SciFi Weekend: The Return Of Kahn; Mr. Robot; Doctor Who Deals With Chauvinism; Legends of Tomorrow; The Handmaid’s Tale; Patrick Melrose; Will and Grace; Audrey Horne Returns To Twin Peaks

It looks like Star Trek: Discovery might not be the only Star Trek television coming up. Geek Exchange reports that Nicholas Meyer is working on a limited television series based upon Kahn:

According to the sources, Meyer’s new project takes him back to Khan Noonien Singh, the “genetically superior” villain played by Ricardo Montalban in the original series episode “Space Seed” and in The Wrath of Khan, and by Benedict Cumberbatch in the J.J. Abrams-helmed Star Trek Into Darkness. Meyer will reportedly be developing a prequel miniseries, or limited series that would take place on Ceti Alpha V and chronicle Khan and his followers struggling to survive in the years between when Kirk dropped him off on the planet at the end of “Space Seed” and when the crew of the U.S.S. Reliant finds them early in The Wrath of Khan.

The directors cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn is going to have a theatrical release in September to mark the 35th anniversary of the movie:

The Director’s Cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, widely considered the best Star Trek film, is getting a special theatrical release this September to celebrate its 35th anniversary! I had a chance to sit down with writer/director Nicholas Meyer to discuss his experiences making the movie and its long-lasting success. But first, some exclusive details regarding the big screen re-release…

The digitally remastered Director’s Cut of Wrath of Khan will show for two days on Sunday, September 10th and Wednesday, September 13th in more than 600 theaters across the U.S. at 2pm and 7pm local time. Fans can buy advance tickets starting today. Screenings will be preceded by a brand new 18-minute interview with William Shatner about the making of the film. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting FathomEvents.com or at participating theater box offices.

A very creepy trailer was released for the third season of Mr. Robot with this description: “MR. ROBOT follows Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a cyber-security engineer who, along with Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) and fsociety, starts a revolution to change the world. Picking up immediately following the Season 2 cliffhanger, Season 3 will explore each character’s motivations and the disintegration between Elliot and Mr. Robot.” The show returns October 11 with new cast members including Bobby Cannavale.

Considering all the noise made about Jodie Whittaker being cast as the thirteeth Doctor, it is fitting to learn that the Doctor Who Christmas special will deal with chauvinism:

David Bradley is set to appear as the First Doctor in the Doctor Who Christmas special lined up for the end of the year, and he’s recently revealed at the London Film & Comic Con that he and outgoing Doctor Peter Capaldi are set to clash over their attitudes toward women during Steven Moffat’s final episode.  

“What we did emphasise,” Bradley explained, “was the old fashioned nature and how he is from the 60s. He goes into the Twelfth Doctor’s Tardis and says ‘it’s a bit dusty around here, it’s in an awful state isn’t it? Where’s Polly? Shouldn’t she give it a spring clean?’ And then Peter’s saying ‘you can’t say that’.”  

Bradley added that his character “brings all his 60s sensibilities, what’s lovingly called casual chauvinism. He’s just talking [as if] the [companions] are there just to help out, and do the dusting and do all the domestic chores – his attitudes to a lot of things come right from the 60s, so there’s a lot of conflict between Hartnell’s Doctor and Peter’s Doctor about how things have changed in the last 50 years… we had quite a bit of fun with that.”

LGBT Nation takes matters even further in questioning if the new Doctor will be bisexual:

Michelle Gomez, who plays Missy in the hit sci-fi show Doctor Who, dropped on heckuva spoiler in an interview with the UK’s Daily Star.

While male versions of the Doctor have had female companions, Pearl Mackie’s character Bill Potts, was the first lesbian companion on the show. The character “died” last season when she left to continue her relationship with an old flame who turned into an alien during her first plotline.

Missy, however, paved the way for Whittaker’s role, as the newest incarnation of the Doctor’s longstanding nemesis, the Master. Gomez’ character proved that a Time Lord could regenerate as the opposite sex.

“Now we have a got a female Doctor so there is going to be girl on girl,” Gomez said. “It might work. Dunno. Obviously it might be awful.”

While producers have reportedly pushed for a male companion next season, Mackie for her part says she’d love to see a lesbian relationship develop between the Doctor and her companion. “It could work,” she said.

Asked if she’d be willing to return to the show to be the object of the Doctor’s affection, Mackie was quick to reply.

“Who wouldn’t? It is Doctor Who. Never say never.”

Buddy TV has this news on the third season of Legends of Tomorrow (trailer above):

Legends of Tomorrow season 3 will continue the trend started in season 2 of having a group of villains terrorize the heroes. It won’t be the Legion of Doom this time but a much larger and more diverse group. Klemmer did announce that among this group will be Damien Darhk, Arrow‘s season 4 villain and one of the original members of Legends of Tomorrow’s Legion of Doom.

Legends of Tomorrow season 2 had Darhk travel from the past to participate in adventures with Reverse Flash and Malcolm Merlyn. This will no longer be the case in season 3. Darhk will be resurrected from the dead after being killed by Oliver Queen’s hands in season 4 of Arrow. There will be a power behind Darhk, who the show has yet to reveal, but Damien will be the face of the organization.

