Politico On “How the Bernie Wing Won the Democratic Primaries”

While there have been many negatives since the 2016 election, including both the presidency of Donald Trump and the Democratic establishment falling into McCarthyism and Cold War Revivalism, one good result was a weakening of the hold by the Clinton/DLC faction on the Democratic Party. A Clinton victory would have probably meant watching the Democrats pushing conservative candidates who would go down to defeat by even more conservative Republicans. Instead we are seeing a chance for more liberal and progressive candidates to run.

Politico has already declared the left to be the winners this year in an article entitled, How the Bernie Wing Won the Democratic Primaries. Here are some excerpts (quoting of which, as usual, does not indicate complete agreement):

In state after state, the left is proving to be the animating force in Democratic primaries, producing a surge of candidates who are forcefully driving the party toward a more liberal orientation on nearly every issue.

These candidates are running on an agenda that moves the party beyond its recent comfort zone and toward single-payer health care, stricter gun control, a $15 minimum wage, more expansive LGBT rights and greater protections for immigrants.

In the surest sign of the reoriented issue landscape, they’re joined by some of the most prominent prospects in the 2020 Democratic presidential field—Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris among them—who are embracing the same agenda.

According to data compiled by the Brookings Institution’s Primaries Project, the number of self-identified, nonincumbent progressive candidates in Texas spiked compared with the previous two election years. This year, there were nearly four times as many progressive candidates as in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of moderate and establishment candidates remained flat for the past three elections in Texas.

Even in Illinois, where the Democratic Party holds most of the levers of power, the data tell a similar story: There were more progressive candidates this year, the Primaries Project reports, than moderate and establishment candidates, by a count of 25 to 21…

The party’s ascendant left is coming after everybody, regardless of the outcome in Lipinski’s race. Progressive energy is pulsing through the primaries, most notably in the proliferation of Trump-backlash grass-roots groups like Indivisible, Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress that are teeming with activists inspired by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. There’s no comparable counterweight within the establishment…

These progressives aren’t necessarily sweeping races up and down the ballot. But they are winning enough of them—and generating enough grass-roots pressure—to continue driving the party leftward.

In Texas, a greater percentage of the progressive candidates either won or advanced to a runoff than the percentage of moderate and establishment candidates who did. In Illinois, the success rate between the wings was about equal. Five moderate or establishment candidates won their primaries, compared with three progressives.

Many on the left will question whether Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris truly embrace the same agenda, but as politicians they definitely see the need to at least give lip service to a more progressive agenda than Hillary Clinton did, despite her weak attempts to modify some of her conservative positions.

As is so often the case with articles which cite issues backed by more progressive candidates, I am also disappointed that nothing is said about Democrats opposing American interventionism and the neoconservative foreign policy which was promoted by their last presidential candidate. Nor was anything said about scaling back the surveillance state, restoring civil liberties lost as a consequence of the “war on terror,” or ending the drug war. It is as if the Democratic Party has stopped trying to dismantle the deleterious policies of George W. Bush.

If the victory is being called a victory by the “Bernie Wing,” in articles such as this, I hope that Bernie Sanders speaks out more on these issues. He has often taken the correct side, even if he has not stressed such issues. Sanders initially ran as an insurgent candidate to raise the economic issues which were more important to him, not expecting to win the 2016 nomination. Now that his wing has a chance of taking over the party, and winning elections at all levels, I hope that he does devote more time to these issues.

Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Understand Why Even Democrats Are Fed Up With Her, So She Again Resorts To Claims Of Sexism

Hillary Clinton never takes responsibility for her actions and will inevitably resort to blaming others, whether it is to blame Russia, James Comey, or sexism. Clinton initially received a lot of negative response from those who disagree with her on both the left and the right. More recently, such as after she demonstrated once again why she lost earlier in March, establishment Democrats, also started advising her to stop saying things which are damaging to the party’s chances for success. Clinton responded by again using the sexism card. The Hill reports:

“I was really struck by how people said that to me — you know, mostly people in the press, for whatever reason — mostly, ‘Go away, go away,’” Clinton said Thursday during an event at Rutgers University.

“And I had one of the young people who works for me go back and do a bit of research. They never said that to any man who was not elected. I was kind of struck by that,” Clinton said.

Clinton’s remarks came in response to a question from Eagleton Institute of Politics director Ruth Mandel about the former Democratic nominee’s reaction to those who say she should “get off the public stage and shut up.”

“I’m really glad that, you know, Al Gore didn’t stop talking about climate change,” Clinton said to applause.

