Philip Roth On The Election Of Donald Trump

Last week, prior to the inauguration of Donald Trump, I had recommended the novel It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis on Facebook. The 1935 novel had a populist demagogue beat FDR and establish a dictatorship, while promising to restore America to greatness and promoting patriotism. Lewis died in 1951 and cannot comment on current events, but I have also read a novel with a similar overall plot from a living author. Philip Roth, who described a similar scenario in The Plot Against America, has provided his views on the election of Donald Trump. From The New Yorker:

In 2004, Philip Roth published “The Plot Against America.” The four main characters of the novel, which takes place between June, 1940, and October, 1942, are a family of American Jews, the Roths, of Newark—Bess, Herman, and their two sons, Philip and Sandy. They are ardent supporters of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but, in Roth’s reimagining, Roosevelt loses his bid for a third term to a surprise Republican candidate—the aviator Charles Lindbergh—whose victory upends not only politics in America but life itself.

The historical Lindbergh was an isolationist who espoused a catchphrase that Donald Trump borrowed for his Presidential campaign, and for his Inaugural Address: “America First.” The fictional Lindbergh, like the actual Trump, expressed admiration for a murderous European dictator, and his election emboldened xenophobes. In Roth’s novel, a foreign power—Nazi Germany—meddles in an American election, leading to a theory that the President is being blackmailed. In real life, U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating Trump’s ties to Vladimir Putin and the possibility that a dossier of secret information—kompromat—gives Russia leverage with his regime.

Roth wrote in the Times Book Review that “The Plot Against America” was not intended as a political roman à clef. Rather, he wanted to dramatize a series of what-ifs that never came to pass in America but were “somebody else’s reality”—i.e., that of the Jews of Europe. “All I do,” he wrote, “is to defatalize the past—if such a word exists—showing how it might have been different and might have happened here.”

Last week, Roth was asked, via e-mail, if it has happened here. He responded, “It is easier to comprehend the election of an imaginary President like Charles Lindbergh than an actual President like Donald Trump. Lindbergh, despite his Nazi sympathies and racist proclivities, was a great aviation hero who had displayed tremendous physical courage and aeronautical genius in crossing the Atlantic in 1927. He had character and he had substance and, along with Henry Ford, was, worldwide, the most famous American of his day. Trump is just a con artist. The relevant book about Trump’s American forebear is Herman Melville’s ‘The Confidence-Man,’ the darkly pessimistic, daringly inventive novel—Melville’s last—that could just as well have been called ‘The Art of the Scam.’ ”

American reality, the “American berserk,” Roth has noted, makes it harder to write fiction. Does Donald Trump outstrip the novelist’s imagination?

Roth replied, “It isn’t Trump as a character, a human type—the real-estate type, the callow and callous killer capitalist—that outstrips the imagination. It is Trump as President of the United States.

“I was born in 1933,” he continued, “the year that F.D.R. was inaugurated. He was President until I was twelve years old. I’ve been a Roosevelt Democrat ever since. I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

…Many passages in “The Plot Against America” echo feelings voiced today by vulnerable Americans—immigrants and minorities as alarmed by Trump’s election as the Jews of Newark are frightened by Lindbergh’s. The book also chronicles their impulse of denial. Lindbergh’s election makes clear to the seven-year-old “Philip Roth” that “the unfolding of the unforeseen was everything. Turned wrong way around, the relentless unforeseen was what we schoolchildren studied as ‘History,’ a harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable. The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic.”

Asked if this warning has come to pass, Roth e-mailed, “My novel wasn’t written as a warning. I was just trying to imagine what it would have been like for a Jewish family like mine, in a Jewish community like Newark, had something even faintly like Nazi anti-Semitism befallen us in 1940, at the end of the most pointedly anti-Semitic decade in world history. I wanted to imagine how we would have fared, which meant I had first to invent an ominous American government that threatened us. As for how Trump threatens us, I would say that, like the anxious and fear-ridden families in my book, what is most terrifying is that he makes any and everything possible, including, of course, the nuclear catastrophe.”

