Ecuador Might Be Preparing To Turn Julian Assange Over To Authorities–Will This Lead To Prosecution By The US?

Glenn Greenwald reports at The Intercept that Ecuador is preparing to turn Julian Assange over to UK authorities. He writes:

A source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office, unauthorized to speak publicly, has confirmed to the Intercept that Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks. The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week. On Friday, RT reported that Ecuador was preparing to enter into such an agreement…

The central oddity of Assange’s case – that he has been effectively imprisoned for eight years despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime – is virtually certain to be prolonged once Ecuador hands him over to the U.K. Even under the best-case scenario, it appears highly likely that Assange will continue to be imprisoned by British authorities.

The only known criminal proceeding Assange currently faces is a pending 2012 arrest warrant for “failure to surrender” – basically a minor bail violation charge that arose when he obtained asylum from Ecuador rather than complying with bail conditions by returning to court for a hearing on his attempt to resist extradition to Sweden.

That charge carries a prison term of three months and a fine, though it is possible that the time Assange has already spent in prison in the UK could be counted against that sentence. In 2010, Assange was imprisoned in Wandsworth Prison, kept in isolation, for 10 days until he was released on bail; he was then under house arrest for 550 days at the home of a supporter…

THE FAR MORE IMPORTANT question that will determine Assange’s future is what the U.S. Government intends to do. The Obama administration was eager to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing hundreds of thousands of classified documents, but ultimately concluded that there was no way to do so without either also prosecuting newspapers such as the New York Times and the Guardian which published the same documents, or create precedents that would enable the criminal prosecution of media outlets in the future.

Indeed, it is technically a crime under U.S. law for anyone – including a media outlet – to publish certain types of classified information. Under U.S. law, for instance, it was a felony for the Washington Post’s David Ignatius to report on the contents of telephone calls, intercepted by the NSA, between then National Security Adviser nominee Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, even though such reporting was clearly in the public interest since it proved Flynn lied when he denied such contacts…

But the U.S. Justice Department has never wanted to indict and prosecute anyone for the crime of publishing such material, contenting themselves instead to prosecuting the government sources who leak it. Their reluctance has been due to two reasons: first, media outlets would argue that any attempts to criminalize the mere publication of classified or stolen documents is barred by the press freedom guarantee of the First Amendment, a proposition the DOJ has never wanted to test; second, no DOJ has wanted as part of its legacy the creation of a precedent that allows the U.S. Government to criminally prosecute journalists and media outlets for reporting classified documents.

But the Trump administration has made clear that they have no such concerns. Quite the contrary: last April, Trump’s then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, now his Secretary of State, delivered a deranged, rambling, highly threatening broadside against WikiLeaks. Without citing any evidence, Pompeo decreed that WikiLeaks is “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” and thus declared: “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.”..

But there seems little question that, as Sessions surely knows, large numbers of U.S. journalists – along with many, perhaps most, Democrats – would actually support the Trump DOJ in prosecuting Assange for publishing documents. After all, the DNC sued WikiLeaks in April for publishing documents – a serious, obvious threat to press freedom – and few objected.

And it was Democratic Senators such as Dianne Feinstein who, during the Obama years, were urging the prosecution of WikiLeaks, with the support of numerous GOP Senators. There is no doubt that, after 2016, support among both journalists and Democrats for imprisoning Assange for publishing documents would be higher than ever.

Greenwald added on Twitter: “It should take only the tiniest amount of rationality to understand the dangers to journalists from having the DOJ prosecute Assange for publishing classified or stolen documents. From the Pentagon Papers to the Snowden reporting to daily leaks, media outlets do that every day.”

Kevin Drum does not think there would be  much support for prosecution among journalists or Democrats:

I don’t have any independent knowledge of what will happen to Assange next, or whether he will indeed eventually be extradited to the United States. But I will say this. If the case brought against him is a fairly ordinary one of publishing classified material, I expect, contra Greenwald, that virtually no Democrats and absolutely no journalists will support the government’s case.¹ There would, unfortunately, probably be a few Democratic politicians who would cheer his prosecution, but even there I think (or hope, anyway) that their numbers would be small. If this case goes forward, I suppose it will be a good test of whose level of cynicism is currently best calibrated to the current mood of the American public.

¹The exceptions are likely to be nutballs like Breitbart or folks like that. Even Fox News would probably defend him against a straight-up publishing charge.

I agree that serious journalists will not support prosecution, but am not so sure about the Democrats. Again, as Greenwald pointed out, the DNC has already sued WikiLeaks for publishing documents obtained by others. Again, as Greenwald points out, this is a serious, obvious treat to press freedom.

SciFi Weekend: The Handmaid’s Tale Controversial Second Season Finale; Discovery Shows The Enterprise Bridge; Emmy Nominations For Genre Shows; Doctor Who Teaser; HBO Picks Up New Show From Joss Whedon; Sweetbitter Renewed; Downton Abbey Movie Announced

The second season finale of The Handmaid’s Tale was quite controversial. I had mixed feelings when I saw June/Offred decide not to flee to Canada. It was frustrating, and unexpected, that she did not take advantage of this opportunity, but I was also concerned while watching the minutes leading up to this that we might be seeing a replay of the first season finale–June on the verge of escaping and then being dragged back again. At very least I am glad that they wound up doing something different.