“Damien Darhk is going to be the leader of this group in the way Thawne was sort of the boss last year for the Legion of Doom. This group is distinctly led up by Damien,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim explained.

As for the mysterious head honcho, Klemmer promised that they would be unlike anything the show has seen before. At the head of the group of villains will be a “non-human entity” as Legends of Tomorrow plans to get more into the occult and magic side of the DC universe. Klemmer confirmed that they are actively pursuing getting Matt Ryan’s Constantine on season 3.

One non-human on the evil crew however will be The Flash‘s Gorilla Grodd. Much like Damien Darhk, Legends will introduce a Grodd that has not yet been seen on The FlashLegends‘ Grodd will be older, wiser and much more dangerous. “It will be a version of him that we have not met yet on any of the shows. It will be the most evolved and powerful form of Grodd,” Klemmer said.

While the group of villains will form the spine of the season on an episode-to-episode basis, Legends of Tomorrow will be dealing with anachronisms, not aberrations. Following the season 2 finale where time “broke,” figures from history will start appearing in the wrong eras. One example that was teased was Helen of Troy showing up in the 1940s and become a movie star. The head of the villainous group of season 3 will be using these changes to exploit and further their own purpose.

Deadline reports on a new cast member:

Mistresses alumna Jes Macallan has signed on for a recurring role in the third season of the CW’s superhero drama DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

 Macallan will play Special Agent Ava Sharpe, a hard working agent for a secret branch of the Federal Government (the Time Bureau) dedicated to the regulation of time-travel and the protection of history. She is very smart and incredibly ambitious and always believes she is the smartest person in the room. She is often quite ruthless in obtaining her goals and her drive for perfection has left many discarded friendships (and relationships) in her wake.

The Handmaid’s Tale has been the best new show so far of 2017, ending the first season in an ambiguous manner. The story now goes beyond the book, and the fact that there will be a second season indicates that Offred survives after being taken away. There were also other small signs of hope and rebellion in the first season finale.

We also know that Alexis Bledel’s character not only survives, but has been promoted to a series regular.

Beyond this we know very little, and Elizabeth Moss warns against trying to guess how the second season begins. She told TV Guide:

“Don’t try to guess what happens in that first scene of Episode 1 in Season 2,” she said. “You will never get it, and I mean that objectively as a viewer. You just won’t guess, and I love that so much.”

 

TV Line reports that Allison Williams has been added to Benedict Cumberbatch’s upcoming Showtime series, Patrick Melrose:

The former Marnie Michaels will guest-star on Patrick Melrose, Benedict Cumberbatch’s upcoming Showtime limited series, TVLine has learned.

The five-part project, formerly called Melrose, is based on Edward St. Aubyn’s novels and stars Cumberbatch as the title character, “an aristocratic and outrageously funny playboy” who turns to substance abuse to erase bad childhood memories of his abusive father.

Williams will play Marianne, someone Patrick runs into during his time in New York City.

The drama’s cast also includes Hugo Weaving, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Anna Madeley.

Will and Grace has not only been extended for sixteen episodes next season, but was also renewed for a tenth season before the revival even began. The revival plans to retcon the original series finale and have the cast back as we remember them (such as without the children shown in the original finale). Things have also been brought up to date, with Karen having voted for Donald Trump. Eric McCormack discussed this:

“One of the hardest things we’ve all had to deal with is realizing that some of the people around us didn’t vote for who we voted for and they might’ve been friends or they might still be friends, and how do we maintain that friendship?” McCormack told reporters at the Television Critics’ Association on Thursday. “We know that’s the case here as a result of that video we did in September. We know that Karen, of course, voted for her friend Donald. So that is going to lead the conversation. That is not inherently about the politics of today or even yesterday; it’s about the politics of friendship and how you navigate that. And it can be quite hysterical, how you navigate that.”

I wouldn’t dream of attempting to do recaps of Twin Peaks, or in any way try to explain what is going on, but I will note that last week’s episode had the return of  Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn). Picture from last week’s episode above. Or as we remember her:

The Danger Of Hillary Clinton’s Theocratic Views

The Atlantic has a story about Hillary Clinton’s religious views entitled, Hillary Wants to Preach. They miss the real issue with regards to Hillary Clinton and religion as her religious views have affected her views on policy. Clinton has always been oblivious to First Amendment rights, seeing no problems when her political policies violate First Amendment related to either freedom of expression or separation of church and state.

I have always suspected that the vast ideological difference between myself and Clinton is that while I am a civil libertarian concerned with defending our rights, Hillary Clinton’s political views are based upon her strong religious views. The article notes, “Clinton might argue that her politics were the ultimate expression of her faith. Methodists helped lead the early 19th-century Social Gospel movement, a faith-based campaign for greater aid to the poor and vulnerable.” While perhaps her religious views led her to some admirable goals, her religious views probably have also been responsible for many of her conservative political positions on social and cultural issues throughout her career. Plus, like many who are deeply religious, she finds in her religion a way to justify her dishonesty and personal corruption.

