Mike Allen Provides Clue Regarding Mueller Investigation Which Further Casts Doubt On Democratic Conspiracy Theories About Election

As was revealed in Shattered, within twenty-four hours of losing the election, Hillary Clinton decided to blame others such as Russia for her loss to Donald Trump. Polls such as a recent YouGov survey show that a strong majority of Democrats continue to believe the claims of a conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russia which altered the election despite the lack of any evidence for this after over a year of investigations. The evidence available so far suggests that the investigation is moving in a different direction. Mike Allen of Axios posted A huge clue about Mueller’s endgame:

Axios has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller has focused on events since the election — not during the campaign — in his conversations with President Trump’s lawyers. The top two topics that Mueller has expressed interest in so far: the firings of FBI director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Why it matters: That suggests a focus on obstruction of justice while in office, rather than collusion with Russia during the campaign. But both sagas are interwoven with Russia: Trump himself has linked Comey’s firing to Russia, and Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

This has actually been clear for quite a while. Mueller’s indictments have primarily involved matters such as money laundering, tax fraud, and obstruction of justice. The only indictments which related to the 2016 election campaign involved indictments of Russians for violation of federal election finance laws and identify theft. The indictments did not involve actions which either altered the election results or which indicated any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Those indictments involved social media activities which did not appear to have any meaningful impact on the election results.

Many others, such as here and here, have also been writing, contrary to the hysteria coming from cable news, that this scandal is primarily about financial crimes and their cover-up, not altering the election results. Michael Wolf, author Fire and Fury, has also said that the scandal is about money laundering, not collusion with Russia regarding the election. It is significant that Axios has added to his. That is because Mike Allen is well-connected, and  his voice will carry weight with many in the mainstream media. This could be the start of a trend towards looking at the scandal more objectively by others in the press.

Throughout the investigation there have been signs of the direction Mueller is going, including in his indictments and the types of attorneys he has hired. Other evidence goes along with Allen’s view that his focus is on “obstruction of justice while in office, rather than collusion with Russia during the campaign.” While this is still somewhat speculative, I wonder, based upon the recent request for business documents from the Trump Organization, if the focus on events since the election could also include the unprecedented conflicts of interest between Trump’s role as president and his business dealings, including his dealings with Russian oligarchs.

SciFi Weekend: Stephen Hawking, Scientist & Genre Star; The 100; Martin Freeman on Sherlock; Alexis Bledel on A Handmaid’s Tale; Double Renewal For Eric McCormack–Will & Grace & Travelers; The Americans; Nathan Fillian To Reprise Firefly Role; Saturn Award Nominees

Stephen Hawking died last week leading to recognition not only from the scientific community, tributes from many in actors due to his many appearances on genre television. He was the only historical figure to play himself on Star Trek. In the video above from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Hawking played cards with  Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Data in the holodeck. Syfy Wire has several tributes to Hawking from the cast of multiple versions of Star Trek. More at TrekMovie.com.

Sheldon Cooper met Stephen Hawking on The Big Bang Theory in the clip above. TV Line has tributes from the cast of The Big Bang Theory. IO9 has additional television cameos.

The 100 ended last season with major changes, and a quick glance of the future. An extended trailer for the the fifth season has been released, showing a new enemy to contend with. The 100 returns on April 24.

It has been a huge question as to whether Sherlock would return considering how the careers of both stars have taken off. It does not sound encouraging that Martin Freeman will want to return after he said that it wasn’t fun anymore in a recent interview:

In a new interview in The Telegraph, the Black Panther actor was asked if there were any talks about a fifth season of the BBC fan favorite.

“Not massively,” the Dr. Watson actor said. “Um… I think after series four [it] felt like a pause. I think we felt we’d done it for a bit now. And part of it, speaking for myself is [due to] the reception of it.”

Martin, the article explained, was referring to 2017’s fourth season which seemed to struggle to continue building on fans’ expectations of previous outings.

“To be absolutely honest, it [was] kind of impossible,” he explained. “Sherlock became the animal that it became immediately. Whereas even with [the U.K. version of] The Office, it was a slow burn. But Sherlock was frankly notably high quality from the outset. And when you start [that high] it’s pretty hard to maintain that.

“Being in that show, it is a mini-Beatles thing,” he concluded. “People’s expectations, some of it’s not fun anymore. It’s not a thing to be enjoyed, it’s a thing of: ‘You better f—ing do this, otherwise, you’re a c—.’ That’s not fun anymore.”

The Handmaid’s Tale returns to Hulu on April 25. Entertainment Weekly interviewed Alexis Bledel:

This season, we get to learn a lot about Emily’s life from Before. Was her backstory something you’d thought about before this episode?
Yes, I loved filming Emily’s flashbacks. [Executive producer] Bruce Miller and I had talked about what her pre-Gilead life might have been like even before I started working on the first season. I think much of her worldview is informed by her previous life as a professor of cellular biology. Life in the Colonies is a last stop. Emily does not have a great deal of hope for a future there; she knows her days are numbered.