Both It Can’t Happen Here and The Plot Against America are worth reading, but if I had to pick one I preferred the former. (As I read them years apart, it is possible that my opinion could change if I reread them). As It Can’t Happen Here is older, the copyright has expired and ebook versions can be downloaded for free. Goodreads has download links in epub, Mobipocket, and epub versions here.

Many Americans View The Presidential Transition As Ominous

A large number of Americans are looking at the inauguration of Donald Trump with dread. Beyond ideological differences, there are concerns that Donald Trump does not respect the norms which have maintained our democracy.  E.J. Dionne calls this “the most ominous Inauguration Day in modern history.” He wrote, “Trump’s disdain for the democratic disposition we like our presidents to embrace was on display when he dressed down CNN’s Jim Acosta at that news conference last week. Trump’s tone, style and sheer rage (whether real or staged) brought to mind authoritarian leaders who brook no dissent.”

The Associated Press reports on how the presidency is about the change, also discussing Trump failure to respect established norms:

Polls over the past week show that Trump is poised to enter the White House as the least popular president in four decades. Democrats remain staunchly opposed to him, independents have not rallied behind him and even Republicans are less enthusiastic than might be expected, according to the surveys.

In his typical reaction to poll results he doesn’t like, Trump dismissed them as “rigged” in a Tuesday tweet.

It’s exactly that kind of tweet that worries governing experts, lawmakers and other critics, who argue that traditional practices of the presidency protect the health of the American democracy.

“With notable exceptions, we’ve had a political culture in which presidents largely respect a series of unwritten rules that help democracy and the rule of law flourish,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College. “What’s striking about Trump is he flouts norms that have previously been respected by both parties on a daily basis. He calls things into question that have never been questioned before.”

Since winning the election, Trump has attacked Hollywood celebrities, civil rights icons and political rivals alike. He’s moved markets by going after some companies, while praising others.

He’s questioned the legitimacy of American institutions — appearing to trust the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the intelligence agencies he’ll soon oversee, engaging in personal fights with journalists as he assails the free press and questioning the results of the election, even though it put him in office.

With this backdrop, many Americans are more interested in the massive demonstrations expected for inauguration day than in seeing Donald Trump inaugurated. David Weigel points out that in the past, such as when George W. Bush was inaugurated, demonstrations were “dominated by the political fringe.” Now they being embraced by both the Democratic Party and the left:

Democrats and the broader left, recuperating from an election few of them thought they could lose, are organizing one of the broadest — and earliest — opposition campaigns ever to greet a new president. It began with protests in the hours after Trump’s victory, but it has become bolder since, marked most dramatically by nearly 70 Democratic members of Congress boycotting the inauguration itself…

This year, in his enhanced role as a messenger for congressional Democrats, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) successfully encouraged 70-odd rallies last weekend in support of the Affordable Care Act, organized on the ground by Democrats and labor groups. Local branches of the Working Families Party, which endorsed Sanders (and de Blasio) in 2016, have organized “Resist Trump Tuesdays,” in which activists have protested inside the offices of Republican legislators or filled the galleries of state legislatures. According to WFP spokesman Joe Dinkin, 450 community planning meetings took place the week before the inauguration.

Donald Trump has made many contradictory statements. While he has given reason to fear he might not respect our political norms, we really do not know yet what he will do. Adam Gopnik warns to be prepared for the worst possible scenario, and offers this advice:

What is to be done? In such a moment of continued emergency, the most important task may be to distinguish as rigorously as possible between new policies and programs that, however awful, are a reflection of the normal oscillation of power, natural in a mature democracy, and those that are not. To borrow from Woody Allen’s distinction between the miserable (something we all are) and the horrible (fortunately suffered by only a few), we must now distinguish resolutely between the sickening and the terrifying. Many programs and policies with which progressive-minded people passionately disagree will be put forward over the next few years. However much or strongly one opposes them, they are, like it or not, the actual agreed-on platform of a dominant national party. On the issue of gun control alone, we’ll get a Supreme Court that won’t reverse the bad decision of Heller, a legislature that will only further diminish sane controls on military weapons in private hands, likely an increase in open-carry laws, and all the murderous rest. All of this will cost kids’ lives and bring much misery.