While Clinton has usually kept open talk about her religion out of her political speeches, this is hardly the first time it has come up. She was mocked quite a bit when she cited the Bible as the book which influenced her the most. This was generally taken as a politically calculating move, but afterwards I believed, for better or worse, that in this case she was saying what she believed.

Clinton discussed her religious views in an interview with Newsweek in 1994. (Hat tip to The Blaze for the link.) One paragraph is particularly interesting:

Despite what some critics believe, the nation’s First Lady is not markedly feminist in her religion. She thinks abortion is “”wrong,” but, like her husband, she says, “”I don’t think it should be criminalized.” She does not follow feminist theology and seems unaware of the upheaval its most radical exponents have created among Methodists in the name of greater inclusiveness.

Even without having read this interview before, I have longed warned that Hillary Clinton’s support for abortion rights has never seemed very sincere, and had predicted that if she was elected she would be far more likely than Donald Trump to actually bring about further restrictions on abortion rights while triangulating with Republicans. She has already expressed a willingness to compromise, and has supported restrictions such as parental notification laws. Her often stated view of keeping abortion safe, legal, and rare plays into Republican policies to restrict access, along with placing a stigma on women who have had abortions.

The danger of Clinton’s religious views were most apparent when she was in the Senate and worked with The Fellowship to increase the role of religion on public policy. I posted about this in 2008, quoting from an article from Mother Jones: 

These days, Clinton has graduated from the political wives’ group into what may be Coe’s most elite cell, the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast. Though weighted Republican, the breakfast—regularly attended by about 40 members—is a bipartisan opportunity for politicians to burnish their reputations, giving Clinton the chance to profess her faith with men such as Brownback as well as the twin terrors of Oklahoma, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and, until recently, former Senator George Allen (R-Va.). Democrats in the group include Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who told us that the separation of church and state has gone too far; Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is also a regular.

Unlikely partnerships have become a Clinton trademark. Some are symbolic, such as her support for a ban on flag burning with Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and funding for research on the dangers of video games with Brownback and Santorum. But Clinton has also joined the gop on legislation that redefines social justice issues in terms of conservative morality, such as an anti-human-trafficking law that withheld funding from groups working on the sex trade if they didn’t condemn prostitution in the proper terms. With Santorum, Clinton co-sponsored the Workplace Religious Freedom Act; she didn’t back off even after Republican senators such as Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter pulled their names from the bill citing concerns that the measure would protect those refusing to perform key aspects of their jobs—say, pharmacists who won’t fill birth control prescriptions, or police officers who won’t guard abortion clinics.

Clinton has championed federal funding of faith-based social services, which she embraced years before George W. Bush did; Marci Hamilton, author of God vs. the Gavel, says that the Clintons’ approach to faith-based initiatives “set the stage for Bush.” Clinton has also long supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that has become a purity test for any candidate wishing to avoid war with the Christian right.

I discussed this again during the 2016 campaign cycle, again noting that Clinton’s affiliation with the religious right was seen in her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, along with her promotion of restrictions on video games and her introduction of a bill making flag burning a felony.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, Clinton’s lack of concern for First Amendment issues includes a poor record on both separation of church and state and freedom of expression. This includes her support for making flag burning a felony as mentioned above, as well as sounding remarkably like Donald Trump in mocking freedom of speech while promoting restrictions to supposedly fight terrorism. After losing the election, Clinton called on Congress to restrict what she considered fake news. This appears to include both the many bogus attacks on Clinton, along with the many valid points made despite her repeatedly debunked denials. Regardless of the accuracy of someone’s speech, First Amendment rights do not have an exclusion for “fake news” which a political leader objects to.

Clinton’s primary problem might be that she wound up in the wrong political party. Every bone in her body is that of a conservative Republican and she has struggled to alter her public statements to fit in with Democrats. It is often pointed out that she started in politics as a Goldwater Girl, however this is an insult to Barry Goldwater. Despite other faults, Goldwater was far more socially liberal than Clinton. Goldwater abhorred the religious right and its influence on the Republican Party, and certainly would not have joined The Fellowship as Clinton did.

It is also notable that many of Clinton’s supporters have as little respect for freedom of expression as she does. Write a comment on Facebook about what you had for lunch that day, and nobody will complain. However post something critical of Clinton and her supporters will descend repeating the same lines about what a waste of time it is to still talk about her (while also Liking and Sharing posts if they are favorable to her). Of course the battle between liberals and DLC Democrats like the Clintons has gone on since the 1990’s and this battle for control of the party continues to this day. Clinton supporters have been engaging in an on-going dirty attack against the left. As I posted just earlier today, Clinton has announced two new people for her “Resistance” PAC, oblivious to how she is part of what we are resisting.