Marisa Tomei costars with you in the second episode. What was that like?
It was amazing to work with her; she’s someone whose work I admire. We had these incredibly dark, dramatic moments to play out that she brought so much depth to.

I keep thinking/wondering what’s worse: life as a Handmaid or living in the Colonies?
Being forced to exist in either Gilead or the Colonies threatens to destroy a person’s soul in different ways. Handmaids are forced to follow an extremely limiting set of rules to comply with the mandates of the Gileadean regime, including the horrific monthly ceremony. Anyone in Gilead would be terrified to be sent to the Colonies. Everything from the soil the unwomen turn over to the water they use to wash is toxic in the Colonies, so a person’s health begins to rapidly deteriorate as soon as they get there. They know they will die there, all the while forced to do hard labor without decent food to eat or clean living conditions.

We are going to be seeing more of Eric McCormack on television next year. NBC has renewed the Will & Grace revival for a second season, and is extending it to eighteen episodes. Fewer people might be aware that Eric McCormack also stars in an excellent Canadian science fiction series called Travelers. The first two seasons were broadcast on Showcase and later shown on Netflix–although once I discovered this show I wound up downloading episodes rather than waiting for it to be available on Netflix.

Travelers has been renewed for a third season, and McCormack will be directing the first episode. However, instead of airing first on Showcase, the show will be shown exclusively on Netflix. I wonder if this was a case of Netflix saving the show if Showcase was not going to continue it, or (I suspect more likely) Netflix has business reasons and the power to take it over.

Travelers is technically a time travel show but the series takes place entirely in the present, with people from the future taking over the consciousness of people at the moments they were to have died. The characters must deal with not only their mission to save the earth , but also must deal with the personal lives of the bodies they take over. I won’t give specifics for those who have not seen it, but the second season ended with major changes for everyone, making fans eager to see a third season.

The Americans returns for its sixth and final season on March 28. FX has released the above official trailer.

Earlier in the week I had this post regarding a social credit system in China which sounds like something out of Black Mirror. It is also reminiscent of Majority Rule, an episode of The Orville.

Storing the contents of one’s brain provided for a fascinating story on Altered Carbon. A company is claiming that they can store the contents of your brain, but there is a huge catch.

Nathan Fillian is going play himself on an upcoming episode of American Housewife, and will be suiting up as Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly.


Putin Wins Reelection In Election As Rigged As A Democratic Primary

Vladimir Putin has won reelection for another six-year term as president of the Russian Kleptocracy, with exit polls showing him winning about 74 percent of the vote. The election is widely considered to be as unfair as a Democratic primary in the United States, with allegations of stuffing the ballot box and of busing people in who were ordered to vote. Putin’s top challenger, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from running in the election. Putin also benefited from control of most of the media.

Russia has accused the United States of meddling in their election. If true, it does not appear to have had any more of an effect on the outcome than Russia’s trivial meddling in the 2016 election in the United States.

China’s Social Credit System Sounds Orwellian, And Like An Extension Of Current Facebook Censorship

Recent reports on China’s  social credit system sound Orwellian, or like something out of Black Mirror. The Verge summarized how the system works:

Starting in May, Chinese citizens who rank low on the country’s burgeoning “social credit” system will be in danger of being banned from buying plane or train tickets for up to a year, according to statements recently released by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission.

With the social credit system, the Chinese government rates citizens based on things like criminal behavior and financial misdeeds, but also on what they buy, say, and do. Those with low “scores” have to deal with penalties and restrictions. China has been working towards rolling out a full version of the system by 2020, but some early versions of it are already in place.

Previously, the Chinese government had focused on restricting the travel of people with massive amounts of debt, like LeEco and Faraday Future founder Jia Yueting, who made the Supreme People’s Court blacklist late last year.

The new travel restrictions are the latest addition to this growing patchwork of social engineering, which has already imposed punishments on more than seven million citizens. And there’s a broad range when it comes to who can be flagged. Citizens who have spread “false information about terrorism,” caused “trouble” on flights, used expired tickets, or were caught smoking on trains could all be banned, according to Reuters.

But the system, as it stands, is opaque; citizens are seemingly just as likely to be flagged for minor infractions like leaving bikes parked in a footpath or issuing apologies that are deemed “insincere” as major credit defaulters like Jia. And it’s often unclear whether they’re on a blacklist in the first place, let alone what kind of recourse is available. “Chinese government authorities clearly hope to create a reality in which bureaucratic pettiness could significantly limit people’s rights,” Maya Wang, senior researcher for the non-profit NGO Human Rights Watch, wrote in December.

Wired has further information on how the system works:

Individuals on Sesame Credit are measured by a score ranging between 350 and 950 points. Alibaba does not divulge the “complex algorithm” it uses to calculate the number but they do reveal the five factors taken into account. The first is credit history. For example, does the citizen pay their electricity or phone bill on time? Next is fulfilment capacity, which it defines in its guidelines as “a user’s ability to fulfil his/her contract obligations”. The third factor is personal characteristics, verifying personal information such as someone’s mobile phone number and address. But the fourth category, behaviour and preference, is where it gets interesting.

