Do The Democrats Have A Death Wish?

The Democratic Party not only lost the fight over who would fill Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat, but they might also be conceding defeat for the future. Talking Points Memo quotes Senator Ed Markey:

“When the Democrats return to the majority and capture the presidency, which we will, that day is going to arrive, we will restore the 60-vote margin,” Markey told MSNBC’s Katy Tur. “We will ensure that, for the Supreme Court, there is that special margin that any candidate has to reach because that is essential to ensuring that our country has a confidence in those people that are nominated, rather than just someone who just passes a litmus test.”

Do Democrats secretly wish to lose?

Assuming that he isn’t saying this for political posturing without any intent to do so, and that his views are representative of the party, this makes no sense. Why allow the Republicans to confirm Justices with only 51 votes, but then go back to requiring 60 votes to confirm liberal Justices to undo the harm caused by the Republicans?

Maybe Markey wants to stand up for principle, but if so there are far more fundamental liberal principles which the Democratic Party has repeatedly compromised on than the view that a Supreme Court Justice should require sixty votes for confirmation. Maybe this could be reconsidered at some future point should the Republican Party return to sanity, but this is not the time to make such a decision. In the meantime, perhaps the Democrats should stick to principles on matters such as defending civil liberties and reversing the surveillance state. Perhaps they should fight to avoid repeating the mistakes of the Bush years in intervening in the middle east. Instead we have Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer supporting Trump’s airstrikes in Syria, and other Democratic leaders including Howard Dean attacking Tulsi Gabbard who has been promoting peace.

Of course we should not be surprised, considering how the Democratic establishment rigged the 2016 nomination for Hillary Clinton, who both was to the right of Antonin Scalia on civil liberties, and favored far more extensive, and dangerous, intervention in Syria than the attack by Donald Trump. Of course that was also another example of the Democrats showing an inability to win, in nominating the worst possible candidate to run against Donald Trump. If you are going to rig a party’s nomination, at least do so for a candidate who can win–unless you have a death wish.

Do Not Reward Trump For Looking Presidential In Unilaterally Going To War

Our history of military intervention in the middle east has consistently failed to provide the desired results, and has repeatedly added to further destabilize the region and produce results contrary to our national security interests, including fueling terrorism. Intervention in Syria is even harder to justify when there is no favorable goal even being proposed, or sides worthy of supporting. Despite this, far too many people who should know better, both in the media and on the left, have been applauding Trump’s bombing in Syria, which appears far more impulsive than based on any coherent strategy to reduce deaths.

There are some who we would expect to be cheering Trump on. As Jack Shafer notes, “Nobody projects network war delight better than CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.”  He showed that MSNBC is no better:

If cable news is just a fancy talk show about the news, then the hoarse hollering of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews is an hour-long news monologue. Almost gleeful about the war, which has temporarily lifted him from the slog of the Trump-Russia and Gorsuch stories, Matthews battled Blitzer Friday night for the title for Cable News’ Most Unbearable.

Unfortunately, far more journalists have fallen for the appeal of war. Margaret Sullivan has chastised those in the media who have become excited over the attack, giving a few examples:

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,” declared Fareed Zakaria on CNN, after the firing of 59 missiles at a Syrian military airfield late Thursday night. (His words sounded familiar, since CNN’s Van Jones made a nearly identical pronouncement after Trump’s first address to Congress.)

“On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first,” read a New York Times headline.

“President Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it,” wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens — a frequent Trump critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist. He added: “Now destroy the Assad regime for good.”

Brian Williams, on MSNBC, seemed mesmerized by the images of the strikes provided by the Pentagon. He used the word “beautiful” three times and alluded to a Leonard Cohen lyric — “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons” — without apparent irony.

She further discussed the media coverage in general:

Why do so many in the news media love a show of force?

“There is no faster way to bring public support than to pursue military action,” said Ken Paulson, head of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center.

“It’s a pattern not only in American history, but in world history. We rally around the commander in chief — and that’s understandable.”

Paulson noted that the news media also “seem to get bored with their own narrative” about Trump’s failings, and they welcome a chance to switch it up.

But that’s not good enough, he said: “The watchdog has to have clear vision and not just a sporadic bark.”
Clara Jeffery, editor in chief of Mother Jones, offered a simple explanation: “It’s dramatic. It’s good for TV, reporters get caught up in the moment, or, worse, jingoism.”
She added: “Military action is viewed as inherently nonpartisan, opposition or skepticism as partisan. News organizations that are fearful of looking partisan can fall into the trap of failing to provide context.”

Dan Rather once again put matters in perspective, and showed what we have lost in journalism over the last few decades:

The President of the United States is the Commander in Chief. It is an awesome responsibility. Committing the use of force and American men and women in uniform is about as serious as it gets. But the truly great presidents understand that knowing when NOT to act is as important as knowing when to act.

It is a whole lot easier starting wars than finishing them. And there are many historical examples of where a promise of limited engagement quickly metastasized into something much bigger.

There is a tendency to rally around the flag, and a President who takes on a war footing can see a boost of support. It is often transitory. There are arguments to be made that President Assad in Syria has crossed a line that demands U.S. military interference. Whether this should have been a unilateral action is something we all must consider. Whether President Trump has a plan for what comes next must be debated. Whether there is a coherence to this missile strike fitting into a larger foreign policy strategy is a question that should give us all pause.