“And I’m really glad John Kerry went to the Senate and became an excellent secretary of State,” the former first lady continued. “And I’m really glad John McCain kept speaking out and standing up and saying what he had to say. And for heavens sakes, Mitt Romney is running for the Senate,” Clinton said.

The 70-year-old ex-secretary of State has taken heat in recent weeks, even among some Democrats, for comments she made about Americans who voted for President Trump in the 2016 race.

Of course this has nothing to do with gender. Al Gore, who had the most cause to complain about the election, avoided the public spotlight after he lost. Mitt Romney also limited political speech until he started to criticize Donald Trump. John Kerry and John McCain returned to the Senate where they did their jobs.

None of the other losing presidential candidates questioned the legitimacy of the elections they lost. When there was concern that Donald Trump would not accept the results of the election, Hillary Clinton called this a “direct threat to our democracy.” Then after she turned out to be the one to lose, Clinton denied the legitimacy of the election. Not long afterwards she tried to rewrite history in a book which attacked the left and blamed multiple others for the loss which she is responsible for. She has been calling for censorship of those who criticize her by calling legitimate criticism “fake news.”

As was revealed in Shattered, Clinton decided to blame others such as Russia for the loss within twenty-four hours of losing. Her claims regarding Russia, which go far beyond the actual evidence, are harmful in many ways. It gives establishment Democrats an excuse to resist reform. It plays into the hands of neocons who desire regime change in Russia, with their claims about Russia being no more truthful than their claims about WMD in Iraq. It is used to justify restrictions on freedom of speech, and has led to McCarthyism from establishment Democrats who claim that criticism stems from support for Putin.

Of course Hillary Clinton has the right to continue to speak publicly, but those of us who disagree with her also have the right to respond–regardless of how much her supporters attempt to suppress criticism of her. It is also understandable that professional politicians in her party, which saw serious losses in the presidential race and down ticket because of Clinton in 2016, do not want Clinton to bring about further losses for their party in 2018.

Quote of the Day: Trump Going To North Korea Compared To Nixon Going To China

“It’s like Richard Nixon going to China, but if Nixon were a moron.” –Jeffrey Lewis, writing in Foreign Affairs about Trump going to North Korea. (Hat tip to Political Wire for link. Picture is of Kim and Trump impersonators from Foreign Affairs.

The Drug War Extends To Medicare Patients

There is wide spread consensus that opiates were overused in the past, and their use has been greatly curtailed in recent years. Many people were placed on high doses for chronic pain when this was considered the standard of care, and the pharmaceutical industry did all it could to promote this practice. The problem is many people who are using high doses safely and responsibly are now being targeted by government efforts to decrease opiate use. While it makes sense to limit new prescriptions, and decrease their use in long-time users when possible, the government has been going overboard in intervening in patient care to decrease their use.

Both in January 2016 and January 2017 I encountered cases where Medicare drug plans abruptly reduced the doses of pain medications they would approve, and Medicare is now considering far more draconian cuts as of January 2018. This is largely based upon distorting recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, with even writers of those guidelines protesting actions by the Medicare plans. Some patients have tried to get around this by paying for part of their prescriptions, but I have recently been informed by local pharmacists that they are now under pressure to stop filling prescriptions for amounts beyond what is approved. This is driving some to the use of cheaper street drugs such as heroin, increasing the risk of overdoses, contrary to the stated goals of regulations to reduce opiate use.

The New York Times has an excellent article on the situation. I have some excerpts below, but recommend reading the full article.

Medicare officials thought they had finally figured out how to do their part to fix the troubling problem of opioids being overprescribed to the old and disabled: In 2016, a staggering one in three of 43.6 million beneficiaries of the federal health insurance program had been prescribed the painkillers.

Medicare, they decided, would now refuse to pay for long-term, high-dose prescriptions; a rule to that effect is expected to be approved on April 2. Some medical experts have praised the regulation as a check on addiction.

But the proposal has also drawn a broad and clamorous blowback from many people who would be directly affected by it, including patients with chronic pain, primary care doctors and experts in pain management and addiction medicine.

Critics say the rule would inject the government into the doctor-patient relationship and could throw patients who lost access to the drugs into withdrawal or even provoke them to buy dangerous street drugs. Although the number of opioid prescriptions has been declining since 2011, they noted, the rate of overdoses attributed to the painkillers and, increasingly, illegal fentanyl and heroin, has escalated.

“The decision to taper opioids should be based on whether the benefits for pain and function outweigh the harm for that patient,” said Dr. Joanna L. Starrels, an opioid researcher and associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “That takes a lot of clinical judgment. It’s individualized and nuanced. We can’t codify it with an arbitrary threshold.”

