Saturday’s Rallies Will Hopefully Be The Start Of A Strong Anti-Trump Protest Movement

Donald Trump got off to a poor start with an attack on the press by his press secretary, while Saturday was a good day for the start of an anti-Trump protest movement. The excitement seen in the participation in the anti-Trump marches shows what could have happened if the Democratic Party was not so foolish as to give Hillary Clinton the nomination. Reporters covering the event found that many women motivated to march against Trump did not see Hillary Clinton as a choice which motivated them to turn out to vote. With a better candidate we could now have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate.

It is estimated that three times as many people marched in Washington than turned out for Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday. Millions more protested in other cities. It remains to be seen whether this will be a sustained movement, but it was an impressive start. The tape of Donald Trump bragging about grabbing women did not derail his campaign as many thought at the time, but the tape has come back to haunt him. Many protestors wore pussy caps. Others, such as Supergirl star Melissa Benoist used this in their signs.

While the protests were in progress, Donald Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer were attacking the press. Donald Trump is as defensive about the small crowds at his inauguration as he is about his “small hands” and what that represents. Speaking at the CIA, Donald Trump even said, “I have a running war with the media.” Ezra Klein wrote that “Trump’s real war isn’t with the media. It’s with facts.”

Trump then had press secretary Sean Spicer call an impromptu briefing in which Spicer lashed the press for estimating crowd size. “Nobody had numbers, because the National Park Service does not put any out,” he insisted. Seconds later, he said: “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, both in person and around the globe.”This, along with much else Spicer said, was plainly untrue. But there’s a strategy at work here. The Trump administration is creating a baseline expectation among its loyalists that they can’t trust anything said by the media. The spat over crowd size is a low-stakes, semi-comic dispute, but the groundwork is being laid for much more consequential debates over what is, and isn’t, true.

Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals.

It also gives the new administration a convenient scapegoat for their continued struggles with public opinion, and their potential future struggles with reality. This kind of “dishonesty from the media,” Spicer said, is making it hard “to bring our country together.” It’s not difficult to imagine the Trump administration disputing bad jobs numbers in the future, or claiming their Obamacare replacement covers everyone when it actually throws millions off insurance.

Spicer ended the statement on a warning. “There has been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility of holding Donald Trump accountable. I am here to tell you that it goes two ways. We are going hold the press accountable as well.”

This is reminiscent of the credibility gap during the Vietnam war. If Trump will outright lie about verifiable facts such as these which are of limited significance, it is doubtful that he will hesitate to lie when it comes to justifying actions while at war, or defending his policies. We have already seen this type of disregard for the truth throughout his campaign. Kellyanne Conway said that the White House press secretary gave “alternative facts.” Alternative facts sure looks like another word for lies.

The White House is being called out for their lying from both the left and the right.  The Weekly Standard wrote:

Crowd size does not matter. At all. It is not correlative with any conceivable marker of presidential success.

Which leads us to the question of why Spicer rushed out on Day 2 of the administration to begin his relationship with the press by insisting on a blatant, demonstrably false, lie. And please understand: That’s what this is. It is not spin, or misrepresentation, or cutting a fine line. It’s a deliberate lie.

And the answer is that this isn’t about Sean Spicer. He’s already been caught lying in the recent past…

Rule #1 for press relations is that you can obfuscate, you can misrepresent, you can shade the truth to a ridiculous degree, or play dumb and pretend not to know things you absolutely do know. But you can’t peddle affirmative, provable falsehoods. And it’s not because there’s some code of honor among press secretaries, but because once you’re a proven liar in public, you can’t adequately serve your principal. Every principal needs a spokesman who has the ability, in a crunch, to tell the press something important and know that they’ll be believed 100 percent, without reservation.

It is debatable as to how much crowd size matters, but I do find it encouraging to see  both that crowd size was much smaller than for Barack Obama’s inauguration, and that far more people were motivated to protest against Trump than to see him inaugurated as president. While it is bad that the White House is already lying to us, it is at least better that most realize when they are lying. If the election had turned out slightly differently in a few states, Hillary Clinton could be president, but we would still have a president who cannot be trusted. Instead of turning out to protest, many of those protesting on Saturday would be defending her and, as we saw during the campaign, this would including defending her false statements. While many of the protesters did vote for Hillary Clinton, many also cheered when Michael Moore said the “old guard” has to go and that “We have to take over the Democratic Party.”

SciFi Weekend: End of Season Twists on Sherlock & The Good Place; Amy Pond; This Is Us; Trump Plaigerizes Batman Villian; Supergirl Melissa Benoist and Arrow Star Stephen Amel on Donald Trump

The week included two shows ending their season with a twist (a tip off that this post has many spoilers). It was notable that the comedy The Good Place did a far better job with its twist than the more serious Sherlock. The Final Problem  had multiple twists. First there was the overall idea, introduced the previous week, that Sherlock has a sister. This week we found the degree to which, despite somehow forgetting her existence, Eurus influenced Sherlock’s behavior.

Mark Gattis defends the flaws in the episode by bragging about how the show is complicated, but that does not justify the cheats and inconsistencies they relied upon. The story was propelled too easily by having Eurus being able to exert mind control over others, freeing Moffat and Gattis of any need to write a more plausible plot. The flat was blown up, with everyone simply jumping out the window and remaining uninjured. It makes no sense that Eurus almost blew her brother up, but later was so upset when Sherlock surprised her by pointing the gun at himself.