The question is whether the surprise ending is believable with what we know about June. We would expect anyone to want to escape that country if possible. Last season, when given the opportunity to try to escape, June attempted to do so.  However, some things are different. She saw her first child, and had to face the question of why she did not try harder to remain with her. She even has information about her daughter, giving her a chance at finding her again. While fighting the system in Gilead appears to be too dangerous to risk, seeing that the Marthas have united to rebel does give more hope.

It might be argued that she was attempting to escape when she tried to get the car earlier in the season, however we don’t really know that her plan was to try to escape to Canada. She might have planned to try to free her first daughter first. Plus at that time she was pregnant, and escaping Gilead with her soon to be born daughter would be motivation to try to escape. At the end of the second season she had the opportunity to both send her second daughter to safety and remain behind to fight.

Ultimately whether I accept the conclusion of the second season as a realistic choice will depend upon what we learn was in June’s head in the time and what she winds up doing. After two bleak seasons, I hope that the third season does show further rebellion. Of course with this show there is no guarantee of success. There is the danger that June winds up being captured and in an even worse situation, or even that the entire series ultimately ends with the execution of the characters in Gilead who we care about. Hopefully we will get a more optimistic ending than that.

There are also questions about several other characters. Will Emily actually make it to Canada and, if so, what does she do there. How far will Serena go in opposing the system? Will Aunt Lydia survive her wounds? I bet she will be back. What happens to the relationship between Nick and Commander Waterford now that it is clearer that Nick is involved with the resistance? There must be a limit to how useful Nick’s knowledge of Waterford’s secrets are against a guy cruel enough to have his own wife’s finger cut off for reading the Bible. What will Commander Lawrence do now that we know where his sympathies actually lie? Will the authorities realize that the Marthas were rebelling, and what action will they take? It will be far easier to have a mass execution of Marthas than of handmaidens (as they threatened at the start of the season).

We have some hints as to the answers in this interview executive producer Bruce Miller had with TV Guide:

Did you know from the beginning that Offred was not going to escape at the end of the season? And did you get push back from anyone else about whether or not she should escape or stay?Bruce Miller: There was incredible amount of push back from me and from everybody else. All we want is for her to get out. So even though storywise you want to do one thing, emotionally all you want is the other answer. So I guess we all wanted her to get out personally. But yeah, I mean, I knew from the middle of Season 1 that this would happen. So because of that, we were working toward this. I mean, once we started to feel the kind of deep vein of regret that Offred was feeling, or June was feeling at the prospect of leaving Hannah behind and how it was tearing her apart, we felt like [that] after she saw her. And after she kinda was faced with the idea of, “I am going to be able to get one child to safety, and now I just have to decide what to do myself.” I don’t think it’s a choice about whether you’re gonna stay behind to try to rescue your child, I think it’s a needto. I wouldn’t be able to leave one of my children behind… When we got to it, it felt very natural to the character. It is an impossible choice but we are faced with those all the time, so it is interesting to see what she does.

Have we seen the last of Emily and baby Nicole or is there more story to tell for those two characters?
Miller: We have not seen the last of Emily and Nicole. I don’t know that we’re gonna see Nicole going to her first prom very soon, or Emily for that matter, but we have not seen the last of them. We’ll follow them on their journey after they leave Offred in the tunnel, in the finale, we will be following them… I think that Nicole is quite a popular young girl. There’s lots of people who want her including a whole country of Gilead if she happens to get out… It’s a huge, huge puzzle piece of our world. It’s June’s child, and just as much as Hannah has been a huge part of our show Nicole’s going to be a huge part of our show whether it’s in influence or whether it’s in corporeal reality with someone holding her in their arms. She is the force to be reckoned with. She is the next generation that they’re all doing all of this for.

Will Bradley Whitford’s character be coming back in Season 3, and what are we gonna learn about him and why he helped Emily escape?
Miller:
 Yes, Bradley’s coming back for Season 3. He was exactly the kind of character we wanted to start building in Season 2. We were hoping his schedule would work out that he could come back for Season 3. I think we’re gonna learn a ton about him. I mean, I think the fact is he’s our Oppenheimer character. The man who designed an atomic bomb and then saw what it could do. I mean, he’s a designer of Gilead, and now he’s seen what it can do. So he is a mass of contradictions and dangers, so you never know what he’s willing to do, what he’s not willing to do. He’s been protecting himself for a very long time. And his adventure to keep himself alive certainly is not always an adventure that’s going to keep the people around him alive. But now that June has crossed paths with him, she’s going to cross paths with him a lot more in Season 3.