Under this system, something as innocuous as a person’s shopping habits become a measure of character. Alibaba admits it judges people by the types of products they buy. “Someone who plays video games for ten hours a day, for example, would be considered an idle person,” says Li Yingyun, Sesame’s Technology Director. “Someone who frequently buys diapers would be considered as probably a parent, who on balance is more likely to have a sense of responsibility.” So the system not only investigates behaviour – it shapes it. It “nudges” citizens away from purchases and behaviours the government does not like.

Friends matter, too. The fifth category is interpersonal relationships. What does their choice of online friends and their interactions say about the person being assessed? Sharing what Sesame Credit refers to as “positive energy” online, nice messages about the government or how well the country’s economy is doing, will make your score go up…

Posting dissenting political opinions or links mentioning Tiananmen Square has never been wise in China, but now it could directly hurt a citizen’s rating. But here’s the real kicker: a person’s own score will also be affected by what their online friends say and do, beyond their own contact with them. If someone they are connected to online posts a negative comment, their own score will also be dragged down…

…people with low ratings will have slower internet speeds; restricted access to restaurants, nightclubs or golf courses; and the removal of the right to travel freely abroad with, I quote, “restrictive control on consumption within holiday areas or travel businesses”. Scores will influence a person’s rental applications, their ability to get insurance or a loan and even social-security benefits. Citizens with low scores will not be hired by certain employers and will be forbidden from obtaining some jobs, including in the civil service, journalism and legal fields, where of course you must be deemed trustworthy. Low-rating citizens will also be restricted when it comes to enrolling themselves or their children in high-paying private schools. I am not fabricating this list of punishments. It’s the reality Chinese citizens will face. As the government document states, the social credit system will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”.

This sounds a  lot like what was depicted on an episode of The Orville entitled Majority Rule.

The system is voluntary now and becomes mandatory in 2020. Wired suggests that people are signing up now out of fear of reprisals if they do not, and as high scores can be a status symbol:

Higher scores have already become a status symbol, with almost 100,000 people bragging about their scores on Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) within months of launch. A citizen’s score can even affect their odds of getting a date, or a marriage partner, because the higher their Sesame rating, the more prominent their dating profile is on Baihe.

Sesame Credit already offers tips to help individuals improve their ranking, including warning about the downsides of friending someone who has a low score. This might lead to the rise of score advisers, who will share tips on how to gain points, or reputation consultants willing to offer expert advice on how to strategically improve a ranking or get off the trust-breaking blacklist.

Wired compares this to “a big data gamified version of the Communist Party’s surveillance methods.” People are also likely to seek ways around the system:

We’re also bound to see the birth of reputation black markets selling under-the-counter ways to boost trustworthiness. In the same way that Facebook Likes and Twitter followers can be bought, individuals will pay to manipulate their score. What about keeping the system secure? Hackers (some even state-backed) could change or steal the digitally stored information…

In China, certain citizens, such as government officials, will likely be deemed above the system. What will be the public reaction when their unfavourable actions don’t affect their score? We could see a Panama Papers 3.0 for reputation fraud.

While this sounds absolutely Orwellian, businesses here are regularly rated on line, and their success can be affected by the whims of anonymous reviewers.

While we do not face restrictions as severe as those described in China, this is also analogous to the current censorship we are facing on Facebook. While the internet can increase opportunities for free expression when anyone can write from their own web page,  increasingly communication is being channeled through limited sources. Facebook has become indispensable for communicating, now with over two billion active users worldwide. Facebook will often cite violation of Community Standards to justify restricting individuals, but quite often there is no evidence of violating any of the Community Standards actually posted by Facebook, and no response to appeals. This has led many people to start using social media sites including MeWe, Steemit, Minds, and Tremr. Unfortunately it is far harder for Chinese to change where they live to avoid repression based upon unclear standards than it is to use alternative social media sites here.

Rational Voices In Response To Recent Charges Of Russian Assassination By Poisoning And Infiltration Of The Power Grid

Before the 2016 election I feared that a Clinton presidency would turn Democrats into a pack of neocon warmongers and we would see attempts to limit free speech in protest. What I didn’t anticipate was that her loss would do the same thing. Democrats are spreading hysteria about Russia which is comparable to the misinformation spread about Iraq in the run up to that war. Many Democrats are spreading claims which are not supported by either the Congressional investigations or the information in Robert Mueller’s indictments. Many are adopting McCarthyist tactics to attack those who attempt to question their misinformation, failing to understand that debunking false claims about Russia no more makes one pro-Putin than debunking false claims about Iraq and WMD made one pro-Saddam. Fortunately there are still some sane voices in the world. Today I will look at responses to the Russian assassinations in London and to the reports of Russian infiltration of the power grid.

