Conan O’Brien On The Trump Transition

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Yesterday, Donald Trump had his third top secret intelligence briefing. If you’d like to know the details, just check Trump’s Twitter feed.

It’s been reported that President-elect Trump has chosen four-star Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense. When Trump was told the general had four stars, he said, “Wow, that’s a great Yelp review.”

Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted that millions of people voted illegally on Election Day. Then someone told Trump it’s not illegal for women to vote.

Donald Trump is giving key positions in his cabinet to people who were loyal to him early on. So congratulations, Defense Secretary Scott Baio!”

SciFi Weekend: Gilmore Girls A Year In The Life; CW Superhero Crossover; Bryan Fuller and Star Trek Discovery; Class; Doctor Who; Sherlock; Luke Cage; Sense8; Westworld

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Gilmore Girls, A Year In the Life finally revealed the greatest mystery beyond the secret of life, the universe and everything (which was revealed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to be 42). Major spoilers ahead as I figure that any fan of Gilmore Girls will have completed the series by now. It is only six hours and it is Lorelai, Rory, Emily, and Stars Hollow, after all. The series concluded with those four final words which  Amy Sherman-Palladino had intended when she first started the series, but did not get to use because of leaving the series for its final seventh season over contract disputes. After years of waiting, we now know they were, “Mom. “Yeah?” “I’m pregnant.” The words, in retrospect, were entirely predictable. As we learned from Battlestar Galactica, “All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.” Lorelai being pregnant with Rory years earlier set up the series, and now all of it will happen again.

Of course it will not happen exactly the same. Rory will not run off and leave her family as Lorelai did. Rory is now much older than both Lorelai was, and also significantly older than Rory would have been if the four final words were spoken at the end of the original seventh season. She could go down a completely different path. “Rory doesn’t have to keep the baby,” as Amy Sherman-Palladino told TVLine. “There are choices here that she can make. It’s just the left turn. It’s that curveball that life throws you. I will say, weirdly, that I like it much more now. ”

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The revival captured much of what made the original series great. Most of the old cast was seen, with Paris having some of the best scenes. Drop Murder She Wrote and sign Liza Weil for a Paris Geller spinoff. There were many additional cameos, including cast members from Bunheads and Parenthood. This included her Parenthood daughter Mae Whitman. The two park rangers were played by Jason Ritter, a romantic interest on Parenthood, and by Peter Krause, her brother on the show, and real-life romantic partner. A full list of cameos can be found here.

There were many pop culture references. This includes genre references include Doctor Who (with an appearance by Alex Kingston), Superman, Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel Movies, Outlander, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks (with Ray Wise also having a role), and Game of Thrones. While there were far too many to mention all the genre references here, Screen Rant has a full list. The timing of the show, taking place during the 2016 election year but filming before the results were known, prevented them from including political references. A future season of Gilmore Girls could easily include some snarky comments about Donald Trump–as they sometimes did at the expense of George Bush and other Republicans during the original run. I collected some examples here and here.

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Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino gave multiple interviews which covered some of the points discussed, included whether Stars Hollow would have gone for Donald Trump. Here’s a portion of one interview from Vulture:

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter: the final four words. You’ve said these were the same four words that would have marked the end of the original series. But did you ever contemplate changing the ending for A Year in the Life in a way that differed from that plan?
Amy Sherman-Palladino: We didn’t really know what that last season was until we got into it and then we asked a lot of questions and we found out where the show ended. The show could have ended in a different place that made those last four words completely irrelevant. So we went into breaking this in a way that we were really looking at it like these three women are at a crossroads. The patriarch has died and what’s the way forward for them?

Organically, the last four words fell into place on this. It’s not something we would have shoved in there if it hadn’t really led us to a good space and if we weren’t churning toward that anyhow. What’s interesting about the last four words as originally conceived is they would have been when [Rory] was 22, and while that still, I think, thematically would have worked with the whole idea of history repeating itself full freaking circle — you know, daughter follows in mother’s footsteps — to me it’s actually more interesting, it takes on more relevance, that it’s at the same age. She’s at the same age now that Lorelai was when we started the series.

That’s just an interesting kind of dynamic. When we met Lorelai, she was 32 and that’s where she was in her life and now we’re leaving Rory at 32 with the thing on the horizon. It felt kind of cooler to us to do it now than if we had done it when we were still on the WB.

Also, Rory has had an opportunity to live life and do some things that her mom didn’t.
ASP: She’s bringing more to whatever decision she makes than she would have at 22, fresh out of college.

Let me ask you this: Do you know who the father of Rory’s baby is?
ASP: We do…

I’m sure everyone is asking you this question, but do you want to do another season or series of mini-movies like this? Has that been discussed at this point?
DP: Nothing’s been discussed. This was kind of set as a one-off thing, but we would never have anticipated that we were going to do this up until a couple of years ago when it occurred to us. So we never say never. It wasn’t designed to go beyond this, but it certainly can go beyond this.

ASP: Yeah, it wasn’t the sales pitch. The sales pitch was, these are the four stories, this is A Year in the Life, this is what it’s going to be. There were no ulterior motives walking into that room to pitch, other than we think it will be really interesting to see where these women are over this particular year.