The role of the press is to ask hard questions. There is ample evidence that this Administration needs to face deep scrutiny. The lies we have heard, the chaos in governance, and the looming questions about ties with Russia – itself a major player in Syria – demand that the press treat this latest action with healthy skepticism. Perhaps it was the right thing to do. Perhaps a strong and wise policy will emerge. But that judgement is still definitely hanging in the balance.

The number of members of the press who have lauded the actions last night as “presidential” is concerning. War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative. It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike.

Alex Pareene warned about the consequences of pundits praising Trump for the bombing:

You think Donald Trump noticed how the first thing he did that actually got the TV guys to like him was kill a troop?

Here are some things Donald Trump is famous for:

1) Noticing which things he does that elicit positive attention and then doing those things over and over and over again.

2) Craving the validation of the press, generally the sort of press a 70-year-old upper class New Yorker pays attention to, especially cable news.
If one dead American service member won him this much praise, just imagine how much they’ll respect him when he kills a couple hundred—or a couple thousand!

Now that Trump has learned that there is a direct relationship between a president’s body count and how “presidential” the mainstream political press considers him to be, the whole world is fucked.

Eric Levitz gave four reasons why it is “profoundly irresponsible to commend last night’s events without equivocation.”

(1) While eyewitness accounts strongly suggest that the Assad government was behind Tuesday’s attacks, Trump’s retaliation came before any thorough investigation confirmed that evidence. The speed of Trump’s reaction betrays a lack of caution that should be unnerving even to those who support confrontation with Assad.

(2) The strike reportedly killed 16 people, including four children. In the opinion of the White House’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster the strike did not eliminate Assad’s ability to deploy chemical weapons, but merely degraded it. What’s more, there are already signs that the attack might enrage Assad more than it deters him.

If our concern is minimizing the deaths of Syria’s beautiful babies, it is by no means certain that last night’s action will not, ultimately, prove counterproductive.

(3) Congress never gave Donald Trump the authority to commit an act of war against the Syrian government, and to claim otherwise is to give the executive unilateral authority to kill people anywhere in the world, in the name of our republic. It is astounding that more people aren’t perturbed by that prospect, given that:

(4) We know that our president is an ill-informed, obscenely incurious conspiracy theorist who routinely retreats into self-delusion when reality frustrates his ambitions. He is a demagogue who has attacked the judiciary as a threat to national security, and repeatedly insinuated that in times of war constitutional laws become mere suggestions. These sentences may sound polemical, but they aren’t. They merely describe a basic fact that much of the media is eager to forget: Donald Trump’s presidency is an ongoing national crisis.

Plus, if Trump truly has any concern for “Syria’s beautiful babies,” he should reverse his policies to both keep Syrian refugees from entering the country, and his reductions in spending in diplomacy.

Staying out of Syria was one of the few things which candidate Trump had right. Instead he has impulsively followed the lead of Hillary Clinton, who has been calling for far more extensive, and dangerous, intervention, along with the Republican hawks who previously opposed him on foreign policy.

Stephen Colbert Shows That John McCain, Like Donald Trump, Is A Stupid Idiot

With all the bad things which happened this week, we should be relieved that the term nuclear option did not pertain to this week’s military action, in which Donald Trump showed his compassion for the Syrian children he has banning from entering the country by bombing Syria. Stephen Colbert explained the nuclear option, which culminated in the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, in the video above. He also managed to show that John McCain is a stupid idiot.

The news started out good with the Democrats denying Gorsuch the sixty votes needed. As Colbert put it,  “Whoo, they did it, hell yeah! The Democrats won, for about an hour.”

The Republicans responded with the nuclear option:  “It’s like the saying goes. If at first you don’t succeed, change the rules and now you win.”

Initially not all Republicans supported this. Colbert quoted John McCain: “I would like to meet that idiot, I would like to meet that numbskull that would say that. That after 200 years of this tradition where the Senate has functioned pretty well. They think it would be a good idea to blow it up…Whoever says that is a stupid idiot.”

Colbert pointed out, “You have to be pretty dumb for John McCain to call you a stupid idiot, because he thought Sarah Palin could be president.” He then reported that McCain voted for the nuclear option and concluded,  “Senator McCain, In the words of an American hero, ‘You’re a stupid idiot.’”

Colbert then transitioned, “Speaking of stupid idiots, Donald Trump…”  See the video above for the rest.

As for McCain, if we need more evidence that he is a stupid idiot, today he praised Trump’s airstrikes against Syria.

Trump Administration Trying To Find Identity Of Anonymous Anti-Trump Account

Earlier in the week I had a post about the Authoritarianism of Donald Trump. We are seeing another example of the Trump administration’s lack of respect for First Amendment rights in an attempt to seek the identity of an anonymous Twitter account which has been critical of Trump’s immigration policy. As Gizmodo notes, “Obviously, an attempt by the Trump administration to obtain information associated with an anonymous Twitter account critical of the government is a frightening and startling precedent.”

Twitter has filed suit, with the support of the ACLU. The Intercept reports on Twitter’s suit.

Twitter is now asking the court to declare that “the CBP Summons is unlawful and unenforceable because it violates the First Amendment rights of both Twitter and its users by seeking to unmask the identity of one or more anonymous Twitter users voicing criticism of the government on matters of public concern.” Esha Bhandari of the ACLU told The Intercept that the group is personally defending the Twitter account owner, and will be filing “in court shortly to defend the user’s rights, focusing on the user’s First Amendment right to speak anonymously.” Although Bhandari would not comment on whether the account is actually run by a federal employee or employees, she noted that “on the face of the summons the government has offered no reason for seeking this information.”