For the sake of discussion I am assuming that the accusations made regarding these two events are true, but we must keep in mind that repeatedly there have been examples of accusations being made, the claims later being retracted, yet many people continued to spread the false claims. This includes the  retracted claims of agreement by seventeen intelligence agencies agreeing when in reality all that existed was a fact-free assessment by a small number of anti-Russian individuals in the intelligence community. NBC has repeatedly raised the debunked claims of Russian hacking of our voting systems. Previous claims that the Russians infiltrated the electrical grid in Vermont were later retracted. Many Democrats act as if collusion between Trump and Russia has been established, and that Russia altered the election results, when there is no evidence of either, and no charges that this was done in any of Robert Mueller’s indictments to date.

While leaders of the Democratic Party in the United States are spreading anti-Russian hysteria, primarily to avoid responsibility for nominating a candidate so terrible that she could not even beat Donald Trump, the leader of the Labour Party in the UK sounds far more rational. Jeremy Corbyn has this op-ed in The Guardian in response to the recent poisonings in London:

As I said in parliament, the Russian authorities must be held to account on the basis of the evidence, and our response must be both decisive and proportionate. But let us not manufacture a division over Russia where none exists. Labour is of course no supporter of the Putin regime, its conservative authoritarianism, abuse of human rights or political and economic corruption. And we pay tribute to Russia’s many campaigners for social justice and human rights, including for LGBT rights.

However, that does not mean we should resign ourselves to a “new cold war” of escalating arms spending, proxy conflicts across the globe and a McCarthyite intolerance of dissent. Instead, Britain needs to uphold its laws and its values without reservation. And those should be allied to a foreign policy that uses every opportunity to reduce tensions and conflict wherever possible…

There can and should be the basis for a common political response to this crime. But in my years in parliament I have seen clear thinking in an international crisis overwhelmed by emotion and hasty judgments too many times. Flawed intelligence and dodgy dossiers led to the calamity of the Iraq invasion. There was overwhelming bipartisan support for attacking Libya, but it proved to be wrong. A universal repugnance at the 9/11 attacks led to a war on Afghanistan that continues to this day, while terrorism has spread across the globe.

The continuing fallout from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the virtual collapse of the Russian state in the 1990s must be addressed through international law and diplomacy if we are to reverse the drift to conflict.

Right now, the perpetrators of the Salisbury attack must be identified and held to account. Only through firm multilateral action can we ensure such a shocking crime never happens again.

Just as we should work to ensure that such a crime never happens again, we should work to increase cyber-security, including security for the electrical grid. Philip Bump, who previously added some sanity to the claims that Russian altered the election by using social media, now is looking at the facts regarding the electrical grid. He wrote a column entitled Why Russian hackers aren’t poised to plunge the United States into darkness:

The natural question that emerges is: How serious is this hacking? The idea of Russian hackers having access to the control switches of America’s power infrastructure is particularly unnerving, raising the idea of waking up one morning to learn that the United States has simply been switched off.

Several experts who spoke with The Washington Post, though, explained that this is not only oversimplistic but also that it is almost certainly impossible. The effects of infiltration of America’s power grid would be much more geographically limited thanks to the distributed, redundant nature of the system.

In fact, it’s more than a little like another alert issued by the government about Russian infiltration efforts: the one on Oct. 7, 2016, warning about Russian efforts to tamper with state voting systems.

That announcement came from the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security and indicated that Russian hackers were “scanning and probing” election-related systems. The message, one of the few public responses to Russian interference from the Obama administration, didn’t get as much play as it might have, given that it came out the same day as The Post published the “Access Hollywood” tape.

Meaning that the caveats in the announcement — that our voting mechanisms were protected by being disconnected from the Internet during the election, by being distributed throughout thousands of counties and by having after-the-fact statistical checks on accuracy — weren’t really absorbed. The idea that Russian hackers might have significantly altered election results in 2016 persists out of a misunderstanding of how remarkably hard it would be to subvert the process, particularly without being noticed…

…this damage would be localized. Perhaps, Bauch said, a hacker who’d gained access to a regional power provider or generation system might be able to knock out power to tens or hundreds of thousands of people at a time. That would be significant, but it’s not taking out the whole grid. Attacking multiple providers across the country at specific times of vulnerability — like on a hot day in the west when power supplies are strained — could multiply those effects. But it would require a significant amount of planning, coordination and access to have an impact on a massive scale…

Thanks to the distributed nature of our elections and the barriers to changing votes, hacking our elections is trickier than most people realize. Thanks to the distributed and often disconnected nature of our electrical system and the barriers to accessing it, the same can be said of hacking the grid…

It’s a serious situation, warranting the sort of dramatic response we saw from the government on Thursday. But do not expect to wake up some day soon and learn that Russian President Vladimir Putin now controls the flow of electricity to your house. Real life, as always, is less dramatic than the movies.

Bump has a lot more detail in his full article, including the belief that Russian hackers gained access through spear-phishing. While there is controversy over whether the DNC’s email was released to Wikileaks due to hacking or a leak from the inside, the possibility has also been raised that access to the DNC’s email was through spear-phishing. We would be much safer if the media and politicians spent half the time they spend on misleading stories about Russia to better educate the public about how to respond to such attempts to gain access to our computer systems.