The twist with Redbeard was more plausible, but it is an idea which has been used before. This was mishandled in the current story when the police pulled Watson out of the well while he had a chain on his feet. The manner in which Molly was handled only reinforced criticism of how Moffat handles women. Moriety’s suicide did not seem to make much sense in The Reichenbach Fall.  This episode raises the question of whether Eurus gave  him the suggestion to do so, or whether Moriety had a death wish and improvised on his own.

The episode began with a girl on a plane with everyone else, including the pilot, unconscious. The manner in which this was handled was the poorest twist of all. There were many strange things about the situation from Sherlock’s perspective when listening to what he heard on the phone. If this is all the audience encountered we might have have questioned its reality. However we actually saw the scene with a small girl, making it an unfair solution to later find it was Eurus on the phone pretending to be the girl.

Steven Moffat had an explanation for this which I do not agree with, along with other comments on the episode at Entertainment Weekly:

It felt like by bringing back Moriarty you to have your cake and eat it too — he’s back but in flashback so you don’t violate that he died. Can you talk about the decision to bring him back?
There was some unfinished business there, but we were always absolutely clear he was dead. People said we were making that up, but the power of that rooftop scene would have been destroyed in retrospect if he hadn’t really killed himself just to win an argument, which is what happened. It was great to get a bit of Andrew [Scott] back, it didn’t occur to us until quite late in the day that we could just do it. But we needed the flashback to fill in how this had happened. And you’ve got the perfect opportunity to bring back Moriarty and for two minutes to make it seem like he was arriving in the present day. It was fun.

Was it a bit of a cheat to have a different actress play Euros in the plane vs. in the flashbacks? 
No, because that’s a dream, she doesn’t need to look the same. A dream image of yourself you don’t dream of yourself looking as you necessarily are. So I didn’t think so at all.

Some of the elements, from Redbeard to the water motif, extend back further into the series. How long did you know about the major elements of this finale? 
We started talking about him having a sister fairly early on. What if Sherlock had a sister? What would that be like? But we didn’t take it madly seriously. During the planning of [season] 3 we came up with the plotline that we wanted to do. But there are elements from it we’ve been kicking around forever. Some of them have accidentally worked out well. If you go back to “A Scandal in Belgravia” and look at Mark Gattis when he reflects that Sherlock originally wanted to be a pirate but suddenly looks very sad and haunted, it’s very much a long game.

And since we didn’t get any closure on this: What’s now going on with Mycroft and Lady Smallwood and Sherlock and Irene Adler, that we’re not being privileged to witness?
Well, that you’re not privileged to witness it means you’re not going to know! With Lady Smallwood and Mycroft, we might never find out what happened there, and I’m quite content to leave it that way. We don’t have to know everything. And as for Sherlock and Irene Adler, I have no reason to suppose that Sherlock is not telling the truth, that he loves ignoring her texts. There was no new information there. We always known he rescued her and she wasn’t really dead. And if you paid attention you’d have known they’ve remained slightly in touch because there’s a rose — when he’s injured — there’s a single rose in the room. If you think about it, he saves her life, they must have escaped together, obviously there’s some form of contact.

If there is something fans seem upset about with this episode it’s that there’s no resolving scene with Molly after that very effective devastating call to her while she’s in the kitchen. Did you consider doing one? Is it fair to leave her that like that? 
But that’s not how we leave her. People need to learn to face their televisions, we see her later on–

We see her skipping into the room but–
She gets over it! Surely at a certain point you have to figure out that after Sherlock escapes tells her, “I’m really sorry about that, it was a code, I thought your flat was about to blow up.” And she says, “Oh well that’s okay then, you bastard.” And then they go back to normal, that’s what people do. I can’t see why you’d have to play that out. She forgives him, of course, and our newly grown-up Sherlock is more careful with her feelings in the future. In the end of that scene, she’s a bit wounded by it all, but he’s absolutely devastated. He smashes up the coffin, he’s in pieces, he’s more upset than she is, and that’s a huge step in Sherlock’s development. The question is: Did Sherlock survive that scene? She probably had a drink and went and shagged someone, I dunno. Molly was fine.

We do not know whether Sherlock will be back, and, even with its flaws, the episode works both as a season or series finale. Sherlock and Watson are left to go back to solving crimes as they have done in earlier seasons before the show concentrated more on their ongoing personal stories as opposed to mysteries.

Many other shows besides Sherlock have utilized plot twists, but none did it as well as The Good Place. The plot twists in Westworld were discussed on line long before they were revealed. Mr. Robot relied on plot twists in both the first and second season, These were predicted both years, with some questioning the wisdom of trying it a second time. In contrast, I don’t know of anyone who predicted the huge twist on The Good Place, and yet once revealed it made perfect sense after Kristen Bell’s character figured it out. Ted Danson responded with the perfect diabolical laugh, and went on to wipe the memory of everyone involved to set the stage should there be a second season.

The old broadcast networks have very few new shows worth watching (besides The Good Place, along with Speechless). This is US is probably the best new network drama. It has now been renewed for two additional seasons.

Star Trek Discovery has been delayed again due to scheduling conflicts with its lead, Sonequa Martin-Green. The good news is that James Frain has been cast to play Spock’s father Sarek.