Because it ends the way that it does, some people may assume that, “Oh, they set it up to continue.”
ASP: Nope, not at all. We’ve always tried to not wrap things up in a bow. We tried to do that on the series. Because life isn’t like that. You can have a good moment with a parent you are estranged from, and you have a great moment, and then the next time you see them, everything’s back to the way it was before and you guys are throwing knives at each other. Life doesn’t tend to fix things or wrap them up in bows. Because of that, we wanted the ending of this to not have a pat, “And they all lived happily ever after!”

It’s not that it’s a sad ending, particularly, but it’s an ending of, “And life throws you another left turn and then you’ve got to go with the flow.” That’s what we’ve always tried to do, successfully or unsuccessfully, with the show over the life of it. We felt it would have been weird to end this year with, “Everyone’s happy! Yay! Unicorns for all!”

A detail that jumped out at me while I was watching was a poster with the date of Luke and Lorelai’s wedding, which would have been a few days before the election. I didn’t know if that was something that was …
ASP: They were so happy then. So innocent to the ways of the world.

DP: We were tempted to put something about — you know, because there was the prospect and the likelihood that there was going to be a woman president-elect at the very, very end. I think that poster [originally] indicated that it would be on November 19, I think it was post-election. I think it may have been post, you know, it was right around that time. We in this industry can’t afford to even predict the future even when it’s as certain as Hillary Clinton winning the presidential election. Quite frankly, this show — Amy and I are dyed in the wool liberals and very left wing. But the show, we always wanted it to be bipartisan and Stars Hollow is a — probably voted for Trump, mainly …

ASP: No. No, no, no, no.

DP: Oh, I think they did.

ASP: No, no, no, no, no.

DP: It’s rural America!

ASP: No, no, no, no, no. There is no evilness in Stars Hollow. Do not put that out there, I do not accept that. Absolutely not.

DP: Okay, maybe it’s a …

ASP: No. No.

DP: … clean, liberal …

ASP: No. No.

DP: … maybe.

ASP: No. No, no, no. The problem is that if we had known Satan was taking over the world we would have needed a whole other budget for, like, dragons and flying demons and, you know, like the sun disappearing from the world. Winter is coming. It would have been so expensive the way we would have needed to do it, had we known that the apocalypse was coming. It’s good we didn’t, so we didn’t have to spend all that money on horns, harpies — and Minotaurs and women with snakes.

Gilmore Girls, A Year In The Life works well as a stand-alone revival, or given the flexibility of Netflix, it should be possible to have further mini-seasons.

DC's Legends of Tomorrow --"Invasion!"-- Image LGN207c_0156.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): David Ramsey as John Diggle, Caity Lotz as Sara Lance/White Canary, Carlos Valdes as Cisco Ramon, Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak, Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer/Atom, Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl, Nick Zano as Nate Heywood and Victor Garber as Professor Martin Stein -- Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The CW Network had its big cross over event with Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow.The episodes were a treat not only for fans of the CW shows, but for all genre fans. While there weren’t as many genre references as in Gilmore Girls, MoviePilot.com listed some of the Easter Eggs for genre fans included in the episodes.

Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim discussed some of the issues raised in the episodes with TVLine:

WILL THERE BE MORE FLASHPOINT CHANGES FOR ARROW AND LEGENDS CHARACTERS? | The producers are keeping mum on that front, but Guggenheim did share that “there’s a fair amount of discussion” about the subject in next Wednesday’s Arrow midseason finale. “[The characters] deal with — in some humorous ways, actually — some of the ramifications. For example, I think Curtis is concerned that maybe he was straight, originally.” As for whether Barry’s voicemail is directly tied to Flashpoint or referencing more changes that the speedster makes down the road, Kreisberg offers this cryptic tease: “The message from the future relates to Flashpoint, but it also may relate to something else coming up.”

WILL SUPERGIRL VISIT EARTH-1 AGAIN? | Now that Kara has a way to communicate and travel across Earths, crossovers are certainly “easier” to execute, Kreisberg says. “The next time we do it, it means it doesn’t necessarily have to be because Oliver and Barry need Kara; it could be because Kara needs them.” However, the EP notes that nothing is in the works, seeing as how “we just barely survived this one. So we’re not too concerned with what we’re going to try to do next year. But it just gives us another way to come at a story.”

WILL STEIN’S DAUGHTER BE BACK? | “You’ll see her again in a few episodes,” Guggenheim says. And as early as next Thursday’s Legends midseason finale, “the ramifications” of Stein and Jax keeping the doc’s newly discovered offspring a secret “come into play.”

COULD THE NEW PRESIDENT HAVE BEEN LYNDA CARTER? | “Actually, in the original draft of the Legends episode, she was the Vice President, who became the President,” Guggenheim reveals. “The studio had what we all considered to be a very fair note [that] it was a bit too confusing.”

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Bryan Fuller is no longer involved with Star Trek: Discovery, but his early work on the series should still have a big impact on the direction of the series. From Newsweek:

“Ultimately, with my responsibilities [elsewhere], I could not do what CBS needed to have done in the time they needed it done for Star Trek,” Fuller explains to Newsweek. “It felt like it was best for me to focus on landing the plane with American Gods and making sure that was delivered in as elegant and sophisticated a fashion as I could possibly do.”