My earlier post on The Authoritarianism of Donald Trump was based upon a series of editorials in The Los Angeles Times this week on Donald Trump. This was followed yesterday with a post on Donald Trump’s War on Journalism. Today The Los Angeles Times wrote about The Conspiracy Theorist In Chief.

Donald Trump’s War on Journalism And The Price Republicans Will Face For His Presidency

The Los Angeles Times is continuing its series of posts on Donald Trump, today addressing Trump’s War on Journalism. Here are some portions:

In Donald Trump’s America, the mere act of reporting news unflattering to the president is held up as evidence of bias. Journalists are slandered as “enemies of the people.”

Facts that contradict Trump’s version of reality are dismissed as “fake news.” Reporters and their news organizations are “pathetic,” “very dishonest,” “failing,” and even, in one memorable turn of phrase, “a pile of garbage.”

…By branding reporters as liars, he apparently hopes to discredit, disrupt or bully into silence anyone who challenges his version of reality. By undermining trust in news organizations and delegitimizing journalism and muddling the facts so that Americans no longer know who to believe, he can deny and distract and help push his administration’s far-fetched storyline.

It’s a cynical strategy, with some creepy overtones. For instance, when he calls journalists “enemies of the people,” Trump (whether he knows it or not) echoes Josef Stalin and other despots.

But it’s an effective strategy. Such attacks are politically expedient at a moment when trust in the news media is as low as it’s ever been, according to Gallup. And they’re especially resonant with Trump’s supporters, many of whom see journalists as part of the swamp that needs to be drained.

Trump has been criticized many times before for his attacks on the news media. I included some examples here, including criticism from Fox for the benefit of those who prefer that source, here, and here.

Earlier in the week, The Los Angeles Times criticized the dishonesty of Donald Trump and his authoritarian tendencies.

Even many on the right see how terrible a president Donald Trump is. For example, Jonah Goldberg writes, “the problem is Trump’s personality. His presidency doesn’t suffer from a failure of ideas, but a failure of character.”

Republicans are likely to pay a political price for the presidency of Donald Trump. Jonathan Chait has written about how Donald Trump will do far more harm to the Republican Party than if Hillary Clinton would have won.

Imagine what the political world would look like for Republicans had Hillary Clinton won the election. Clinton had dragged her dispirited base to the polls by promising a far more liberal domestic agenda than Barack Obama had delivered, but she would have had no means to enact it. As the first president in 28 years to take office without the benefit of a Congress in her own party’s hands, she’d have been staring at a dead-on-arrival legislative agenda, all the low-hanging executive orders having already been picked by her predecessor, and years of scandalmongering hearings already teed up. The morale of the Democratic base, which had barely tolerated the compromises of the Obama era and already fallen into mutual recriminations by 2016, would have disintegrated altogether. The 2018 midterms would be a Republican bloodbath, with a Senate map promising enormous gains to the Republican Party, which would go into the 2020 elections having learned the lessons of Trump’s defeat and staring at full control of government with, potentially, a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

Instead, Republicans under Trump are on the verge of catastrophe. Yes, they are about to gain a Supreme Court justice, no small thing, a host of federal judges, and a wide array of deregulation. Yet they are saddled with not only the most unpopular president at this point in time in the history of polling, but the potential for a partywide collapse, the contours of which they have not yet imagined. The failure of the Republican health-care initiative was a sobering moment, when their early, giddy visions of the possibilities of full party control of government gave way to an ugly reality of dysfunction, splayed against the not-so-distant backdrop of a roiled Democratic voting base. They have ratcheted back their expectations. But they have not ratcheted them far enough. By the time President Trump has left the scene, what now looks like a shambolic beginning, a stumbling out of the gate, will probably feel like the good old days.

The converse is also true. Democrats are in a position to be far more successful than they would be if faced with having to defend a triangulating Hillary Clinton in the White House, who very likely would have been more successful than Donald Trump in moving the country to the right. Rather than facing inevitable loses in Congress and in the states, Democrats now have a shot at retaking the House, especially if they present a clear alternative to the Republicans, as opposed to running again as a Republican-lite party.

The Authoritarianism Of Donald Trump

The Los Angeles Times has posted the third in a four part series criticizing Donald Trump. (Update: It now appears to be a six part series.) Yesterday I pointed out the first two parts on Our Dishonest President and Why Trump Lies. Part three is on Trump’s Authoritarian Vision. They started with the authoritarian mindset behind Trump’s campaign promises to unilaterally fix everything:

To Trump’s faithful, those words were a rallying cry. But his critics heard something far more menacing in them: a dangerously authoritarian vision of the presidency — one that would crop up time and again as he talked about overruling generals, disregarding international law, ordering soldiers to commit war crimes, jailing his opponent.

Trump has no experience in politics; he’s never previously run for office or held a government position. So perhaps he was unaware that one of the hallmarks of the American system of government is that the president’s power to “fix” things unilaterally is constrained by an array of strong institutions — including the courts, the media, the permanent federal bureaucracy and Congress. Combined, they provide an essential defense against an imperial presidency.

Yet in his first weeks at the White House, President Trump has already sought to undermine many of those institutions. Those that have displayed the temerity to throw some hurdle in the way of a Trump objective have quickly felt the heat.

Consider Trump’s feud with the courts.