What you can tell us about Aunt Lydia and her future? We don’t see her actually die but it looks really bad at the end of the season.
Miller: Aunt Lydia doesn’t die. I don’t think Aunt Lydia can die. I don’t think there are forces in the world strong enough to kill Aunt Lydia. And by extension the incredibly strong, fabulous Ann Dowd, I think is with us for a long, long time as well. Aunt Lydia doesn’t die, she’s transformed by this event. The fact that one of her girls who — [she thinks] that there’s a love between her and her girls — has literally stabbed her in the back. I think that that alters your workplace feelings on a day-to-day basis. You don’t wanna turn your back. So I think that in some ways there’s a lot of possible effects. But I think in her case, it makes her double down that she feels like she just wasn’t strong enough in her discipline. So she, I think, has decided it’s time to get tough.

It was exciting to see Rita take a decisive action in the finale. What can we expect from her character moving forward?
Miller: Amanda Brugel, has really done a remarkable job with Rita. The fact that she’s both incredibly strong and invisible in the house is just, it’s a miracle of acting that she really has made her both a powerful force and you just completely forget that she exists. And I mean, and that’s supposed to be mirroring the way the Waterfords and the people in Gilead just let her fade into the woodwork, on purpose, because that’s the role that she’s supposed to play. But it’s great that she uses it strategically, and so everybody forgets about her, and then all of a sudden she has this freedom to build this network with all the other Marthas. They trade things back and forth, information and cinnamon and cheese and all sorts of stuff. And so they have a life going on there and a resistance network. You know it’s used for other things, black-market things, gossip, but now she’s turning it and using it as a resistance network.

I think she’s gonna have to do some very deft dancing to get around her comeuppance for her complicity in this, and I don’t know whether she will, but she is our representative of this group of women who have been pushed into invisible domestic roles like so many women in real society, in our society. She is, but she is not invisible, and she’s not domestic. She is a woman in full, and you get to see kind of the power that brings to bear. And I think, in [Season 3], we’re going to see some of the results of her coming out of her shell and becoming a little more visible. But I think the key for me is that she is a very smart survivor, and that’s what she’s going to continue to be.

We saw Nick, too, take a stand against Fred (Joseph Fiennes) in the finale to help Offred escape. What are the consequences for that choice are going to look like for him next year?
Miller: Nick did take a stand and impulsively, which is not his best — not a Crayola crayon he does do very often. He’s not an impulsive guy in general. And I thought is was such a kind of a measure of the closeness of his relationship with Fred and how much he was willing to risk… But yes, there will be repercussions for Nick. The interesting thing about Nick and Fred is that power dynamic between the two men and the two positions that they hold. One is kind of outwardly a leader of Gilead, and the other, Nick, is quite a powerful person behind the scenes because he’s a spy, and because he has dirt on people, and because he knows all the good and bad things people are doing, going to Jezebel’s and all those things. So I don’t think it’s a hammer that the commander can bring down so easily on Nick, or would want to…

Is there a happy ending to this story? Is that in any way the end goal or is everything always going to be terrible?
Miller: I think there is a happy ending, and I don’t think everything’s always going to be terrible… I believe in June, and I believe that if The Handmaid’s Tale is the story we’ve decided to tell from this imaginary place of Gilead, if June’s story is the story we tell, we’ve told it because it’s a story of hope. I do feel like every episode where it ends and Offred is alive, June is alive, it’s a huge victory and a story worth telling. To see how someone in this world doesn’t just survive, but in their own way, find ways to live, find ways to actually have a life, have intimacy. She sees her daughter, which she never thought would happen. So all of these things are huge victories for me.

But in terms of an ending, I think this is a story of a woman getting out of bondage. So I think in the end that’s the story, whether she is able to get out herself or whether she’s able to get one or more of her children out, or reunite with her husband. Those are all details, but I think the story is bending, I hope, because it exists, it’s bending towards a happy ending because this account of what happened exists means that somehow some way, June got that account out. That to me sets a story of kind of the triumph of the human spirit and hope.

Miller had more to say about why June stayed in this interview with Deadline:

DEADLINE: I often like to start these at the end, so why does June stay in Gilead at the end of the finale?

MILLER: Because she’s a mother. She has one child who’s going off to safety and one child that’s still here so she stays for her daughter Hannah. Whether she’s going to help her daughter or whether she’s going to try her hardest to injure Gilead, it really comes from two things. One is her mom saying you’re stronger than you think, which is something she realized about herself throughout the season. The other is her daughter saying why didn’t you try harder?

When she finally sees Hannah, Hannah says why didn’t you try harder to find me?

And she’s going to try harder and I think that after having a season where all these things that were seemingly impossible have come to pass I think she’s willing to take a chance. She’s not so willing to leave her eldest daughter behind.

Elisabeth Moss also supported her character’s decision in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

“Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Moss explained her take on the season finale and the game-changing decision for June to stick around in Gilead, saying there are two primary reasons for the development.