CBS opted to move ahead without Fuller after previously accommodating his and co-creator Alex Kurtzman’s request to push the show’s planned January 2017 premiere to May in order to “achieve a vision we can all be proud of.” Variety reported in September that the pair wanted to meet fans’ expectations, particularly with special effects.

“It is bittersweet,” says Fuller. “But it was just a situation that couldn’t be resolved otherwise…so I had to step away.”

Fuller—who retains an executive producer credit—wrote the first two episodes of Discovery and the story arc for the rest of the 13-part first season. CBS said it would see his “vision through,” but the writer confirms he has no active involvement with the series.

“I’m not involved in production, or postproduction, so I can only give them the material I’ve given them and hope that it is helpful for them. I’m curious to see what they do with it,” he says.

He commented on a potential second season: “They have my number and if they need me I will absolutely be there for them.”

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Class began it season with an appearance by Peter Capaldi and now has completed its first season with a surprise visit from a classic Doctor Who enemy. As it won’t be airing in the United States until spring, I won’t give any details. Those interested can find out more here. Warning, the spoiler is in the title and cannot be avoided if you click on the link. Review of the episode here.

Jenna Coleman reports that filming of the second season of Victoria will start in February. The first season will be available in the United States on Masterpiece on PBS starting January 15.

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The above picture provides several clues about Sherlock. Radio Times goes through the clues, which include a nod to a Doctor Who character.

Netflix has picked up Luke Cage for a second season.

Originally Netflix was only going to release a Christmas episode of Sense8. Now they have decided to release the entire second season on December 23.

Masters of Sex has been canceled after its fourth season. The show has gone downhill and it didn’t seem like they really knew what to do with it anymore. I just wish that they had known that it would be the final season earlier. Rather than a meandering fourth season, they could have told a story over a longer time span and taken the story until wherever they wanted to ultimately finish it.

Amazon has canceled Good Girls Revolt after its first season. I have not had a chance to see it yet, but I had added the first season to my queue following favorable reviews.

Last week more fan theories were confirmed on Westworld but there are a lot of questions remaining. With the season finale airing soon after this will be posted, there is little point on speculating further until the finale is viewed. I do have one additional tip for casual viewers who have not been paying attention to all the on-line discussion of the show. Pay close attention to the opening credits. The scenes do give away a lot.

Alec Baldwin did his impersonation of Donald Trump once again on Saturday Night Live, this time mocking his use of Twitter. Probably failing to see the irony, Trump responded by blasting Baldwin with a tweet. Baldwin offered to stop doing his impersonations if Trump would release his tax returns.

James Mattis Might Be Best We Can Hope For From Trump As Defense Secretary

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Like most observers, I am apprehensive about the names being mentioned for top positions in the Trump administration. His national security advisers are far too hawkish, although the same would be the case if Hillary Clinton had been elected. Although more hawkish than I would like, I had been thinking that General James Mattis might be about as good a choice for Secretary of Defense as could be expected in a Trump administration. He is certainly a better choice than picking Michael Flynn to be national security adviser.

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton invited General Mattis to speak at their nominating conventions, which was not surprising with Clinton being the more hawkish of the two. Mattis declined both invitations, which I consider to be a point in his favor.

Mattis is more hard-line on Russia than Trump. While I was concerned about the history of belligerence and Cold War mentality towards Russia seen from Hillary Clinton, it might be safer to have someone suspicious of Russia to counterbalance Donald Trump’s crush on Putin. I am more worried about his hawkish position on Iran.

Another benefit of Mattis advising Donald Trump is that Trump was impressed when Mattis advised him that waterboarding and other forms of torture are not effective means of obtaining information. Trump quoted Mattis as saying, “I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.” This is advice I want Donald Trump to hear.

Thomas Ricks, author of books including Fiasco: The American Military Adventure In Iraq had the following to say about Mattis in The New York Times:

Usually, I’d oppose having a general as secretary of defense, because it could undermine our tradition of civilian control of the military.

But these are not normal times. The incoming president appears to be a profoundly ignorant man who often seems to act on gut impulse or on what pleases the crowd. That is a dangerous combination to have in the White House. Having known General Mattis for many years, I am confident that he will be a restraint on Mr. Trump’s impulsiveness. I also think he will provide a strong counterweight to some of those around Mr. Trump who hold isolationist or pro-Putin views…

It helps that General Mattis, unlike Mr. Trump, is extremely well read. I once casually mentioned to him that I planned to learn more about the Carthaginian general Hannibal. He immediately named two books that he considered good studies. He told me once that in combat he liked to have a copy in his rucksack of “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, the second-century Roman philosopher-emperor, the better to help him gain some mental distance from the battlefield.

I also think that General Mattis will provide a useful balance to Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general chosen by Mr. Trump to be national security adviser. General Flynn strikes me as an erratic figure. For example, his joining in the “lock her up” chant at the Republican convention was unseemly and, for a career military officer, unprofessional. Also, General Flynn did not have a good reputation as an administrator when he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency before being moved out by the Obama administration. It will help that General Mattis retired with four stars, while General Flynn wore just three — among military men, rank matters, even in retirement.

