SciFi Weekend: Last Man On Earth Kills Off Pence Administration; SNL Does SciFi Skit On Trump; Riverdale Renewed; Doctor Who; Broadchurch Season 3; Passengers; The Night Manager; The Americans

The Last Man on Earth returned with an episode which barely involved the regular cast. The, staring Kristen Wiig and Laura Dern. goes back to before the virus killed off virtually everyone. In a news report Mike Pence was referred to as the president. Wiig’s character was shocked that there was no vaccine for the virus, arguing that the president must have a vaccine. That led clips from news reports showing a series of funerals for President Pence, followed by President Paul Ryan, President Rex Tillerson, President Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, and finally President Betsy DeVos:

There was no explanation as to why Donald Trump was not mentioned, with Mike Pence president at the time. This might suggest that Trump was impeached before the virus struck.

The episode progressed to having Kristen Wiig move to a bunker with only her dog for company. She gradually went crazy, including trying to get the dog to say “milk.” She turned out to be the person who sent out the drone shot down by Melissa (January Jones) in a previous episode. Kristen Wiig might be interacting with the regular cast as she left the bunker to search out the people she saw via the drone. Of course they have all moved on from the home where they were spotted by the drone, and we don’t know if she is immune to the virus.

While Donald Trump was not recognized as president on Last Man On Earth, he was portrayed once again by Alec Baldwin on a science fiction themed cold open on Saturday Night Live (video above). The New York Times recapped this and other political skits on the show:

Sure, “Saturday Night Live” has offered ample criticism of President Trump and his young administration. But in its latest episode, the program expressed confidence that he’ll be in office until at least 2018, long enough to see America decimated by an alien invasion force from the planet Zorblatt 9…

A military officer played by the cast member Kenan Thompson told him, “The aliens are killing us, sir. They have the most advanced weaponized technology we’ve ever seen. What should we do?”

The Trump character responded, “Here’s what we’re going to do. We are going to bring coal back, O.K.? We’re going to have so much coal, you’re going to say, ‘Where did all this coal come from? I never knew there could be so much coal.’”

Informed that the aliens had already vaporized the state of California, Mr. Baldwin answered, “So then I won the popular vote?”

As Mr. Trump, he explained that the aliens had already been secretly living in the United States for hundreds of years. “Look, there’s one right there,” he said, indicating Leslie Jones. “And so is the woman next to her, right there,” he said, pointing at Sasheer Zamata.

Asked where he was getting his information, Mr. Baldwin replied, “From a very reputable source, Infowars. It’s a radio show hosted by Alex Jones. You know he’s legit because he’s always taking off his shirt.”

When the aliens at last overrun the base and learn that Mr. Trump is president, one creature (played by Bobby Moynihan) declares, “Really? This is going to be so easy.”

Riverdale has been renewed for a second season. I wonder if the season finale is already set, or if knowing that there is a second season will  affect when we find out who killed Jason Blossom. Screener looks at the major suspects. On the one hand, viewers might be disappointed if there is not some answer in the foreseeable future after following the show. On the other hand, ending the mystery requires them to come up with something new to hook the viewers.

The series is sort of a Twin Peaks light with its murder mystery in a small town. Twin Peaks quickly went down hill after it revealed who killed Laura Palmer, and we found that they didn’t have much more story to tell. (Hopefully they have come up with more story for the upcoming Showtime revival). There certainly is plenty of potential in Riverdale for additional stories, and not everything going on this season is centered around the murder of Jason Blossom. Perhaps it will be more like Veronica Mars in having a different mystery each season.

The CW Network has also renewed The 100 for a fifth season.

We are down to less than a month until the start of series ten of Doctor Who. The Gallifrey Times has an updated episode guide with what is known so far about every episode. The final two episodes feature the original Mondasian Cybermen seen on The Tenth Planet in 1966. New Who created an alternative time line in which the Cybermen were created on earth.

In other Doctor Who news, Radio Times looks at the question of Time Lords aging, or “why did Matt Smith’s Doctor look so young on his ‘farewell tour’ (the 200 years he lives through in series 6), but become an old man while defending the town of Christmas on Trenzalore for 300 years in The Time of the Doctor?” Plus we learned last week that a CIA hacking tool revealed by Wikileaks is called the Weeping Angels.

