely be recommendations that states report statewide vote totals. In the past, states had only been required to release final delegate totals and not popular vote totals, a practice that many say hurt underdog candidates in early states who may have won 6 or 8 percent of the vote statewide, but not enough to secure a delegate.

The panel is also expected to make recommendations for dramatic changes to how states run primaries.

Commission members appointed by Sanders largely lobbied for the party to mandate open primaries across the board. But that position, sources tell ABC News, was not the consensus of the majority of the commission.

Instead, as a compromise to open up the voting process to new party members, the group will likely suggest that the party penalize states that require residents to switch their party affiliation long before their scheduled primary. In the large, politically progressive state of New York, for example, independent voters who wanted to participate in the 2016 Democratic primary had to have changed their party status a full six months before the primary voting day.

The final document submitted from the group may also include language compelling states to allow same-day party registration.

These proposals from the “unity commission” still need to be approved by the party leadership–the same leadership which recently purged progressives and thought it was a good idea to allow lobbyists to be superdelegates. These are also the same people who thought it was a good idea to rig the 2016 nomination and ignore both the  graft and corruption of Bill and Hillary Clinton and  that her views which are far closer to the views of George Bush and Dick Cheney than much of the Democratic base. It remains to be seen how the party will respond to these recommendations.

Quote of The Day: Seth Meyers On Donald Trump Slurring His Words

Towards the end of the speech on Israel today, President Trump began to slur his words, leading some to speculate that he may have been wearing dentures. But the White House insists that it’s nothing unusual and that most of his words are slurs. –Seth Meyers

Cleaning Up The Democratic Party Requires Removing More Than Franken and Conyers

Several female Democratic Senators have called on Al Franken to step down today. This comes shortly after John Conyers resigned from the House under pressure. Removing those who have engaged in sexual harassment makes sense. However, sexual harassment should not be the only sin which goes punished. After we clear out the perpetrators of sexual harassment I hope that this cleansing of the Democratic Party can continue:

Let’s get rid of those have been willing to put up with the graft and corruption of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Plus there should be a special circle of Hell for anyone who uses the “but her emails” line. To excuse Hillary Clinton over the email scandal means that you 1) support her total refusal to abide by rules put in place by Barack Obama to increase government transparency, 2) are willing to ignore repeated lies from her regarding the matter for months, ultimately being a major reason she lost the presidential election to Donald Trump, and 3) you don’t care that she destroyed potential evidence of her influence peddling at the State Department.

Let’s get rid of Democrats who have embraced neoconservative interventionism, including those who excuse Clinton’s views and policies on Iraq, Libya, and Syria, along with those backing the new Cold War type hysteria regarding Russia.

Let’s get rid of Democrats who are now engaging in McCarthyism, accusing those who question their unfounded claims about Russia of being pro-Putin. (Never mind that they are the ones who are really acting to undermine the liberal opposition to Putin in Russia).

Let’s get rid of Democrats who support a totally undemocratic nomination system for the presidency. This includes those who want to preserve measures in place since McGovern’s loss including superdelegates and front-loading of southern states. Even more so, get rid of those who backed the increased actions to rig the nomination in 2016 including restrictions on debates, changing of fund raising rules to help Clinton, voting restrictions, giving Clinton unprecedented control over the party during the primary campaign, changing how the results in Iowa were announced to help Clinton, and Harry Reid’s games in Nevada to help Clinton. Plus get rid of those backing a purge of the left in the DNC and making lobbyists superdelegates.

Mueller Crosses Trump’s Red Line Issuing Subpoena For Trump’s Bank Records

Donald Trump has warned Robert Mueller not to look into his personal finances, calling this a red line, which probably only served to point out that this (as opposed to collusion with Russia during the 2016 election) is what Trump is really concerned about hiding. Now Mueller has crossed the red line having subpoenaed Trump’s records from Deutsche Bank.