The public notion of generals is that they know how to use only the military as a means of policy and so are more likely to get the nation into wars. That is a false conception in most cases, but especially in this one. General Mattis knows that war is the last resort, not the first one. He also understands that the threat of force works best when it works in conjunction with robust diplomatic efforts.

If it is inevitable that Trump is going to chose someone who is conservative on foreign policy, Mattis might be as good a choice as we can hope for under Trump.

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Donald Trump’s Phone Calls To World Leaders Would Sound Like A Parody If Not For Dangers

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Donald Trump has created quite a stir today by speaking with Taiwan’s president, possibly risking problems with China. The New York Times reports:

President-elect Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone with Taiwan’s president on Friday, a striking break with nearly four decades of diplomatic practice that could precipitate a major rift with China even before Mr. Trump takes office.

Mr. Trump’s office said he spoke with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, “who offered her congratulations.”

He is believed to be the first president or president-elect who has spoken to a Taiwanese leader since 1979, when the United States severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan after its recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

…the potential fallout from the conversation was significant, the administration official said, noting that the Chinese government issued a bitter protest after the United States sold weapons to Taiwan as part of a well-established arms agreement.

Mr. Trump’s call with President Tsai is a far bigger provocation, though the Chinese government did not issue an immediate response. Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has adamantly opposed the attempts of any country to open official relations with it.

This comes after another story on Donald Trump making phone calls to world leaders which sounded more like a parody to diplomats seeing the read outs of his conversations:

President-elect Donald J. Trump inherited a complicated world when he won the election last month. And that was before a series of freewheeling phone calls with foreign leaders that has unnerved diplomats at home and abroad.

In the calls, he voiced admiration for one of the world’s most durable despots, the president of Kazakhstan, and said he hoped to visit a country, Pakistan, that President Obama has steered clear of during nearly eight years in office.

Mr. Trump told the British prime minister, Theresa May, “If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know,” an offhand invitation that came only after he spoke to nine other leaders. He later compounded it by saying on Twitter that Britain should name the anti-immigrant leader Nigel Farage its ambassador to Washington, a startling break with diplomatic protocol.

Mr. Trump’s unfiltered exchanges have drawn international attention since the election, most notably when he met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan with only one other American in the room, his daughter Ivanka Trump — dispensing with the usual practice of using State Department-approved talking points.

On Thursday, the White House weighed in with an offer of professional help. The press secretary, Josh Earnest, urged the president-elect to make use of the State Department’s policy makers and diplomats in planning and conducting his encounters with foreign leaders.

“President Obama benefited enormously from the advice and expertise that’s been shared by those who serve at the State Department,” Mr. Earnest said. “I’m confident that as President-elect Trump takes office, those same State Department employees will stand ready to offer him advice as he conducts the business of the United States overseas.”

“Hopefully he’ll take it,” he added…

In a remarkably candid readout of the phone call, the Pakistani government said Mr. Trump had told Mr. Sharif that he was “a terrific guy” who made him feel as though “I’m talking to a person I have known for long.” He described Pakistanis as “one of the most intelligent people.” When Mr. Sharif invited him to visit Pakistan, the president-elect replied that he would “love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people.”

The Trump transition office, in its more circumspect readout, said only that Mr. Trump and Mr. Sharif “had a productive conversation about how the United States and Pakistan will have a strong working relationship in the future.” It did not confirm or deny the Pakistani account of Mr. Trump’s remarks.

The breezy tone of the readout left diplomats in Washington slack-jawed, with some initially assuming it was a parody. In particular, they zeroed in on Mr. Trump’s offer to Mr. Sharif “to play any role you want me to play to address and find solutions to the country’s problems.”

I imagine that it is better that he speak to world leaders than to tweet messages to them.

Trump might be a little less prone to saying foolish things if he hadn’t decided to ignore intelligence briefings since his election.

Bernie Sanders Wishes He Had The Opportunity To Run Against Trump (And So Do I)

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The nomination of Hillary Clinton by the Democratic Party in 2016 was among the worst blunders in the history of politics. She was the about the most status-quo candidate possible in an election where voters wanted change, representing everything which is most reprehensible in our political system. She was shown to have engaged in serious corruption in a year in which voters wanted reform, but many partisan Democrats continue to ignore the well-established evidence against her. It was clear Clinton would have difficulties with young voters, independent voters, many Obama voters, Sanders voters, swing state voters,  and voters in rust belt states. (Yes, there is considerable overlap in these groups, and it should have especially been obvious that many of those who voted for Obama in 2008 or Sanders in 2016 were doing so because they did not want Hillary Clinton to become president).