Dr. Stefan G. Kertesz, who teaches addiction medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, submitted a letter in opposition, signed by 220 professors in academic medicine, experts in addiction treatment and pain management, and patient advocacy groups.

His patients include formerly homeless veterans, many of whom have a constellation of physical and mental health challenges, and struggle with opioid dependence. For them, he said, tapering opioids does not equate with health improvement; on the contrary, he said, some patients contemplate suicide at the prospect of suddenly being plunged into withdrawal.

“A lot of the opioid dose escalation between 2006 and 2011 was terribly ill advised,” Dr. Kertesz said. “But every week I’m trying to mitigate the trauma that results when patients are taken off opioids by clinicians who feel scared. There are superb doctors who taper as part of a consensual process that involves setting up a true care plan. But this isn’t it.”

Some two dozen states and a host of private insurers have already put limits on opioids, and Medicare has been under pressure to do something, too. Last July, a report by the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services raised concerns about “extreme use and questionable prescribing” of opioids to Medicare recipients. In November, a report from the Government Accountability Office took Medicare to task, urging greater oversight of opioid prescriptions…

Opponents of the new limit say that doctors are already overwhelmed with time-consuming paperwork and that many will simply throw up their hands and stop prescribing the drugs altogether.

A delay or denial would put chronic pain patients — or those with inflammatory joint diseases, complex shrapnel injuries or sickle cell disease — at risk of precipitous withdrawal and resurgence of pain, doctors said.

The Medicare proposal relies on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say doctors should not increase an opioid to a dose that is the equivalent of 90 milligrams of morphine.

But experts say that Medicare misread the recommendations — that the C.D.C.’s 90-milligram red flag is for patients in acute pain who are just starting opioid therapy, not patients with chronic pain who have been taking opioids long-term. The acute pain patient, the guidelines say, should first be offered treatments like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. A short course of a low-dose opioid should be a last resort.

“We didn’t take a specific position on people who were already on high doses,” said Dr. Lewis S. Nelson, the chairman of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and University Hospital, who worked on the guidelines.

“We did say that established, high-dose patients might consider dosage reduction to be anxiety-provoking, but that these patients should be offered counseling to re-evaluate,” he added. “There is a difference between a C.D.C. guideline for doctors and a C.M.S. hard stop for insurers and pharmacists.”

Dr. Erin E. Krebs recently released a comprehensive study showing that patients with severe knee pain and back pain who took opioid alternatives did just as well, if not better than, those who took opioids. Nonetheless, she and seven others who worked on the C.D.C. guidelines signed the letter opposing the Medicare rule.

“My concern is that our results could be used to justify aggressive tapering or immediate discontinuation in patients, and that could harm people — even if opioids have no benefit for their pain,” said Dr. Krebs, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.

“Even if we walk away from using opioids for back and knee pain, we can’t walk away from patients who have been treated with opioids for years or even decades now,” she added. “We have created a double tragedy for these people.”

Study Shows How Ineffective Twitter Bots Are In Changing Political Views

This study is not at all surprising, but provides yet another reason to doubt those who claim that the election was stolen from Hillary Clinton due to Russian trolls or other unfavorable comments on social media. The study looked at people arguing politics on Twitter and, as I could have told them, people do not change their political views based upon arguments on line. Here is the abstract:

There is mounting concern that social media sites contribute to political polarization by creating  “echo chambers” that insulate people from opposing views about current events. We surveyed a large sample of Democrats and Republicans who visit Twitter at least three times each week about a range of social policy issues. One week later, we randomly assigned respondents to a treatment condition in which they were offered financial incentives to follow a Twitter bot for one month that exposed them to messages produced by elected officials, organizations, and other opinion leaders with opposing political ideologies. Respondents were re-surveyed at the end of the month to measure the effect of this treatment, and at regular intervals throughout the study period to monitor treatment compliance. We find that Republicans who followed a liberal Twitter bot became substantially more conservative post-treatment, and Democrats who followed a conservative Twitter bot became slightly more liberal post-treatment. These findings have important implications for the interdisciplinary literature on political polarization as well as the emerging field of computational social science.

It is very doubtful that people changed their view of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump based upon Russian bots or anything else they read on Twitter.

I bet that the same would apply to Facebook. Of course there are also multiple other reasons to question the claims that Russian bots or others caused Clinton to lose, as I most recently discussed in this post. Censoring social media, as Hillary Clinton has been suggesting, and Facebook has been practicing, would serve no positive purpose. There are obviously strong reasons to resist such censorship, although establishment Democrats appear oblivious to the impact on civil liberties.