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

In follow up of my post yesterday on the McCarthyism we are seeing from many in the Democratic establishment in their attacks on the left, it is worth mentioning some signs of sanity from some Democrats. While it only applies to some, Politico has written that Democrats fear Russia probe blowback:

Democrats are increasingly conflicted about how forcefully to press the issue of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Fearful of alienating voters who appear more concerned about the economy and health care, Democrats campaigning in districts across the country are de-emphasizing Russia in their rhetoric — and some are warning that a persistent focus on the Russia investigation could backfire.

“In the races where I’m working, I think voters think that Russia is important and that the questions need to get answered,” Bill Burton, a veteran Democratic consultant, said at a political convention this past weekend. “But they’re mostly sick of hearing about it, and they want to hear politicians talk about things that are more directly important in their lives.”

…California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor, was even more direct in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The Russia investigation, he said, “doesn’t do anything for Democrats at all … It’s a loser.”

The problem for Democrats goes beyond this. While we do not know the final results or everything which Mueller has uncovered, based upon what has been released it increasingly looks like the Democrats have gone far beyond the facts in making this a political issue. While the Russians may have meddled to some degree in the election, the fact is that the Russians have attempted to meddle in our elections for decades–just as we have meddled in their elections and the elections of many other countries.

The arguments from Democrats fall apart when they try to blame Russia for Clinton’s loss. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes made by Clinton which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others. Russia did not force Clinton to ignore the rust belt states, or do a terrible job of campaigning there when she realized she was in trouble. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the rules in setting up her private server, and then repeatedly lie about it for months. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, and use her career in politics for personal financial gain. Russia did not force Clinton to take extreme pro-war positions and other conservative views which alienated many potential Democratic voters. 

While Donald Trump along with members of his family and campaign have had many suspicious actions involving Russia, there has been no evidence of successful collusion between them to impact the election. I have long believed that Trump’s actions were based more upon possible financial crimes and covering up activities of his family and associates. Last spring week former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his Congressional testimony: “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results.” We have not seen anything to alter this.

While Donald Trump, Jr. showed he was not above meeting with Russians to attempt to affect the election, it turned out that Russia had nothing to offer. The closet thing we have to evidence that Russia might have attempted to hack the election showed that they were not successful. The stories of Jared Kushner seeking a back channel to communicate with Russia both suggests that this was over financial dealings, and raises the question as to why he would need to set up a back channel after the election if they had already been colluding with Russia.

There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia was responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if the investigations should show that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. The undemocratic manner in which a major political party picks its nominees is a far more serious threat to democracy than anything actually achieved by Russia.

Blaming Clinton’s loss on Russian propaganda on social media ignores the strong opposition to Clinton from many segments of the political spectrum and the large amount of anti-Clinton material which would be present independent of Russia. People on the left have opposed DLC Democrats like the Clintons since the 1990’s, and have opposed Clinton’s neoconservative interventionism since the Bush years, independent of any Russian influence. Russia certainly cannot be blamed for similar Democratic loses in 2010 and 2016 when they also performed poorly by running as a Republican-lite party. The real problem is that by copying the policies of Republicans, Democrats turn off many potential voters while failing to win over Republicans.

Politico is right that Democrats run the risk that they will not win elections based upon their anti-Russia hysteria because this is not the major concern of voters. Democrats face a greater risk that their initial claims might be shown to be unsubstantiated partisan claims, further damaging their credibility. In October, Hillary Clinton claimed that Donald Trump would be threatening democracy by not accepting the results of the election. Democrats now risk being held to Hillary Clinton’s own standards.

Establishment Democrats Relying On New McCarthyism To Attack The Left As They Move To The Right

With the Democratic Party moving right, becoming increasingly like the Republican Party of circa 2002, while current Republicans have become even further detached from reality, they have also increasingly been attacking the left. We already have gone through the last election watching Hillary Clinton campaign against Medicare for All, promoting restrictions on civil liberties, and defending her failed history of neocon interventionism, while her supporters attributed criticism from the left to sexism, and have moved closer towards embracing neoconservativism. This may have just foreshadowed what to expect in the future.

Ryan Cooper recently discussed how the left questions establishment Democrats such as  Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick over their records. He predicted in The Week how the Democratic establishment will respond by continuing to play dirty against the left:

..if they just want to have a retread of the 2015-16 primary, the center could just try to win dirty. The left, they might say (working hand-in-glove with sympathetic columnists), just doesn’t like minority or female candidates because they are racist and sexist.

I would bet quite a lot of money the centrist Democratic establishment will opt for the latter strategy. Indeed, some are already doing so — like Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, elite Democrats’ in-house think tank.

That would be pretty rich coming from the crowd that shamelessly leveraged Islamophobia to keep Keith Ellison — probably the left’s second-most trusted politician, after Bernie Sanders — out of the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Of course that is what we are already seeing. Just today Shareblue has a defense of Kamala Harris which resorts to such dirty attacks, claiming that the objection to Harris from the left is that she “shares a gender with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Such attacks on the left based upon false claims of misogyny are especially absurd considering that many people who ultimately backed Sanders had previously supported Elizabeth Warren before she declined to run. Some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Many are now backing Tulsi Gabbard for the 2020 nomination. (Many of us are also excited about Jodie Whittaker breaking the glass ceiling in the TARDIS.)