Steven Moffat has received criticism for his treatment of women characters long before the controversy over the scene with Molly in last week’s episode of Sherlock. In a recent interview, Moffat expressed regrets over how he treated the matter of Amy and Rory grieving over the loss of their baby:

In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, Steven Moffat discussed his feelings on how Amy Pond and Rory Williams dealt with the grief of their baby. In “A Good Man Goes to War”, Madame Kovarian kidnapped their daughter Melody. Amy gave birth to her child after being captured by Kovarian, and then Melody disappeared — only for everyone to find out that River Song is the grown-up Melody.

The entire season was a little wibbly wobbly timey wimey but the way that the Ponds dealt with their baby being kidnapped was weak, for lack of a better term. In the interview, Moffat explained why it was hard for him to write their grief.

“Usually, big dramatic things happen in Doctor Who, then the next week everyone’s absolutely fine. I never found a way to have Amy and Rory grieve over their lost baby, and I still don’t know how I would do that. I could never work out how to write that.”

In an interview with The Wrap, Karen Gillan says she would be willing to return to play Amy Pond if asked:

Gillan is also well known for her portrayal as Amelia Pond, co-star to the Eleventh Doctor in the popular BBC adventure series “Doctor Who.” But will the show’s fans see her reprise her role any time soon? Gillan said, “If they ask me, I would be back there in a shot, but I think I’m more excited about seeing Pearl take over as companion, because she was amazing.”

The big event of the week was the inauguration of Donald Trump, making the 2016 election the worst reality show ever. Trump has been accused of plagiarizing from the Batman villain Bain in his acceptance speech:

Compare Trump’s declaration that, “Today’s ceremony, however has very special meaning. Because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another. But we are transferring power from Washington D.C. and giving it back to you… the people.For too long a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have born the cost.Washington flourished but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you.”

Sound familiar? Declareth the cartoon Batman villain: “We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you… the people. Gotham is yours. None shall interfere. Do as you please. Start by storming Blackgate, and freeing the oppressed! Step forward those who would serve. For and army will be raised. The powerful will be ripped from their decadent nests, and cast out into the cold world that we know and endure. Courts will be convened. Spoils will be enjoyed. Blood will be shed. The police will survive, as they learn to serve true justice. This great city… it will endure. Gotham will survive!”

💪#womensmarchonwashington

A photo posted by Melissa Benoist (@melissabenoist) on

Huge crowds are demonstrating against Donald Trump today. At one of them,  Supergirl star Melissa Benoist warned Donald Trump not to try to grab her pussy in the Instagram picture above.

Stephen Amel of Arrow also had some comments on Donald Trump on Facebook:

Bottom line: I don’t really like Donald Trump, I wouldn’t invite him to dinner, I probably wouldn’t stay in a property he owns… but I don’t yet know how he is going to govern. And I think that requires me to (tepidly) reserve judgement. Why? Because – holy shit!! – he’s the President, and citizen or no, America is my home. I pay taxes. I care about the way the government treats its citizens. So… I hope he succeeds for EVERYONE. And I can’t say I completely understand the opposite perspective – hoping for failure – even though I fully support someone’s right to have it.

People might think I live in a bubble, but I actually feel quite the opposite. At 35, I don’t really have experience on my side, but I have been across the spectrum to a pretty strong degree. I’ve lived in two countries, in varying states of financial security and I’ve participated in an industry that celebrates diversity. There’s no place for anything but inclusion, honesty and transparency in 2017. I hope that’s what we get.

Bleeding Cool shows how various comics have recognized the inauguration.

Candidate Trump Becomes President Trump With Cries Of America First

After Donald Trump won the nomination, we had hoped that it was just an act to win the Republican nomination, and he would take on a more reasonable tone. Instead he fought with a gold star family and continued to campaign for the presidency as he campaigned for the nomination. After he won the election, we hoped again that he would be more reasonable. Instead he attacked the free press and fought with people ranging from Meryl Streep to John Lewis. We hoped that he might change once he was president, but again their was no pivot, as Trump gave a terrible speech, which was widely criticized on the right as well as on the left.  George Will called it “the most dreadful inaugural address in history” and Joe Scarborough called it “a primal scream aimed at Washington, D.C.”

The speech (full text here) sounded more like a Trump campaign rally than a speech from a newly elected president desiring to unite the nation behind him. He pandered to isolationism, xenophobia, and religious bigotry, stressing the slogan America First, oblivious to its history. Walter Shapiro wrote:

Trump may well be a president who, like automaker Henry Ford, believes that “history is bunk.” But it was striking how much borrowed 1930s imagery was embedded in the 16-minute speech.

Even though the slogan “America First” harks back to Charles Lindbergh and his isolationist (and sometimes anti-Semitic) movement against U.S. entry into World War II, Trump has continued to embrace it with a passion.

There was also an echo of FDR’s 1937 inaugural address as Trump portrayed the America he was inheriting. Roosevelt declared, “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” For President Trump, it was “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones” and “the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives.”

Of course, there is overwhelming evidence that the crime rate has plunged (especially in Trump’s hometown of New York) over the past two decades. And economists will eagerly point out that changing technology (like robotics) have done far more than trade treaties like NAFTA to hollow out America’s 1950s industrial core.

But that’s not the view that the new president saw from the campaign trail and from his fortress of solitude atop Trump Tower. Much about Trump may reflect the cynicism of the eternal huckster, but his portrayal of a dying America calling out for rescue by a superhero seems sincere.