(Hat tip to Salon for link to study).

Bush Said Bolton Not Credible By 2008; Jimmy Carter Calls His Appointment The Worst Mistake Trump Has Made

While George W. Bush initially promoted the career of John Bolton, over time his opinion became closer to Jimmy Carter’s view of him. Max Boot points out that by 2008, George Bush no longer trusted Bolton, pointing to this article from 2008 after Bolton criticized Bush for lifting some of the sanctions on North Korea:

“Let me just say from the outset that I don’t consider Bolton credible,” the president said bitterly. Bush had brought Bolton into the top ranks of his administration, fought for Senate confirmation and, when lawmakers balked, defied critics to give the hawkish aide a recess appointment. “I spent political capital for him,” Bush said, and look what he got in return.

Jimmy Carter calls the appointment of Bolton as National Security Adviser as “the worst mistake” Trump has made:

“I have been concerned at some of the things he’s decided. I think his last choice for national security adviser was very ill-advised. I think John Bolton has been the worst mistake he’s made,” Carter told “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell Monday. Bolton will be Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser since taking office.

Considering all the mistakes Trump has made, that says a lot.

I recently cited Reason magazine’s 5 Reasons Not to Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria. They have another good five entry list this week too, 5 Things About John Bolton That Are Worse Than His Mustache:

  1. Bolton supported the 2002 invasion of Iraq and still thinks it was a dandy idea
  2. Bolton supported the U.S. intervention in the Libyan civil war.
  3. Bolton thinks the U.S. should have intervened in the Syrian civil war sooner and more aggressively.
  4. Bolton agitated for war with Iran.
  5. Bolton favors attacking North Korea

The irony is that these positions differ from many of the statements Donald Trump made on foreign policy during the campaign, although contradictions from Trump occur frequently. Bolton’s record is also more similar to that of Hillary Clinton, who supported the invasion of Iraq, orchestrated the intervention in Libya as Secretary of State, has criticized Obama for not intervening in the Syrian war as she advised, and has threatened to obliterate Iran. While I’m not aware of her outright promoting an attack on North Korea, her actions as Secretary of State have exacerbated the crisis in North Korea.

SciFi Weekly: The X-Files Finale; Agents of SHIELD And The MCU; Star Trek Discovery Season Two Plans; The Ninth Doctor; What They Wear Under Those Cloaks On The Handmaid’s Tale

There are so many reviews already out there about how bad My Struggle IV was that I won’t spend much time piling on here. It is especially disappointing that this is not only the season finale of The X-Files, but it might also be the series finale. I gave them the benefit of the doubt after watching My Struggle III, hoping that essentially retconning last season’s finale would give them the opportunity to end this season in a better way. While they got rid of the alien invasion, the episode was not the season or series conclusion which fans were hoping for. At least there were some worthwhile stand alone episodes during the season.

For the benefit of those who gave up watching but have passing curiosity as to how it all ended, the episode centered around William, who was previously described as the son of Scully and Mulder. The episode ended with Scully telling Mulder, “William was an experiment. He was an idea, born in a laboratory. I carried him. I bore him. But I was never a mother to him. William wasn’t…”  This led to Mulder asking, “What am I now if I’m not a father?”

Then the big shocker to end the season: “You are a father!” Scully grabbed Mulder’s hand and put it on her abdomen.  “That’s impossible…”  “I know, it’s more than impossible,” Scully responded.

Chris Carter had this to say about the pregnancy in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

Given the twist about William’s paternity this year, can you confirm this is biologically Mulder and Scully’s kid that she is carrying?
I will confirm it is their child. But I will also confirm Scully has alien DNA.

Syfy Wire interviewed Chris Carter about the episode:

Did it feel different this year bringing the season to a close?

Chris Carter: No. I don’t think we’re at the ending as much as a new beginning. Or, it’s not a conclusion for me. It’s maybe one of the biggest cliff-hangers we’ve ever had. Certainly, with the carnage and the revelations. We did six last time, and 10 this time. Even though it took a year of my life to do it, it happens much faster. So, the arc is much quicker, and that struck me again.

When did the concept of the four-part “My Struggle” episodes come to you? Obviously, you had your Season 10 pick up, but did you know then that you wanted to tell this particular through line in four pieces?

Yeah, I had four stories to tell. They were the characters that were most central to the mythology being Mulder, Scully, the Cigarette Smoking Man, and Mulder and Scully’s son, William. Those are the stories I wanted to tell, so I’m glad everyone stuck with it.