One may oppose these things—and one should, passionately and permanently—but they are in no sense illegitimate. They are just wrong. They are also reversible by the same laws and rules and norms and judicial and, perhaps most of all, electoral processes that created them. If we want gun control, we need to get more people caring about it and more people in more places voting for it; we cannot complain because people who don’t want gun control don’t give it to us.

Assaults on free speech; the imprisoning of critics and dissidents; attempts, on the Russian model, likely to begin soon, to intimidate critics of the regime with fake charges and conjured-up allegations; the intimidation and intolerance of even mild dissidence (that “Apologize!” tweet directed at members of the “Hamilton” cast who dared to politely petition Mike Pence); not to mention mass deportations or attempts at discrimination by religion—all things that the Trump and his cohorts have openly contemplated or even promised—are not part of the normal oscillations of power and policy. They are unprecedented and, history tells us, likely to be almost impossible to reverse.

So we need to stiffen our spines and broaden our embrace, grasp tightly but reach out far. The conservatives who see Trump for what he is and are shocked by it—and there are many, though not as many as there should be—should be welcomed. We can postpone arguing about the true meaning of the Second Amendment while we band together to fight for the Constitution that precedes it…

The best way to be sure that 2017 is not 1934 is to act as though it were. We must learn and relearn that age’s necessary lessons: that meek submission is the most short-sighted of policies; that waiting for the other, more vulnerable group to protest first will only increase the isolation of us all. We must refuse to think that if we play nice and don’t make trouble, our group won’t be harmed. Calm but consistent opposition shared by a broad front of committed and constitutionally-minded protesters—it’s easy to say, fiendishly hard to do, and necessary to accomplish if we are to save the beautiful music of American democracy.

Russian Journalist Warns Of Dangers To The Free Press Under Trump

Donald Trump’s confrontation with the press on Wednesday has reinforced the view among civil libertarians that Donald Trump’s election is a threat to the free press. In November, the Freedom of the Press Foundation pointed out that–

he has threatened to sue newspapers or journalists over a dozen times and said he will attempt to “open up libel laws” as president to make it easier to take newspapers to court. He has attacked and insulted members of the media almost daily and blacklisted countless news outlets over the course of his campaign. He has blamed “freedom of the press” for a terrorist attack in New York and has said the press has “too much protection” under the First Amendment.

While much of Trump’s behavior is unprecedented by American standards, Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev found this to be similar to what journalists face in Russia. He wrote:

Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now …

  • Welcome to the era of bullshit.

Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him. He always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in dull, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false moral equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him. So he can throw whatever he wants at you in response, and you’ll just have to swallow it. Some journalists will try to preempt this by asking two questions at once, against the protests of their colleagues also vying for attention, but that also won’t work: he’ll answer the one he thinks is easier, and ignore the other. Others will use this opportunity to go on a long, rambling statement vaguely disguised as a question, but that’s also bad tactics. Non-questions invite non-answers. He’ll mock you for your nervous stuttering and if you’re raising a serious issue, respond with a vague, non-committal statement (“Mr President, what about these horrible human rights abuses in our country?” “Thank you, Miss. This is indeed a very serious issue. Everybody must respect the law. And by the way, don’t human rights abuses happen in other countries as well? Next question please”).

Kovalev had other warnings for the press, such as not to expect any camaraderie from other members of the press: ” It’s in this man’s best interests to pit you against each other, fighting over artificial scarcities like room space, mic time or, of course, his attention.”

While Kovalev addressed this to “my doomed colleagues in the American media,” fortunately the United States is not Russia. We have a tradition of supporting freedom of the press which Russia lacks. Trump might attack journalists, but he is not likely to have them killed as has become far too common in Russia. PolitiFact points out that “Russia currently ranks 180 out of 199 countries for press freedom, behind Iraq, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the international watchdog Freedom House.”