Beyond Clinton’s corruption and being wrong on virtually every major decision in her career, Clinton is terrible at running political campaigns. She is totally out of touch with the voters, and her political instincts are awful. She could not beat Obama in 2008, and could not have won the nomination in 2016 if the party insiders hadn’t cleared the field for her, in a system already rigged to favor a centrist over insurgent candidate, and then further intervened to support her when there was an unexpected challenge. The failure of the Democratic Party to pay attention to the desires of the voters resulted in the election of Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders had double digit leads over Trump while Trump and Clinton were close in head to head polling. If Bernie Sanders was the nominee, Democrats, not Republicans, would have won the voters who wanted change. Sanders could get the young, independent, swing state, and rust belt voters to turn out for him in far larger margins than Clinton could. Sanders would have addressed issues of concern to voters while Clinton ran a dreadful campaign which never gave voters a reason to vote for her  beyond gender and the feeling that it was her turn. Sanders would have spoken to the press to get out his message, while Hillary Clinton avoided them as much as possible. With Sanders, there would have been no scandals, and no problems raised by being investigated by the FBI. Only partisan Democrats could think that she was exonerated after being exposed for conducting unethical and reckless behavior, and lying about it to the American people, because she was not indicted.

Bernie Sanders appeared on Conan (video above) and, while too modest to say he would win, showed that he regretted he did not have the opportunity:

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Tuesday said he wished he had the chance to run against Donald Trump.

In an interview on “Conan,” Sanders said that while he was unsure whether he would’ve defeated Trump, early hypothetical head-to-head matchups showed him far ahead.

“What the polling showed that early on was all the polls nationally and statewide, I was beating him by much larger margins, much more than Secretary Clinton, but you know, then you go through a three-month campaign,” Sanders told host Conan O’Brien.

“All I can tell you Conan: I wish to God I’d had the opportunity. I would’ve loved to have run against him,” he added.

During his appearance Tuesday night, Sanders also ruminated on the nature of Trump’s election victory. He suggested that Trump used rhetoric to inflame racial and ethnic tensions but successfully branded himself as an outsider who could relate to many voters’ frustration with established industries.

“What Trump managed to do was convince people that he was the antiestablishment candidate at the time when people really are not happy with the economic establishment, the political establishment, and the media establishment,” Sanders said. “I think, sadly, much of what he said will not be true — he will not keep his word.”

He added: “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist or a sexist or a homophobe. There are a lot of people who are hurting very badly. They saw him as a glimmer of hope. That’s why they voted for him.”

Today’s attempt in the House to replace the establishment candidate also failed, but the challenge did show signs of growing discontent over the failures of the Democratic Party under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi:

Pelosi easily beat Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a seven-term lawmaker who launched an upstart bid to lead House Democrats two weeks ago in response to the party’s disappointing November election results and concerns that Democrats have become out of touch with working-class voters in key swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.

But Pelosi’s margin of victory, 134 votes to 63 for Ryan, signaled a large degree of discontent with her leadership after 14 years atop the caucus and, more broadly, with the Democratic policy agenda that many lawmakers say has grown stale. While she cleared her self-declared margin of victory, a two-thirds majority, many Democrats were stunned that almost a third of the caucus was willing to vote for a backbench lawmaker with no major policy or political experience.

Many were left wondering whether a more seasoned Democrat could have actually toppled Pelosi, with several privately suggesting these next two years would have to be Pelosi’s last as leader. Ryan’s 63 votes marked the largest bloc of opposition Pelosi has faced since winning a deputy leadership position 15 years ago that set her on a course to become the first female House speaker.

Being “out of touch with working-class voters” is only part of the problem. Democrats are also out of touch with liberal voters, including many younger potential voters, on foreign policy, mass surveillance, civil liberties, and social/cultural issues. A Republican-lite party has little constituency beyond those content with voting for the lesser evil.

Trump Sides With Clinton In Opposing First Amendment Rights

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Issues were generally ignored during the 2016 election campaign, with media coverage concentrating on what atrocious things Donald Trump has said and the latest revelations in the Clinton scandals. The media generally ignored how both major party candidates are very far right on First Amendment issues. The First Amendment has finally come under discussion in response to a tweet from Donald Trump (which appears to be in  response to a story Trump saw on Fox):

Trump tweeted: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

This puts Donald Trump to the right of Antonin Scalia. As I noted following his death, this was an issue where Scalia sided with civil libertarians.  Scalia has voted for a Supreme Court decision which ruled that the First Amendment protected the right to burn the American flag. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has sponsored legislation to make flag burning a felony.

This puts Trump on the same side of Hillary Clinton, once again showing how Trump and Clinton are far more alike than many partisans supporting either candidate will ever admit. As is often the case, Trump has found a position somewhat to the right of Clinton’s by bringing up loss of citizenship. Both the prohibition on flag burning and the suggested penalty of loss of citizenship are unconstitutional.

It is a shame that an entire election went by with so little discussion of how both candidates hold positions which are extremely conservative with regards to civil liberties. Democrats will probably criticize Trump for this while ignoring that their candidate was not all that much better. We are screwed either way when elections turn into a contest based upon lesser-evilism.

Nate Silver Defends The Recounts Advocated By Jill Stein

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It is doubtful that the recounts which Jill Stein has pushed for in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania will change the election results. Despite this, Nate Silver has made the following case as to why this is beneficial, calling it more of an audit than a true recount:

The first proviso: Let’s not call it a “recount,” because that’s not really what it is. It’s not as though merely counting the ballots a second or third time is likely to change the results enough to overturn the outcome in three states. An apparent win by a few dozen or a few hundred votes might be reversed by an ordinary recount. But Donald Trump’s margins, as of this writing, are roughly 11,000 votes in Michigan, 23,000 votes in Wisconsin and 68,000 votes in Pennsylvania. There’s no precedent for a recount overturning margins like those or anything close to them. Instead, the question is whether there was a massive, systematic effort to manipulate the results of the election.