Gillian had a very specific announcement this year saying that she was retiring from the character. Did that affect the tail end of the season?

No, it’s what I wanted to do always. I wanted to reveal William’s immortality. I wanted to bring Mulder and Scully back together in the most emotional way. So, I had all those cards to play.

Some showrunners have an idea of a last image that they want to end with. Was Mulder and Scully hugging on that dock with the knowledge that she’s pregnant set, or did that come from telling that story this season?

It was in my head and I couldn’t wait to shoot it. But that’s not the last image. (Laughs)

True. It was indeed William in the water alive. But was it Mulder and Scully or William you were moving towards the whole season?

You know, I’m so invested in these characters. I’ve lived so much of my life with them, and it’s a moment we’ve seen twice. We’ve seen it at the end of the second movie, and we’ve seen it now at the end of the finale. The revelation about the first child was a different situation. I really feel like emotionally they are connected in a way that we haven’t ever quite seen.

The X-Files has always been very subtle about portraying the romantic relationship between Mulder and Scully. But you let the writers lean into it this season with some really poignant moments. Why was it important to show that now?

I think that there was some part of us that heard the fans. There was another part of us that saw them both getting older and thinking about the future, and thinking about retirement and old age, and what their lives might be together. So, I think that these are poignant moments for two characters who have known each other for 25 years…

What was the wrap shot for the season?

I think the final shots that I shot were with some of the additional stuff that I had to do with Mitch for that action sequence. The sequence on the dock with Mulder and Scully was the second to last night. We tried to put it on the last night, but we were unable to do that.

Speaking of Skinner, we’re very well trained by you that unless you say someone’s dead, they aren’t dead. So, we see part of Skinner’s body. Do you want to say if he’s dead or not?

Well, you see him lying under the car. But you did see him fall before the car hit him, so while he’s motionless it certainly begs many questions…

I’ve got a nerdy question: In “My Struggle part II”, we get Scully’s vision of the end of times. And it showed CSM in a very different physical state. And then we see in this season that he looks fine. Are we supposed to assume his regenerated appearance is a result of his involvement with the various alien projects?

CSM’s had access to science that no one else has access to, and if he is a part of William’s immortality, what’s to say that he doesn’t hold the key to that in his cells? And when he went off the end of that pier, what does that suggest?

I’m going to assume until I see his dead body that he could be coming back at any point.  So let’s shift to the fact that Kersh closed the X-Files again. Are we supposed to take that at face value?

My feeling is that The X-Files has been closed before. They closed it in Season 1 actually, long ago. So, it’s not the first time. Practically, those files still sit down there in those drawers. And someone is going to investigate them. And if that’s Mulder and Scully, they’ll do it with the same passion they’ve always done it with. But the fact is that those files sit down in those drawers to be investigated.

David posed to me once that The X-Files should live on with a show about William. With Gillian retired from Scully, is that more of a credible direction for you to ponder as a spin-off?

No, I guess you could take that approach. I hadn’t really considered it. I like Miles Robbins (William). I think he’s interesting, I think the character of William is interesting, but that’s a different kind of show. That would really be starting from scratch. It’s more of a superhero show. That might be an undertaking, but I’m too tired to think about it right now.

Additional interviews with Chris Carter are available on TVLine and Entertainment Weekly.

The showrunners for Agents of SHIELD were asked how Avengers Infinity War would affect the show at WonderCon. While there was nothing very specific, they did discuss how the movies have changed what they do on the show (beyond the obvious first season response to the first Avengers movie). From Deadline:

“If you watched the trailer, a lot of sh*t goes down!” exclaimed Whedon. “These are the kinds of questions we can do everything but answer.”

However, he did provide us with something to chew on. “The movies blaze a path,” he continued. “When Doctor Strange came out it introduced us to magic which gave us Ghost Rider; when [Guardians of the Galaxy] came out, we were introduced to space. We are waiting for that movie to come out so it can open a new playground for us.”

TrekMovie.com listed what was learned about Star Trek: Discovery season 2 at WonderCon. Here’s some excerpts:

Regarding being in the Prime Timeline:

Aaron Harberts: The idea was to always be in the Prime Timeline. Obviously, there are questions and concerns and things that are different. Our technology is a little different. We have a ship that runs very differently. We are our own show in a lot of ways. Season two is really exciting for us. This is our opportunity to really show how Discovery fits into this Prime Timeline. We are firmly committed to that.

