A Defeat For Trump And The Religious Right In The GOP Tax Bill

This week has seen some good with the defeat of Roy Moore, some bad with the ending of net neutrality, and we appear to be closer to the Republicans passing a “tax reform” package designed to greatly increase the wealth of the ultra-wealthy. There is a one piece of good news related to the tax bill today. As the Republicans are forced to pass this through budget reconciliation, there are limits on what can be included. The  Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the repeal of the highly popular Johnson Amendment cannot be included.

The Hill reports:

The Senate parliamentarian has blocked language repealing the Johnson Amendment and allowing churches and 501(c)3 nonprofits to endorse candidates and engage in partisan politics from inclusion in the tax bill.

Sen. Ron Wyden‘s (D-Ore.) office confirmed to The Hill on Thursday night that the Senate parliamentarian had determined the inclusion of the Johnson Amendment repeal did not meet Senate rules that require elements of the tax bill to have something to do with the budget.

The Senate is seeking to move a House-Senate conference report under special budgetary rules that prevent Democrats from using a filibuster. To use those rules, all parts of the bill must have a budgetary effect, and the parliamentarian ruled the Johnson language did not meet that standard…

The proposal was a major priority for President Trump, who vowed to repeal the amendment during his 2016 presidential campaign, saying it would “give our churches their voice back.”

Specifically, the House bill would have temporarily allowed nonprofits to engage in political speech in the ordinary course of its activities, so long as the organization didn’t incur significant expenses while doing so.

The Johnson Amendment, named for then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas), has been part of the tax code since 1954. It prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from participating in some political activity.

This is another political setback for Trump, who has (fortunately) failed at getting through much of his agenda or fulfilling most of his campaign promises. To put it in language which Donald Trump would understand, he is a loser.

While a defeat for Trump and the religious right, most Americans should be pleased by this development. A poll earlier this year showed that 72 percent of Americans want to keep the Johnson Amendment. Many church leaders also agree in supporting the Johnson Amendment.

The Washington Post also notes that repeal would have allowed a further increase in dark money in politics:

There were concerns that a repeal would create a new dark-money channel for powerful donors to quietly funnel funds to political candidates. Under the House plan, both the Clinton Foundation and Trump Foundation would be able to openly get involved in U.S. political campaigns, for example.

Freedom Of Information Request Shows Information On Call Logs And Gifts Received By Clinton While Secretary Of State Have Been Kept Secret

Judicial Watch has received additional documents from the State Department regarding Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin which indicates they were allowed to remove papers including call logs and information regarding gifts received. They argue that this information could reflect ties between Clinton’s actions as secretary of State and the Clinton Foundation. It is not clear from the information received whether or not this was personal information.

It must be recalled, as was verified in the State Department Inspector General’s report, that Hillary Clinton violated rules designed to promote transparency as Secretary of State by exclusively using a private server and failing to turn this email over for archiving as required by law until forced to after she left office. She also destroyed over half of the email claiming it was personal, but by comparing the email with the other parties involved, it was found that the email she destroyed included non-personal communication. The FBI report also showed that Clinton has lied to the public and press on multiple points regarding the email scandal, including that she did delete email which she claimed were personal but which contained professional information.

Therefore, while it is not clear whether the information described in this document was personal, claims that information is personal from Clinton cannot be relied upon as being truthful.

From Judicial Watch’s press release:

Judicial Watch today released new U.S. Department of State documents showing former Secretary Hillary Clinton and her then-Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin were permitted to remove electronic and physical records under a claim they were “personal” materials and “unclassified, non-record materials,” including files of Clinton’s calls and schedules, which were not to be made public. The documents show the Obama State Department records would not be “released to the general public under FOIA.”

The new records also show that Huma Abedin was allowed to take five boxes of “physical files” out of the State Department that include records described as “Muslim Engagement Documents.”

…The documents include a list of official and personal calls and schedules that Clinton removed, which carry a special notation that the documents were not to be made public records. The notation is on an addendum to a DS-1904 signed by Clarence N. Finney Jr., then-director of the Office of Correspondence and Records, who was the reviewing officer. (Judicial Watch has a pending request for the deposition of Finney in separate litigation concerning Clinton emails and the Benghazi terrorist attack.)