Unlike Russia, elected government officials can be voted out of office, and public opinion has some effect on them. While it is common for winning presidential candidates to receive a positive bounce after being elected, Donald Trump is taking office with record low approval. The latest Gallup poll found:

In Gallup polling conducted two weeks before Inauguration Day, President-elect Donald Trump continues to garner historically low approval for his transition performance, with 51% of Americans disapproving of how he is handling the presidential transition and 44% approving. Last month, the public was split on this question, with 48% approving and 48% disapproving…

Trump’s 48% transition approval rating in December was already the lowest for any presidential transition Gallup has measured, starting with Bill Clinton’s in 1992-1993. Trump’s current rating only further separates him from his predecessors — particularly Barack Obama, who earned 83% approval for his handling of the transition process in January 2009, up from 75% in mid-December 2008….

The last president before Trump to win the election despite losing the national popular vote was George W. Bush in 2000. However, while Bush’s transition scores were lower than those of both his predecessor (Clinton) and his successor (Obama), his 61% approval rating in mid-January 2001 was nowhere near as low as Trump’s is today.

AMA Warns Of Risks Of Gutting Health Care Reform

With Republicans appearing to make abolishing Obamacare a top priority (following their failure to gut ethics oversight of Congress), the American Medical Association has weighed in with this letter (emphasis mine) stressing the importance of making coverage more affordable, providing greater choice, and increasing the number insured:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:

On behalf of the physician and medical student members of the American Medical Association (AMA), I am writing regarding our ongoing commitment to reform of the health care system and potential legislative actions during the first months of the 115th Congress.

The AMA has long advocated for health insurance coverage for all Americans, as well as pluralism, freedom of choice, freedom of practice, and universal access for patients. These policy positions are guided by the actions of the AMA House of Delegates, composed of representatives of more than 190 state and national specialty medical associations, and they form the basis for AMA consideration of reforms to our health care system.

Health system reform is an ongoing quest for improvement. The AMA supported passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because it was a significant improvement on the status quo at that time. We continue to embrace the primary goal of that law—to make high quality, affordable health care coverage accessible to all Americans. We also recognize that the ACA is imperfect and there a number of issues that need to be addressed. As such, we welcome proposals, consistent with the policies of our House of Delegates, to make coverage more affordable, provide greater choice, and increase the number of those insured.

In considering opportunities to make coverage more affordable and accessible to all Americans, it is essential that gains in the number of Americans with health insurance coverage be maintained.

Consistent with this core principle, we believe that before any action is taken through reconciliation or other means that would potentially alter coverage, policymakers should lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies. Patients and other stakeholders should be able to clearly compare current policy to new proposals so they can make informed decisions about whether it represents a step forward in the ongoing process of health reform.

We stand ready to work with you to continue the process of improving our health care system and ensuring that all Americans have access to high quality, affordable health care coverage.

Sincerely,
James L. Madara, MD

Medical groups and physicians have been conflicted regarding expected health care policy under Donald Trump. There was some early support for Tom Price to head Health and Human Services in the hope that he will work to reduce the regulatory burden, but many doctors have come out in opposition to him out of concern for reductions in coverage for many Americans.

While health care policy could likely a major impact of the all-Republican government, it received very little attention during the presidential campaign. This is partially due to the media’s preference to cover the horse race and scandal, Donald Trump making more noise on matters such as the Wall, and an extraordinarily poor campaign by Hillary Clinton which concentrated on stressing Trump’s negatives and avoiding issues. Democrats are now starting to speak out on health care. Chuck Schumer is trying to turn Trump’s slogan against him, warning that Republicans will “Make America Sick Again.” Hopefully they can provide a resistance beyond coming up with a slogan.

Democrats were successful in blocking George Bush when he attempted to partially privatize Social Security in his second term, and similarly have a chance of receiving public support in opposing Republican attempts to reduce health care coverage, including cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans are also getting jittery about health care legislation. They could safely please their constituents by voting to abolish Obamacare when Barack Obama was in office and they knew he would veto their efforts if it made it past a filibuster. Many now realize they will be held accountable for what happens, including if people lose coverage, and insurance costs continue to rise rapidly. The Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget, typically conservative on government  spending,  has outline the costs of repealing Obamacare, giving further reasons for Republicans to be cautious.