Broadchurch was of special interest to Doctor Who fans from the start with a cast which includes David Tennant and Arthur Darvill. It became even more significant when show runner Chris Chibnall was picked to replace Steven Moffat. After two episodes of Broadchurch, it is showing promise to surpass the second season and be more like the first. While the murder of the first season still is having an impact, the second season is concentrating on a different crime, a rape. There are already multiple suspects, and more are likely to be added. Beth Lattimer, a key character from the first season, remains a significant part of the story, having become a rape counselor.

It looks like, as usual, the story is as much about the effect on the town as the crime itself, plus the show has already gotten into other topics including the challenges to the small town newspaper. I would suggest that even those who gave up the show in its second season give it another chance. Broadchurch is currently on Mondays on ITV. BBC America will be carrying the show in the future but has not posted a date yet.

Similarly I would recommend that those who gave up on Homeland give the current season a chance, but beware it does start out slow. The payoff the last few episodes makes it worthwhile.

Nerdist looks at the Easter eggs in the Deadpool 2 trailer (video above). This includes posters for Firefly, presumably due to Morena Baccarin being in both Firefly and Deadpool.

Netflix releases Iron Fist this week, with early reviews not being very favorable.

A premiere date for season seven of Game of Thrones has been announced. The seven-episode season will start on July 16.

Passengers will never become a classic science fiction movie, despite a cast led by Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt.  It is best to go into in looking for mindless escape and ignore how creepy the actions of the male lead were. Despite its flaws, the movie was actually enjoyable and even good for some unintentional laughs, such as with the resuscitation scene. Look at it more as a rom-com about the dangers of waking up a woman too soon in order to have sex with her. Or, if you are looking for comedy, you could just watch the blooper reel above (which some are arguing is far better than the actual movie).

The Night Manager was one of the top shows of 2016, but the miniseries completed the events of the John le Carré novel. A second season is being written, but has not yet been picked up. There is no information on what it will be about. It might take other elements from le Carré’s books, especially as some of the characters do appear in other novels. I imagine they could also come up with an original story based on elements and characters from the first miniseries. As I posted previously, the producers of The Night Manager are also working on a miniseries based on  The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

The Americans returned last week and is receiving additional media attention due to Russia being in the news recently. This includes articles in USA Today and Entertainment Weekly. The Americans has consistently been one of the best shows on television since it premiered.

How Donald Trump Has Hurt American Democracy, And How The ACLU Plans To Fight Back

Brian Klaas, a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics, and author of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy, has written about five ways in which President Trump has already hurt American democracy — in just 50 days These include Trump’s attacks on the integrity of voting, the integrity of his own election, flouting ethics guidelines without consequence, attacks on the independent judiciary, causing tens of millions of Americans to further lose faith in basic institutions of American government, and his attacks on the free press. More on the final point:

Trump has attacked a cornerstone of every democracy: the free press. He has called legitimate media organizations “fake news” no fewer than 22 times on Twitter in the first 50 days — and many more times in speeches. Worse, Trump called the press the “enemy of the American People,” language that echoes Mao and Stalin rather than Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy.

Trump only views the press as a legitimate player in American democracy insofar as it is willing to affirm his narrative. To Trump, negative polls are fake. Unfortunately, his attacks are working. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that 81 percent of Republicans agree that the media is “the enemy of the American people.” Eighty-six percent of Republicans trust Trump to tell the truth rather than the media (up from 78 percent just two weeks earlier). Throughout history, the blurring of the line between fact and fiction has been a critical precursor to the breakdown of democracy and the creeping advance of authoritarianism.

Klaas concluded:

The Constitution and checks and balances are not magical guardians. Documents don’t save democracy — people do. American democratic institutions are only as strong as those who fight for them in times of duress. This is one of those times, and this is just the beginning. It will be a long fight. To win it, Democrats and Republicans must set aside policy divides and unite in the defense of democracy.

The American Civil Liberties Union is preparing to engage in this defense of democracy, including learning from tools used by Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Reuters reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union is launching what it bills as the first grassroots mobilization effort in its nearly 100-year history, as it seeks to harness a surge of energy among left-leaning activists since the November election of Republican Donald Trump as U.S. president.

The campaign, known as PeoplePower, kicks off on Saturday with a town hall-style event in Miami featuring “resistance training” that will be streamed live at more than 2,300 local gatherings nationwide.