Jonathan Chait wrote that, The System Has Failed and a Con Artist Has Won:

The gall of Trump’s populism is astonishing. “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” he announced, shamelessly. “Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed.” This from the first president in decades to refuse to disclose his tax returns, and the first in centuries to use the presidency to enrich himself and his family!

The presidency raises the stakes of Trump’s con game to a completely new level. In his inaugural address, Trump declared his fealty to the People, promising to unleash untold wealth to them that was being held by elites in Washington and by foreigners. “We will bring back our jobs,” he said. “We will bring back our wealth.” He promised to quash crime and “eradicate” Islamic terrorism “from the face of the Earth.” The grandiosity of these promises is necessary to get even the minority of the electorate that can tolerate Trump to overlook his overt grossness and corruption.

The methods of a skilled con artist have worked just barely well enough to deliver the presidency to Trump. But what happens when his grandiose promises fail to materialize? And when the aspects of his program that he never mentioned in his speech — tax cuts for the rich, stripping away health insurance from millions, massive graft — do take place? A con artist who always escaped his old victims and found new ones has reached the maximal limits of his strategy. What happens when the marks are demanding that the promises he made be redeemed, and there is nowhere for him to go, and he commands the powers of the state?

We only saw a glimpse of policy on Trump’s first day in policy, but it was not good. Despite 2016 being the warmest year on record, climate change has gone down the memory hole at the White House web site. Civil rights and LGBT rights have also disappeared.  A list of Melania’s magazine cover appearances and information on her jewelry line at QVC have been added. (Update: The references to QVC have been removed.)

Many Americans View The Presidential Transition As Ominous

A large number of Americans are looking at the inauguration of Donald Trump with dread. Beyond ideological differences, there are concerns that Donald Trump does not respect the norms which have maintained our democracy.  E.J. Dionne calls this “the most ominous Inauguration Day in modern history.” He wrote, “Trump’s disdain for the democratic disposition we like our presidents to embrace was on display when he dressed down CNN’s Jim Acosta at that news conference last week. Trump’s tone, style and sheer rage (whether real or staged) brought to mind authoritarian leaders who brook no dissent.”

The Associated Press reports on how the presidency is about the change, also discussing Trump failure to respect established norms:

Polls over the past week show that Trump is poised to enter the White House as the least popular president in four decades. Democrats remain staunchly opposed to him, independents have not rallied behind him and even Republicans are less enthusiastic than might be expected, according to the surveys.

In his typical reaction to poll results he doesn’t like, Trump dismissed them as “rigged” in a Tuesday tweet.

It’s exactly that kind of tweet that worries governing experts, lawmakers and other critics, who argue that traditional practices of the presidency protect the health of the American democracy.

“With notable exceptions, we’ve had a political culture in which presidents largely respect a series of unwritten rules that help democracy and the rule of law flourish,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College. “What’s striking about Trump is he flouts norms that have previously been respected by both parties on a daily basis. He calls things into question that have never been questioned before.”

Since winning the election, Trump has attacked Hollywood celebrities, civil rights icons and political rivals alike. He’s moved markets by going after some companies, while praising others.

He’s questioned the legitimacy of American institutions — appearing to trust the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the intelligence agencies he’ll soon oversee, engaging in personal fights with journalists as he assails the free press and questioning the results of the election, even though it put him in office.

With this backdrop, many Americans are more interested in the massive demonstrations expected for inauguration day than in seeing Donald Trump inaugurated. David Weigel points out that in the past, such as when George W. Bush was inaugurated, demonstrations were “dominated by the political fringe.” Now they being embraced by both the Democratic Party and the left:

Democrats and the broader left, recuperating from an election few of them thought they could lose, are organizing one of the broadest — and earliest — opposition campaigns ever to greet a new president. It began with protests in the hours after Trump’s victory, but it has become bolder since, marked most dramatically by nearly 70 Democratic members of Congress boycotting the inauguration itself…

This year, in his enhanced role as a messenger for congressional Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) successfully encouraged 70-odd rallies last weekend in support of the Affordable Care Act, organized on the ground by Democrats and labor groups. Local branches of the Working Families Party, which endorsed Sanders (and de Blasio) in 2016, have organized “Resist Trump Tuesdays,” in which activists have protested inside the offices of Republican legislators or filled the galleries of state legislatures. According to WFP spokesman Joe Dinkin, 450 community planning meetings took place the week before the inauguration.

Donald Trump has made many contradictory statements. While he has given reason to fear he might not respect our political norms, we really do not know yet what he will do. Adam Gopnik warns to be prepared for the worst possible scenario, and offers this advice:

What is to be done? In such a moment of continued emergency, the most important task may be to distinguish as rigorously as possible between new policies and programs that, however awful, are a reflection of the normal oscillation of power, natural in a mature democracy, and those that are not. To borrow from Woody Allen’s distinction between the miserable (something we all are) and the horrible (fortunately suffered by only a few), we must now distinguish resolutely between the sickening and the terrifying. Many programs and policies with which progressive-minded people passionately disagree will be put forward over the next few years. However much or strongly one opposes them, they are, like it or not, the actual agreed-on platform of a dominant national party. On the issue of gun control alone, we’ll get a Supreme Court that won’t reverse the bad decision of Heller, a legislature that will only further diminish sane controls on military weapons in private hands, likely an increase in open-carry laws, and all the murderous rest. All of this will cost kids’ lives and bring much misery.