Donald Trump remains a huge wild care, having both promised to abolish Obamacare and to provide a plan to cover all Americans. So far he has given no meaningful specifics, talking primarily about health savings accounts and allowing insurance companies to sell insurance over state lines. Neither is a real plan. One point to Trump’s credit is that, while his major appointees have been from a very narrow group (primarily wealthy conservatives), he has spoken to a wider range of people. Zeke Emanuel, the architect of the Affordable Care Act, came out of a meeting with Trump expressing optimism, as reported by NPR. He believes Trump might seek to have a bipartisan bill after Republicans have complained about how Obamacare was passed by only Democrats. He also pointed out that some conservatives are pushing for “repeal and replace” as opposed to the currently discussed tactic of “repeal and delay” and discussed how legislation might be handled after an initial resolution (even if along party lines) to abolish the ACA utilizing budget reconciliation:

And so that you really do need to repeal and replace, and you need to do it in one bill. Otherwise, you’re really going to disrupt the individual insurance market in a very bad way, and you’ll be responsible for millions of people losing their coverage but also health insurance premiums going up. And I think that is not a scenario that a lot of Republicans really want…

So one possibility is that they pass a resolution saying that they will then come back and pass a bill that will repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and at the same time have a replacement for those parts of the Affordable Care Act…

The resolution can be party lines, but the bill would then have to construct both the repeal part but simultaneously the replacement part. And I think if you do it that way, you could begin to negotiate with Democrats. If you just have a repeal and we’ll be back in three years and tell you how we’re going to fix it, then the Democrats are simply going to walk away. Chuck Schumer has made that clear.

And they should walk away because then it’s all – it’s the old pottery barn principle that Colin Powell made famous, which is, you break it; you have to fix it, and you take responsibility. And the Democrats will not want their fingerprints anywhere near the breaking of Obamacare and the disruption of the insurance industry in the United States…

The question is, what is the shape of that bill? Is it just a repeal bill, or is it a repeal with replacement? And that negotiation about that bill could take several months. My own estimate is if both sides come with good faith, they could probably hammer this out in about six months. It’s not a small item. I mean health care reform is big.

The question is, what are the gives and takes? I do think – again, one of the reasons I’m optimistic is that when you look at conservative and liberal health policy experts, there’s about 70 or 80 percent overlap between the two groups about the shape of the future and what you would need. And I think that’s, again, why I’m optimistic – because there aren’t that many ways of doing health care reform. They’re really limited.

Of course counting on the sanity of Republicans is a very risky bet.

Donald Trump Is Least Popular President-Elect In Modern History

A Pew Research Center survey shows what was expected after a campaign with the two most unpopular candidates in memory. Donald Trump is the least popular president-elect in modern history. Even George W. Bush, who like Trump failed to win the popular vote, received a 50 percent approval rating in a country which was divided 50:50. Trump is well below this with an approval of only 41 percent.

A majority also disapprove of his cabinet choices and appointments by a 51 percent to 40 percent margin. This is hardly surprising in light of appointments including Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn at NSA, Ben Carson at HUD, and Betsy DeVos at Education. It says something when one of his least objectionable choices is someone known as Mad Dog (James Mattis at Defense).

The poll found many of the same negatives which came out during the campaign:

…many of the same doubts and concerns that voters expressed about Trump’s qualifications and temperament during the campaign are evident as he prepares to take office. Just 37% of the public views Trump as well-qualified; 32% of registered voters described Trump as well-qualified in October. Majorities continue to say Trump is reckless (65%) and has poor judgment (62%), while 68% describe him as “hard to like.”

In addition, more than half of the public (54%) says that Trump has done too little to distance himself from “white nationalist groups” who support him, while 31% say he has done the right amount to distance himself from such groups; 6% say he has done too much in this regard.