It will focus on free speech, reproductive rights and immigration and include presentations from legal experts, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero and “Top Chef” television star Padma Lakshmi.

Membership in the civil rights organization, which was founded in 1920, has tripled to more than 1 million since Trump’s election, the group says…

Suggested tactics, like the use of text messages as a mass mobilization tool, will mirror some of those employed by the insurgent presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who mounted a surprisingly robust challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“It’s completely unprecedented,” Romero said of the response since Trump’s victory. “People are wide awake right now and have been since the night of the election.”

Alec Baldwin Says He Will Not Do Trump Impersonation Much Longer

Alec Baldwin has said in an interview with Extra that he is not going to portray Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live much longer:

Baldwin said he hoped things would have changed once Trump took office. “Trump just overwhelmingly lacks any sportsmanship, he remains, bitter, and angry, and you just want to look at him and go, ‘You won!’”

He continued, “His policies aside, which you can hate, I thought he would have just relaxed.” Alec added, “The maliciousness of this White House has people worried… that’s why I’m not going to do it much longer, the impersonation, I don’t know how much more people can take it.”

The actor also isn’t sure the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is the place for him to showcase Trump. “I don’t think it’s going to happen, I don’t think they want that, for their [prestige] and their integrity, I think a lot of people are thinking if Trump himself doesn’t come and face the music as it were… I don’t know what kind of program they’re going to have.”

He went on, “If they wanted me to do it, I would probably do it, but I’m not quite sure they’ll do. I think they may have a whole other idea.”

Baldwin’s impression of Trump has been a highlight of SNL recently, and is probably a major factor for its increase in ratings. It is doubtful anyone on their regular cast could do an impression which is anywhere as good as his. Hopefully he will reconsider and continue on SNL for the good of a country which is desperately in need of such comic relief in response to the Trump administration.

Discussing Obamacare Replacement With A Republican Congressman

House Republicans have finally released their plan to replace Obamacare. I have a lot of concerns about the plan, such as whether the tax credits will be sufficient for low income families to afford health insurance, and their attack on Planned Parenthood.

I am going to wait until I have a chance to look at the details of the plan to discuss it in depth, but for other reasons I have found it a good day to blog about health care. Hours prior to the release of the plan, I met with my conservative Republican Congressman, Bill Huizenga, along with a few colleagues, to discuss health care. I figured it would be futile to change the mindset of a conservative Republican, but when I received the invitation I also thought I should make the attempt to try to explain how health care really works. After all, there is zero chance of changing anyone’s mind if no attempt is made to persuade them. I was also appreciative that he was willing to meet with a group which strongly disagreed with him on the issue, while many Republicans around the country are reportedly hiding from their constituents.

The first time I spoke today I made a point of explaining how I am self-employed and have purchased health care on the individual market for my entire life. Therefore I could definitely state that high premiums and high out of pocket expenses, often cited as a failing of the Affordable Care Act by Republican, have always been a characteristic of the individual market–and are not something created by Obamacare.

Discussion got bogged down for quite a while over philosophical issues, especially when someone referred to health care as a right. Congressman Huizenga disagreed. While I managed to get out most of what I wanted to say today, in a conversation with multiple people present, sometimes the topic changed before I got a chance to speak. I didn’t get a chance until after the meeting while speaking to a colleague that I can understand a Republican’s position in not seeing health care as a Constitutional right in the same way as civil liberties specifically expressed in the First Amendment. After all, the Founding Fathers would have never conceived of health care being as expansive, and expensive, as it is now. However, regardless of whether you want to call it a right, access to affordable health care is both highly desirable, and something which is expected in a modern, advanced, industrialized society such as the United States. We should do it regardless of whether you want to label it a right.

The limited nature of assured coverage in the United States, compared to the rest of the world, was an underlying thought in many of our comments. It did come up that 1) the sick can show up to the Emergency Room and will not be turned away and 2) a significant portion of the Medicare population consists of the disabled. In typical Republican dodging of the issue, the Congressman at one point tried to claim that this does provide some form of basic health care as people can go to the Emergency Room. I pointed out that it is one thing to receive coverage in the Emergency Room, but this does not mean that people will receive necessary follow up medical care, especially for the types of chronic medical conditions I typically treat, such as diabetes, heart failure, and emphysema. Initial stabilization in an Emergency Room is both costly and not adequate health care. Plus an Emergency Room physician present pointed out that being seen does not mean patients do not receive large bills, which could be well beyond their ability to pay.