“There’s really a couple answers to this, and they are equally important,” she says when asked why June’s decision feels like the right way to end season two. “Hannah is the first one. It’s as simple as that. She cannot leave her daughter there. She doesn’t know if she can get back in if she leaves. What can she do from the outside? She doesn’t know. But here’s what she does know. She just discovered that there’s a legitimate and strong underground network of Marthas working for the resistance. The wives led by Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) just rebelled against the men and government of Gilead. They are starting to resist. And she just saw a commander (Lawrence, played by Bradley Whitford) help his handmaid and her dear friend Emily escape. A commander. How deep does this underground network of resistance go? She knows now she isn’t alone. She doesn’t want to leave Hannah, but when she sees Emily and the commander, she realizes she can get her baby Holly out and stay to try to do the same for Hannah. And she doesn’t have a lot of time to make that decision. She does the riskier thing, which is stay, but she literally cannot leave Hannah in that place.”

(For what it’s worth, Moss weighs in on why June told Emily to refer to Holly as Nicole, the name Serena gave the baby: “It’s a show of love for Serena and a thank you for what Serena did in letting June get her out. It’s June’s baby, but it’s June’s way of acknowledging Serena’s true love for that child.”)

In terms of why June’s decision to stay was the right way for season two to end, Moss says, “She is staying to fight to save all the children of Gilead. It’s bigger than her now. It’s bigger than her and Holly and Hannah. It’s all about the sons and especially daughters of Gilead, and fighting for their lives. Seeing the Martha network and the commander have opened her eyes. She is no longer alone. She has an army, and she’s going to fight back.”

“I don’t want to fight from the outside,” she adds. “I think it would kill June. To feel helpless like that. There are people doing the work that needs to be done in other countries, particularly Canada of course, that we show legislatively and trying to find their families and fighting Gilead in that way. There are very few people who can fight from the inside, and you have to have both. There are very few people who are as smart and experienced with Gilead as June is, who are as connected to a high ranking commander such as Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) or Lawrence, who know the ins and out, who have someone connected like Nick (Max Minghella), who knows that there’s a network of Marthas. She has very particular qualities that make her the one who should lead the resistance. Being in Canada, trying to change things from the outside, would just be extremely frustrating for her. And there’s probably no one who gives less fucks about what she has to do to get her daughter Hannah out than June does.”

The final moment of the season sees June pulling her handmaid hood over her head, more iconically cloaked in Gilead than ever before. And yet, Moss agrees that it signals an end for June’s life as “Offred,” even if it also means the birth of someone new.

“It’s not the June that was captured and brought to Gilead,” she says. “It’s not the June in the flashbacks. It’s a new June. She has become stronger, smarter, braver. She has learned a lot. She has experienced indescribable physical and emotional pain. She has changed forever, and not necessarily for the better, but in a way that she needs to have changed to be able to lead the resistance. She has hardened. She’s gotten very tough. She’s maybe colder. But that’s what she needs to be. She will never lose her humanity, and she will never lose the capacity to love as a mother, but that mother’s love can be the fiercest thing you’ve ever seen.”

Promotional pictures for season two of Star Trek: Discovery are showing the inside of the Enterprise.  The above picture is of Burnham walking onto the bridge of the Enterprise. Sonequa Martin-Green is quoted as saying,  “…we’re really going to be digging into family. A lot of questions are going to be raised; some are going to be answered.” Will that include showing Spock? There has also been a picture released of a Saurian, an alien species first seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Star Trek: Discovery, with two nominations, is just one of several genre shows to receive Emmy nominations. Discovery’s nominations are in the categories of  Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup (Series, limited series, movie or special) and Outstanding Sound Editing For A Comedy or Drama (One Hour).

Other Emmy nominations of note include Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black),  for Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Jesse Plemons (Black Mirror: USS Callister) for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie, and multiple nominations for Westworld, Game of ThronesThe Handmaid’s Tale, and The Americans. The full list is available here.

The official teaser for Doctor Who series 11 was released during the BBC’s coverage of the World Cup Final. We got a look at Jodie Whitaker as the Doctor, the Doctor’s new companions, and perhaps a timey wimy way to replenish a pizza box.  From Entertainment Today’s cover story on Doctor Who:

The choice of Whittaker to play the lead role on Doctor Who represents a massive gamble on the part of new showrunner Chris Chibnall — who’d previously cast Whittaker as a grieving mother on his cop drama Broadchurch — and the BBC, which successfully revived the sci-fi series in 2005 following a lengthy hiatus. More than 18 million Doctor Who DVDs have shipped, 12 million action figures have been sold in the 13 years since its relaunch, and in 2013 a 50th-anniversary episode was screened in 94 countries. In the U.S., the show has become the flagship series for BBC America, which will premiere the new season this fall, simulcasting the first episode so it screens at the same time as in the U.K. There is a lot riding on Whittaker’s ability to make audiences around the world fall in love with a female Doctor, as the actress is well aware.

“There’s no rules, and it’s liberating,” she says. “But it’s equally terrifying.”

EW spent two days on the set of Doctor Who for this week’s cover story, hanging out with Whittaker and the trio of actors who are playing the Doctor’s new companions: Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole. Your writer also spoke with Chibnall who explained why he had made the decision to make the Thirteenth Doctor female once Whittaker’s predecessor, Peter Capaldi, decided to leave the series.