…The originals of some Clinton documents were retained, such as the call logs and schedules. For other records, including material that predates Clinton’s tenure, there is no indication that a copy was made. The most significant of these are her personal correspondence and gift binders, which could reflect Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative ties.

…The documents indicate that Clinton removed a physical file of “the log of the Secretary’s gifts with pictures of gifts.”

The receipt of gifts by federal employees in the Executive Branch is regulated:

A “prohibited source” [of gifts] under the regulations is one who seeks official action from the employee’s agency; one who does business or seeks to do business with the agency; one whose activities are regulated by the employee’s agency; one whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s official duties; or an organization a majority of whose members fit any of the above categories.

A gift is given “because of” the employee’s official position if it would not have been offered “had the employee not held the status, authority or duties associated with his Federal position.”  Gifts that are “motivated by a family relationship or personal friendship” may therefore be accepted without limitation.

“We already know the Obama State Department let Hillary Clinton steal and then delete her government emails, which included classified information. But these new records show that was only part of the scandal. These new documents show the Obama State Department had a deal with Hillary Clinton to hide her calls logs and schedules, which would be contrary to FOIA and other laws,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “When are the American people going to get an honest investigation of the Clinton crimes?”

In light of the unethical “pay for access practices” which have already been exposed while Clinton was Secretary of State, Judicial Watch does have a valid point that information related to her call logs and gifts received could be pertinent information. 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.

This comes shortly after reports of a pro-Clinton bias among a couple of FBI agents who were involved in the investigation of Hillary Clinton and later the Russia investigation until they were dismissed. One of the dismissed agents had also changed a key phrase in Comey’s report which affected whether Clinton might face criminal prosecution.

USA Today Blasts Donald Trump Following His Attack On Kirsten Gillibrand

The loss by Roy Moore following Donald Trump’s endorsement was not the only humiliation for Donald Trump this week. USA Today, hardly known for their editorials, blasted Trump following his tweet yesterday attacking Kirsten Gillibrand. From their editorial:

A president who’d all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama’s presidential library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes: Our view

With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.

If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office. Let us count the ways:

  • He is enthusiastically supporting Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing — and in one case molesting and in another assaulting — teenagers as young as 14 when Moore was a county prosecutor in his 30s. On Tuesday, Trump summed up his willingness to support a man accused of criminal conduct: “Roy Moore will always vote with us.”
  • Trump apparently is going for some sort of record for lying while in office. As of mid-November, he had made 1,628 misleading or false statements in 298 days in office. That’s 5.5 false claims per day, according to a count kept by The Washington Post’s fact-checkers.
  • Trump takes advantage of any occasion — even Monday’s failed terrorist attack in New York — to stir racial, religious or ethnic strife. Congress “must end chain migration,” he said Monday, because the terror suspect “entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.” So because one man — 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who came from Bangladesh on a family immigrant visa in 2011 —  is accused of attacking America, all immigrants brought to this country by family are suspect? Trump might have some credibility if his criticism of immigrants was solely about terrorists. It isn’t.  It makes no difference to him if an immigrant is a terrorist or a federal judge. He once smeared an Indiana-born judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico. It’s all the same to this president.
  • A man who clearly wants to put his stamp on the government, Trump hasn’t even done his job when it comes to filling key government positions that require Senate confirmation. As of last week, Trump had failed to nominate anyone for 60% of 1,200 key positions he can fill to keep the government running smoothly.
  • Trump has shown contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory.  He has refused to release his tax returns, with the absurd excuse that it’s because he is under audit.  He has refused to put his multibillion dollar business interests in a blind trust and peddles the fiction that putting them in the hands of his sons does the same thing.

Not to mention calling white supremacists “very fine people,” pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a respected FBI director, and pushing the Justice Department to investigate his political foes.