He has repeatedly questioned the impartiality and the motives of judges. For example, he attacked the jurists who ruled against his order excluding travelers from seven majority Muslim nations, calling one a “so-called judge” and later tweeting: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

It’s nothing new for presidents to disagree with court decisions. But Trump’s direct, personal attacks on judges’ integrity and on the legitimacy of the judicial system itself — and his irresponsible suggestion that the judiciary should be blamed for future terrorist attacks — go farther. They aim to undermine public faith in the third branch of government.

The courts are the last line of defense for the Constitution and the rule of law; that’s what makes them such a powerful buffer against an authoritarian leader. The president of the United States should understand that and respect it.

The article went on to discuss other institutions under attack by Trump:

  • The electoral process
  • The intelligence community
  • The media
  • Federal agencies

They concluded with a look at the checks on presidential power, wondering if they will be enough:

Trump betrays no sense for the president’s place among the myriad of institutions in the continuum of governance. He seems willing to violate long-established political norms without a second thought, and he cavalierly rejects the civility and deference that allow the system to run smoothly. He sees himself as not merely a force for change, but as a wrecking ball.

Will Congress act as a check on Trump’s worst impulses as he moves forward? One test is the House and Senate intelligence committees’ investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election; lawmakers need to muster the courage to follow the trail wherever it leads. Can the courts stand up to Trump? Already, several federal judges have issued rulings against the president’s travel ban. And although Trump has railed against the decisions, he has obeyed them.

None of these institutions are eager to cede authority to the White House and they won’t do so without a fight. It would be unrealistic to suggest that America’s most basic democratic institutions are in imminent jeopardy.

But we should not view them as invulnerable either. Remember that Trump’s verbal assaults are directed at the public, and are designed to chip away at people’s confidence in these institutions and deprive them of their validity. When a dispute arises, whose actions are you going to consider legitimate? Whom are you going to trust? That’s why the public has to be wary of Trump’s attacks on the courts, the “deep state,” the “swamp.” We can’t afford to be talked into losing our faith in the forces that protect us from an imperial presidency.

These criticisms of Donald Trump are very similar to those I quoted a few weeks ago from Brian Klaas, a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics, and author of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy. I have also discussed the increased interest in dystopian novels about falling into authoritarianism, including warnings from Philip Roth.

While Trump is not the only threat to liberty on the political scene, at least Trump is blatant in his attacks, and there is wide-spread understanding of the threat he presents. This has helped to mobilize opposition to him very early in his term.

A (Valid) Media Attack On Trump And A (Nonsensical) Defense Of Clinton

Apparently the 2016 election will never end. The week began with major pieces on both of the awful major party candidates. The Los Angeles Times started a four part series on Donald Trump yesterday, starting with Our Dishonest President. The major points were:

  • Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based.
  • His utter lack of regard for truth.
  • His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas.

Part II, Why Trump Lies, was posted today:

Even American leaders who lie generally know the difference between their statements and the truth. Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook” but by that point must have seen that he was. Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” but knew that he did.

The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth.

His approach succeeds because of his preternaturally deft grasp of his audience. Though he is neither terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician, he has a remarkable instinct for discerning which conspiracy theories in which quasi-news source, or which of his own inner musings, will turn into ratings gold. He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes. If one of his lies doesn’t work — well, then he lies about that.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is as terrible as the Times says, but we must not make the mistake of falling into the trap of binary thinking and ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton is not much better–and likely could have done more harm than Trump because she could act with the support of the establishment.

The Guardian has a pathetic attempt to white wash Hillary Clinton by Susan Bordo. It repeats pretty much every bogus argument which we have heard from Clinton apologists, and which I have already debunked in great detail in previous posts, so I will only touch on the highlights here. Bordo learned nothing from the 2016 election, blaming James Comey, sexism, and especially Bernie Sanders for Clinton losing, while showing zero understanding why Clinton was ethically and ideologically unfit for the presidency.

The absurdities of her argument begin the header which says her book “asks how the most qualified candidate ever to run for president lost the seemingly unloseable election.” She botched health care reform as First Lady. She promoted right wing goals in the Senate, including working with The Fellowship to increase the role of religion in public policy, pushed for war in Iraq based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaedda (despite failing to even read the intelligence prepared for Senators), and has consistently supported restricting civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism (and flag burners). She was a failed Secretary of State who continued to promote interventionism, learning nothing from her mistake in Iraq, failed to abide by the ethics agreements she entered into, and used the position to make money from influence peddling. She was a terrible candidate in two presidential elections. She was wrong on virtually every major decision in her career. How does that translate to most qualified or make any honest observers all that surprised that she lost?

The excerpt from her book repeats the usual claims of sexism, ignoring the fact that the left has opposed DLC, Third Way Democrats like both Bill and Hillary Clinton since the 1990’s. We did not want to see any more Bushes or Clintons in office. Both Clintons and the Bushes all represent essentially the same thing, and the opposition was not limited to Hillary. Many of those who voted for Sanders in the primaries initially supported Elizabeth Warren, and some went on to vote for Jill Stein, with gender not being a factor.

Bordo complains that Sanders branded Clinton as “establishment,” even though Hillary Clinton was the strongest proponent of the Bush/Clinton establishment, and biggest opponent of change, around. She complains about Bernie running against her, ignoring the fact that this is a part of living in a democracy. She complained about how Bernie campaigned against Clinton, while failing to provide any real examples of improper conduct on his part. She ignored how dishonest Clinton’s campaign against Sanders was, from her repeated lies about his record in debates, to her lies about the email scandal and FBI investigation.