“I just felt the time was right,” said Chibnall. “I think if the show hadn’t done it, we would have been behind the world, and Doctor Who has got to be out front leading the world, and being a great example of all the amazing things that are in the world. So, it wasn’t even a question in my mind.”

Above is a cross over episode I’d love to see (via Doctor Who Today).

HBO has picked up a new series from Joss Whedon. TV Line reports:

The Whedonverse is expanding to HBO.

The premium cabler on Friday gave a series order to Joss Whedon‘s The Nevers, which is described as an “epic science-fiction drama about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.”

Whedon — who previously toyed with creating a “Victorian female Batman” for the stalled comic book series Twist— will write, direct and executive-produce the HBO drama, as well as serve as showrunner. His previous live-action TV forays include, of course, Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngel and Firefly, as well as Dollhouse and the co-creation of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (where his brother Jed serves as co-showrunner).

Totally non-genre (unless you consider the abundance of shows about someone moving to the big city or restaurant shows a genre), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that STARZ has renewed Sweetbitter for a new season. I won’t say it is must see, but at times shows with short seasons come in handy, sort of as a long movie. The first season is six thirty minute episodes, making it easy to watch in one or two sittings. It was the inclusion of Caitlin Fitzgerald in the cast which caught my attention.

In the historical television genre, a Downton Abbey movie is now official.

Establishment Democrats Taking Wrong Lessons From Indictments Of Russian Agents

The announcement of the indictment of twelve Russian agents by Robert Mueller yesterday changes little with regards to what was already known, but establishment Democrats are taking all the wrong lessons, and making claims which they never would have made if not for the perceived political benefits. Finding ways to justify the fact that Hillary Clinton was unable to beat a candidate as dreadful as Donald Trump has become top priority.

Establishment Democrats seem oblivious to the fact that an indictment is not proof. No evidence accompanied the indictments and, as it is unlikely that the Russians will ever appear in court, it is possible that no evidence of these accusations will ever be presented. This provides no further proof than the retracted (but still repeated) claim of seventeen intelligence agencies agreeing that Russia hacked the DNC.

I have remained an agnostic as to whether the email was released by a hack or by a leak, and question if we will ever know for certain considering how the DNC refused to allow the FBI to investigate their servers. My personal opinion has been that a hack was the more likely explanation, but this is not definite. While I personally have never taken the Seth Rich theory seriously, there is nothing new here to disprove the view of those who do believe this.

For the sake of further discussion here, I will assume that the claims in Mueller’s indictment are true, again noting that this is not proven. Assuming that the accusations are true, establishment Democrats are still naively living in a pre-Gary Powers world, ignoring the realities of the situation.

Francis Gary Powers was an American spy who was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 while engaging in espionage. The United States claimed that he was studying weather patterns for NASA, but it was ultimately made clear that he was a spy. The United States was forced to admit that it had been conducting such spy  missions over the Soviet Union for several years, ending any pretense that the United States did not engage in such actions. It was no longer possible to see the United States as purely the victim of Russian espionage, but Democrats have suddenly returned to this mindset.

Such espionage is commonplace, and is rather benign compared to the practice of influencing elections in other countries–along with the outright overthrowing of foreign governments. Despite a long history of the United States meddling in the elections in other countries, establishment Democrats act as if the hack of email from the DNC and Hillary Clinton is somehow a unique attack on the United States, with many even comparing it to an act of war. Russia has meddled in American politics for decades, just as the United States has meddled in Russia, and both have meddled in many other countries. Russia did not suddenly attack the United States for the first time to attempt to stop Hillary Clinton–although that might be understandable considering Clinton’s history of belligerence towards Russia, and her propensity to support war.

While establishment Democrats have increasingly been following the neocon line on Russia, believing claims from the same people who sold the country on going to war over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, avoiding unnecessary war should be a high priority. Instead many Democrats opposed the recent talks with North Korea, and are now using this as an argument to cancel the talks between Trump and Putin.

There are valid reasons to question these talks, but in a time of escalating tensions with a nuclear power, there is far more compelling reason to continue with summits, including potential talks on nuclear weapons. Trump’s plan to meet with Putin alone is of concern, I think it is far more likely that if Trump has any secretive goals it is more to promote a future Trump Tower Moscow than to engage in any electoral conspiracies. To date there is no evidence of any real collusion occurring, even if the Trump Tower meeting did show a willingness to obtain information from Russia if it existed. While Mueller may or may not present evidence of this in the future, there certainly has been no evidence while establishment Democrats have been trying to pass this off as fact.

While I do not condone the hacking of any Americans by the Russian government, if this was foreign meddling in an election, it was probably the most benign meddling in the history of election meddling. The released email provided the American people with truthful and accurate information which exposed corruption and dishonesty by top politicians in this country.