Many of the most vile attacks on Bernie Sanders and the left have come from former Clinton staffer Peter Daou, who runs Shareblue. The Washington Free Beacon showed a recent tirade from Daou on Twitter within the past week. Conservative Democrats (often labeled centrists in light of how far right the middle has moved in American politics) have become the major opponents of liberal and progressive ideas, while turning to the tactics of the far right.

George Zornick responded to MyCarthy style attacks on Bernie Sanders from Peter Daou and Melissa McEwan in an article at The Nation entitled, Bernie Sanders Is a Russian Agent, and Other Things I Learned This Week: A case study in how fake news is attracting liberals. He pointed out how Peter Daou has started a string of accusations that Sanders is practically a Russian agent based upon false claims:

The jumping-off point seems to have been when Peter Daou, an avowed Hillary Clinton fan and major Twitter personality, quoted-tweeted my original post. Daou spends almost as much time energetically trashing Sanders as he does attacking Trump, and many of the respondents were followers of his. He certainly did not imply Sanders was a secret KGB asset, though, writing only: “Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the ONLY TWO VOTES **AGAINST** the Russia sanctions bill. Bernie was out of sync with every Dem senator.” (It was a Russia/Iran sanctions bill, and Sanders made it clear he objected only to the Iran part, but never mind.)

Sanders made his position quite clear, including on his web site, but such facts are irrelevant to anti-liberal hatchet men like Daou who are more interested in Swift Boating Sanders (even if Sanders’ concerns were also expressed by John Kerry). If anything, I think that Sanders has been too accepting of the Democratic party line on Russia, which goes far beyond the facts which have been established. Despite this, while Daou’s followers on social media have found it a sign of extremism that Sanders and Paul voted together, I see a view shared by two Senators who frequently differ from their party’s orthodoxy to be worthy of consideration.

Zornick went on:

So how did people jump to this conclusion that Bernie Sanders, by opposing Democrats, must ipso facto be working at the behest of Russia? It wasn’t entirely organic. And it points to how fake news can infect some of our brethren on the left.

Blame starts with the people with megaphones that peddle this nonsense. Eric Garland, who became a Twitter celebrity with his bizarre “game theory” thread, has explicitly tied Sanders to Russia in his threads. So has Melissa McEwan on her Shakesville blog. “Bernie Sanders, who has visited Russia, has not been, to my knowledge, suspected of being vulnerable by Russian kompromat cultivated on his visits, unlike Donald Trump. But, as I said above, if I intend to say something, I will state it plainly, and here I am plainly stating that I do believe these connections warrant more scrutiny,” she wrote. The Palmer Report, which churns out Russia-related fake news by the pixel load, wrote a post in April: “Bernie Sanders must disclose what he knows about his campaign adviser Tad Devine and Russia.” And of course, uber-grifter Louise Mensch has joined the conspiracy theorists.

We have a long way to go until the 2020 primary battles and can expect to see far more of such dirty tactics from conservative Democrats who place victory for someone with a D after their name over principle, failing to understand that their abandonment of principle is a major reason why Democrats have been on such a losing streak and could not even beat Donald Trump.

Update: 

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

Mueller Convenes Grand Jury Indicating Escalation Of Trump Investigation

Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury, giving him the opportunity to increase the intensity of his investigations. This includes the ability to subpoena documents, obtain testimony under oath, and potentially seek indictments. It is also a clear sign that, as most believed, we have only been in an early stage of investigations which are likely to continue for some time. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller’s inquirywill likely continue for months. Mr. Mueller is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with the Kremlin as part of that effort.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Joshua Stueve, declined to comment. Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”

…Grand juries are investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said Mr. Mueller’s decision suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses…

“This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”

Thomas Zeno, a federal prosecutor for 29 years before becoming a lawyer at the Squire Patton Boggs law firm, said the grand jury was “confirmation that this is a very vigorous investigation going on.”

“This doesn’t mean he is going to bring charges,” Mr. Zeno cautioned. “But it shows he is very serious. He wouldn’t do this if it were winding down.”

Another sign the investigation is ramping up: Greg Andres, a top partner in a powerhouse New York law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, has joined Mr. Mueller’s team.

Mr. Andres, a former top Justice Department official who also oversaw the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, wouldn’t leave his private-sector job for a low-level investigation, Mr. Zeno said. “People like Greg Andres don’t leave private practice willy-nilly “The fact he is being added after a couple of months shows how serious this is and that it could last a long time,” Mr. Zeno said.

Reuters adds, “Grand jury subpoenas have been issued in connection with the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., a Russian lawyer and others, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.”

While the news media has concentrated on the Russia aspect of the investigation, Mueller is also reporting the Trump family’s financial ties are under investigation. CNN reports:

Federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The web of financial ties could offer a more concrete path toward potential prosecution than the broader and murkier questions of collusion in the 2016 campaign, these sources said…

The increased financial focus hasn’t gone unnoticed by Trump, who warned Mueller, via an interview with The New York Times, that his financial dealings were a red line that investigators shouldn’t cross. But the order establishing the special counsel makes clear Mueller is authorized to investigate any matters that “arose or may arise directly from the investigation.