So what we’re talking about is more like an audit or an investigation. An investigation that would look for signs of deliberate and widespread fraud, such as voting machines’ having been hacked, whole batches of ballots’ intentionally having been disregarded, illegal coordination between elections officials and the campaigns, and so on. Such findings would probably depend on physical evidence as much or more than they do statistical evidence. In that sense, there’s no particular reason to confine the investigation to Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania, the states that Hillary Clinton lost (somewhat) narrowly. If the idea is to identify some sort of smoking gun indicating massive fraud perpetrated by the Trump campaign — or by the Clinton campaign, or by the Russian government — it might be in a state Clinton won, such as New Hampshire or Minnesota. Or for that matter, it might be in a state Trump won fairly easily, like Ohio or Iowa.

A second “condition” is that the burden of proof for claims of a fixed election ought to be high. That’s because there’s enough evidence for there to be a clear presumption against theories of massive vote-rigging…

In many ways, undertaking an audit of the election results is tantamount to performing a test for a rare but potentially fatal disease. You want to weigh the probability of successfully detecting an anomaly against the invasiveness of the procedure and the chance of a false positive result. Oftentimes, the risk outweighs the reward. For instance, many experts warn against mammograms for women in their 40s because the underlying risk of breast cancer is low for women of that age and the rate of false positive tests is high, causing undue stress for the patients and subjecting them to further tests and operations that might be harmful.

What are the costs of an election audit? Running them will cost several million dollars, but that’s fairly trivial in an era of billion-dollar campaigns. Instead, since these audits aren’t routine — although maybe they should be — the cost is mostly that they could undermine the perceived legitimacy of the election and the longstanding norm toward uncontentious transitions of power from one president toward the next. Which might be more persuasive … if Trump hadn’t spent the weekend peddling a conspiracy about how he thought the results were rigged in Clinton’s favor because millions of people had voted illegally…

Ultimately, though, I’m in the information business. An audit very probably won’t detect a conspiracy, but it will reveal information about our voting systems. FiveThirtyEight and most other American news organizations are founded on the premise that more information is better, even if it risks being misinterpreted. I’ve never questioned that premise more than I have over the course of this election. But over the next four years, we’re all going to have to get used to an environment in which nuggets of insight come buried in mounds of misinformation. An audit is as good a place as any to start.

Plus there is a certain satisfaction in seeing Donald Trump get upset over the recounts after he has claimed before the election that the election was rigged, and more recently claimed that he was only denied a victory in the popular vote due to voter fraud. Bernie Sanders called this claim “disgraceful and unfounded nonsense.”

One thing we are learning is that there are road blocks interfering with the recounts. The most complicated of the three is Pennsylvania where Stein is both filing suit and trying to obtain a recount through a rather complicated procedure:

To initiate a statewide recount through the courts, the Stein campaign must sufficiently prove that there was a strong probability of election fraud in Pennsylvania.

But with that high bar for the Stein campaign to meet, the campaign is also hoping to initiate a recount through another route, with Pennsylvania voters in every precinct submitting affidavits to their precinct clerks asking for recounts in their respective precincts. So far, the Stein campaign said, they had successfully gotten 100 precincts to make the requests — a fraction of the necessary 9,163 voting precincts.

Further complicating the effort, the Pennsylvania Department of State noted that some of the precincts are in counties that had finished certifying their election results, closing the five-day window for petitioning precincts to hold recounts.

Stein is also filing suit in Wisconsin after the Wisconsin Elections Commission refused the hand recount she requested.

Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee Discussed The Election

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The Guardian features a conversation between Bernie Sanders and Spike Lee about the election. Spike Lee started out by describing what Sanders was up against in running for the Democratic nomination:

SL I want to thank you, though. Because what you did is great. And reading this stuff that’s coming out – the revelations about Wasserman [Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, who during the campaign leaked emails shown to be biased against Sanders in favour of Clinton] and Donna Brazile [interim DNC chair, who gave Clinton a heads-up on questions in advance of a CNN debate], whom I know. Cheating goes both ways, huh? [Laughs.]

BS Well, you know. We took on the entire establishment and that’s what happens. But we have some enormously difficult times now. We gotta go forward, and I look forward to working with you to make that happen.

They discussed how some people voted for Obama and then voted for Trump this year:

BS Well, I think a number of people who voted for Obama once, or twice, voted for Trump. And I think the issue is that there are millions of people in this country who voted for Trump but do not accept… I’m not going to deny for a second that there’s a lot of racism and xenophobia and sexism out there; there certainly is. But there are a whole lot of other people who are just really, really hurting. They’re working two or three jobs, they’re worried about their kids, they can’t afford to send them to childcare or to college. And Trump comes along and says, “I’m a champion of the working class.” And he’s a good showman and a good entertainer, and people believed him.