One may oppose these things—and one should, passionately and permanently—but they are in no sense illegitimate. They are just wrong. They are also reversible by the same laws and rules and norms and judicial and, perhaps most of all, electoral processes that created them. If we want gun control, we need to get more people caring about it and more people in more places voting for it; we cannot complain because people who don’t want gun control don’t give it to us.

Assaults on free speech; the imprisoning of critics and dissidents; attempts, on the Russian model, likely to begin soon, to intimidate critics of the regime with fake charges and conjured-up allegations; the intimidation and intolerance of even mild dissidence (that “Apologize!” tweet directed at members of the “Hamilton” cast who dared to politely petition Mike Pence); not to mention mass deportations or attempts at discrimination by religion—all things that the Trump and his cohorts have openly contemplated or even promised—are not part of the normal oscillations of power and policy. They are unprecedented and, history tells us, likely to be almost impossible to reverse.

So we need to stiffen our spines and broaden our embrace, grasp tightly but reach out far. The conservatives who see Trump for what he is and are shocked by it—and there are many, though not as many as there should be—should be welcomed. We can postpone arguing about the true meaning of the Second Amendment while we band together to fight for the Constitution that precedes it…

The best way to be sure that 2017 is not 1934 is to act as though it were. We must learn and relearn that age’s necessary lessons: that meek submission is the most short-sighted of policies; that waiting for the other, more vulnerable group to protest first will only increase the isolation of us all. We must refuse to think that if we play nice and don’t make trouble, our group won’t be harmed. Calm but consistent opposition shared by a broad front of committed and constitutionally-minded protesters—it’s easy to say, fiendishly hard to do, and necessary to accomplish if we are to save the beautiful music of American democracy.

Data Shows Earth Continues To Get Warmer As Incoming Trump Administration Denies The Science

Climate change deniers have been making fallacious claims of a hiatus in the warming of the planet, based upon cherry picking data. The actual data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and from NASA shows that 2016 was the warmest year on record, with this record having been broken for three consecutive years. The New York Times reports:

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The data show that politicians cannot wish the problem away. The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization.

Chris Mooney noted how Donald Trump and some of his appointees have been making statements which have been contradicted by the scientific evidence:

The record comes just two days before Donald Trump, who has tweeted that global warming is a “hoax,” assumes the presidency and, with it, control over the two science agencies that just announced these records. It is also the same day that Scott Pruitt, Trump’s controversial nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency, is appearing before the Senate in an often tense confirmation hearing in which he has been questioned about climate change. Pruitt has previously written that the “debate” over climate change is “far from settled.”

Trump’s other nominees, such as State Department nominee Rex Tillerson and Interior Department nominee Ryan Zinke, have been less dismissive of climate change in their confirmation hearings, acknowledging at least some human contribution to the phenomenon, but also raising questions either about the extent to which it is human-caused or about our capacity to predict the consequences. On Wednesday, Pruitt acknowledged that climate change is not a “hoax” and said that “the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that in some manner.”

Scientists have been far less guarded. “2016 is a wake-up call in many ways,” Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona, said of the year’s temperatures. “Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is serious.”

Polls: Approval For Trump Falls; Rises For Obama & Obamacare

A new CNN poll shows the same finding as a recent Gallup poll which found that Donald Trump has record low approval for modern presidents:

Donald Trump will become president Friday with an approval rating of just 40%, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll, the lowest of any recent president and 44 points below that of President Barack Obama, the 44th president.

Following a tumultuous transition period, approval ratings for Trump’s handling of the transition are more than 20 points below those for any of his three most recent predecessors. Obama took the oath in 2009 with an 84% approval rating, 67% approved of Clinton’s transition as of late December 1992 and 61% approved of George W. Bush’s transition just before he took office in January 2001.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll had similar findings. Donald Trump has tweeted the polls are rigged.

In contrast, Barack Obama is leaving office with a 58 percent favorability rating. While the news has been dominated by Republican plans to repeal Obamacare, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that the Affordable Care Act is more popular than ever. This poll was conducted before today’s report from the Congressional Budget Office showing that repeal of Obamacare would result in millions of people losing their insurance and in increase in premiums:

  • The number of people who are uninsured would increase by 18 million in the first new plan year following enactment of the bill. Later, after the elimination of the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility and of subsidies for insurance purchased through the ACA marketplaces, that number would increase to 27 million, and then to 32 million in 2026.
  • Premiums in the nongroup market (for individual policies purchased through the marketplaces or directly from insurers) would increase by 20 percent to 25 percent—relative to projections under current law—in the first new plan year following enactment. The increase would reach about 50 percent in the year following the elimination of the Medicaid expansion and the marketplace subsidies, and premiums would about double by 2026.

Both Parties Tainted By Corruption

There are reasons to fear that the Trump administration might set new records for corruption in government, but before Democrats can claim the high moral ground they must recognize the corruption they have both tolerated and ignored from Bill and Hillary Clinton. Two stories today highlight these points.

First CNN, following attacks for spreading fake news by Donald Trump at his recent press conference, has broken some real news regarding one of his cabinet picks:

Rep. Tom Price last year purchased shares in a medical device manufacturer days before introducing legislation that would have directly benefited the company, raising new ethics concerns for President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares last March in Zimmer Biomet, according to House records reviewed by CNN.