Regarding the dark tone of the first season:

Gretchen J. Berg: We are aware it is a different era and a different format for the show. I don’t think we are gunning for shock value. Everything always comes out of character and story. If it feels like something that would happen in that world and in that context, we go in that direction. It is not a group that leads with wanting to shock people or horrify people.

Aaron Harberts: [Season one] was an interesting season because it was set against the backdrop of war. One of things we are looking forward to in season two is a tone that we can now be in a more exploratory phase and a more diplomatic phase – maybe a bit more of a Trekian chapter…But, everything for us is really driven by character.

About the USS Enterprise seen at the end of the season:

Tamara Deverell: For the Enterprise, we based it initially off of The Original Series. We were really drawing a lot of our materials from that. And then we particularly went to more of the Star Trek movies, which is a little bit fatter, a little bit bigger. Overall, I think we expanded the length of it to be within the world of our Discovery, which is bigger, so we did cheat it as a larger ship.

Jason Zimmerman: It starts with them giving us designs to work with and then there is a lot of back and forth between VFX and [Tamra’s] department to make sure that we get everything right. There were a lot of conversations and more emails than I could remember about how the design would evolve and sort of match our universe, and that is how we sort of arrived where we are

About the uniforms:

Gretchen J. Berg: Well, we are in the same timeline. This is the prime universe and we are pretty close to when TOS happens.

Aaron Harberts: Well, we bump up against the Enterprise at the end of our [season one] finale, and we know what kind of uniforms they wear. So, we will leave it at that.

Regarding Saru:

Aaron Harberts: You will learn more about Saru this season. We had to lay some pipe early in episode 2 [of season one]. What are those threat ganglia. What do they do? What do they represent in the Terran Empire and a lot of that stuff will fold back in when we are back on the air.

ScreenRant has a clue as to what might be coming in the second season. They report on a deleted scene in which Section 31 recruiting is recruiting Mirror Georgiou.

Steven Moffat has released portions of an early version of the script for The Day of the Doctor, the fiftieth anniversary episode, in which Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor appears. Radio Times has some excerpts.

Eccleston recently told The Guardian that he was blacklisted by the BBC after he left Doctor Who:

“What happened around Doctor Who almost destroyed my career,” he says. “I gave them a hit show and I left with dignity and then they put me on a blacklist. I was carrying my own insecurities as it was something I had never done before and then I was abandoned, vilified in the tabloid press and blacklisted. I was told by my agent at the time: ‘The BBC regime is against you. You’re going to have to get out of the country and wait for regime change.’ So I went away to America and I kept on working because that’s what my parents instilled in me. My dad always said to me: ‘I don’t care what you do – sweeping the floor or whatever you’re doing – just do the best job you can.’ I know it’s cliched and northern and all that bollocks, but it applies.”

He described tensions on the show before he left with Radio Times:

“My relationship with my three immediate superiors – the showrunner, the producer and co-producer – broke down irreparably during the first block of filming and it never recovered,” Eccleston says in the latest issue of Radio Times.

“They lost trust in me, and I lost faith and trust and belief in them,” he continues.

Eccleston starred in the sci-fi series when it first rebooted in 2005 with Russell T Davies as showrunner.

Describing the situation as “very” stressful, Eccleston claims that he felt out of place playing a lighter role, and believes it may have contributed to on-set difficulties.

“Some of my anger about the situation came from my own insecurity,” he says. “They employed somebody [as the Doctor] who was not a natural light comedian.”

He adds, “Billie [Piper], who we know was and is brilliant, was very, very nervous and very, very inexperienced. So, you had that, and then you had me. Very, very experienced, possibly the most experienced on it, but out of my comfort zone.”

In the interview, Eccleston goes on to reveal why he’s only elected to speak on the subject in recent months, with the Salford-born actor suggesting he’d made an agreement not to “damage” the reputation of the series.

“When I left, I gave my word to [then-showrunner] Russell T Davies that I wouldn’t do anything to damage the show,” he says. “But they did things to damage me. I didn’t criticise anybody.”

Asked if Davies was aware of the issues, Eccleston says, “If you’re the showrunner, you know everything. That’s your job,” adding that he “never will have” a working relationship with the screenwriter again.

We finally got an answer as to what the cast of The Handmaid’s Tale wear under those cloaks:

Keeping in mind that the show is being filmed up in Canada where it can get quite cold in some regions it’s not too much of a surprise that some of the women have said that they either wear granny panties that cover nearly their entire abdomen or resort to wearing multiple layers of long johns to stave off the chill. Some of them even manage to tape heating packs to their bodies to keep warm as the cloaks don’t do much for warmth in the colder climate in which they film

There are also clues as to what happened to Ofred after the cliff hanger ending of season one here.