Jimmy Kimmel Finds That Trump Store Does Not Put America First

Jimmy Kimmel doesn’t agree with Donald Trump very often, but he said he does agree with supporting American products. Kimmel ordered merchandise from Trump’s online store and found that the items were manufactured in countries such as China, Thailand and Peru. The closest to an American product was a Trump golf club cover which was made in China, but decorated in the United States.

Some of the items did not have information on their country of origin. Kimmel pointed out that, “failure to properly report product origin can result in substantial penalties. Companies can face up to $500,000 in fines per violation or double the loss or gain from the violation related to these violations.”

“This could be very expensive,” Kimmel said. “Not to mention embarrassing. Are they even capable of shame? I mean Trump’s whole platform is about American companies, his company isn’t even supporting America!”

Kimmel came up with a solution: “This could be very expensive, not to mention this has got to be embarrassing. I’m sure Eric and Don Jr. didn’t know about this. I’m sure this was a simple oversight. I’ll just file an official complaint, and let them sort it all out.”

Clinton Reminds The World Why She Really Lost–And It Has Nothing To Do With Russia

Most losing candidates keep a low profile after losing an election. Despite being robbed of victory, Al Gore kept quiet at first, and reemerged more liberal, and a vocal opponent of the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton in contrast has been spending the time since her election making excuses, and her popularity has fallen even further since the election. Her recent statement in India are even angering many Democrats who have supported her. The Hill reports:

Democrats are angry that Hillary Clinton continues to discuss what went wrong during the 2016 presidential election against President Trump.

Even some of Clinton’s own former aides and surrogates say the former Democratic presidential nominee should back away from the discussion about her failed campaign because it’s harmful to the party.

During a conference in India this weekend, Clinton called states that supported her in the election more economically advanced than the states that backed Trump.

The remarks reminded many of the former secretary of State’s comments in 2016 that some of Trump’s supporters fit in a “basket of deplorables,” a line the Republican then used against her repeatedly during the final stretch of the campaign.

She also insinuated that women who voted for Trump were motivated by “ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.”

In interviews with The Hill on Tuesday, even the staunchest Clinton allies as well as longtime advisers say the comments were cringeworthy and ultimately detrimental to Democrats.

“She put herself in a position where [Democrats] from states that Trump won will have to distance themselves from her even more,” said one former senior Clinton aide. “That’s a lot of states.”

Another Clinton surrogate questioned the decisionmaking behind Clinton’s remarks. For months, some Democrats have been arguing that Clinton’s sentiments have been counterproductive to the party’s rebuilding efforts. And some have told her she should emulate former President Obama’s model to only make statements when it’s essential.

Even before she launched her book tour last fall for “What Happened,” party strategists have said Clinton should lay low.

“She’s annoying me. She’s annoying everyone, as far as I can tell,” said one 2016 Clinton surrogate. “Who lets her say these things?”

The Washington Post added:

Like Trump, Clinton has lost popularity since the 2016 election in national polls.

In early December, Gallup found 36 percent of Americans viewed her favorably, the same percentage that approved of Trump’s presidential performance. The result marked a record low for Clinton in the Gallup poll, which has tracked her favorability since 1993. Just 5 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents had a favorable view of her.

Several studies of the 2016 election have found that Trump overperformed Clinton in economically struggling parts of the nation, a likely motivator for voters seeking change in the party control of the White House. Parts of the country that shifted their support from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 were also more likely to be negatively affected by globalization.

Another post-election study showed that Clinton’s hawkish views were also harmful to her campaign.

As was revealed in Shattered, Hillary Clinton decided upon the strategy of blaming others such as Russia for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing. The Congressional testimony showed that Russian activities on social media were trivial compared to the actions of the two major party campaigns. While we have known for some time that the Clinton campaign had used paid internet trolls, new information came out today in an article at Huffington Post regarding the use of fake accounts used by Clinton supporters to oppose Bernie Sanders.

While Democrats express frustration with Clinton continuing to blame others for her loss, many Democrats do continue to support her unfounded claims. For example, after the House Intelligence Committee reported that there was no collusion between Russia and Donald Trump to alter the election, Democrats have continued to make arguments which are not supported by the facts. While it is true that House Republicans very likely would have denied the presence of collusion if it existed, and it is possible that Robert Mueller might uncover new information in the future, the fact remains that the evidence available at present shows no such evidence of collusion.

Despite the lack of evidence of meaningful cooperation between the Trump  campaign and Russia to effect the election result, Democrats such as Joaquin Castro have been giving interviews distorting the facts following the committee report. In this interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, Castro both made unfounded claims and moved the goal post a tremendous distance to promote actions which do not show any meaningful collusion as if they were evidence of collusion. While not in the transcript on the web site, during the actual broadcast host David Greene debunked Castro’s claims after the interview. Democrats who continue to make unfounded claims look like Republicans who continued to justify the Iraq war long after it was clear to most that we were never threatened by WMD from Iraq.