And despite all this, the Democrats managed to come up with a candidate who still managed to lose to Trump. There are many reasons why Clinton was such a terrible candidate, all of which were predictable. It also came as little surprise that Clinton ran such an awful campaign, concentrating on personal attacks and avoiding discussion of issues. As people saw Clinton as being as terrible a person as Trump, and were supplied with plenty of confirmation of this with her behavior during the campaign, personal attacks on Trump were not enough to win the election. Perhaps Clinton should have discussed major issues such as Medicare, which the voters had little knowledge of. Pew found:

Overall, only about half of the public (51%) has heard a lot (12%) or a little (39%) about a proposal to change Medicare to a program that would give future participants a credit toward purchasing private health insurance. About as many either have heard nothing (48%) or don’t know (1%).

Instead Clinton gave no reason to vote for her beyond her gender and it being her turn. This left the race as an unpopularity contest among two incredibly unpopular candidates.

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

gilmoregirlsstill5h2016

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

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

gilmore-girls2

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

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

parenthood-cameos-gilmore-girls-year-life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DP: Oh, I think they did.

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

DP: It’s rural America!

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

DP: Okay, maybe it’s a …

ASP: No. No.

DP: … clean, liberal …

ASP: No. No.

DP: … maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bryan-fuller1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

class-doctor-who

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

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

sherlock-clues

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

Netflix has picked up Luke Cage for a second season.

Originally Netflix was only going to release a Christmas episode of Sense8. Now they have decided to release the entire second season on December 23. (Update: The second season will not be released until May.)

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

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

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

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

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

trump-constitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey of the Day: Trump Ignoring Intelligence Briefings Since Election

trump-golf-club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Civil Libertarians Preparing For Trump Presidency

bill of rights

One of the many discouraging features of the 2016 election was that both candidates had extremely conservative views regarding civil liberties. Now that Donald Trump has been elected, civil libertarians are preparing for the challenges we are likely to face. Elias Groll has this warning in Foreign Affairs: When Trump Takes Control of the Justice Department, Be Afraid:

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump threatened to sue those who crossed him: the scores of women who accused him of sexual assault, the journalists who wrote critical stories about him, and even the Republican National Committee over how it awarded delegates. He will enter the Oval Office on Jan. 20 as arguably the most litigious president in history.

And now, Trump will have vast influence in shaping the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI — and many of the powerful post-9/11 policies that tested America’s legal system by pitting security concerns against civil liberties.

The Justice Department has long prided itself as a fiercely independent agency, with many career prosecutors outlasting any one presidential administration. But even some of the most controversial DOJ alumni now worry how Trump will pursue his vision of justice.

“He thinks all kinds of crazy things about prosecutions,” said John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor who, while serving at DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 and 2003, helped write legal justifications for aggressive interrogation methods that critics call torture. Those memos have since been rescinded.

“I don’t think he has a very good sense of how our law enforcement system works,” Yoo told Foreign Policy.

During the campaign, Trump distinguished himself by his volatility, his vindictiveness, and a desire to strike back at his enemies, qualities that may have served him well in the rough-and-tumble world of New York real estate.

But critics fear Trump will harness the Justice Department to pursue political prosecutions against enemies and otherwise trample civil rights. He will enter the White House after 15 years of presidents — Democratic and Republican — who have wielded nearly untrammelled executive power to conduct investigations, war, covert action, and surveillance operations.

“We are faced with a situation where Trump is going to inherit extremely broad powers that are subject to no meaningful oversight by the other two breaches,” said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

I already noted the day after the election that the American Civil Liberties Union is already preparing to respond to violations of civil liberties under Trump.

President-elect Trump, as you assume the nation’s highest office, we urge you to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises you have made. These include your plan to amass a deportation force to remove 11 million undocumented immigrants; ban the entry of Muslims into our country and aggressively surveil them; punish women for accessing abortion; reauthorize waterboarding and other forms of torture; and change our nation’s libel laws and restrict freedom of expression.