Less than a week after the transaction, the Georgia Republican congressman introduced the HIP Act, legislation that would have delayed until 2018 a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulation that industry analysts warned would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet financially once fully implemented.

In potentially related news, The New York Times has a lengthy account of Donald Trump chasing deals in Russia, contradicting the recent statement from his press secretary that, “Mr. Trump does not have any business dealings in/with Russia.”

Today there was also news with the closing of the Clinton Global Initiative to remind us of all the unsavory stories about the Clinton Foundation and how the Clintons have made a fortune selling influence:

…as soon as Clinton lost the election, many of the criticisms directed toward the Clinton Foundation were reaffirmed. Foreign governments began pulling out of annual donations, signaling the organization’s clout was predicated on donor access to the Clintons, rather than its philanthropic work. In November, the Australian government confirmed it “has not renewed any of its partnerships with the scandal-plagued Clinton Foundation, effectively ending 10 years of taxpayer-funded contributions worth more than $88 million.” The government of Norway also drastically reduced their annual donations, which reached $20 million a year in 2015…

WikiLeaks revealed several criticisms of the Clinton Foundation were true, as pay-to-play schemes and the foundation’s corrupt management were exposed. On October 26, The Washington Post reported a memo detailed how the Clinton Foundation was used to boost Bill Clinton’s income.

“The memo, made public Wednesday by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, lays out the aggressive strategy behind lining up the consulting contracts and paid speaking engagements for Bill Clinton that added tens of millions of dollars to the family’s fortune, including during the years that Hillary Clinton led the State Department,” reported The Washington Post. “It describes how Band helped run what he called “Bill Clinton Inc.,” obtaining “in-kind services for the President and his family—for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like.”

The Clinton Foundation‘s downward trajectory ever since since Hillary Clinton’s election loss provides further testimony to claims that the organization was built on greed and the lust for power and wealth—not charity.

I previously posted about the material on the Clinton Foundation leaked by Wikileaks here. As I wrote in another previous post, Clinton unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. I’ve previously discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in greater detail, including here and here. I’ve recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State, while Common Cause called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation well before her nomination.

I bet we will see plenty of rotten things under Trump, but we must not forget this record of corruption from two Democratic leaders.

SciFi Weekend: Sherlock; The Expanse; Deadpool; Stranger Things; Wayward Pines; Twin Peaks; iBoy; Humans; Victoria; John le Carré; Celebrities On Surviving Trump

I am not going to give any spoilers on the season finale of Sherlock which airs tonight but leaked out early, waiting to watch until this is posted, but there remains a lot to say about last week’s episode. Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis spoke about the big twist in The Lying Detective. (Major spoilers for those who have not seen the episode):

At the end of the episode, we found out that the woman pretending to be Watson’s therapist, rush hour crush and Culverton Smith’s daughter were the same person. Not only that, but she was Sherlock and Mycroft’s long lost sister, Eurus (which means east wind).

After a screening at the BAFTA Cymru in Cardiff, the show creators hosted a Q and A where they told all about the chaos that had just ensued.

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat explained how the idea that Sherlock had a sister had been in the back of their minds ever since the first episode. Gatiss said:

It started as a joke years, years ago. Right from the beginning of the first season, there was a line in ‘The Great Game’ when we were sort of sketching in the idea of the Holmes family and there was going to be a line about Mycroft being a member, Sherlock admitting that he was cleverer than him and then him kindly saying, mind you…my sister…

It was absolutely cut off, and that’s really where it all began.

[At the time] we thought, we won’t do too much. And thank god we didn’t, as it gives us this place to go.

But that wasn’t the only shock of Sherlock. People were frankly dumbfounded to see that Watson had been seeing a girl behind Mary’s back. Steven decided to tackle that one, head on, saying:

He’s a fully rounded character. He’s a fully rounded human being with all the normal flaws that people have.”

BuzzFeed then asked him if he was going to be back to his usual self for the next episode, to which he said:

We’re not going to say now that he’s cosy and lovely, you don’t get Martin Freeman to play that.”

The episode even contained a Torchwood Easter egg–a postcard on the mantel with the Torchwood ‘T’ logo. Technically this would place Sherlock in the Doctor Who universe.

The Lying Detective left Radio Times with thirteen burning questions. Fans are looking back through old scenes for clues.

Moffat and Gatiss did tease tonight’s finale:

“It’s a grand old finale. It’s a very very finale finale,” said Moffat, at the BAFTA screening for ‘The Lying Detective’.

“It’s the most like a Universal Sherlock Holmes that we’ve ever done,” Gatiss added. “It’s like a Basil Rathbone one. It’s absolutely crazy.”

The Expanse returns for season 2 on February 1. For those of use who didn’t make it through the entire first season, Syfy has put out a series of videos on the series, such as the one above. For those who want a briefer summary of season 1, below is a recap with cats:

Deadline interviewed the writers of Deadpool about the planned second movie. They also blamed the leak of test footage from the first movie on Putin.

The cast of Stranger Things teased season two in an interview with Vanity Fair.