Trump has had dealings with Deutsche Bank since the 1990s, long before he entered politics. Trump’s financial records could provide evidence regarding multiple facets of this case including money laundering by the Trump family, obstruction of justice, possible tax evasion, and whether Russia had leverage over Trump, as well as the more questionable aspect regarding whether Trump and Russia colluded to change the 2016 election result

The Week adds:

Trump has warned that he considers any probe by Mueller into his family’s finances to be “a violation” unless it is directly related to Russia. Due to recent charges against Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, some Senate Democrats have said Mueller’s moves appear to be building a potential obstruction of justice case against Trump himself, Bloomberg Politics writes.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Deutsche Bankreceived a subpoena earlier in the fall from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s office related to the lender’s business with President Donald Trump, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The subpoena requested documents and data about accounts and other dealings tied to client relationships with Mr. Trump and people close to him, the person said. The bank has lent more than $300 million to entities affiliated with Mr. Trump, according to public disclosures…

Deutsche Bank faces ongoing questions about a series of Russian trades that have been scrutinized in multiple investigations in the U.S. and Europe, including in a still-pending U.S. Justice Department probe. The Democratic U.S. lawmakers wanted the bank to detail any ties between those trades or other Russian financing and anyone connected to Mr. Trump, his family or advisers.

Reuters has more on their connection:

Deutsche Bank has lent the Trump Organization hundreds of millions of dollars for real estate ventures and is one of the few major lenders that has given large amounts of credit to Trump in the past decade. A string of bankruptcies at his hotel and casino businesses during the 1990s made most of Wall Street wary of extending him credit.

And from The Guardian:

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, which is investigating the Trump campaign, said Mueller’s reported subpoena of Deutsche Bank “would be a very significant development”.

“If Russia laundered money through the Trump Organization, it would be far more compromising than any salacious video and could be used as leverage against Donald Trump and his associates and family,” Schiff said in a statement. He was referring to a private investigator’s unsubstantiated allegation that the Kremlin had video proof of the president’s involvement in a salacious sex act.

Schiff also noted that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, has stated in the past that the Trump Organization received substantial funding from Russia and that there have been “credible allegations” that Russians have used the company to buy Trump properties for the purpose of money laundering.

Legal experts who are following the investigation said it showed Mueller was “following the money” in his search for possible links between the presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

It also indicated that any investigation into Trump personally may not be limited to the question of whether or not the president sought to obstruct justice when he fired the former FBI chief James Comey.

Finding that Mueller has (as expected) ignored Trump’s warning not to look into his personal finances raises the question of whether Trump would fire Mueller, which would be even more analogous to Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre than Trump’s earlier firing of James Comey was. While the firing of Mueller might momentarily hinder the investigation against him, it might also increase the chances of eventual impeachment of Trump for obstruction of justice, also reminiscent of the fate of Richard Nixon.

RNC To Support Roy Moore

The RNC’s moment of standing for principle didn’t last very long. The Hill reports, RNC reinstates support for Moore after Trump endorsement.

For a brief moment, it appeared that they would draw the line and not support Roy Moore due to his sexual misconduct involving teenagers. It is a shame that they did not stick with this view.

I also wish there was as much outrage in this country over war mongers running for public office as there is over sex offenders.

SciFi Weekend: CW’s Crisis On Earth-X; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who; The Orville; The Avengers Infinity War; American Gods; Stranger Things

Crisis on Earth-X was both the best of the CW cross-overs and was a lot more fun than the DC movie team-ups. They did an excellent job of using most of the characters over the entire four hours, and making a true four hour story as opposed to four related episodes of each CW series. The event ended with Legends of Tomorrow and did include more members of the team as only some had good reason to spend the entire time at the wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West, which started the story. Despite having good reason for the rest of the Legends to only appear in the fourth episode, some of the Legends were important throughout the four hours, especially with many scenes involving Stein and continuing the story line involving his separation from Firestorm.

While the crossover did continue plot lines from the individual shows, it was more notable for the combinations who do are not normally together. This included the hook up between Alex and Sara prior to the wedding, and later having Felicity and Iris team up. There were also plenty of pop culture and genre references, especially with The Man In The High Castle plot line. Comicbook.com has a list of Easter Eggs.

I was surprised that Crisis on Earth-X advanced some major plot threads in the various series, rather than leaving them for the individual shows. (Major spoilers ahead.) While we knew that the marriage of Iris an Barry would eventually occur, Felicity and Oliver turned it into a double wedding. The Stein’s story line not only progressed, but his previously-announced departure from the show (baring further appearances thanks to time travel) also occurred. Bleeding Cool has Victor Garber talking about his time on Legends of Tomorrow.