Congressman Huizenga responded that the disabled can receive coverage on Medicare, but I pointed out that people with chronic medical problems are not necessarily disabled, especially if they receive adequate medical treatment. Someone with diabetes, for example, can live and work for many years with the condition. However, without adequate care, twenty years down the road they are far more likely to develop problems such as heart attacks, strokes, and renal failure.

The Congressman’s philosophy on limited government (which, like most Republicans, is terribly selective, ignoring everything from infringements on reproductive rights to today’s revised anti-Muslim travel ban), also influenced his responses. Before his arrival I had discussed with others how market solutions have not worked well, with insurance companies having developed a business strategy based upon collecting premiums and then finding ways to deny care. Congressman Huizenga brought up irrelevant matters such as restrictions on choice present in Canada and other countries which Americans might not tolerate. The typical Republican scare stories. My response was simply that we do not have to adopt the restrictions which he mentioned, regardless of what other countries have done. One point I did not manage to get in was that in the United States, private insurance plans are often far more restrictive on the choices which patients and physicians can make than the government Medicare program is.

The physicians present generally saw Obamacare as an improvement over the previous system, but not going far enough, with Medicare for All being seen as a preferable solution. As a couple of us discussed afterwards, this is a far easier sell for physicians, who see first hand the amount of time and money wasted in having to deal with multiple different insurance companies, with  multiple different sets of rules. Plus this has the huge advantage of taking the astronomical profits received by the insurance industry, and using that money to actually provide health care. (Medicare for All was promoted by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 nomination battle, leading to politically-based opposition from Hillary Clinton.)

If Medicare for All is too hard a sell immediately, I, and others, suggested phasing it in. I also mentioned ideas such as the public option and the Medicare buy-in which were considered when the ACA was being written, but died when the two most conservative Senators voting with the Democrats (Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson) opposed the ideas. Either would help with the high costs on the individual market.

The  higher cost for caring for older individuals, with some of that cost spread to the premiums of younger purchasers, is a major problem in health care coverage.  I doubt insurance companies even want to cover their older customers, who are responsible for the bulk of their costs. Either outright lower the Medicare age (even if gradually, such as initially to 50 or 55, and ultimately to around 40) or allow a Medicare buy-in.

After the Congressman left, his Legislative Director remained for a brief time and suggested that Americans would not go for expanding a government program such as Medicare. While a typical Republican thought, it does not hold up. I pointed out that we all do wind up on a government program, with most people going on Medicare at age 65. Not only are Americans failing to rebel at the though of going on Medicare at age 65, many look forward to the opportunity. Remember all those tea party protests with signs like “Keep Government Out Of My Medicare.”

My parting comment to Congressman Huizenga before he left was that Republicans must move beyond their anti-Obama rhetoric and actually address the problem. I related how for the past eight years I have often heard patients blame Obama for anything wrong with the health care system, even if it was over matters not even related to the Affordable Care Act. However, in early January, before Donald Trump even took office, I started to hear patients blame Trump for their healthcare problems. Republicans now “own” healthcare and must deliver.

I have my doubts as to whether the plan released today does deliver, but I do want to take a look at the details beyond what is in the initial news stories I have read.

SciFi Weekend: Time After Time; Arrow; X-Men Casting News; Dark; Sense8; Santa Clarita Diet; Shows From Matthew Weiner and Amy Sherman-Palladino on Amazon; Doctor Who; Star Trek Discovery Air Date; Saturday Night Live

Time After Time is the next network time travel show to premiere. TV Guide answers some questions about it:

Is this really about Sexy Jack the Ripper and Sexy H.G. Wells? Boy, is it! You see, back in the day, before H.G. Wells wrote any of his now legendary novels, he apparently built a real time machine. He was showing off this game-changing piece of machinery to his good friend John — who, as it turns out, is actually the notorious anonymous serial killer Jack the Ripper. And once John discovers the authorities were hot on his tail, he uses the time machine to hightail it to modern-day New York City. Realizing he’s the only one who can stop John from killing again, H.G. follows his old friend to the future, where the world’s sexiest cat-and-mouse game begins!