Wayward Pines will not be returning this summer, but Fox has left open the possibility of it returning in the future. I’m actually happy to hear this. I’ve read the novels the show was based on by Blake Crouch, but the television show is one of many shows in this era of peak TV which I haven’t gotten to yet. Another year might give me a chance of watching the first two seasons before a third if there should be one. Incidentally, Blake Crouch is also the author of Dark Matter (no relationship to the televisions how by that name). The novel is more a page-turner thriller than hard science fiction, but, like his Wayward Pines series, was a quick and enjoyable read, and I’ve seen it on some of lists of top books of 2016. (Also, while not really related, I have used the hiatus in new shows around the holidays to catch up on Syfy’s Dark Matter and will now be able to include it in the weekly show coverage when it returns).

Return to Twin Peaks on May 21:

Kyle MacLachlan reprises his role as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper. TWIN PEAKS, the 18-part limited event series will debut with a two-part premiere on Sunday, May 21 at 9PM ET/PT. Immediately following the premiere, SHOWTIME subscribers will have access to the third and fourth parts, exclusively across the SHOWTIME streaming service, SHOWTIME ANYTIME® and SHOWTIME ON DEMAND®. In its second week, TWIN PEAKS will air the third and fourth parts back-to-back on the linear network, starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT, followed by one-hour parts in subsequent weeks…

Directed entirely by David Lynch, the new SHOWTIME limited event series picks up twenty-five years after the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town were stunned when their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered.

Widely considered one of the most groundbreaking and influential broadcast series of all time, TWIN PEAKS followed the inhabitants of a quaint northwestern town who were stunned after their homecoming queen Laura Palmer was shockingly murdered. The town’s sheriff welcomed the help of FBI agent Dale Cooper, who came to town to investigate the case. As Cooper conducted his search for Laura’s killer, the town’s secrets were gradually exposed. The mystery that ensued set off an eerie chain of events that plunged the inhabitants of Twin Peaks into a darker examination of their very existence. Twenty-five years later, the story continues…

Maisie Williams has a major role in an new superhero movie coming out on Netflix. It has a more modern origin story. Instead of being bit by a radioactive spider, the hero gets his powers from portions of a smartphone embedded in his brain:

Tom is an average teenager whose world is turned on its head when a violent encounter with local thugs leaves fragments of his shattered smartphone embedded in his brain. He wakes from a coma to discover that returning to normal teenage life is impossible because he has developed a strange set of superpowers. With these new powers he sets out to seek revenge on the gang, who also assaulted his best friend Lucy.

iBoy is a Netflix original film starring Bill Milner, Maisie Williams, Miranda Richardson and Rory Kinnear and is available on Netflix globally from January 27th, 2017.

The Hollywood Reporter has news on another Game of Thrones Star. Peter Linklage is engaged in talks to appear in Avengers: Infinity War.

The second season of Humans was excellent, and will become available (legally) in the United States on AMC on February 13. Deadline has some information. Syfy Wire spoke with the showrunners about topics including the comparisons to Westworld:

The showrunners were asked whether they minded that Westworld entered their same thematic storytelling space last year, but Brackley says the more, the merrier. “From our point of view, it’s only a good thing if people are interested in the issues we are all talking about. There’s plenty of room for both of us, and probably more about AI. Our shows are very different.”

Another excellent series from the UK will also become (legally) available in the US. Victoria debuts on PBS tonight. It is often compared to Golden Globe winner, The Crown, with similarities including actors from Doctor Who in key roles. While The Crown had Matt Smith in a supporting role, this one stars Jenna Coleman. Both The Crown and Victoria center around a new Queen and her relationship with the Prime Minister in their first season. Unlike The Crown, in which Elizabeth is married to Philip at the start, Victoria doesn’t meet Albert until later in the first season.  Entertainment Weekly has more on Victoria and spoke with Jenna Coleman:

Apparently there is some other show about British royalty called The Crown, which features your Doctor Who costar Matt Smith. Have you two compared notes?
[Laughs] I think both of us tried to work out our [characters’] relationship to each other. It’s funny, he’s filming the second season in London. I’ve seen all the first, which I think is fantastic.

We already know Victoria will have a second season. In an ideal world, how long will the show run?
It depends on appetite and the pacing. There’s so much story, it could run for 60-odd years!

There is another interview with Jenna Coleman at Collider.

The Night Manager was one of the highlights of 2016. This leaves me optimistic about the next John le Carré adaptation from AMC, The BBC, and The Ink FactoryThe Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

While several celebrities say that at first they were petrified about the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump, they are now singing, I Will Survive. Those singing Andrew Garfield, Chris Pine, Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Matthew McConaughey, and Chris Pine. Needless to say, conservatives don’t find this entertaining. The New York Times looked at how other celebrities such as Judd Apatow are responding in a different manner. I previously posted about reactions to Donald Trump at the Golden Globe Awards, including text and video of Meryl Streep’s speech, here.

Senate To Investigate Alleged Ties Between Trump And Putin

The Hill  and Politco report that the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to probe the alleged connections between Donald Trump and Russia. As long as it is a real investigation, and not a coverup or witch hunt depending upon party affiliation, I’m all for investigating. I’ll go with whatever the facts show. I could be wrong, but at the moment I question if the Russia claims are the new Benghazi.