Five Reasons Not to Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria

The claim that the 2016 election was stolen due to the actions of Russian trolls is one of the most absurd political arguments ever made. As I’ve noted previously, the Congressional testimony revealed that Russian Facebook ads and Tweets represented a minuscule amount of their traffic. Material from Russian pages accounted for “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Half of it was not seen until after the election, much of it was not supporting Trump over Clinton, and much of it was hilariously unconvincing and amateurish. Phillip Bump added that, rather than targeting the battleground states, ads were concentrated in states such as New York and Texas which had no impact on the election results.

The claim that Russia stole the election based upon their actions on social media is harmful as it gives establishment Democrats an excuse to resist reform. It plays into the hands of neocons who desire regime change in Russia, with their claims about Russia being no more truthful than their claims about WMD in Iraq. It is also an attack on freedom of speech, and has led to McCarthyism from establishment Democrats who claim that criticism stems from support for Putin.

Reason has produced the above video on 5 Reasons Not to Feed the Russian Troll Hysteria.  They also summarized the arguments:

1) Russian trolling was a drop in the bucket.

2) Russian trolls were not very sophisticated.

Russian trolls supposedly had the Machiavellian know-how to infiltrate the American political system, but their social media posts don’t look very sophisticated. The posts often featured broken English and puzzling topic choices. A postpromoting a “buff” Bernie Sanders coloring book, for instance, noted that “the coloring is something that suits for all people.” Another post showed Jesus and Satan in an arm wrestling match under this caption: “SATAN: IF I WIN CLINTON WINS! JESUS: NOT IF I CAN HELP IT!” The post generated very few clicks and shares.

3) Russian troll rallies apparently did not attract many participants.

The indictment makes much of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton rallies instigated by Russian trolls, but it does not say how many people participated. The New York Times reported that a Russian-organized rally in Texas opposing Shariah law attracted a dozen people. An anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho drew four people. Attendance at other rallies was similarly sparse.

4) Russian trolling probably didn’t change anyone’s mind.

Broken English aside, the social media posts were not qualitatively different from content created by American activists, and they seemed to be aimed mainly at reinforcing pre-existing beliefs and divisions. The Russians might have gotten a few Trump supporters to show up at anti-Clinton rallies, but that does not mean they had an impact on the election.

5) Russian troll hysteria depicts free speech as a kind of violence.

The Justice Department describes the messages posted by Russians pretending to be Americans as “information warfare.” But while the posts may have been sophomoric, inaccurate, and illogical, that does not distinguish them from most of what passes for online political discussion among actual Americans. The integrity of civic discourse does not depend on verifying the citizenship of people who participate in it. It depends on the ability to weigh what they say, checking it against our own values and information from other sources. If voters cannot do that, maybe democracy isdoomed. But if so, it’s not the Russians’ fault.

Trump Brings Ultra-Warmonger Into Administration. How Much Should We Worry?

Donald Trump’s choice of John Bolton to be National Security Adviser greatly diminishes any hopes that Donald Trump actually meant it when he (sometimes) spoke out against war as a candidate. Perhaps it is possible that Trump just likes to bring in people from Fox and does not realize that Bolton’s views differ sharply from some of the views he has promoted. Considering how inconsistent and incoherent he was on foreign policy, it is also possible that his opposition to the Iraq war was primarily an attack on Jeb Bush via his family, and his criticism of regime change in Libya was also based more on a desire to attack Hillary Clinton than any real understanding of the situation.

With the range of views on Bolton ranging as to how much to panic, Andrew Sullivan predicts the worst case scenario:

This is the second phase of tyranny, after the more benign settling-in: the purge. Any constraints that had been in place to moderate the tyrant’s whims are set aside; no advice that counters his own gut impulses can be tolerated. And so, over the last couple of weeks, we have seen the president fire Rex Tillerson and Andrew McCabe, two individuals who simply couldn’t capitulate to the demand that they obey only Trump, rather than the country as well…

No one with these instincts for total domination over others is likely to moderate the longer he is in power. Au contraire. It always gets worse. And so Tillerson has been replaced by a fawning toady, Mike Pompeo, a man whose hatred of Islam is only matched by his sympathy for waterboarders. Pompeo has been replaced in turn by a war criminal, who authorized brutal torture and illegally destroyed the evidence, Gina Haspel. Whatever else we know about Haspel, we know she follows orders.