The event also may have started new story lines. There was the introduction of one new character,  The Ray, and the return of Leonard Snart , except as his good doppelganger, Citizen Cold. Presumably the mystery girl at the wedding was there for a reason–with some speculation as to her identity here.

Of course there were many plot holes and questionable elements. Rather than an infinite number of parallel earths, there are exactly fifty-three, which all have agreed-upon numbers. While people from other earths seem to have far more contact with each other than people from our earth, we are still designated Earth One. A major plot device involved preventing the destruction of the installation used to transport the heroes to Earth-X, but at other times it seems relatively easy to go from one earth to another (or send wedding invitations).

The major villains included doppelgangers of Oliver and Kara, but instead of a Barry’s doppelganger there was a version of Eobard Thawne. It is already quite convoluted to explain how he is around, thanks to time remnants, despite having been removed from existence at the end of season one when his ancestor killed himself. It is even harder to explain why the version seen was from when he appeared like Harrison Wells, other than to give more air time to Tom Cavanagh. Plus when did he learn how to do heart transplants?

Overall it was an enjoyable four hours which was never intended to be thought about very deeply, with the time passing much more quickly than most of the DC movies, which often feel like they are far more than four hours long. Plus, with my daughter’s wedding now less than six months away, it provided me with important warnings of things to be careful about–guests who fail to RSVP and, of course, the danger of a wedding being interrupted by Nazis from a parallel earth. I will be certain to take the proper precautions.

There is behind the scenes information available here.

Jed Whedon’s goal for Agents of SHIELD this year was to “throw them on the craziest roller coaster adventure we could think of.” While we knew since the last season that the season would take place in space, we did not learn the real twist until the season premiere on Friday (spoiler’s head). Not only are they in space, but they have been pulled into the future, and are on a space station with the last remnants of humanity, under Kree rule. Most of human history has been wiped out to help keep humans subservient, except a version of the Framework is still around.

The specifics are vague but the earth has been destroyed, supposedly by Daisy (who does not fall for future pick-up lines). The members of SHIELD were brought due to a legend that they will help save the remaining humans. As we don’t really know the rules of time travel in effect here, I wonder if the ultimate victory will be helping them get out from under Kree rule, or if the end-game will be to prevent this future from happening.

The cast discussed being in space here. Elizabeth Henstridgeand Iain De Caestecke discussed having Simmons and Fitz being separated yet once again here. Screen Rant has a list of Easter eggs.

The BBC has released a teaser poster for Twice Upon A Time, this year’s Christmas episode of Doctor Who, with a motion version here. The official synopsis:

The magical final chapter of the Twelfth Doctor’s (Peter Capaldi) journey sees the Time Lord team up with his former self, the first ever Doctor (David Bradley – Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) and a returning Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), for one last adventure. Two Doctors stranded in an Arctic snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. Enchanted glass people, stealing their victims from frozen time. And a World War One captain destined to die on the battlefield, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story. An uplifting new tale about the power of hope in humanity’s darkest hours, Twice Upon A Time marks the end of an era. But as the Doctor must face his past to decide his future, his journey is only just beginning…

Doctor Who will have both new cast and crew next season. The show will also have a different look. Radio Times reports:

If it’s not exciting enough to get the first female Time Lord on screen, then Doctor Who bosses have further surprises in store: a brand new cinematic look for Jodie Whittaker’s adventures.

The production is being supplied with brand new cameras and lenses which will add a touch of big screen dazzle to the look of the new series according to trade magazine Broadcast

Production house Films at 59, which supplies the BBC’s Doctor Who studios in Roath Lock in Cardiff, is using Cooke anamorphic Prime lenses and Angenieux Optimo anamorphic zooms that will be used with Arri Alexa XT and Alex Mini cameras for series 11.

The intention is to bring an increased cinematic look to the show which started production at the end of October.

According to Bristol-based Films at 59’s Dave Wride this means a whole new visual feel to the show.

