SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Arachnids In The UK; Penny Dreadful Returning; Marvel Television Crossover Hinted; Arrowverse Crossover and News on The Flash

Arachnids in the UK provided both a horror story before Halloween and political satire just over a week before the midterm elections in the United States. These two components were not entirely successful, but there was a third aspect of this episode of Doctor Who which was a success, redeeming the episode.

The main story line was fairly weak (as many episodes of Doctor Who tend to be), and its fairly minimal importance was seen in the way it was wrapped up quickly. Rather than being a true monster, the spiders were simply normal spiders who grew to be too big and lacked an ecosystem to exist in. The solution played into the anti-gun sentiments seen earlier this season, but is it really more humane to let them suffocate as opposed to shooting them quickly? I could see earlier seasons solving the problem more humanely by transporting the spiders to a new planet where they could live in peace. While the episode did provide a quick solution for the spiders in the hotel, it also seemed to forget that there were additional spiders around the apartments seen earlier in the episode.

Chris Noth added the political aspect for the episode and, like the spiders, fell short of being the outright villain of the episode. He played an American businessman who aspires to be president, builds luxury hotels around the world, loves to fire people (including Yaz’s mother), sees guns as the solution, uses words such as “fire and fury,” and hates that a woman (the Doctor) is the one in charge. He also hates Donald Trump, whom he is clearly modeled upon, and plans to run against him. I had expected to see Jack Robertson die a horrible death, being eaten by the spiders. Instead this only happened to his poor bodyguard. The episode ended with Jack Robertson seeing himself as the hero, and ready to go on to attempt to become the next president. This would have been the true horror of the story if not for the fact that we already have Donald Trump as president. This does leave open the possibility of Robertson becoming a recurring character, possibly with Chris Noth returning to play the next president sometime in the future.

As political satire, this was fairly weak considering it adds nothing to the vast work satirizing Trump, other than copying some of his obvious characteristics. I suspect that Chris Chibnall did not want to get overly specific so that the episode will still hold up over time. While many future viewers might forget many of the specifics of the Trump years, I doubt anyone will forget the basic outline of Trump as shown in the episode.

The episode works best if seen as the conclusion of a trilogy to establish the Doctor and her new companions, beginning with The Woman Who Fell To Earth and The Ghost Monument. These show the Doctor meeting her future companions, getting to the TARDIS, and ultimately getting home after a series of adventures–with Rosa showing only one of these as a side story to this trilogy. After this series of adventures, the TARDIS made it back to Sheffield.

The revival of Doctor Who has been stronger by showing the families of many of the companions, allowing the companions to be more complete people as opposed to simply people traveling with the Doctor. The episode concentrated on showing Yaz’s family, but also went back to Graham’s loss of Grace and building a relationship with Ryan.

Until they returned to Sheffield, the three were with the Doctor by accident, and the goal was to return them home safely. Now they had a choice, and the Doctor even warned them of the dangers of traveling with her. This especially makes sense considering the fates of many of her recent companions. I imagine that it is easier to write a companion out by having a tragic outcome than showing that someone would just decide that they no longer wish to travel on the TARDIS.

The episode also suggests further expansion of the Doctor’s backstory. Steven Moffat had set up the possibility of a Timelord changing gender, but now we are hearing suggestions that the Doctor has also been a woman, had a family, and had a life we do not know about. Peter Capaldi, speaking of the Master, has said, “I think she was a man back then. I’m fairly sure that I was, too. It was a long time ago, though.” This episode was more explicit. The Doctor said she used to have sisters, and that she herself was once a sister in an aqua hospital, which was a training camp for space assassins. As we know very little of the Doctor’s life before becoming a Timelord, there is no contradiction with the Doctor having had sisters. However, for the Doctor to have once been a woman, this would mean that William Hartnell was not the first Doctor. Older episodes did sometimes hint at previous regenerations before Hartnell, but for this to have been possible it would have been necessary for the Doctor to have been granted additional regenerations in the past. We did see this was possible with Matt Smith.

In other Doctor Who news, it appears that instead of a Christmas special there will be a special on New Year’s Day this year. This does help as they appear to have run out of ideas for a Christmas tie-in for the series. I imagine that for some viewers in the UK, this might not matter much, unless people really care about the tradition. Watching in the United States, I would prefer a special on Christmas Day, and lacking a connection with the holiday would be fine. There is very little new American television around the holidays, and I’ve gotten in the habit of downloading Christmas specials from the UK that day. However, New Year’s Day is taken up by football here.  At least the streaming channels will fill in for the lack of Doctor Who on Christmas Day if my wife and I wind up staying home and watching television.