Bordo tried to claim Clinton is a progressive and minimize the difference in ideology between Clinton and Sanders supporters, despite rather vast differences of opinion on many issues.  Clinton’s record on corporate influence on public policy received the most publicity during the campaign, as this is what Sanders concentrated on, but those who opposed Clinton also disagreed with her on many other issues, including foreign policy and interventionism, civil liberties, many social/cultural issues, the drug war, and health care (especially with Clinton attacking Medicare for All with bogus claims).

Clinton’s negatives eliminated any advantage other candidates would have had against Donald Trump. Her dishonesty and influence peddling destroyed any advantage in running against the dishonesty and corruption of Trump. Clinton was out-flanked on the left by Trump during the election on foreign policy and economics, despite how incoherent his policies were. Her views on civil liberties were not all that different from what was expressed by Trump. The Clinton record on mass incarceration and immigration further negated Trump’s negatives.

Clinton lost because she was a terrible candidate and ran a terrible campaign, failing to give any reasons to vote for her beyond gender and claims that it was her turn. It is a mistake for Bordo to blame Sanders. Even if Sanders had not run, those of us who opposed Clinton would have still opposed her candidacy. I opposed Clinton in 2015/6 for the same reasons I opposed her eight years previously, and frequently for the same reasons I opposed George Bush. This was because of her dishonesty, her corruption, and how she has spent her career undermining liberal viewpoints. My opposition to Clinton had nothing to do with her gender and did not come from Bernie Sanders.

Update: Some Clinton apologists (including Peter Daou) have moved on from the bogus claims of sexism to adopting McCarthyist tactics in claiming that opposition to Clinton’s policies and support for Bernie Sanders were plot of a Russian plot.

SciFi Weekend: Legion and Sleepy Hollow Season Finales; The Magicians; Legends of Tomorrow; Doctor Who; Batgirl; Renewals & Cancellations; Tina Fey Unintentionally Shows Why Democrats Keep Losing

Just when we seemed to be suffering from super-hero fatigue, Noah Hawley showed that there is more which can be done in the genre. This was helped by excellent performances from the cast, especially Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza. The first season concluded an eight episode story last week and then, Marvel movie-style, used a scene during the credits to introduce a new problem for the second season.

Deadline interviewed Noah Hawley about the finale:

DEADLINE: Let’s start at the end and that orb that captured David. Where is that taking him and us going into Season 2?

HAWLEY: Well, it means that Season 2 is beginning. It means that we’ve completed this story and we’re starting a new one. You know, my goal is always that the first season would be about fighting the enemy within and, you know, learning about this entity that was inside of David and about getting it out of David, and Season 2 will be about then the enemy without and this entity now we know is a person.

But for us it’s never a simple straight line between point A and point B, so you know I wanted to complicate it some by having David disappear just at the moment where he’s about to go off in pursuit of the Shadow King. As for who’s behind the orb and who sent it, I think that’s one of the mysteries we want to explore in Season 2.

DEADLINE: Very deliberately vague of you on a show that specializes in anxiety and the surreal…

HAWLEY: I try to let the show speak for itself. It’s about everyone’s individual experience of it, and you know, so I don’t want to say too much.

DEADLINE: One thing you have spoken of, so to speak, in the last few episodes is the parentage of David Haller, and reaffirming the series’ connection to the Marvel Universe and the comic legacy with the divulging of that wheelchair from The X-Men: Apocalypse movie that Charles Xavier is Haller’s father. You started out so far from the canon of the comics, why did you come in so close to it near the end of this season?

HAWLEY: I certainly played very loosely with a lot of the canon as it relates to this character of David Haller, but one of the things I always felt was off-limits was his origin story. I didn’t really feel like there was any way that I could change who his father was, I mean that seemed like a sacrilegious thing to do.

So, it was always my intention to acknowledge who his father was. The question was when we would do it and how, obviously, we would do it. So you know I think in this case we’ve nodded to it and obviously as to any child who was adopted, he’s going to want to figure out who his father and mother were and there will be that journey.

DEADLINE: Does that mean we are going to see Professor X showing up in Season 2?

HAWLEY: I don’t know about Season 2 but I know that there’s that story will need to be addressed at some point in the future. It’s not something that I want to shy away from, but I also want to make sure that when it’s time to tell that story, we can really tell it and not dance around it.

DEADLINE: So, would you bring in a Patrick Stewart or a James McAvoy?

HAWLEY: Well, some of that is a little more logistically complicated just in terms of would we try to use either Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy. Would they be interested in doing the show? Would 20th Century Fox?

I have to consult with them about the X-Men characters and which characters they want to protect for the future franchise and which ones are available to me. So, there’s a lot of conversations I haven’t had yet but we’re willing to be had. I’m not stressed out about it. I think we all get along quite well and it’s just going to be a question of how and when…

DEADLINE: In real time, Season 1 was eight episodes on FX, and Season 2 looks to be 10 episodes. So will that change your storytelling approach?

HAWLEY: I was the one who asked for eight in the first year and I did it because I wanted to tell a single story. I wanted to tell a story of David Haller who was institutionalized and then was rescued and is told that his powers are powers and not a mental illness. Then we discover that what’s going in his mind is much more complicated, and then we rediscover what is inside his mind. Then we get it out and that’s the first season and that works the eight hours.

But I wanted to do that because I felt like the show’s very complicated and it’s very different. But I wanted the audience to feel like they got it through the coherent story.