Is it weird to feel attracted to Jack the Ripper? Yes and no. It’s totally weird to be sexually attracted to a serial killer, but the charismatic power of Josh Bowman is also impossibly hard to deny. Plus, this version of Jack the Ripper isn’t completely evil. There is a part of John that does want to change and leave his psychopathic, murderous tendencies behind. It’s a small part, but it’s big enough that you should feel slightly less confused by your newfound crush on the legendary murderer…

Don’t we have enough time-travel shows on TV right now? While time-travel is definitely one of the TV trends of the season, Time After Time isn’t exactly a time-travel show. In its second episode, the drama establishes its rules for time travel – ones which make it very dangerous to actually travel through time too often. That’s why H.G. Wells doesn’t simply go back in time to stop John from ever taking the time machine in the first place. It’s also why the show only time-travels four times in the first season.

Instead, Time After Time is far more interested in exploring how H.G. Wells’ adventures in modern-day Manhattan eventually inspire him to write The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau and War of the Worlds, which is a fun way to fully take advantage of having H.G. Wells as the show’s dashing protagonist.

The identity of Prometheus has been revealed on Arrow. TV Line spoke with the show’s producer and actor who played him, noting how this differs from the comics:

In the comics, Chase’s alter ego is Vigilante, but the producers chose to flip the script “because everybody would be thinking, ‘Of course he’s going to be Vigilante,’” executive producer Wendy Mericle explains. “We thought it would be a really fun twist to… take the comic-book mythology and turn it on its head and see what kind of story we can mine from a surprise like that. It was also something different for this season. We wanted to change up how we introduced the Big Bad and when we did it.”

…Although viewers are now aware of Prometheus’ true face — he exposed his mug to the audience when he took off his mask following a fight with Vigilante — Team Arrow will remain in the dark for the time being. As a result, the show gets to have “fun” as the characters continue to “interact with Adrian Chase in City Hall and elsewhere without knowing his real identity,” Mericle describes. “We’re going to play around with that for a little while before we let Oliver and the team find out.”

And find out they will, possibly sooner rather than later. “We’re not going to leave it to the end of the season,” Segarra promises. “We’re going to get to watch the pot get stirred a little bit. It’s hard because I already know how [Oliver] reacts, and I love the way it goes. You’re going to see Chase just kind of trying to burn the world around him.”

While we no know the identity of Prometheus, we will probably not learn the identity of the person under the vigilante mask this season.

Regardless of whether they are able to use the X-Men name, we will be seeing a lot of the X-Men in some form on television. ABC will be getting an Inhumans show. FX already has premiered Legion (which is highly recommended). Fox has some casting news on their upcoming untitled show. This includes Natalie Alyn Lind of Gotham:

Written by Matt Nix and directed by Bryan Singer, the pilot focuses on two ordinary parents who discover their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive. Lind will play Lauren, one of the children at the center of the story. Smart, pretty, popular, organized and already ahead on her college applications, Lauren is the model of a perfect kid.

Amy Acker, who has a lot of genre experience in shows including Angel, Dollhouse, and Person of Interest, will play the other female lead:

Acker will star as Kate Stewart, a woman who is struggling with her separation from her husband, Reed (True Blood‘s Stephen Moyer), and her increasingly challenging teenage children. When her family situation takes a dark turn, she finds that she’s stronger than she thinks.

As noted above, Stephen Moyer has been cast as the male lead:

Moyer will play Reed, an ambitious attorney trying to balance the demands of his job at the DA’s office with his responsibilities to his family.

Patrick Stewart recently announced his retirement with regards to playing Professor X, but now states he might reprise the role in a Deadpool sequel. As I posted on Friday, he has also announced plans to become an American citizen to help fight Donald Trump. Make it so!

Netflix has released a teaser for Dark, an upcoming show being made in Germany, which appears somewhat like a darker version of Stranger Things. The description reads, “A missing child sets four families on a frantic hunt for answers. Their search for a culprit unearths a small town’s sins and secrets.”

Netflix is reassembling the cast for a potential third season of Sense8. The second season will be released May 5.

While reviews have been mixed, I’ve been  hearing a lot of great buzz from viewers of Santa Clarita Diet. We binged a large portion of the season last night and, while certainly not a hard-core zombie show, it was very enjoyable.