“The BBC have made a monumental leap here to enhance the look of Doctor Who and I’m sure the fans will not be disappointed with the distinctly cinematic results that this lens and camera combo will afford them,” he said.

New Dimensions was another solid episode of The Orville. It also helped remedy one of the problems which was seen in a previous episode, Majority Rule. John LeMarr played a key role in that episode, which also served to make it apparent that we really did not know very much about him. We learned that there is much more to him in this episode.

There were the usual references to current and recent literature and pop culture, including Flatland, Doctor Who, Oscar the Grouch’s can, Snoopy’s doghouse, and Dumbo.

The episode also did a good job of mixing humor in the episode. This included yet more practical jokes, leading to Yaphit having to explore Bortus’ GI tract for a portion of himself: “Ah, dude, it stinks down here, what the hell have you been eating?  Is that a boot?”

While we have one more episode to go, I09 has already accumulated a list of the funniest and most surprising moments from The Orville so far. TV Guide has information on this Thursday’s season finale.

The official trailer for Avengers: Infinity Wars is now available, with the movie to be released May 4. Discussion here, here, and here.

The talks between Disney and Fox are back on. While I am concerned about yet further media consolidation, this does have interesting ramifications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Bad news for American Gods with show runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green leaving. While there have been no specifics, most of the reports center around disputes with Starz regarding the budget for the show.

Surprising nobody, Netflix has officially renewed Stranger Things. (Last night I was out for a walk and saw holiday light effects outside of a neighbor’s house which made it look like it was in the Upside Down. Just to be safe, I didn’t get too close.)

Michael Flynn’s Guilty Plea Further Debunks Trump Defenders, But Provides No Support For Claims From Democratic Partisans About 2016 Election

The known facts regarding the Russia investigations continue to contradict the claims of partisans on both sides. Michael Flynn’s guilty plea and deal with Robert Mueller further contradicts the claims of Trump supporters that there is nothing to be investigated. On the other hand, the evidence continues to either fail to substantiate or outright contradict the claims from pro-Clinton partisans that the matter is based upon a conspiracy which altered the results of the 2016 election.

While there is evidence to date for reason to continue to investigate both financial irregularities by Trump and his family, and attempts by Trump to obstruct justice to cover up the activities of his family and close associates, there has been no evidence that any votes were changed, despite attempts by Democratic partisans to claim this based upon rather bizarre logic. Some members of the media, as well as Democratic partisans, are continuing to try to twist the facts to support such claims. ABC News was embarrassed yesterday with a report it later retracted. CNN reported:

ABC News on Friday evening corrected an explosive special report that aired in the morning saying that Donald Trump, as a candidate for president, had asked Michael Flynn to make contact with Russians.

During “World News Tonight,” ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross said the source who had provided the initial information for his story later told him that it was as president-elect, not as a candidate, that Trump asked Flynn to contact the Russians.

The initial report, based on one anonymous source, prompted a dramatic reaction in the financial markets, and the Dow fell more than 350 points

Several hours later, a spokesperson for the network told CNN that Ross would be issuing a “clarification” on “World News Tonight,” which airs at 6:30 p.m. ET.

“[A] clarification tonight on something one of Flynn’s confidants told us and we reported earlier today,” Ross said on the program. “He said the president had asked Flynn to contact Russia during the campaign. He’s now clarifying that saying, according to Flynn, candidate Trump asked him during the campaign to find ways to repair relations with Russia and other world hot spots. And then after the election, the president-elect asked him to contact Russia on issues including working together to fight ISIS.”

Vox did a far better job of separating out the facts from the claims made by Clinton supporters. From their coverage:

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. It’s the biggest development yet in the investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — and the legal move that poses the most direct threat to the Trump presidency itself.

Flynn pleaded guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI on or around January 24 about conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, the Office of the Special Counsel announced Friday. It’s important to note that he did not admit to colluding with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

Other reports also indicate that communications with Russia were regarding matters which had nothing to do with altering the election results, while also contradicting claims from Donald Trump. From The New York Times:

When President Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in February, White House officials portrayed him as a renegade who had acted independently in his discussions with a Russian official during the presidential transition and then lied to his colleagues about the interactions.