It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

Record Number Of Imprisoned Journalists At Historical High With Actions Against Journalists Encouraged By Donald Trump

The Committee To Protect Journalists reports that, for the second year in a row, the number of journalists in prison around the world is at a historical high. They also argue that Donald Trump’s attacks on the free press contribute to the problem. From their report:

The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide hit another new record in 2017, and for the second consecutive year more than half of those jailed for their work are behind bars in Turkey, China, and Egypt. The pattern reflects a dismal failure by the international community to address a global crisis in freedom of the press.

Far from isolating repressive countries for their authoritarian behavior, the United States, in particular, has cozied up to strongmen such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Chinese President Xi Jinping. At the same time, President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoricfixation on Islamic extremism, and insistence on labeling critical media “fake news” serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists. Globally, nearly three-quarters of journalists are jailed on anti-state charges, many under broad and vague terror laws, while the number imprisoned on a charge of “false news,” though modest, rose to a record 21…

In China, the number of journalists behind bars rose to 41 from 38 a year earlier. On a visit to Beijing in November, Trump made no public reference to human rights, despite an ongoing crackdown that has led to the arrests of Chinese journalists, activists, and lawyers. With tensions high between the U.S. and China’s neighbor North Korea, and Trump keen to renegotiate the trade balance with Beijing, “Trump seemed to signal a reversal of roles: the United States may now need China’s help more than the other way around,” The New York Times wrote.

The visit came shortly after Xi tightened his grip on power at the Communist Party Congress, where his name was written into the Constitution and no successor was identified. According to news reports, analysts don’t expect improvement in human rights.

PolitiFact Awards Trump Lie of The Year Award Regarding Russia But Unfortunately Ignores Lies Which Promote Anti-Russia Hysteria

PolitiFact has awarded Donald Trump the lie of the year for calling interference in the Russian election a “made-up story.” They are correct that Trump has been lying in saying Russia is a “made-up story.” What they miss is that Clinton and many Democrats have also been lying in going far beyond the evidence to use this to excuse Clinton’s loss and to spread anti-Russia hysteria. Their summary of the issue does make many good points, but also leaves out important additional information to place this in context. As a result, while there is no question that Russia attempted to interfere, and they do note that the interference was unlikely to have changed the result of the election, readers of their article do not get the full picture.

There is no question that Russia interfered in the election. Both Russia and the United States have intervened in foreign elections for decades, so it was absurd for Trump to deny any interference. According to a paper on election meddling reviewed by Slate:

Using declassified documents, statements by officials, and journalistic accounts, Levin has found evidence of interference by either the United States or the Soviet Union/Russia in 117 elections around the world between 1946 and 2000, or 11.3 percent of the 937 competitive national-level elections held during this period. Eighty-one of those interventions were by the U.S. while 36 were by the USSR/Russia. They happened in every region of the world, though most commonly in Europe and Latin America. The two powers tended to focus on different countries, though Italy was a favorite of both, receiving eight interventions by the U.S. and four by the Soviets.

What PolitiFact gets wrong is in their interpretation of the information released in the Congressional testimony, leading to them exaggerating the importance of Russia’s interference in 2016 compared to previous years.  PolitiFact notes that, “Facebook estimated that 126 million people were served Russia-influenced content during the two-year period before the election.” This number means far less when put in perspective, with this representing a minuscule portion of Facebook traffic despite sounding like a large number.

When looking at a number like 126 million it is also important to note 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. While PolitiFact is correct that, “Some ads were overtly anti-Clinton,” it leaves out the fact that many of the ads were not anti-Clinton, and many had nothing to do with the election. Many seemed more designed to receive hits than to affect the election result.  Over half the ads were not even seen until after the election. 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.

Similarly there has been a tremendous amount of false or misleading news reports, which were later retracted regarding Russia, which could have influenced readers of PolitFact to rank this lie from Trump as more important than it actually was. It is notable that this was chosen as lie of the year based upon the votes of readers, not any objective measure.