Mathew Weiner’s next show, The Romanoffs, to be on Amazon Prime, sounds nothing like Mad Men:

“Romanoffs” will consist of eight hourlong episodes, each of which will tell a standalone story with no recurring plot elements or actors. The only common thread is that each episode will tell the stories of people in contemporary times who believe they are descendants of the imperial family that ruled Russia from 1613 until the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917…

Weiner came up with the notion for “Romanoffs” about a year ago, after a long break following the end of his work on “Mad Men” in late 2014. He had the chance to watch other TV shows “in a non-competitive atmosphere,” and he realized that there was room for a show of this nature. “The rise of (Netflix’s) ‘Black Mirror’ made it easier for me to explain it, even though this show is not in that genre,” he said.

Amy Sherman-Palladino also has a pilot for Amazon:

After venturing into streaming TV with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix last fall, the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is trying her hand with Amazon this spring. The site announced today that Palladino’s pilot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, will be among the batch of programs up in pilot season starting on March 17. The one-hour pilot stars Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards, Manhattan) as the titular Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1950s housewife who starts a career in stand-up comedy. Monk’s Tony Shalhoub will play her father; Michael Zegen (Boardwalk Empire) will play her husband. Alex Borstein (the original Sookie!) is also in the cast.

Speculation this week about the replacement for Peter Capaldi on Doctor Who includes Kris Marshall and Anthony Head. Doctor Who returns on April 15 with DoctorWho TV recapping everything which is known about the series so far.

After having been delayed twice, CBS is now saying that the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery will be in late summer or early fall.

The election of Donald Trump has been fantastic for the ratings of the late night comedy shows. Having Donald Trump as a regular target has improved the material on shows including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live. The cold open on SNL last night had Kate McKinnon portraying Jeff Sessions as Forest Gump. Of course Donald Trump will likely be upset about him being portrayed by a woman, as when Melissa McCartney played Sean Spicer.

Last night’s episode of SNL has also received a lot of buzz for the above skit:

“Saturday Night Live” just ran a nearly two-minute liberal’s dream sequence disguised as a movie trailer.

The trailer — which promises a Republican “patriot who will put country over party” — features a notable omission: a title character. The point is that no Republican has really stood up to President Trump. You get it.

Trump Returns To Madman Role In Tweets Accusing Obama Of Wiretapping His Phone

The attempts to portray Donald Trump as a sane president in his speech before Congress earlier in the week were destroyed in a series of Tweets this morning. Without citing any evidence, Donald Trump accused Barack Obama of having wiretapped his phones prior to the election. The Tweets said:

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

This round was preceded by a Tweet accusing the Obama administration of setting up Jeff Sessions, and followed by a Tweet attacking Arnold  Schwarzenegger (who recently announced he is leaving Celebrity Apprentice).

Trump’s speech on Tuesday, received strong approval in the polls and the stock market soared. There were subsequently questions as to whether Trump was at least managing to act sane in public, and the Trump administration even postponed the release of the updated travel ban to take advantage of the positive reception. By late in the week, the news was dominated by stories of Attorney General Jeff Sessions having lied to the Senate about having met with the Russian ambassador. This does look like a warped response by Trump to the negative stories, and resolves any questions as to whether Trump is capable of changing his behavior.

While no evidence was cited, it appears Trump is repeating thing being said on right wing talk radio and at Breitbart. Once again, it is hard to take Trump’s attacks on “fake news” seriously when he, and his administration, have become the major source of spreading “alternative news.”

Former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes Tweeted in response to Trump: “No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens like you.”

The New York Times adds:

Mr. Trump’s aides declined to clarify whether the president’s explosive allegations were based on briefings from intelligence or law enforcement officials, or on something else, like a news report. A spokesman for Mr. Obama did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The president’s decision to lend the power of his office to such an accusation — without offering any proof — is remarkable, even for a leader who has repeatedly shown himself willing to make assertions that are false or based on rumors.

It would have been difficult for federal agents, working within the law, to obtain a wiretap order to target Mr. Trump’s phone conversations. That would mean the Justice Department had gathered sufficient evidence to persuade a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe that he had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal or foreign intelligence wiretap.

Politico reports that Trump’s top aides were caught off guard:

Trump’s top aides were caught off guard by the tweets Saturday morning, a senior administration official said. The president is scheduled to spend a quiet day golfing and relaxing at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. After several days without a controversial tweet and a relative message discipline following his speech to Congress Tuesday evening, Trump’s angry Twitter tirade marked a return to form—and a trusted tactic of turning around the exact words being used against him on his opponents.