But our job now, it seems to me, is in three areas. Number one: to fight him tooth and nail in any movement toward racism, xenophobia, sexism, trying to divide our country up. And number two: if he is at all sincere – and we will see if he is – in developing programmes to create jobs and raise wages, I think we should work with him. But I’ll tell you what also concerns me, not just for this country but the planet, is this guy thinks that climate change is a hoax. Well, let me tell you, it ain’t a hoax. Climate change is real, and if we don’t transform our energy system, the planet we leave for our kids and grandchildren may not be a pretty place.

This led into how Clinton managed to lose the election. It came down to Clinton’s attitude of entitlement, and a failure to present a case as to why she should be president–or as Mark McKinnon put it at The Daily Beast, she failed to tell a story. She thought the election was hers, and tried to run out the clock:

SL Excuse me, if I may, sir; you know I love sports. I’ve seen it too many times, when a team thinks they’ve got it all won, just wrapped up, and you see players go down the sideline and start celebrating, and then they reach the goal line and fumble. The Clintons – and I’m not asking you for a comment; this is my opinion – thought they had it won. And what do the great coaches always say? Keep playing until there is no time on the clock! And it seems to me the Clintons were celebrating before the day was up.

BS [Mirthlessly.] Ha.

SL It was not Hillary Clinton’s birthright to be president of the United States of America! And Trump, he played it like he was going to keep going at this until the whistle blows, until time has run out.

BS Right. You’re right. Now, no one can deny that Trump was holding three or four rallies a day, he was running all over this country, working 20 hours a day. And that’s the truth. But I think that speaks to, Spike, something that goes beyond Hillary Clinton. It really goes to the very nature of the Democratic party.

SL The DNC!

BS That’s right. And it calls for the transformation of the Democratic party, and making it clear it’s going to be a party that brings together blacks and whites and Latinos and women and gays, and everyone else. But it’s also going to be a party…

SL Would you say that it’s a shambles, now, Senator – the DNC?

BS Yes. Yes. And I am supporting…

BS Yes. I think we need a house-cleaning. I think the DNC needs an entirely new direction. I think it needs leadership, and I think it needs to be very clear about the fact that it stands with working families and is prepared to take on the billionaire class and Wall Street, and corporate America, and the drug companies and the insurance companies. People are hurting. And we need a programme that stands with working families and brings people together.

SL Were you ever offered the VP position, sir?

BS No. Absolutely not.

SL Would you have taken it?

BS Er. Probably, yes. But that’s again looking through the rear-view mirror.

If Clinton had chosen Sanders to be her running mate she probably would have won as many of those who voted for Obama in the past but had stayed home, voted for Trump, or voted third party would have voted for a Clinton/Sanders ticket in the midwest states which Clinton narrowly lost. Instead, many saw the choice of Tim Kaine as further evidence that Clinton was sticking with the centrist/conservative DLC philosophy and was ignoring the left. Now that we do have Trump coming into the White House, the next question was about where we go next:

SL [Long silence.] Hmmm. This is a rhetorical question, but I just want readers to understand this, very clearly. Where do we go? Where is the hope?

BS OK, here is where the hope is. The hope is to understand that the Democratic party has stumbled very significantly in the last number of decades. It’s not just this election, Spike, as disastrous as it has been. It is the fact that the Republican party controls the Senate, controls the US House, controls something like two-thirds of the governor seats in this country, and that the Democrats have lost over 900 state legislature seats in the last eight years. What that tells me is that the Democratic party has got to very fundamentally rethink who it is and where it goes. It has to shed the current situation where it’s a party of the liberal elite, a party of wealthy people who give substantial sums – we can use that money, that’s fine, but it must reidentify itself as a party of working people. Whether you’re black, white, Latino, there are millions of people today who are working longer hours for lower wages, and they’re seeing almost all new income and wealth going to the top 1%. The Democratic party has got to say we are on the side of the 99%. Our party is not about having fancy fundraisers, it’s about going into union halls, veterans’ halls, farm communities, the inner cities. It has to bring people together around the progressive agenda and make government work for all of us and not the 1%. That’s why I’m supporting Keith Ellison [as prospective chair of the DNC].

SL Who?

BSKeith Ellison. Of Minnesota.

SL Oh, yes. He’s the Muslim brother, right?

BS Yes. He’s a very good guy, and he’s the co-chair of the house progressive caucus. Very progressive guy. And I think Keith understands that the future of the Democratic party is a grassroots party. So I’m going to be supporting him and shaking up the Democratic party.

SL Let me ask you another question. The coalition that Obama got, that put him in office – did the Clinton campaign think it would automatically win [those people] without having to work? I don’t understand it. Because I did not feel the energy there was for Obama – even for you – for Hillary Clinton. I respect the woman, but the enthusiasm wasn’t there.

BS I think nobody would argue with you on that. What we have seen is that in 2008 Obama ran a historical campaign where the turnout was extraordinarily high: enthusiasm in the minority community, strong support in the white working class, and that carried over in 2012. But in 2016, what we saw – I think your point is quite right – it would be hard to suggest that the people of this country were enthusiastic about the Clinton campaign. There was not the energy we have seen in the Obama campaign, and what ended up happening was voter turnout was low. She won the black community overwhelmingly, but turnout was low. She lost a lot of white, working-class people. That’s just the fact.

The Democrats have lost badly in 2010, 2014, and now in 2016 when they ran as Republican-lite. They will need to rebuild at the grassroots, and they will need to stand for something.