If Democrats are going to move forward from the 2016 election, they need to do more than just cringe when Clinton makes asinine statements. They need to acknowledge that Clinton lost because of her own mistakes, both during the campaign and in making bad decisions throughout her career. They must admit that they were wrong to rig the nomination for her, and reform the nominating process. Finally they must repudiate both the corrupt personal behavior of the Clintons in using their  public positions to unethically enrich themselves, and the conservative positions she has promoted throughout her career.

Quote of the Day: Conan O’Brien on Stormy Daniels

The porn star that claims she had an affair with the president is now suing him. Man, it’s so weird – it’s almost as if we DID elect a Clinton! –Conan O’Brien

DNC Talking About Reforming Failed System Which Gave Hillary Clinton 2016 Nomination With No Action Yet

The nomination processes of both major political parties failed in 2016, with each major political party nominating a candidate who was unfit to be president. The situation was even more outrageous in the Democratic Party which  has long standing rules to supposedly prevent the nomination of an unelectable candidate. Instead of utilizing the rules to prevent an unelectable candidate from winning, the DNC used such rules, and made additional rules changes for the 2016 election, to give the nomination to Hillary Clinton in a process which was no more democratic than to give the nomination in the proverbial smoke-filled room.

The Democrats ultimately lost an election they should have won in 2016 due to rigging the nomination for a candidate too weak to win the nomination on her own, and who was unable to beat a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump in 2016. The rigging of the Democratic nomination also alienated many potential voters, putting the party in danger of further losses. As I noted in December, the party created a “unity commission” to make recommendations to change some of the party rules which led to the catastrophe in 2016. Typically establishment Democrats call for unity, except when they are attacking the left.

A key recommendation was to reduce the number of superdelegates. While this recommendation was hardly sufficient following the abuses of 2016, the party leaders continue to talk without actually taking any action. The Hill reports on their inaction over the past weekend:

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted Saturday to acknowledge a need to reduce the influence of so-called “superdelegates” in the presidential primaries, while a decision on specific changes to the role such delegates will play in the 2020 election won’t come until this summer.

At the DNC’s winter meeting, officials accepted language committing the party to reduce the “perceived influence” of superdelegates, the unelected delegates that are free to support any candidate for the party’s nomination…

The DNC said in the report adopted Saturday that its Rules and Bylaws Committee will present its final proposal to the full party later this year. The panel was given six months, starting in late December, to come up with specific actions it would take regarding superdelegates.

DNC Chair Tom Perez called the vote Saturday a “milestone.”

“[T]he Democratic Party is stating loudly and clearly that the status quo will change,” he said. “When our work is complete, our 2020 nomination process will be the most fair and transparent in the history of American presidential politics.”

Perez had told The Associated Press that officials “will improve the democratic process” before the 2020 elections. “If we’re going to win elections, you’ve got to earn the trust of voters, and many voters had a crisis of confidence in the Democratic Party.”

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee had been discussing a proposal drafted by the Unity Reform Commission that was created after the 2016 primary battle. The commission had said they wanted the number of superdelegates reduced by 60 percent, but the Rules and Bylaws Committee suggested it might do even more.

During the 2016 election, supporters of Sanders argued that superdelegates allowed Clinton to get early endorsements and develop an early lead before the primaries or caucuses even began.

There are DNC members who want to remove superdelegates from the Democratic Convention’s first ballot altogether, allowing the candidate with the majority of pledged delegates earned through the primaries and caucuses to win the nomination.

Other DNC members believe they have earned their uncommitted vote through years of participation in the party.

Any proposal to change the power of superdelegates would need two-thirds support from the DNC’s 447 members to pass.

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

These rules played into Clinton’s strategy of appearing inevitable by having the news media reporting a strong lead for Clinton in delegates after the votes in New Hampshire and Iowa, despite Sanders receiving more votes. Then there were the shenanigans by Harry Reid in Nevada, followed by favorable states for Clinton on Super Tuesday. The party also helped in other ways including changing of fund raising rules to help Clinton, voting restrictions, and giving Clinton unprecedented control over the party during the primary campaign.

The recommendations of the Unity Commission do not go far enough. Besides eliminating superdelegates, if the Democrats hope to gain the trust of voters, they should also end the front-loading of primaries, end restrictions on debates, and give assurances that the types of changes made in 2016 to give Clinton the nomination will not happen again.

Besides these more technical issues, the credibility of the Democratic Party was also seriously harmed by nominating a candidate as corrupt as Hillary Clinton, who repeatedly used her years in public life for personal financial gain, and whose support for unnecessary wars and military intervention has resulted in a massive number of deaths and misery. More recently the DNC has purged progressives and made lobbyists superdelegates. Other arms of the Democratic Party have pushed conservative policies and attacked progressive candidates despite evidence contradicting the view of the Democratic leadership that progressive candidates are less electable. Just talking about reducing the “perceived influence” of superdelegates is not enough.