Going forward I think that the audience now knows the show and they understand our style, our original language. It’s obviously a large ensemble and so we can expand our story in Season 2. In order to understand David, we can understand Syd more or the other characters. We can expand that universe so that we’re still telling a single story, but we’re taking our time a little bit more and with a little less singular-minded focus.

DEADLINE: Noah, it sounds like you are thinking far beyond a Season 2 like a Season 4 or 5. Is that how long you’ve planned out Legion going on?

HAWLEY: Certainly I have a sort of beginning, middle and end to this David Haller story in mind. What I don’t know is how many hours of television that is, whether it’s 20 hours or 30 or 40, so that’s part of the exploration of it over time — one that I’m very excited to keep going on.

I gave up on Sleepy Hollow before the third season ended. I began watching again this season, but around mid-season was questioning whether I would continue. I’m glad I stuck it out as the season did end well. The series has always suffered from the problem that it can create supernatural problems, and then solve them by just writing in a supernatural solution, and is most watchable due to the interaction between characters. The addition of Seychelle Gabriel as Lara gave the show what it needed to keep the last few episodes interesting. (Spoilers ahead).

I initially reacted negatively when the show brought back the Four Horsemen (who are most powerful when all four are together, like The Beatles), but this did work out well to conclude the season’s story  line. I was happy to see that Ichabod did not remain War very long as there was never any doubt they would invent a supernatural way to save him. Ichabod wound up in a bigger jam as he had to sell his soul to the devil in order to defeat Malcolm Dreyfus (with a little help from Henry agreeing to a truce in the name of freedom). There is no doubt that they will find a way out, but hopefully it does not come across as too much of an easy cheat, as so much does on this series.

The season ended with Ichabod Crane getting set up for faster internet as well as becoming an American citizen. Agency 355 has increased in importance, and size, and now reports directly to the president. If the series is renewed for a fifth season, the concluding scenes give the impression that the show might deal more Agency 355 with handling monsters and supernatural threats, along with efforts by Ichabod to get out of his contract with the Devil.

Entertainment Weekly spoke with executive producer Raven Metzner about the finale:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Crane literally sold his soul to the devil! How’s he going to get out of this one?
RAVEN METZNER: You know, we all were looking for a way to have this character who we know and love come to solid ground. He’s long been searching for a place in the modern world. He’s a man out of time. The question of the Washington letter and what that meant, the fact that he’s had his life rocked in losing the person he cared about more than anyone in the world, the fact that he sort of had lost his family along the way — these were all things that were challenges, and we wanted to find a way to solve some of those things for him, or at least start to solve them. To place him into a family that he felt comfortable with and into a role that he felt comfortable with. And give him his citizenship as an American citizen, which we thought would be really powerful for him and something he never had and always wanted.

But we also wanted to give him a challenge that, if we were to get subsequent seasons, would present an interesting problem. Because we had the Dreyfuss character all the way through, we thought it would be interesting to mirror them and give Crane a similar conundrum. He’s seen the worst version of what it can do to someone; now he’s got to figure his way out. That last bit of dialogue was something we talked about a lot, and actually [executive producer] Albert Kim pitched that little run there, which I really love, which is the idea that, you know, “Sold my soul? It’s Tuesday.” Like, “I can deal with it.” If this is the final episode, I think Crane’s attitude about it is enough that I think fans would trust that he would find his way out of it. If it’s not, and we get more seasons to tell this story, then I think it’s a great problem to be played out.

With Henry, Crane makes this grand speech about how freedom is the most important thing, but now Crane is, in a way, not free. Can you talk about that contrast between sacrificing your freedom out of hatred and sacrificing it out of love?
Oh, that’s actually a really nice way to put it. Yeah, the theme of freedom running through [the episode] came from a lot of different sides. First and foremost, there’s Malcolm Dreyfuss’ desire to rule through tyranny and his belief that as a corporate head, he knows what’s best and he can decide people’s fates. Crane has always been a voice for democracy and for the idea of personal freedom and a country that is built on the ideals of freedom, so their battle of wills through the season has been about that. And Crane’s triumph, and the team’s triumph, in defeating Dreyfuss is a triumph for freedom over tyranny.

At the same time, we have this personal drama between Crane and Henry that’s introduced at the top of the episode in their duel… They’ve failed to connect on so many other levels. For Crane to realize that the one thing they do connect about is that ideal — if you think about Henry in season 2, Henry killed Moloch because he didn’t want anyone lording over him, and he didn’t want to be part of having Moloch push him around. Also in season 2, he tried to create a free nation of witches because he believed they needed to be free. So I think Crane recognizes that that’s their commonality.

The larger piece that’s interesting that you just brought up, about how Crane has just taken on this deal in which his soul is owed to someone — he sort of has a lien placed on him, so the devil, or the devil we’ve met, hasn’t taken his soul yet. It’s a soul that is due on the day that he dies, so he still has his soul, he still has his freedom. It’s more that he knows he’ll have to find a way to defeat this bargain he’s made before the day he dies…

In happier news, the Vault saved the president. Will she play a big role if the show continues?
The idea is that as the show goes forward, there’s a new paradigm, which is: Crane has now officially realized the hope that both Washington and Benjamin Banneker had for him that he would one day be a part of the Vault. And you know Jenny and Diana would absolutely now be officially a part of it, and Jake [Jerry MacKinnon] and Alex [Rachel Melvin] would continue on. So it sets up a paradigm of a more official use of our team in going after [the supernatural] with the help of the U.S. government. We would definitely find ways to twist that and turn that. I thought the actress who played the president did a great job, so we would love to have her come back, but I think it’s more about giving them a new, more official role.