Patrick Stewart To Obtain American Citizenship To Fight Trump

It is Captain Jon Luc Picard, or Professor X, depending upon which franchise you prefer, to the rescue. Patrick Stewart says he is applying for U.S. citizenship so that he can oppose Donald trump. NBC News reports

British actor Sir Patrick Stewart says he’s applying to become an American citizen so that he can oppose President Trump and his policies. Stewart opened up about his decision to apply for citizenship in the wake of the 2016 election on ABC’s The View Thursday.

“Maybe it’s the only good thing as a result of this election, I am now applying for citizenship,” Stewart said. “Because I want to be an American too because all of my friends in Washington said ‘There’s one thing you can do, fight, fight oppose, oppose! But I can’t do it because I’m not a citizen.”

Now that I have reported the real new, here is the alternative news: Picard is intervening in response to rumors of communications between Trump’s advisers and the Romulan Star Empire.

Donald Trump responded by declaring, “Resistance is Futile.”

In related alternative news, the Vulcan High Council has decided against initiating First Contact with earth after observing Donald Trump and his most illogical behavior.

Jeff Sessions Exposed For Lying To Senate About Meeting With Russian Ambassador

As with every other bit of news which comes out with regards to Russia and the Trump administration, the news that Jeff Sessions spoke with the Russian ambassador raises more questions. Without knowing what he spoke to him about, it is not possible to determine how much this matters. It might be no big deal if the Russians were just trying to get more information about Donald Trump, but it could be the biggest political scandal in American history if it were to turn out that the Trump campaign was actively working with Russia to attempt to rig the election.

As of now we only have evidence that Russia probably tried to influence the election, with questionable impact considering that the material released by WikiLeaks all appears to be factual. There is no evidence at this time of any conspiracy between Trump and Russia, and this needs to be investigated independent of any partisan concerns.

Having Sessions involved creates two new wrinkles to the case. First, he lied to the Senate about the matter. Secondly, as Attorney General, it is impossible to see how he could be trusted to be involved in this investigation. He has agreed to recuse himself from the investigation, which is the least he could do, but only after having been exposed for lying to the Senate.

Many are calling for more. Arn Pearson, a senior fellow at People For the American Way, wrote in USA Today that Sessions has destroyed his credibility and must go:

Not only is Sessions’ impartiality being questioned, his honesty to Congress and the American people has been thrown into doubt. Sessions must not only recuse himself from future investigations into the Russian influence scandal, which he did on Thursday, he must resign.

Lying under oath and intentionally making a false and misleading statement to Congress are crimes under federal law. In 1999, Sessions voted to convict Bill Clinton of perjury in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, having earlier said that, “I have no doubt perjury qualifies under the Constitution as a high crime.”

Whether or not Sessions did in fact commit perjury is a matter for Congress and the judicial process to decide, but there is certainly sufficient cause for investigation. What is not in doubt is that he seriously misled the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sessions is doing his best to equivocate, saying he did not discuss the elections with Kislyak and met with him as a member of the Armed Services Committee, not the Trump campaign. But that wasn’t Sen. Al Franken’s question. Franken asked about any communications with the Russian government, and Sessions responded with his blanket statement about not having had communications with the Russians.

Sessions’ explanation doesn’t hold much water. The Washington Post reached all 26 members of the 2016 Armed Services Committee including Chairman John McCain, and Sessions was the only one who met with Kislyak that year. And Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador came in the heat of the presidential campaign: first in July — the same month Sessions formally nominated Trump for president at the Republican National Convention and delegates were making pro-Russia changes to their platform; and then again in September — when concerns about Russian hacking dominated the news.

It is hard to imagine how Sessions could think those meetings were not worth mentioning during his confirmation hearing.

Richard Painter agreed in an op-ed in The New York Times. He compared this to when Richard G. Kleindienst was forced to resign as Attorney General in 1972 during the Watergate scandal:

Once again, we see an attorney general trying to explain away misleading testimony in his own confirmation hearing. A spokeswoman for Mr. Sessions says that “there was absolutely nothing misleading” about his answer because he did not communicate with the ambassador in his capacity as a Trump campaign surrogate. His contacts with the Russian ambassador, he claims, were made in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

That may or may not have been the case (individual senators ordinarily do not discuss committee business with ambassadors of other countries, particularly our adversaries). Regardless, Mr. Sessions did not truthfully and completely testify. If he had intended to say that his contacts with the Russians had been in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and not for the Trump campaign, he could have said that. He then would have been open to the very relevant line of questioning about what those contacts were, and why he was unilaterally talking with the ambassador of a country that was a longstanding adversary of the United States…

President Trump has already fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for misleading Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russians. Misleading the United States Senate in testimony under oath is at least as serious. We do not yet know all the facts, but we know enough to see that Attorney General Sessions has to go as well.