It is significant that Russia did have reason to oppose Clinton in the election. They noted, but played down, how Clinton has also meddled in the Russian election in opposing Putin. With Clinton having a long history of belligerency towards Russia, and with her aligned with neocons who have promoted regime change in Russia, Putin had additional reason to take a side. A recent story in The Atlantic notes:

Putin had always been suspicious of democracy promotion, but two moments convinced him that America was coming for him under its guise. The first was the 2011 nato intervention in Libya, which led, ultimately, to the ousting and gruesome lynching of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Qaddafi. Afterward, many people who interacted with Putin noticed how deeply Qaddafi’s death troubled him. He is said to have watched the video of the killing over and over. “The way Qaddafi died made a profound impact on him,” says Jake Sullivan, a former senior State Department official who met repeatedly with senior Russian officials around that time. Another former senior Obama-administration official describes Putin as “obsessed” with Qaddafi’s death. (The official concedes, “I think we did overreach” in Libya.)

Of course the regime change in Libya was orchestrated by Hillary Clinton, based upon lies. Many of our current problems stem from the irresponsible actions of neocons like Clinton and Bush. Besides affecting US relations with Russia, Clinton’s actions in Libya are directly responsible for the problems we now face in North Korea.

Clinton and many Democrats have been spreading their own lies about Russia to shift the blame for Clinton losing an election against an opponent as terrible as Donald Trump. 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.

While Trump has been lying about Russia, the more important aspects of this story involve financial crimes such as money laundering, and obstruction of justice. Trump has certainly lied in denying that Russia has meddled in our election, but the Democrats have also been lying about the situation, which can lead to catastrophic consequences when applied to a nuclear power, along with encouraging McCarthyism at home by many Democrats.

Report Suggests Mueller Investigating Obstruction Of Justice By Trump (But Still No Evidence Of Collusion Altering Election Result)

Following the reports of a plea deal with Michael Flynn earlier this month, NBC News has a new story which might shed some light on possible crimes committed by Donald Trump which Muller might be investigating. According to the report, the investigation is centering on the period between January 26, 2017 and Flynn’s firing on February 13:

Some of those interviewed by Mueller’s team believe the goal is in part to determine if there was a deliberate effort by President Trump or top officials in the West Wing to cover up the information about Flynn that Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, conveyed to McGahn on Jan. 26. In addition to Flynn, McGahn is also expected to be critical in federal investigators’ attempts to piece together a timeline of those 18 days.

Neither McGahn’s lawyer nor the White House responded to requests for comment. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

When did Trump learn Flynn lied to the FBI?

The obstruction of justice question could hinge on when Trump knew about the content of Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the transition, which were at the crux of Yates’s warning, and when the president learned Flynn had lied about those conversations to the FBI, according to two people familiar with the Mueller probe.

Flynn pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI on Jan. 24, an interview that took place the day after he was sworn in as national security adviser…

Mueller is trying to determine why Flynn remained in his post for 18 days after Trump learned of Yates’ warning, according to two people familiar with the probe. He appears to be interested in whether Trump directed him to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why, the sources said.

If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

Trump denies pressuring Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, and his legal team has disputed any notion of the president obstructing justice.

Trump raised new questions about possible obstruction of justice on Dec. 2 when he wrote on Twitter that he fired Flynn because he had lied to Pence and the FBI, suggesting he already knew Flynn was in legal jeopardy for lying to federal investigators at the time he fired Comey.

“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump wrote. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

Trump lawyer John Dowd later took responsibility for the tweet, saying he had drafted it for the White House social media director to post.

The guilty plea by Flynn and plea deal appear to center around negotiations which Trump and his incoming administration attempting to conduct  with Russia before Trump took office, followed by Flynn lying to the FBI shortly after Trump and Flynn took office. This could possibly result in obstruction of justice charges against Trump if he did tell Flynn to lie and/or Trump did fire James Comey in order to obstruct the investigation of Flynn.

This aspect of the investigation centers around matters which occurred after the campaign and has nothing to do with claims from Hillary Clinton that she lost the 2016 election due to collusion between Donald Trump and Russia which altered the election results. 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. While we have evidence of Mueller investigating matters including obstruction of justice and Trump’s personal financial dealings, there has been no evidence of any collusion between Trump and Clinton which altered the election results.

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