More at TV Line.

One thing I like about The Magicians is that they don’t solve every problem by bringing up new magical solutions at the time. At very least they will foreshadow what can be done. We learned about the multiple timelines earlier, with Jane giving them thirty-nine timelines so they could have a do-over every time The Beast killed them. These timeloops were raised again in last week’s episode. We saw a different version of Alice, in which she survived but Quenton was killed in the battle against The Beast. We also saw what  happened in the other timelines in which Julia was admitted to Breakbills. However, the idea of a deal costing the protagonist their child has been done so many times before.

With so much happening in Fillory this season, at times it no longer seems like we are dealing with a group of students. Blastr checked this out Rick Worthy. Worthy has a strong genre background: “A Cylon on Battlestar Galactica; a Klingon, crewman or Xindi-Aroboreal on Star Trek‘s Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise; mayor of Mystic Falls on The Vampire Diaries; the Alpha Vampire on Supernatural; or, currently, both the leader of the Resistance on The Man in the High Castle and Dean Fogg on The Magicians.”

Brakebills has a liberal attendance policy since these students don’t even go to class. Are they still his students?

They have gone off to a different experience the dean has only heard about. He has not experienced Fillory. But there is a lot of the dean that is yet to be revealed. I know how Season 2 ends, and they will need him again. Trust me. In terms of being the walking epitome of Brakebills, they’ll need the dean even though they’ve seen and done things he hasn’t.

What were the dynamics of that scene in this week’s episode between pre-time loop Fogg and Julia?

I have been dying to talk about that scene because it shows two timelines. We see one version from the earlier time loop where she’s admitted to Brakebills. I was reading the script, and it was what everyone needed to see: What was it like when Julia was admitted? Then we juxtapose that version with now.

This earlier scene with a lovely, bright-eyed, promising young student. And we see another version of the dean, who seems younger. He seems cheerful, more optimistic, sort of happy-go-lucky. He connects with her because they are so much alike, and have the same discipline. In her, he sees himself. Then, we go to the next scene, the timeline we now know, and she’s locked in the dungeon. He becomes an older, more serious person. And so did Stella. The scenes are really powerful and make you think about life and maybe the choices you make in your own life. What if I had taken this road instead of that road? I particularly love that episode.

Part of the fun of The Magicians is how it shows interrelations between the real world and the world of the show. Marlee Matlin played a character who ran the web site FuzzBeat, using clickbait such as internet lists to contain magic spells. Marlee Maitlin discussed her role with Syfy Wire.

Syfy released the above teaser for the final three episodes of The Magicians at Wondercon. It looks like we really have a giant talking dragon (who does not think much of millennials). Like the Sleepy Hollow finale, there is even a visit to the underworld.

Legends of Tomorrow has become the best show in the Berlantiverse this season, although part of that is because of a fall in quality on the other three shows. Like on recent episodes of Sleepy Hollow and The Magicians, we saw a different time line, with the Legions of Doom having created a new reality. This included the death of Felicity Smoak, who was wearing the superhero outfit I showed last week.

The CW Network has released the above trailer for the season finale and appears to reveal how this season’s story will conclude. Of course the devil is in the details, and the consequences. Here is the synopsis:

As the Legends are about to take off for their next destination, a massive timequake rocks the ship. In order to try and fix what has happened, they are forced to break the one cardinal rule of time travel. But if they are able to destroy the spear, they will face the ultimate consequence. Victor Garber, Brandon Routh, Arthur Darvill, Caity Lotz, Dominic Purcell, Franz Drameh, Nick Zano and Maisie Richardson-Sellers. Rob Seidenglanz directed the episode written by Phil Klemmer & Marc Guggenheim (#217).

While Doctor Who has had gay characters in the past, we learned last week that Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie, will be the first openly gay companion. From The Guardian:

Doctor Who’s next companion will be the first to be openly gay.

Pearl Mackie, who plays Bill Potts in the upcoming series, told the BBC her character’s openness about her sexuality was important to represent onscreen, but not her defining characteristic.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal in the 21st century. It’s about time, isn’t it?” she said.

“I remember watching TV as a young, mixed-race girl, not seeing many people who looked like me, so I think being able to visually recognise yourself on screen is important.

“[Being gay] is not the main thing that defines her character – it’s something that’s part of her and something that she’s very happy and very comfortable with.”

The official synopsis has been released for the opening episode of the upcoming season of Doctor Who:

Two worlds collide when the Doctor meets Bill. A chance encounter with a girl with a star in her eye leads to a terrifying chase across time and space. Bill’s mind is opened to a Universe that is bigger and more exciting than she could possibly have imagined – but who is the Doctor, and what is his secret mission with Nardole on Earth?

I suspect that we will continue to see a long list of front runners to replace Peter Capaldi. This week the bookies like Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the star of Fleabag. Adding to her chances, she has a connection to incoming show runner Chris Chibnall, having appeared in season two of Broadchurch. (Incidentally, I do not want to say too much about Broadchurch as it is not showing in the United States yet, but season three has been excellent, reviving the quality of the first season. There are now many suspects for the crime of the season, with last Monday’s episode causing me to elevate someone I had not suspected to a major suspect.)

The DC superhero movies have been much less fun than those from Marvel. That just might change with Joss Whedon writing and directing Batgirl. Besides the news in the previous link, there are also rumors that Lindsay Morgan, who plays Raven on The 100, might star.