There is a tendency of people to believe negative things they hear about politicians they do not like. Sometimes they are true, and sometimes they are not. While I do not like Hillary Clinton, and have discussed at length many of the valid criticisms of her, I never bought into many of the claims ranging from Vince Foster to Benghazi. Turning on Fox (which I can only handle in brief spurts) demonstrates that many on the right still believe these things. Despite all the conspiracy theories, multiple investigations have shown that most of what conservatives claimed about Benghazi was false. All that is left is the possibility that Clinton might have involved in spinning the explanation for the attack after the fact based upon what sounded best politically, and it is also possible we were just seeing confusion from the fog of war as opposed to intentional deceit.

I don’t like Trump any more than I like Clinton, and there is also considerable valid criticism of him, but the material recently released regarding Trump’s alleged Russian ties has the same smell of bullshit as that which surrounded Benghazi. Claims of Russian attempts to influence our election are probably valid, just as the United States (including Hillary Clinton) often tries to influence elections in other nations. Circumstantial evidence such as business ties between Trump and associates is insufficient to prove a wider conspiracy.

This all needs to be investigated, but any conclusions ultimately need to be based upon the facts, not whether you dislike Trump for other valid reasons. On the other hand, if there is valid evidence against Trump, this should not be ignored just because you dislike Hillary Clinton, also for multiple other reasons. If the claims are false, they should be demonstrated to be false, as opposed to hiding behind the vastly over-used term fake news.

Whatever the investigation finds, Russian interference is not the main reason Hillary Clinton lost. There are no credible allegations that Russia actually hacked the voting machines, or even faked email. The Wikileaks email was one of many factors which was damaging to the Clinton campaign, but ultimately this just provided evidence of dishonesty on the part of Clinton, and unfair intervention in the campaign by the DNC, which was already known. Similarly, it is foolish to blame James Comey for Clinton’s loss when it was Clinton who both violated the rules regarding handling of email (as documented in the State Department Inspector General report) and who handled classified information in a careless manner, placing her campaign in this situation. Hillary Clinton was the wrong candidate for Democrats to nominate, and she went on to run an inept campaign.

One negative to a two party election system is that some people come out of it seeing one side as good and the other side as bad. Both sides can be bad, and if we are unusually fortunate, perhaps some year we will have an election when both sides are good. Your enemy’s enemy is not necessarily your friend. Disliking Clinton is no reason to like either Trump or Putin, and all of Trump and Putin’s flaws do not make Hillary Clinton acceptable.

Russian Journalist Warns Of Dangers To The Free Press Under Trump

Donald Trump’s confrontation with the press on Wednesday has reinforced the view among civil libertarians that Donald Trump’s election is a threat to the free press. In November, the Freedom of the Press Foundation pointed out that–

he has threatened to sue newspapers or journalists over a dozen times and said he will attempt to “open up libel laws” as president to make it easier to take newspapers to court. He has attacked and insulted members of the media almost daily and blacklisted countless news outlets over the course of his campaign. He has blamed “freedom of the press” for a terrorist attack in New York and has said the press has “too much protection” under the First Amendment.

While much of Trump’s behavior is unprecedented by American standards, Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev found this to be similar to what journalists face in Russia. He wrote:

Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now …

  • Welcome to the era of bullshit.

Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him. He always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in dull, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false moral equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him. So he can throw whatever he wants at you in response, and you’ll just have to swallow it. Some journalists will try to preempt this by asking two questions at once, against the protests of their colleagues also vying for attention, but that also won’t work: he’ll answer the one he thinks is easier, and ignore the other. Others will use this opportunity to go on a long, rambling statement vaguely disguised as a question, but that’s also bad tactics. Non-questions invite non-answers. He’ll mock you for your nervous stuttering and if you’re raising a serious issue, respond with a vague, non-committal statement (“Mr President, what about these horrible human rights abuses in our country?” “Thank you, Miss. This is indeed a very serious issue. Everybody must respect the law. And by the way, don’t human rights abuses happen in other countries as well? Next question please”).

Kovalev had other warnings for the press, such as not to expect any camaraderie from other members of the press: ” It’s in this man’s best interests to pit you against each other, fighting over artificial scarcities like room space, mic time or, of course, his attention.”

While Kovalev addressed this to “my doomed colleagues in the American media,” fortunately the United States is not Russia. We have a tradition of supporting freedom of the press which Russia lacks. Trump might attack journalists, but he is not likely to have them killed as has become far too common in Russia. PolitiFact points out that “Russia currently ranks 180 out of 199 countries for press freedom, behind Iraq, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the international watchdog Freedom House.”

Unlike Russia, elected government officials can be voted out of office, and public opinion has some effect on them. While it is common for winning presidential candidates to receive a positive bounce after being elected, Donald Trump is taking office with record low approval. The latest Gallup poll found:

In Gallup polling conducted two weeks before Inauguration Day, President-elect Donald Trump continues to garner historically low approval for his transition performance, with 51% of Americans disapproving of how he is handling the presidential transition and 44% approving. Last month, the public was split on this question, with 48% approving and 48% disapproving…

Trump’s 48% transition approval rating in December was already the lowest for any presidential transition Gallup has measured, starting with Bill Clinton’s in 1992-1993. Trump’s current rating only further separates him from his predecessors — particularly Barack Obama, who earned 83% approval for his handling of the transition process in January 2009, up from 75% in mid-December 2008….

The last president before Trump to win the election despite losing the national popular vote was George W. Bush in 2000. However, while Bush’s transition scores were lower than those of both his predecessor (Clinton) and his successor (Obama), his 61% approval rating in mid-January 2001 was nowhere near as low as Trump’s is today.