It certainly makes no sense for Clinton apologists to use the hacked email as an excuse for Clinton losing. If Clinton and the Democratic Party lost because of the American people finding out the truth about their corruption, the blame for the loss falls on the politicians exposed, not those who exposed them. To argue that the email posted by Wikileaks caused Clinton to lose only means that I was right (and Clinton supporters wrong) during all those months I was writing that Clinton should not be the Democratic nominee.

The fact remains that, while Mueller has shown evidence of money laundering and other financial crimes, along with crimes by some Russians, there has been no evidence of any actions which altered the election results. There is no evidence that the voting systems were hacked or that a single vote was changed, despite erroneous reports from Clinton supporters on MSNBC. The evidence obtained in the Congressional hearings showed that Russian ads and other activities on social media were a minuscule amount of traffic,  unlikely to affect the vote.

The actual threat to American democracy comes from the Democratic and Republican Parties. This includes attempt at disenfranchisement of voters by Republicans, and the efforts exposed by the Democratic Party to rig the 2016 nomination and keep out progressive viewpoints. I find the actions by the Democrats especially offensive when the Democratic establishment simultaneously works to restrict the ability of third parties to run, and for those with different viewpoints to effectively run within the Democratic Party. Instead of supporting democratic values and allowing for different viewpoints, many Democrats totally reject opposing views, holding a false belief that differences in opinion with them are based upon falling for Russian propaganda.

To the degree that Russia might be engaging in activities to meddle in our elections, the proper responses are clear. We need to enhance election security, including maintaining a paper trail. If the DNC and other Democrats fell for the hacking attempts described in the indictment, further education is needed to limit this risk in the future.

There are also wrong ways to react. This includes arguing against diplomacy and increasing the risk of war, along with the McCarthyism and support for censorship of opposing viewpoints coming from some Democrats.

Two Candidate Running As Bernie Sanders Style Progressives In Michigan Threaten To Split Vote, With Only One Worthy Of Progressive Support

There has been a lot of talk lately about an anti-establishment fervor in the Democratic Party, largely fueled by both dissatisfaction with the status quo and the manner in which the DNC rigged the rules to block challengers to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Clinton’s inability to beat a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump cast more doubt on the party establishment’s strategy of promoting moderate candidates. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over party insider Joseph Crowley in New York’s 14th congressional district Democratic primary gave additional hope for progressive and true liberal Democrats hoping to beat the party establishment. In Michigan efforts to beat establishment candidate Gretchen Whitmer (who would still be far preferable to GOP front runner Bill Schuette) for the nomination for Governor might be thwarted by two candidates running as progressives in Michigan who are likely to split the vote.  However, only one is a true progressive.

While both Abdul El-Sayed and Shri Thanedar are running as Bernie Sanders style progressives, only El-Sayed looks like the real deal. The Intercept has had multiple articles exposing Thanedar as an opportunist. In a new article today, The Intercept shows how they differ on health care, but first recapped the case against Thanedar:

In Michigan, businessperson Shri Thanedar has spent millions of dollars on television ads casting himself as “the most progressive Democrat running for governor,” and promising that he would bring single-payer health care to Michigan.

“Health care is not a privilege; it is our fundamental right. I will bring single-payer health care to Michigan,” Thanedar says in a TV commercial. “Agree? Vote for Shri.”

But there’s reason to be skeptical.

Over the last year, investigations by The Intercept have revealed many facts which cast doubt on Thanedar’s progressive branding. He donated thousands of dollars to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, he was spotted clapping and nodding approvingly at a Marco Rubio presidential rally, and several Michigan political consultants have claimed that Thanedar once consulted them about possibly running as a Republican.

The Intercept interviewed Thanedar and found that “Thanedar’s much touted single-payer health care ‘plan’ appears to be nonexistent.” In contrast, they found that former Detroit Public Health chief Abdul El-Sayed “has a detailed strategy for how to accomplish it.” However, Thanedar is likely to split the progressive vote due to having spent much more on advertising. The Intercept notes:

Last month, he released a plan to establish “Michicare,” which would levy payroll and business taxes to establish state-funded public coverage for all Michigan residents…

But despite having a more well-developed plan, El-Sayed’s middle-class background means he does not have the same resources to advertise his health care plan as does Thanedar, who, not without controversy, made a fortune in the chemical testing industry.

As a result, there’s a real risk that the public might be misled.

The article also notes how this will impact the race against establishment candidate Gretchen Whitmer:

But by coopting a progressive message and splitting the progressive vote, Thanedar has helped Whitmer, an establishment candidate, take a comfortable lead.

Whitmer is the daughter of former Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Richard Whitmer. She’s the only Democratic candidate in the race who does not back single-payer, saying that it’s not “realistic” in Michigan at this time. BCBS Michigan lobbyists threw a fundraiser for Whitmer earlier this year. And she’s currently taking heat from an unidentified group who have paid for ads attacking her from accepting “big money” from insurance companies.

El-Sayed has been endorsed by Justice Democrats, Our Revolution, The People for Bernie, Our Revolution, the Progressive Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, Democracy for America, and after her victory in New York, by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Whitmer has a long list of establishment endorsements. I am not aware of any significant endorsements for Thanedar but the Grosse Pointe Democratic Club has issued an anti-endorsement for Thanedar warning Democrats NOT to vote for him.