Civil Liberties Groups Urge Obama To Curtail Government Surveillance Following Trump Victory

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After the revelations of NSA surveillance my concern, along with others such as Daniel Ellsberg, was not that we were already in an Orwellian totalitarian state, but that the infrastructure for a police state was being developed. In 2013 Ellsberg warned:

Obviously, the United States is not now a police state. But given the extent of this invasion of people’s privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state. If, for instance, there was now a war that led to a large-scale anti-war movement – like the one we had against the war in Vietnam – or, more likely, if we suffered one more attack on the scale of 9/11, I fear for our democracy. These powers are extremely dangerous.

Civil libertarians now fear another development which risks the progression to a police state–the election of Donald Trump. Even those who trusted Obama with these powers recognize the dangers of abuse under Trump. Politico reports:

Tech and civil liberties advocates are imploring the Obama administration to rein in the government’s massive surveillance apparatus before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, fearful he will carry out his campaign promises to register Muslims, spy on mosques and punish companies that offer Americans unbreakable encryption.

But many national security experts and former administration officials say the effort is almost certainly doomed to fail. “I don’t know how you tie the king’s hands in just the weeks going out,” said Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama.

And some civil libertarians blame Democrats for being too content to allow President Barack Obama to wield the sweeping, post-Sept. 11 surveillance powers he inherited from George W. Bush, rather than rolling them back so that no future president could use them.

“We shouldn’t be relying on the benevolence of the leaders put in power after an election to ensure that people’s privacy and civil liberties are protected,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“You have a situation where the executive branch has control of a surveillance apparatus that is unparalleled in history,” said Trevor Timm, a surveillance critic and head of the activist group Freedom of the Press Foundation. “And because the Obama administration either retained the right to use a lot of these unprecedented powers, or expanded them, they are now in the hands of somebody who many people consider to be a madman.”

…Hoping to head Trump off, civil liberties, digital rights and watchdog groups are pleading with Obama to take a series of actions to weaken the surveillance state. Those include releasing classified inspector general reports and the secret legal rationales behind the government’s spying efforts, which could help advocates challenge Trump in court. Some also urged Obama’s team to purge the NSA’s databases of some of the information they hoover up, wiping out reams of data that are focused on foreigners but incidentally drag in details on an unknown number of Americans.

Thirty advocacy groups banded together this week in a letter telling Obama to take action, writing: “No less than our shared legacy of a vibrant democratic government is at stake.”

…Obama came into office vowing to “revisit” many of these powers, but privacy advocates believe he has largely failed to do so. While the president has regularly spoken about the need for greater checks and public oversight of the system, he has defended the powers themselves.

“This may go down in history as President Obama’s most consequential mistake,” Timm said.

Civil libertarians have been concerned about the danger of abuses under Donald Trump, but the degree of government surveillance placed civil liberties at risk regardless of whether Trump was elected. Other than for Trump’s xenophobia, Hillary Clinton’s views on civil liberties and the surveillance state are not all that different from those of Donald Trump.

There is one benefit to Trump as opposed to Clinton winning–Democrats will be far more likely to protest abuses under Trump than they would protest abuses from Clinton. Many partisan Democrats have been whitewashing her record and excusing her extremely conservative views on First Amendment rights. Those of us who protested the growth of the surveillance state under both Bush and Obama were often ignored by Democrats when Obama was president and they thought he would be succeeded by Clinton. The election of Donald Trump is opening more eyes to the danger of such powers in the hands of the president.

Turkey of the Day: Trump Ignoring Intelligence Briefings Since Election

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The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump has been “turning away intelligence briefers since election win.”

President-elect Donald Trump has received two classified intelligence briefings since his surprise election victory earlier this month, a frequency that is notably lower — at least so far — than that of his predecessors, current and former U.S. officials said.

A team of intelligence analysts has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats to Trump in the two weeks since he won. Vice President-elect Mike Pence, by contrast, has set aside time for intelligence briefings almost every day since the election, officials said.

Officials involved in the Trump transition team cautioned against assigning any significance to the briefing schedule that the president-elect has set so far, noting that he has been immersed in the work of forming his administration, and has made filling key national security posts his top priority.

But others have interpreted Trump’s limited engagement with his briefing team as an additional sign of indifference from a president-elect who has no meaningful experience on national security issues and was dismissive of U.S. intelligence agencies’ capabilities and findings during the campaign.

A senior U.S. official who receives the same briefing delivered to President Obama each day said that devoting time to such sessions would help Trump get up to speed on world events.

“Trump has a lot of catching up to do,” the official said.

In contrast, George Bush received daily briefings, although they were delayed until December 5 due to the recount. Bill Clinton first started receiving intelligence briefings ten days after being elected, and then received them most working days. Obama also received regular intelligence briefings:

After his election in 2008, President Obama took part not only in regular intelligence briefings but also scheduled “deep dives” on key subjects including Iran’s nuclear program and covert CIA operations, including the accelerating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan.

“During the transition, President Obama was an avid consumer of intelligence,” said retired Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was CIA director when Obama was elected.

I guess Trump thinks he is so smart that he doesn’t need those briefings–or he plans to have Pence handle all this stuff.