But emails among top transition officials, provided or described to The New York Times, suggest that Mr. Flynn was far from a rogue actor. In fact, the emails, coupled with interviews and court documents filed on Friday, showed that Mr. Flynn was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team both before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, about American sanctions against Russia.

While Mr. Trump has disparaged as a Democratic “hoax” any claims that he or his aides had unusual interactions with Russian officials, the records suggest that the Trump transition team was intensely focused on improving relations with Moscow and was willing to intervene to pursue that goal despite a request from the Obama administration that it not sow confusion about official American policy before Mr. Trump took office.

On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.

It is not clear whether Ms. McFarland was saying she believed that the election had in fact been thrown. A White House lawyer said on Friday that she meant only that the Democrats were portraying it that way.

While there might be legal issues with members of the incoming Trump administration trying to negotiate with Russia before Trump took office, along with legal problems arising from the cover-up of such contact, efforts “focused on improving relations with Moscow” after the election are quite different from the Democratic claims of a pre-election conspiracy to affect the election results.

The improvement of relations with Russia might be counter to the goals of Hillary Clinton and her neocon allies who seek regime change in Russia, but improving ties is hardly a sinister goal on the part of Trump.  Democratic partisans might claim that this was being done in return for support from Russia during the election. However, there is no evidence either of actions by Russia which altered the election result, or such a quid quo pro between Trump and Russia. Even if such evidence should arise in the future, it is clear that Democrats were making such claims without evidence at the time. As was revealed in Shattered, Hillary Clinton devised a strategy of blaming others, including Russia, for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing. The claim that Russia affected the election result was largely based upon the Steele Dossier. Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability.

Judicial Watch Releases Documents On Bill Clinton’s Tarmac Meeting With Loretta Lynch

Judicial Watch has released information “29 pages of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents related to the June 27, 2016, tarmac meeting between former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton.” The meeting took place shortly prior to when James Comey interviewed Hillary Clinton regarding classified information on their private server. Their press release concentrates on accusations that “FBI officials were more concerned about leaks than the actual meeting itself. ”

This could be seen as analogous to those who are more concerned with action against those who allegedly hacked the DNC email and released it to Wikileaks as opposed to what was revealed about the actions of the DNC in their email.

In reading through the docments they released, I thought that their greater concern was more a matter of concern over potential security threats from discussing security procedures used by the FBI and Secret Service.

I am surprised that Judicial Watch did not concentrate on what I found to be the most interesting section. See the final document per the link above, which was sent to Michael Kortan, assistant director of the Office of Public Affairs at the FBI, with the name of the sender from the FBI redacted. The document responds to media reports that the FBI ordered no cell phones, photos, or videos at the meeting:

First of all, it isn’t the FBI’s job to to tell journalists or private citizens they can’t take photographs of a former president and the Attorney General? What were the agents going to do, arrest people for taking a picture or video?

Also, if there was nothing wrong with the meeting and it was totally innocent, why were the federal agents instructed to demand no one take a picture?

From there the selection goes on to note that while it is bad that the meeting was held because Hillary Clinton was under investigation, but questioned whether concentrating on Hillary Clinton is “actually letting Lynch and Clinton off the hook a bit.” The document notes that “Clinton himself is under investigation as the Grand Poo-bah at the Clinton Foundation.” Further down on the page it questions: “If the State Department and Hillary Clinton acted improperly or illegally by commingling staff and by granting favors to Clinton Foundation donors, isn’t the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton equally guilty of wrongdoing?”

In the next paragraph: “This may explain why  a day after the surreptitious meeting in Phoneix. Lynch’s Justice Department informed a judge they were going to drag their feet on the release of emails connected with the former president’s foundation and the State Department.” It notes that the DOJ filed a motion seeking a 27-month delay in the release of some documents and that “the public would not be about to read the communications until October 2018, about 22 months into her prospective first term as President.”

The document concludes: “I guess when this all adds up, its clear why Lynch and her FBI agents were so intent on keeping this inappropriate meeting a secret.”

It is also clear why Bill Clinton would want to keep this all a secret. The Clintons have been found to have unethically received payments from multiple parties with decisions before the State Department. This included both donations to the Clinton Foundation and unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton also ignored the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State to disclose such contributions.