…The possible financial ties between Trump and Russia were part of the concerns for US intelligence and law enforcement officials from the beginning, according to one current law enforcement official and one former US intelligence official.

Over the decades, the Trump real estate business and its financial dealings have come under scrutiny by the FBI and the Justice Department multiple times.

In some cases, the FBI was pursuing others who did business with the Trump organization, including alleged mobsters who controlled key contractors used by many real estate developers in New York during the 1980s. The flow of Russian money in real estate — and concerns that some buyers were making the purchases to illegally launder money — had also drawn some attention by US authorities to the Trump business.

The international real estate business is a part of the global economy where foreigners can still use cash with fewer questions asked about the sources of money. Terrorism financing concerns long ago put more stringent rules on banking and other businesses. But the rules are looser in the business of buying and selling high-end real estate, US officials say.

Investigators are looking both at whether financial laws were broken and whether there are any dealings that could put the President or his associates in a compromising position.

There has been concern that Donald Trump might launch is own version of the Saturday Night Massacre in which Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation. A bipartisan bill is being written in the Senate which would limit a president’s ability to fire a special counsel. AP reports:

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware plan to introduce the legislation Thursday. The bill would allow any special counsel for the Department of Justice to challenge his or her removal in court, with a review by a three-judge panel within 14 days of the challenge.

The bill would be retroactive to May 17, 2017 – the day Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Donald Trump’s campaign.

“It is critical that special counsels have the independence and resources they need to lead investigations,” Tillis said in a statement. “A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances.”

Donald Trump Claimed To Have Received Two Phone Calls With Praise–Neither Really Happened

At one point during the campaign, Politico estimated that Donald Trump was making “roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average.” While more frequent than what might be customary, that still was while campaigning for political office, when a certain amount of dishonesty unfortunately is the norm. Now he is president and, while we all know that presidents do lie, hopefully they can maintain a higher standard. Today Donald Trump has been called out for making up two fictitious phone calls praising him.

One example was Donald Trump claiming that the head of the boy scouts called to praise him for his rather disastrous speech to the group, claiming it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them–sounding much more like Trump speech. AP checked and verified that no such call occurred:

 Faced with a firm denial from the Boy Scouts, the White House on Wednesday corrected President Donald Trump’s claim in an interview that the head of the youth group called him to heap praise on a politically aggressive speech Trump delivered at the Scouts’ national jamboree.

After the Boy Scouts issued a statement saying no such call happened, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed their take but said “multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership” approached Trump in person after the speech and “offered quite powerful compliments.”

“We are unaware of any such call,” the Boy Scouts responded in a statement. It specified that neither Boy Scout President Randall Stephenson nor Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh placed such a call.

The Guardian noted this and a second example with Trump’s claim of a phone call from the president of Mexico:

On Monday, Trump claimed that Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, had given him “the ultimate compliment” by phoning to say fewer people were crossing the US-Mexico border…

Trump claimed on Monday: “The president of Mexico called me. They said their southern border … very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”

Asked about the alleged call, Mexico’s foreign relations department said Peña Nieto “has not had any recent telephone communication with President Donald Trump”.

Even the conservative National Review responded, “The sheer brazenness of these things. The mindset that must be involved.”

Perhaps we should wonder about his mindset. The American Psychoanalytic Association recently issued a statement giving members permission to speculate about Trump’s mental health. Is he simply acting like a businessman who calls his properties the greatest, not understanding the difference between commercial real estate and governing? Or does his talk of two non-existent phone calls indicate more serious psychological or cognitive problems?

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DEA Administrator Condemns Donald Trump’s Statement Promoting Police Brutality

This blog has been around for over a decade and I believe that this a first. I am posting to praise something said by the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote an email objecting to Donald Trump’s recent statement which promoted police brutality: “When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon—you just see them thrown in, rough—I said, please don’t be too nice.” The Wall Street Journal reported on Rosenberg’s response:

Mr. Rosenberg wrote that although he is certain no “special agent or task force officer of the DEA would mistreat a defendant,” Mr. Trump’s comments required a response…

“I write to offer a strong reaffirmation of the operating principles to which we, as law enforcement professionals, adhere,” the memo says. “I write because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong. That’s what law enforcement officers do. That’s what you do. We fix stuff. At least, we try.”

The Wall Street Journal also reported on another objection to Trump’s statement from New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill:

“To suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders subsequently claimed that Trump was only joking, but even if this is true, his remarks were inexcusable. The Washington Post reports on the reaction:

Even as the White House has argued that Trump was not being serious, police officials publicly and privately expressed dismay about his comments, saying that his remarks were dangerous, given the current climate of distrust between communities and the officers patrolling them.