SciFi Weekend: The Magicians Musical Episode; Black Mirror Renewed; Timeless Returns; Michelle Gomez on Returning To Doctor Who; The Expanse; Agents of SHIELD; Gotham; Lost In Space; Jessica Jones; Altered Carbon; Episode of Black-ish Too Controversial For ABC

Last season The Magicians went into battle with a musical number from Les Miserables (video here). This season they topped that in an episode with four muscical numbers, which also revealed where Josh has been.  The most talked about musical scene was Under Pressure where the entire cast was involved but my favorite was Kady (Jade Tailor) singing All I Need Is the Boy (adapted from All I Need Is the Girl from Gypsy). While most of the cast members have no experience singing, Jade Tailor does have experience with burlesque.

I have not been able to find a stand alone video of Jade Tailor’s song. Video of the entire cast singing Under Pressure follows:

The producers discussed All That Josh with Entertainment Weekly:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In approaching the episode with so many musical numbers, where do you start — with the songs or the story? 
JOHN MCNAMARA: God, I wish it was that linear. [Laughs]
SERA GAMBLE: John, I remember you talking about the David Bowie song, like, the previous season. Am I remembering this right, that you kind of had this image in your head of everybody singing that song long before we got to this episode?
MCNAMARA: Yeah, I think the music was first. Initially, I think it was a much looser, even lighter, less menacing plot. At first, the design was almost going to be like a singing contest where there are high stakes to be lost. That didn’t really hold water, it just didn’t seem to work. [We realized] it had to sit in the serialized narrative of the show, it had to be about the quest, it had to be about something and someone you really cared about, and it had to also serve several ongoing threads that had nothing to do with this musical pocket universe. That just took a lot of trial and error. This was one of those episodes — you have one every season — where the normal episode will take anywhere from three days to two weeks to break the story, get all the beats on the board, and my recollection is this took six weeks. It stopped the [writers’] room. It literally stopped all forward momentum. Fortunately, we’d been on schedule with our other scripts and we kind of planned out. This was the knot to untangle at the end of the second third of the season. All hands were on deck. I give a lot of credit (or blame, depending) to my two co-writers Jay Gard and Alex Raiman. This was their debut professional script.

For me, one of the breakthroughs — which fortunately happened while I was out of the room, so it wasn’t my idea, but I immediately approved it — was the idea that it was a universe where there were dangerous consequences if you didn’t behave exactly the way the leader, Todd/the demon, wanted you to behave. That was a really important breakthrough, I think, for all the writers because it gave it a lot of bottom. It wasn’t just going to be like jazz hands.

When I got to this episode, I was surprised that it became about the group uniting. How did you land on taking it in that specific direction, where it’s about Josh feeling left out? 
MCNAMARA: Part of it was just an accident. We realized we hadn’t had Josh in a bunch of episodes. He sort of got bumped out of a block of episodes through no fault of his own, just that we have a lot of characters and a lot of plot, and that in a way felt fortuitous, that you could then make the show about what happened to Josh.
GAMBLE: Whether or not the episode we’re working on happens to have half a dozen musical numbers in it, we are always playing within the structure of a classic fairy-tale quest this season. Quentin especially is very, very cognizant of how these epic quests work and how each step of the quest challenges the quester in a different way. From the beginning in this case, the quest has been a group effort, and when Eliot is given the quest in the first episode, he’s both encouraged and warned by the fact that everybody is part of one whole, and that means that these different keys, as you try to get them, will challenge you in different ways. If they’re a team and they forgot Josh, that’s a problem for the quest. So that was really one of the first things that we could sink our teeth into. Unlike John, I really don’t have a brain for musical theater. There are a lot of hilariously ardent musical theater fans in The Magicians writers’ room, as you can tell, starting with John, and I am not one of them. I am sort of the grumpy person in the corner who’s drinking coffee and saying, “Explain to me how this would work if no one was singing.”

You had “Under Pressure” in the back of you head for a while, but how did you pick the other three songs for the episode?
MCNAMARA: We knew the opening number would have to reintroduce Josh in a big way. It would have to be a big, inexplicably well-choreographed number that tells you why he’s so happy to be here, how integrated he is into this universe. The dance tells you something nonverbally about the world and the character: He is the center of this whole little universe. He’s the lead singer, he’s the lead dancer, and Todd is kind of his enabler, and we later learn why. That to me felt like we needed something big and upbeat and party-ish. We listened to a lot of songs, I can’t remember the titles of all of them. Some of them were insanely expensive and popular, and the song “Wham Bam” I thought was really catchy and a lot of fun. I thought it was like a really good introduction. It then gave Alice, Quentin, and Kady something to stare incomprehensibly at.