SciFi Weekend: 12 Monkeys Series Finale; Attempts At Third Season For Timeless Fail; Star Trek News

12 Monkeys concluded the series with an epic finale on Friday which tied up many loose ends from the past four years, and provided somewhat of a surprise with the ending. While listed as two episodes, it was really produced as a continuous story over the final two hours. Before getting to spoilers in discussing the episode, I will mention for the benefit of any who have not seen the series that it would be an excellent series to binge from the start. It is available both on Hulu and from Syfy.

The big surprise (spoilers) is that there was a happy ending after recent episodes foreshadowed an unhappy one. Last week it was shown as necessary to release the plague in order to have time travel to stop the plan of the Witness to destroy time itself. We have also been warned by showrunner Terry Matalas that at some point Cassie had to die at the CDC. Cassie has also brought up the fact that if they were successful, she and Cole would not be together. However, the show is about time travel, meaning that what happens is not necessarily the only way things can wind up.

The release of the plague would be prevented with the removal of Cole from the time line, but this means no happy ending for Cassie. For a moment Cassie was even tempted to allow the plan to proceed, so that she could remain in the Red Forest forever with Cole. This ending would have also meant that Cassie was the real Witness, which would have been another big twist. Meanwhile Cassie splintered half of Olivia to 894, where the dormant virus in Olivia became the source of the virus.

In order for a happy ending to play out, at least three improbable or unexpected things had to happen. The first is that the attack on Titan is successful, with success against all odds in such a fight being commonplace in television or movies, regardless of genre. The fight included an homage both to Thelma and Louise, and to Dirty Dancing as they rode off with (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life  playing. Thanks to time travel, we also got to see both Ramse and Deacon again, with both taken before they died. This means that at the moment of his death earlier this season, Deacon had already experienced the ending.

The first unexpected event was to see that Cassie knew that something was wrong when Cole did not appear as he once did after he was removed from time, with everyone remembering what happened. This conflicts with what is often seen in science fiction stories when the timeline is changed, but it is not unprecedented for there to be characters who are in a position to be aware of the change. Besides, with time travel stories fiction anything plausible can be fair as long as the writers keep their rules consistent.

The next unexpected event was to have Cole appear and to find that Jones found a way to alter the code so that the final version of Cole would be spit out in the Florida Keys. Jennifer, still a Primary, and involved in other projects as seen in the picture below, was there to meet him. This led to the reunion with Cassie. This happy ending was a surprise, but should anyone object, a possibility of a second  interpretation was provided by showing a red leaf at the end. Most likely this just means it is fall, but it could mean that Cassie never destroyed Titan and they are in the Red Forest.

Terry Matalas discussed the finale with TV Line:

TVLINE | What did you want the show’s final message to be?
I think it’s all there in Cole’s last voiceover. In a lot of time travel, there’s always talk about the past and the future. But 12 Monkeys talked about how important now is. You have the opportunity to pick up the phone right this very minute and tell somebody that you love them, or you can see them. It’s just something we take for granted. It’s just an important philosophy and an interesting one to come at through the epic, sprawling nature of time travel.

TVLINE | As I was watching the finale, I was bracing myself for a heartbreaking end to Cassie and Cole’s story. But instead, they got a “happily ever now.” How did you arrive at that conclusion for them?
Back in Season 1, I remember telling people, “Here’s how it’s going to end. You’ll think he’s been erased forever, but he’ll find his way back to her in the very, very last moment of the series.” It’s a show that totally could have had a bittersweet ending, and we really make you think it’s going to be that until the coda. But I love a happy ending, and it feels earned, that everybody could live happily ever after. But there’s another way of looking at it, too. You can certainly look at the last image of the show, that red leaf, and ask yourself, “Did Cassie really turn off that machine in Titan? Is something else going on here?” The right ending is the one you choose…

TVLINE | Do you care to share your answer?
My ending? They save the world. But there are others in the writing staff who believe that they might be in the Red Forest, and those people have dark souls. You need to print that…

TVLINE | When Cassie goes back to 2013, how much does she remember? Or is it more that she’s just being haunted by an echo?
I think it starts as an echo and [ultimately] she remembers everything. Clearly, Jennifer [remembers]. Clearly, Jones does. Should the episode have kept going, they all would have found themselves finding each other again and reminiscing about their years of adventures…

TVLINE | Are there consequences for Jones breaking the laws of the universe?
I guess that would be a question for Season 5. So if you can make that happen, we’ll discuss it.