Gary Cohn has been replaced by Larry Kudlow — a sane person followed by a delusional maniac Trump sees on Fox, who instantly thought up ways for the president to cut taxes further without congressional approval. And the State Department, indeed the entire diplomatic apparatus, has, it seems, been replaced by Jared Kushner, a corrupt enthusiast for West Bank settlements who no longer has a security clearance.

Then the president’s legal team was shaken up — in order to purge those few who retain some appreciation for the rule of law in a constitutional republic and to replace them with conspiracy theorists, thugs, and the kind of combative, asshole lawyers Trump has always employed in his private capacity. Trump is self-evidently — obviously— preparing to fire Mueller, and the GOP’s complete acquiescence to the firing of McCabe is just a taste of the surrender to come. “Now I’m fucking doing it my own way!” was how he allegedly expressed his satisfaction at the purge, as his approval ratings from Republicans increase, and as the GOP’s evolution into a full-fledged cult gathers pace.

And then last night, we saw McMaster fall on his sword, replaced by John Bolton, an unrepentant architect of the most disastrous war since Vietnam, a fanatical advocate for regime change in Iran, an anti-Muslim extremist, and a believer in the use of military force as if it were a religion. And this, of course, is also part of the second phase for Plato’s tyrant: war. “As his first step, he is always setting some war in motion, so that people will be in need of a leader,” Plato explains. In fact, “it’s necessary for a tyrant always to be stirring up war.”

…I worry that the more Trump is opposed and even cornered — especially if he loses the House this fall — the more dangerous he will become. If Mueller really does have the goods, and if the Democrats storm back into congressional power, then Trump may well lash out to protect himself at all costs. We know he has no concern for the collateral damage his self-advancement has long caused in his private and public life. We know he has contempt for and boundless ignorance of liberal democracy. We know he is capable of anything — of immense cruelty and callousness, of petty revenge and reckless rhetoric, of sudden impulses and a quick temper. We also know he is commander-in-chief, who may soon need the greatest distraction of all.

War is coming. And there will be nothing and no one to stop him.

With establishment Democrats having also adopted neoconservativeism and abandoned standing up to warmongers (having even nominated one of the worst in 2016) I’ll turn to another conservative critic of Trump, and someone I rarely quote or agree with. Jennifer Rubin described the horrors of having Bolton in this position, but left more room for hope than Sullivan:

Bolton frequently advocates use of military power, specifically against Iran and North Korea. With regard to North Korea, he believes diplomacy is useless and the only “solution” is reunification of the Korean Peninsula — as a free and democratic country. If that is a short-term goal rather than a long-term aspiration, a massive war almost certainly would be necessary. On Iran, he has declared the deal unfixable and advocated for military strikes on Iran.

The question of the moment is whether the John Bolton we read in print and see on TV will be the same John Bolton who is charged with coordinating foreign policy. Advocating in print a position a Democratic president will never undertake is one thing; presenting to your boss a viable plan for military action that may result in mass casualties is quite another. In other words, we’re about to find out if Bolton is really serious about all his views or has simply enjoyed the role of gadfly…

Where Sullivan sees nobody who could stop him, Rubin has a suggestion which is more grounded in the Constitution than recent precedent:

The Bolton pick should be a wake-up call to Republicans who always assumed wise, calm advisers would be there to constrain Trump. It should motivate both Republicans and Democrats to start reclaiming Congress’s power, for example, by declaring that congressional authorization is required for a first strike on either Iran or North Korea. They cannot prevent Bolton from assuming his job, but together with Republican colleagues can begin to exercise more restraint on the use of force and, as Menendez suggested, to conduct robust oversight.

As for outside foreign policy gurus who have advocated high-stakes strategies (e.g., threatening to pull out of the JCPOA and use military force against Iran), they would do well to realize this is no academic exercise. In Bolton, the president has someone who may well encourage his most outlandish ideas.

It could be a favorable “legacy” of Donald Trump, even if not what he desires, if the outcome of his presidency is greater constraint on presidential power, as well as corruption.

Meanwhile Guardian editor David Shariatmadari, after writing of the risk of war, concluded with, “Help us Mad Dog Mattis, you’re our only hope.” It is scary that the most sane foreign policy voice left is someone called Mad Dog.

Quote of The Day: Jimmy Kimmel On Donald Trump & Foreign Relations


President Trump met at the White House today with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. They call him MBS for short. For real. Trump actually prepared for this meeting. His aides say he watched almost all of the movie “Aladdin” to get ready for it.

Establishing relationships with friendly foreign leaders is important for Trump right now, because he needs to build a network of countries he can flee to when the time comes. –Jimmy Kimmel