Netflix has renewed Santa Clarita Diet for a second season. For light genre, the first season was enjoyable to watch.

While not genre, Netflix released season three of Grace and Frankie, last week, which is another Netflix series well worth watching.

ABC has cancelled Time After Time after only five of seven completed episodes aired. There are not currently plans to air the final two episodes, but perhaps they will make them available on line or by streaming in case anyone cares. I have no idea if it was worth watching. In this era of peak television, I wasn’t going to try to  squeeze in a two hour premiere of a network series without seeing good reviews.

Tina Fey has criticized those who voted for Donald Trump saying, “‘A lot of this election was turned by white, college-educated women who now would maybe like to forget about this election and go back to watching HGTV.” While her objection to those who voted for Trump is understandable, I fear that Democrats will continue to have problems at the polls as long as their response to those who did not vote for them is to attack them, as opposed to try to understand why so many voters did not vote for Democrats in 2016 when led by Hillary Clinton, as well as in 2014 and 2010 when they ran as a Republican-lite party. Fey has done an outstanding job in mocking Sarah Palin, but attacking the opponent is not enough when Democrats have repeatedly failed to stand up for liberal principles or give people a positive reason to vote for them.

Late Night Comedians On Donald Trump Declining To Throw First Pitch

This might not be the most important way in which Donald Trump has varied from the norms for a president, but it did receive attention when he declined to throw the ceremonial first pitch. The Washington Post reported:

Presidents have regularly thrown out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day for Washington’s major league team going back more than a century, but the tradition will not resume this year. The Nationals invited President Trump to do the honors on Monday afternoon, when the team opens its 2017 season at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins, but the White House declined the invitation on Tuesday, citing a scheduling conflict, according to Nationals spokeswoman Jen Giglio.

Late night comedians responded:

“President Trump turned down a chance to throw out the opening day pitch for the Washington Nationals. Turned it down! For some reason, Trump doesn’t want to be surrounded by a bunch of large Hispanic men holding baseball bats.”–Conan O’Brien

“The White House says President Trump will not throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals game. Apparently Trump was afraid of hurting his tweeting arm.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Donald Trump does not know how to throw a baseball. That’s what’s going on here…Which is weird. He also doesn’t know how to run a country but he’s not embarrassed to try that….

“I bet a Trump pitch would get about as far as his healthcare bill. You know, just drop halfway down to the plate. And then he’d blame Paul Ryan.”–Trevor Noah

“Today we learned that Trump is violating another norm because he won’t throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals’ opening day. I don’t know why. Maybe he’s worried his hands are too small to palm a baseball…

“Here we go, America! Trump won’t throw out the first pitch. What else? He won’t go to the Correspondents’ Dinner. He won’t release his tax returns. He won’t put his business in a blind trust. He doesn’t want to live in D.C. What presidential tradition will Trump abandon next? This Thanksgiving, those turkeys better run.”–Stephen Colbert

The 2016 Major Party Candidates Were Very Similar In Many Ways

The 2016 presidential featured a battle of the two worst people in America. While they have their differences, both are far more alike that supporters of either would admit. They are both corrupt. They both have a very similar disdain for civil liberties. They are both conservative on social/cultural issues–Clinton more ideologically, and Trump possibly more out of political expediency. Neither can be trusted on foreign policy. Both are tone deaf.

Doing a Google search for “tone deaf hillary clinton” I just received 228,000 hits. While he didn’t use the term, Joe Biden was getting at this when he criticized Clinton this week for failing to talk to middle class voters–a conclusion many others have come to. As I noted again earlier this week, data shows that a key reason Clinton lost was that large numbers of working class voters shifted from Obama to Trump.

Of course if you live in the fantasy land of Clinton apologists, where they are convinced that misogyny and not political incompetence and dishonesty doomed Clinton, this counter-argument was given: “Virtually every time I hear someone complaining about something Hillary Clinton supposedly failed to say, it’s not really a problem with her not having said it. It’s a problem with their having failed to hear it.” (Yes this really is a direct quote–follow the link if you doubt it.) To them Clinton managed to lose to a candidate as atrocious as Donald Trump, a man who probably would have lost in a landslide to a name randomly picked out of the phone book,  despite doing all the right things. Democrats certainly can no longer claim to be part of the reality-based world.

(Continuing ten minutes later, after I stopped laughing over that defense of Clinton.) While Donald Trump might have carried out the con of the century in convincing working class voters that his policies would help them, he is certainly not doing anything now to hide his love for the ultra-wealthy. The Washington Post reports:

Ahead of release of financial disclosures, Trump administration brags about how many wealthy people it has

Starting Friday evening, the White House will begin to release financial disclosure forms filed by about 180 members of the Trump administration who are either commissioned officers or paid more than $161,755.

Already, the administration is bragging that its members are way wealthier than those who worked for former president Barack Obama — a point of pride that doesn’t quite match the president’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” of wealthy GOP donors, lifelong political operatives and those who are simply out-of-touch with everyday Americans…

It’s no secret that Trump, who brags about his immense wealth, has filled his administration with fellow uber-wealthy people. The billionaires include Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose family started a marketing company; Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a venture capitalist who has focused on buying businesses in distress; and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive, hedge fund executive and Hollywood financier.

That’s as tone deaf as anything to come from Hillary Clinton. Trump’s act was enough to beat a terrible candidate such as Clinton, but it is not working in the White House.  Democrats just might do very well in 2018 when Donald Trump is in the White House and Hillary Clinton is not on the ticket.