These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and 14th Amendments. If you do not reverse course and instead endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step. Our staff of litigators and activists in every state, thousands of volunteers and millions of card-carrying members and supporters are ready to fight against any encroachment on our cherished freedoms and rights.

One thing is certain: We will be eternally vigilant every single day of your presidency. And when you leave the Oval Office, we will do the same with your successor as we have done throughout our nearly 100 years of existence. The Constitution and the rule of law are stronger than any one person, and we will see to that. We will never waver.

Amnesty International wrote that Trump’s Poisonous Rhetoric Must Not Become Government Policy:

Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said: “President-elect Trump has provoked grave consternation at many points throughout his election campaign, and raised serious concerns about the strength of commitment we can expect to see from the United States towards human rights in the future. He must now put this behind him and both reaffirm and abide by the United States’ obligations on human rights, at home and abroad.”

Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, said: “In the lead up to this week’s election, the United States has witnessed disturbing and, at times, poisonous rhetoric from President-elect Trump and others. This rhetoric cannot and must not become government policy. The xenophobic, sexist and other hateful remarks made by Trump have no place in government.

“President-elect Trump must publicly commit to upholding the human rights of all without discrimination. From internment camps to the use of torture, we have seen disastrous results when those we elect to represent us flout the United States’ obligations to uphold human rights. All who have been elected today – from the executive office to city council – should bear these lessons in mind.”

Freedom of the Press Foundation calls Donald Trump an “enemy of press freedom.”

Donald J. Trump, now the official President elect, is an enemy of press freedom unlike any we have seen in modern presidential history.

In the past 18 months alone, he has threatened to sue newspapers or journalists over a dozen times and said he will attempt to “open up libel laws” as president to make it easier to take newspapers to court. He has attacked and insulted members of the media almost daily and blacklisted countless news outlets over the course of his campaign. He has blamed “freedom of the press” for a terrorist attack in New York and has said the press has “too much protection” under the First Amendment. And much more.

In short, before he even has taken office, he has waged war against the free speech protections guaranteed under the Constitution at a truly historic pace.

We may be in for the biggest press freedom fight of our lives for the next 4 years. The fight may be hard, and it may be long, but we want you to know: Every threat, every lawsuit, every subpoena, every prosecution, we will be there holding Trump accountable and upholding the First Amendment.

More at BuzzFeed and Hit and Run.

The Two Worst People In America Face Off Tonight

debate-2016

The debate will be starting soon (at 9 PM for those of use in the eastern time zone). Clinton and Trump go into the debate with the polls near tied, and with enough voters still undecided for the race to be altered by the debate.

Both campaigns have tried to game the event. Team Clinton has probably done a better job in this regard, as even conservatives agree, even if they are unhappy about it. They have managed to have the news dominated by talk of Trump’s dishonesty, calling on the moderator to fact-check him. Of course it might be hard for Clinton to get away with such a line of attack when neither candidate is trusted, and for good reason.

It is easy to speculate on many ways in which either candidate could come out the winner. Clinton is clearly the more knowledgeable of the two–which has not kept her from being wrong on virtually every major decision of the career, often having to come back later and describe her past decisions as a mistake. Trump might be exposed for just making things up as he goes along and having little grasp of the details of policy. However, this article on the Bush/Gore debate in 2000 from The New York Times shows that the more ignorant candidate can still win.

While I will not predict who will win, I think it is safe to predict the response of the loser. Clinton will blame a loss on sexism, while Trump will claim the debate was rigged against him.

For those who want a different opinion during the debate, Green Party candidate Jill Stein will be giving her answers to the questions via Twitter. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson says he will also be using twitter and making himself available to the media. Of course the problem with the debate system is not only that it is limited to two candidates, but that the two party system limits the types of issues which are even considered, and gives the false impression that major parties provide far more of a choice than they actually do.

Update Post Debate: Donald Trump was not intellectually capable of challenging Hillary Clinton’s long history of bad decisions and poor judgement throughout her career. Clinton was better prepared, and it didn’t take much to out-debate a buffoon like Trump. It is a shame that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson weren’t allowed to participate and provide a more meaningful challenge to Clinton.

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