Another [type of musical number] that I’m very fond of is cabaret, where most of the musical numbers take place on a stage, so that you’re seeing a character perform for an audience that isn’t the audience in the theater, it’s the audience of the Kit Kat Klub, and character and milieu are revealed through a little more of a sideways way in. On the surface, it’s not as revealing of character, but if you do it right, it’s very revealing of character. So that informed the decision to have Kady sing her song. All I knew about that song early on was I wanted it to be a Sondheim song, because I love his work and I think it’s really intelligent and it always has layers to it, and I knew that it had to be a torch song because I had an instinct early on that we do a kind of classic Mata Hari move wherein she would do something outrageous to distract all of these creatures, and mollify and entertain them while our heroes were off doing something nefarious upstairs with Josh. I thought the [“All I Need Is the Boy”] lyrics were just as good if not better than “All I Need Is the Girl,” which has pretty good lyrics. I thought that’s the perfect torch song and definitely for our really hardcore musical theater aficionados, who may number in single digits, it’s kind of a treat to hear what is kind of, for 99% of the world, a brand new Stephen Sondheim lyric and, in my opinion, does not disappoint when you want cleverness, emotion, and a not-sentimental emotion and depth from Sondheim.

Then I came to discover with Sera, Jay, and Alex was now we have to explain why it is Kady would choose to sing this song and do a striptease. Then we thought, well, her mom, who we met in season 1 and was a bit of free spirit, might have had a year where she decided to be a stripper and maybe she did this burlesque number and Kady remembers it and recreates the dress. Without necessarily intending to, suddenly the song and the number and the moment and even the suspense it creates all illuminates Kady’s character to a greater degree.

“Car Wash” was just that we wanted something fun for Josh to use to distract, but also to slowly reveal to him how empty and repetitive this life has become and how false it is. I thought disco was a pretty good route to get to the death of the soul. If you’re just doing disco for months and months and months, you’re going to see the emptiness of it. As I said, “Under Pressure” was always in the back of my head before there was anything like a story as something that all eight characters could sing as we intercut between their various worlds and their various problems. None of us started out knowing how or why. That was just always on the board as the big number. In a weird way, the only one that we planned ahead of time was “Under Pressure.” Everything else was kind of trial and error, and selected to either illuminate character or move the story forward.O

Inside the Magicians (video above) has more on the episode, including a very brief look at Jade Tailor singing All I Need Is the Boy.

Black Mirror was officially renewed for a fifth season. There is no word yet as to how many episodes

Timeless returns tonight. Spoiler TV has a preview of the episode here.

In an interview with Doctor Who Magazine, Michelle Gomez says she might return to face Jodie Whittaker’s version of the Doctor. She had this to say about the character:

I think it’s going to be really hard to shake this one off. Missy has made quite a big impression on me, and hopefully on the fans as well. She was such a great fit. Even though, for now, she has been laid to rest. I don’t think she’s ever going to be that far away. I loved playing this character so much, and it was really hard to see her go. But I think that in many different shapes and forms, she will be back. I can’t really say much more than that. I have never had this response to anything else that I’ve done, and I’m really grateful for that.

While her character appeared to be killed and left unable to regenerate, the Master has a long tradition of returning from apparent death. Plus time travel would allow for seeing her at a different point in her time line.

Syfy has released the above trailer for The Expanse season three, which returns April 11.

There were big moments last week for the 100th episode of Agents of SHIELD (discussed and spoiled here), and on Gotham. Although it was during a drug induced hallucination caused by Poison Ivy, Bruce Wayne had a vision of his future, with might be the only view of Batman we are likely to see on the show:

The Librarians has been cancelled by TNT, with there some talk of trying to have it picked up elsewhere.

Netflix will be releasing another remake of Lost in Space on April 13, and released the following trailer:

Jessica Jones is out on Netflix now. I have a four more episodes to go, but so far it has been excellent, showing more about Jessica’s backstory. While the series is slow moving, I haven’t minded. I would much rather spend time with Jessica, Patsy, and the rest of this cast than in the far less interesting world created in Iron Fist.

Altered Carbon is another show highly worth binging which came out recently on Netflix. It also starts out a little slow, but once I got to the second half it was hard to stop until the end.  While it has not been renewed for a second season, I would not be surprised if it returns after the success of the first season. They have the options of adapting the sequels to the novel, or writing new stories set in the universe created.  Joel Kinnaman, star of the current season, will be staring in Hanna on Amazon, and may or may not be available to return for a future season. However, somewhat analogous to Doctor Who, this series has a built-in way to cast a new lead. In this case, as occurred in the novels, Takeshi Kovacs could receive a new sleeve and have his consciousness placed in a new body, played by a different actor. If desired, they could continue this series with a different lead actor every year.

Black-ish has often dealt with political matters, but the episode originally scheduled for February 27 was not shown due to “creative differences.” Variety has some information on the episode:

Shot in November and directed by Barris, “Please, Baby, Please” features Anthony Anderson’s patriarch Dre caring for his infant son on the night of an intense thunderstorm that keeps the whole household awake. Dre attempts to read the baby a bedtime story, but abandons that plan when the baby continues to cry. He instead improvises a bedtime story that, over the course of the episode, conveys many of Dre’s concerns about the current state of the country.

The episode covers multiple political and social issues. In one scene, Dre and oldest son Junior (Marcus Scribner) argue over the rights of athletes to kneel during the performance of the national anthem at football games.