TVLINE | Was Olivia truly The Witness?
If you are referring to the true Witness being that which causes the Red Forest, then that depends on how you view the end of the series. The Alpha Primary in medieval times said to Olivia that they’ve “always known the true Witness would bring about the Red Forest because she fears loneliness. Nothingness.” If you believe that Cassie did not turn off Titan’s central spire, then you could argue Cassie is the true Witness by that definition. If you believe Cassie and Cole saved the world and lived to see that result, then your answer is it was Olivia…

TVLINE | You brought Deacon into the fold at a much earlier point in his timeline. So the Deacon that we first met when the show began knew about time travel, and Cassie and Cole, and the whole shebang?
No. We saw a first run of Deacon where he didn’t know. Then in Episode 407, when he’s in Titan, and he sees the West VII symbol, and he gets the idea of the West VII coming for a last battle at Titan, he has a bloody nose. At that moment, he becomes the Deacon who has lived through this cycle. And the same with Old Jennifer. You see Old Jennifer get a bloody nose in 407, too. Now she knows what she has to do. So in 408, when he gets his head cut off, a few scenes earlier, he says to Cole, “Things are coming to a head,” basically broadcasting that he knew what his fate was going to be and that this Deacon knows the end of the series.

TVLINE | How did you come up with the “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” song cue? 
We needed a perfect song for them to go out in a blaze of glory. I think maybe the first option was going to be Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and Journey said no. And thank God they did, because it’s just not nearly as good. So then I was just brainstorming what would be the perfect song, and I actually think I have that song on my iPhone just because I’m really cheesy, and I played it in my car. I was like, “Oh, my God, that would be perfect!” So I had the editors lay it in, and we just laughed and laughed and laughed and said, “Let’s try and get it.” To our delight, they said yes.

While we saw Ramse and Deacon again, it is conceivalbe that other characters might have also returned. Some were discussed in an interview with Terry Matalas by IGN:

We got Ramse and Deacon back for the finale along with Max, but were there considerations for bringing in more people who helped the crew — like Agent Gale or Aaron — to come back and form a Team Splinter Avengers of sorts?

Aaron’s story never really felt tied into the adventure in that way. It would have felt like a distraction. With Gale we thought about it, but we weren’t sure he fit into that last battle. There is a deleted scene, that will be on the Blu-ray, where we see Cassie in the new timeline where she looks him up and sees he lived a long, healthy life and became the director of the FBI.

With 12 Monkeys over, we know that Amanda Schull will become a regular on Suits and Terry Matalas has another project in mind:

As for what’s next, now that 12 Monkeys is officially wrapped? Matalas said he couldn’t say much, but revealed he is actually working on another adaptation of a Universal movie (much as 12 Monkeys was loosely based on the 1995 film of the same name), and teased that it would have “some of the same character and puzzle DNA” of 12 Monkeys, though he admitted it’s not a time-travel tale this time around.

While 12 Monkeys got to tell its full story, another time travel series, Timeless isn’t as fortunate. Attempts were made to find another network to continue the series, but these attempts were unsuccessful, with the contracts with the cast running out. The chances for a television movie to wrap up the series are also in doubt as series co-creator Shawn Ryan has pointed out that “there are considerable economic obstacles that make it an uncertainty.” At least this remains a consideration.

Details for the Star Trek: Discovery panel at San Diego Comic Con have been announced:

The Star Trek: Discovery panel will be held on Friday, July 20 at 1:30 pm in Hall H. Cast members scheduled to appear include Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Shazad Latif, Mary Wiseman, Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, Mary Chieffo and Anson Mount, alongside executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Heather Kadin. The panel will be moderated by series guest star Tig Notaro, who will appear as Chief Engineer Reno in Season 2.

I recently noted rumors, including here, that Patrick Stewart might be returning to Star Trek. Marina Sirtis thinks this is just a rumor:

Trekkies have been buzzing since news broke two weeks ago that CBS had tasked Star Trek: Discovery executive producer Alex Kurtzman with expanding Trek on TV. While there were no confirmed details on what new projects were in the pipeline, an article in The Hollywood Reporter discussed “rumblings” of Sir Patrick Stewart returning to Trek as Jean-Luc Picard. There have been subsequent tabloid reports on Stewart’s imminent return since, from both sides of the Atlantic.

On Tuesday, Stewart’s Star Trek: The Next Generation co-star Marina Sirtis was asked if she will be returning to Trek with Stewart, and the actress responded by saying she thought it was “just a rumour” that there was to be a new Star Trek show featuring Picard.

However, when pressed about if she was interested in returning to Trek if the stories turn out to be true, Sirtis replied back with an emphatic all caps “YES.”

Perhaps we will receive more definite news at Comic Con.

CBS Consumer Products and Silver Screen Bottling Company have announced James T. Kirk Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The bourbon celebrates Kirk’s “bold spirit of adventure” and will be available for $60 a bottle at Comic Con. Additional Star Trek themed spirits are planned.

Zachary Quinto believes that the cast of the J.J. Abrams reboot would be in the Star Trek movie being developed by Quentin Tarantino:

“My assumption is that it’s with us. I mean, that’s how it’s been presented. I don’t know. Look, until deals are done and contracts are signed and schedules are cleared, nothing is set in stone, so anything can happen. My understanding is that Quentin had this idea and they were shaping it and forming it and he’s off to do his Manson movie. And it would be after that that [the 2009 cast] would maybe go and do one with him, which is pretty exciting, pretty cool.”