Trump Reduces Nations’s Fears Of A Madman In The White House In Speech To Congress

After just over a month of Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans have very low expectations. His speech to Congress (transcript here) was received very favorably as he did not attack the media, or anybody else, and there wasn’t a single false claim about how large his election victory was. He even managed to wear a good looking tie which was not too long.

The speech boosted optimism. Hopefully that came more for a general feeling of decreased panic over fears that we might have an insane president, as opposed to any true belief in his policies. While the preliminary polls do show support for his agenda, viewers are often initially supportive of the speaker. The devil is in the details, and he gave very little detail as to how his general principles could turn into legislation. As Politico put it, Last night, Trump promised America could have all the cake it wants, and lose weight, too. What happens when he needs to deliver? Unfortunately this point seemed to be lost by many in the media who gushed over the speech, relieved that they were not attacked once again.

Brian Beutler also pointed this out, among several other failings in the speech which the media has paid too little attention to:

He alluded to courtroom convictions to create the false impression that terrorism in the U.S. is principally a consequence of weak vetting and porous borders—a false justification for his Muslim ban, which the courts have enjoined. He cited an increase in homicides in 2015 to foster the impression that violent crime is at a historic high, rather than a historic low. He outsourced to Defense Secretary James Mattis a lie about a raid he ordered in Yemen—which resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL, numerous civilians, and an eight-year-old American girl—falsely heralding it as “a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence.” Hours earlier, Trump had blamed his own military planners and Obama for its obvious failure. He also claimed to support NATO, which he has previously described as obsolete.

Fact checkers, including The Washington Post, PolitiFact, and Factcheck.org had their usual lists of falsehoods from Donald Trump. These might not matter with regards to public perception of the speech. The facts will matter when they try to govern based upon fantasy.

Betsy DeVos Sees Segregation As Example Of Providing More Options

Betsy DeVos was appointed Secretary of Education in the Trump cabinet, despite a lack of qualifications, based upon her work promoting school choice. She wrote a statement which cites segregated schools as an example of what we could get when we have school choice. Politco reports:

“HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” DeVos said in the statement, released Monday night in advance of Trump’s planned signing of an executive order giving the schools more clout. “They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

The executive order, which Trump is scheduled to issue Tuesday afternoon, was supposed be an easy bit of outreach on the final day of Black History Month to the black community that soundly rejected Trump on Election Day. It is expected to move a federal initiative focused on the colleges from the Education Department to the White House and set an aspirational goal for government spending at the schools.

But the goodwill was quickly overshadowed by DeVos’ statement, which came on the heels of a Monday meeting between Trump and presidents of the schools that left some dissatisfied. Some experts on historically black institutions panned the statement as ignorant, while others said she was inadvertently praising segregation.

Maybe such segregated schools would be the choice of segments of Trump voters (the more despicable ones), but black students certainly have never seen this as giving them more options.

At Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley  writes Insane Betsy DeVos Press Release Celebrates Jim Crow Education System as Pioneer of “School Choice”

First of all, it sounds like a seventh-grader wrote this, which is perhaps what happens when you put someone who has never really had a real job in charge of the Department of Education. Second, this official 2017 federal government press release celebrates legal segregation (!!!) on the grounds that the Jim Crow education system gave black students “more options,” as if there was a robust competition between HBCUs and white universities for their patronage. (When black Mississippian James Meredith chose the “option” of enrolling at the University of Mississippi in 1962, a massive white mob formed on the campus; two people were shot to death and hundreds injured in the ensuing battle/riot, during which federal marshals came under heavy gunfire, requiring the ultimate intervention of 20,000 U.S. soldiers and thousands more National Guardsmen.)

I tweeted this before reading the statement by DeVos, but it still holds: Just in case something horrible happens, please don’t let Betsy DeVos be the designated survivor during Trump’s speech to Congress.