“There are some things that don’t have much humor, particularly in the environment we have today,” said Darrel Stephens, a former Charlotte police chief and now executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “Even if it’s an attempt at humor, it sends the wrong message.”

We must keep in mind that Donald Trump and members of his administration are under investigation, and one day they just might be placed under arrest.

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Federal Court Rules Against Politicians Blocking Critics On Social Media With Similar Suit Pending Against Donald Trump

In June I looked at complaints against Donald Trump for blocking people from his Twitter account. With social media becoming the major arena for the discussion of public issues, those blocked on Facebook or Twitter have decreased opportunity to both follow public debate and to respond. This becomes more significant as public officials use social media for matters of public policy. A federal court has ruled against a public official who has blocked users in response to criticism. Slate reports:

Does the First Amendment bar public officials from blocking people on social media because of their viewpoint?

That question has hung over the White House ever since Donald Trump assumed the presidency and continued to block users on Twitter. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has sued the president on behalf of blocked users, spurring a lively academic debate on the topic. But Trump isn’t the only politician who has blocked people on social media. This week, a federal court weighed in on the question in a case with obvious parallels to Trump’s. It determined that the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause does indeed prohibit officeholders from blocking social media users on the basis of their views.

Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors involved the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Phyllis J. Randall. In her capacity as a government official, Randall runs a Facebook page to keep in touch with her constituents. In one post to the page, Randall wrote, “I really want to hear from ANY Loudoun citizen on ANY issues, request, criticism, compliment, or just your thoughts.” She explicitly encouraged Loudoun residents to reach out to her through her “county Facebook page.”

Brian C. Davidson criticized Loudoun County’s School Board and then sued after being temporarily blocked.  U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris wrote in his decision:

Defendant’s offense at Plaintiff’s views was therefore an illegitimate basis for her actions—particularly given that Plaintiff earned Defendant’s ire by criticizing the County government. Indeed, the suppression of critical commentary regarding elected officials is the quintessential form of viewpoint discrimination against which the First Amendment guards. By prohibiting Plaintiff from participating in her online forum because she took offense at his claim that her colleagues in the County government had acted unethically, Defendant committed a cardinal sin under the First Amendment.

This would seem to be relevant to Donald Trump’s actions in blocking people who disagree with him. The Wall Street Journal noted the ramifications of this decision for a similar case against Donald Trump:

The lawsuit against Mr. Trump in federal court in Manhattan was brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven users whom Mr. Trump blocked.

“We hope the courts look to this opinion as a road map in holding that it is unconstitutional for President Trump to block his critics on Twitter,” said Alex Abdo, senior staff attorney at the institute.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

There is one potential difference as technically Trump is using his personal account, although he is using it to issue pronouncements related to government policy. Sean Spicer previously said that Trump’s tweets should be considered official statements.  Slate addressed this point:

There’s just one lingering issue with this comparison: It isn’t clear whether Trump intends his personal Twitter page to function as a public forum the way Randall did. (Trump has a presidential account, @POTUS, from which he does not block users—but he doesn’t use it for interesting communications.) Public officials have more latitude to censor expression in personal, private forums than they do in forums that they use to speak in their official capacity. Trump’s lawyers will almost certainly argue that his personal Twitter feed is a private forum, not a government project.

But that argument will likely fail. As Trump’s recent tweets banning transgender military service demonstrate, the president uses Twitter not just to convey official policy but also for lawmaking. This habit would seem to turn his feed into a quintessential public forum. And so, under the First Amendment, he lacks the power to block those users who tweet their discontent at @realDonaldTrump.

Joint Chiefs Ignoring Trump Transgender Ban As Twitter Not Part Of Chain Of Command

Why are Republicans so obsessed with other people’s genitals, who they have sex with, and which bathroom they use? The latest example was Donald Trump’s proclamation via Twitter that transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve in the military. Of course the Constitution does not provide for changes in policy via Tweets, and neither Congress nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff were prepared for this. Not surprisingly, they are insisting upon following the conventional change of command before making such changes. CNN reports:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, including chairman General Joseph Dunford, were not aware President Donald Trump planned to tweet a ban on transgender service members, three US defense officials told CNN — the latest indication that top military leaders across all four service branches were blindsided by the President’s announcement.

For now, Dunford has informed service members that there will be “no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidelines.”

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Dunford wrote in a memo to the military that was obtained by CNN. “As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said Thursday that, to date, he has not received “directives on implementation” for a ban and learned about the President’s decision through the media.

We will work through the implementation guidance when we get it and then we’ll move from there,” he added while speaking at the National Press Club.

Maybe next Donald Trump will Tweet that Obamacare has been repealed and leave it at that, satisfying himself with no actual changes affecting anyone else.

Trump Tweeted that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Conservatives have complained about the cost of surgery for transgender members of the military, although not all even undergo surgery. Military Times reports that the “Defense Department spends 10 times as much money on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications than it spends on healthcare services for transgender troops.”

USA Today also noted this, along with comparisons of the cost of transgender surgery to the cost of Donald Trump’s trips to Mar-A-Lago:

A report for the Pentagon last year found that transition-related care would cost between about $2.4 and $8.4 million per year — less than 0.14% of the military’s medical budget.

That’s roughly the cost of four of Trump’s trips to Mar-A-Lago, GQ noted, even using a conservative estimate of $2 million per trip. And it’s way less than the $84 million spent on Viagra and similar meds by the Department of Defense in 2014, as others also said.

With cost not providing a good justification for this policy change, late night comic James Cordin had another explanation:

At this point, it just seems like Trump wants to do the opposite of everything Obama did. He is like, “Oh, Obama pardoned a turkey on Thanksgiving? Well I’m going to slaughter a turkey with a chainsaw on the front lawn.”

Vogue noted the lack of Ivanka Trump’s influence on Donald Trump in an article entitled, Look, It’s Time to Collectively and Officially Give Up on Ivanka Trump. They think that there are people who still think that Ivanka Trump is of any value in stopping her father? Really?

Clinton Plans On Doubling Down On Blaming Others For Her Loss In Upcoming Book

Republicans who hope to keep control of the House have received great news. They will still have Hillary Clinton to kick around. The Hill reports that Clinton is doubling down on her claims that she lost due to James Comey, Russia, and sexism rather than being  a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign:

Hillary Clinton’s new memoir will blame her 2016 presidential election loss on Russian interference and former FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that he was reopening the investigation into her emails.

Sources familiar with the memoir told the Hill that Clinton made the two scenarios cornerstones of her book, which will be released in September.

“She really believes that’s why she lost,” said a longtime Clinton ally. “She wants the whole story out there from her own perspective. I think a lot of people are going to be really surprised by how much she reveals.”

…While the book will zero in on Russia and Comey — which Clinton has said are the two biggest contributing factors to her loss — it will also examine other factors she blames for a role in her defeat, including sexism and misogyny.

Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book will double down on Russia’s interference and James Comey’s involvement in her stunning election defeat, according to sources familiar with the memoir.

Earlier this week I cited the opinion from FiveThirtyEight that having Clinton on the ballot hurt the Democrats in down ticket races. FiveThirtyEight expressed the view that not having Clinton on the ballot will  help Democrats in 2018. On the other hand, having her on a speaking tour promoting her book and her excuses for losing could be harmful to Democrats running. Clinton’s popularity has fallen even more than Trump’s since the election, and I suspect that Clinton’s blame tour to date has been part of the reason.

Some Democratic leaders are recognizing the problem:

Some Democrats are worried that their party’s goal of rebuilding and rebranding itself will be undermined by Clinton’s book.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) has publicly stated that Clinton should not blame anyone but herself and lack of messaging.

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things—Comey, Russia—you blame yourself,” Schumer told the Washington Post. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden has also criticized Clinton for her campaign.

“I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” he said in May.

“What happened was that this was the first campaign that I can recall where my party did not talk about what it always stood for—and that was how to maintain a burgeoning middle class,” Biden said in March.

“You didn’t hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about the guy working on the assembly line making $60,000 a year and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess,” he said.

Of course pushing Clinton’s candidacy on the country, which ultimately led to the election of Donald Trump, was the last stray in destroying the credibility of the Democratic establishment. As an op-ed in The New York Times notes, the real civil war in the Democratic party is “is between those willing to trust the existing establishment and those who want entirely new leadership.” (While Lee Drutman’s op-ed does make some good points here, he does underestimate how great an ideological gap also exists.)

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes on Clinton’s fault which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others

Clinton’s excuses are all very weak. In blaming James Comey, Clinton ignores the fact that James Comey would not have been investigating her in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding email and  hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated that she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the  law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.  Clinton’s violation of the rules regarding her use of the private server was confirmed to be in violation of the rules in effect in 2009 by the Obama administration State Department Inspector General Report. Fact checkers repeatedly showed that Clinton was lying about the email and Foundation scandals. Clinton’s credibility was also seriously harmed by the manner in which she grossly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Placing the blame on Russia does not hold up either. The evidence released so far has shown that Russia was not able to hack into the voting machines or change a single vote. There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia is responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if we accept the view that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. Again it comes down to Clinton losing due to her own major flaws.

Some of those who blame Russia have moved on to claims that Clinton was hurt by fake news spread from Russia. This ignores the vast amount of criticism of Clinton going back for years–including both factually accurate criticism along with bogus criticism from the right wing. The left has opposed the policies of the Clintons and DLC since the 1990’s. Views of Clinton were already set well before her nomination, and if any fake news did come from Russia, it would have been lost in the vast amount of noise already present on the internet.

While some undoubtedly would not vote for Clinton due to misogyny, these were primarily people who would never vote for any Democrat. Clinton was probably helped more than hurt by her gender among Democratic-leaning voters. A male candidate with Clinton’s repeated failures during her career, along with holding views more conservative than the Democratic base, would probably have only been a third-tier candidate with no chance of winning the nomination. Far too many Democrats overlooked Clinton’s serious flaws because of her gender.