The Hollywood Reporter has a story on a new version of Penny Dreadful, with new cast and new location:

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels opens in 1938 Los Angeles for a story that Showtime describes as “a time and place deeply infused with Mexican-American folklore and social tension.” Rooted in the conflict between characters connected to the deity Santa Muerte and others allied with the devil, City of Angels will explore a mix of the supernatural and the combustible reality of that period, creating new occult myths and moral dilemmas within a historical backdrop. The series will feature all new characters and storylines.

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels will have a social consciousness and historical awareness that we chose not to explore in the Penny Dreadful London storylines,” Logan said Thursday in a statement. “We will now be grappling with specific historical and real-world political, religious, social and racial issues. In 1938, Los Angeles was facing some hard questions about its future and its soul. Our characters must do the same. There are no easy answers. There are only powerful questions and arresting moral challenges. As always in the world of Penny Dreadful, there are no heroes or villains in this world, only protagonists and antagonists; complicated and conflicted characters living on the fulcrum of moral choice.”

There have been hints about a cross-over between Marvel’s Runaways and Cloak & Dagger. Comicbook.com reports:

“It can reference the rest of the world, but it’s true to teenagers — they’re not interested in what Tony Stark is doing this week or what Matt Murdock is doing this week but they might be interested in a couple of kids who live down in New Orleans and what’s going on there.”

That’s fitting because both Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen have been members of the Runaways team at some point along in the Marvel comics mythos. Now that the characters are played by Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt, respectively, that’s a scenario that’s entirely plausible in live-action.

In fact, Cloak & Dagger showrunner and executive producer Joe Pokaski has previously said the powers that be have had conversations on how to make crossovers happen.

Chicago, as opposed to Vancouver, will provide the background for Gotham City on the Arrowverse Elseworlds crossover episodes this season. We will be seeing Ruby Rose as Batwoman, and seeing a Black Suit Superman, but it has been confirmed that Batman will not appear.

CBR.com reports that Flash’s most iconic villains might be returning for the 100th episode:

DC World writer Paul Edwards attended an autograph signing at MCM Comic Con London. While there, he talked with actor Tony Todd, who previously provided the voice for Flash villain Zoom. During a conversation about Todd’s acting, the former Candyman star explained that he had just finished filming episode 100 of Flash. When asked if he would be reprising his role as Zoom, Todd replied, “They are all returning, all the speedster villains, and they all want a piece of Barry.”

…Executive producer Todd Helbing teased a big twist for the series at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, so this might be what he was referring to. The eighth episode of Flash Season 5, which will premiere on Dec. 4, will be the series’ 100th episode. Tom Cavanagh, who plays various versions of Harrison Wells on the show, will direct.

You might have noticed that Joe West has not been doing much on The Flash this season, generally sitting in scenes. TVLine has the reason for this:

I’m hearing that Martin suffered a back injury over the hiatus. In fact, a studio rep confirms for TVLine that the actor will be taking a medical leave from the CW hit, adding: “We wish him a full and speedy recovery and look forward to his return as Detective Joe West.” (It’s unclear at this time exactly when and for how long Joe’s absence will be felt on screen, but sources tell me it will be addressed at some point.)

Fortunately it should be easy to have a reduced role for Joe, and write him out for a while, without causing serious problems for the stories.

The Growing Lists Of False Statements And Acts Of Corruption From The Trump Administration

Keeping up with the false statements, repugnant statements, and acts of corruption from Donald Trump in nearly two years of his presidency has become an impossible task for a small blog. While I could successfully cover at least the major lies from the Bush administration, there are far too many from Trump to keep up with–which might be part of his strategy. Instead we must rely on professional journalists who can devote far more of their time to such projects.

Trump has kept the fact checkers very busy. The fact checkers at The Washington Post report that Trump “has made 6,420 false or misleading claims over 649 days.” The rate of false statements has escalated as Trump has been out campaigning for fellow Republicans:

The flood of presidential misinformation has picked up dramatically as the president has barnstormed across the country, holding rallies with his supporters. Each of those rallies usually yields 35 to 45 suspect claims. But the president often has tacked on interviews with local media (in which he repeats the same false statements) and gaggles with the White House press corps before and after his trips…

Put another way: September was the second-biggest month of the Trump presidency, with 599 false and misleading claims. But that paled next to October, with almost double: 1,104 claims, not counting Oct. 31…

The president’s proclivity to twist data and fabricate stories is on full display at his rallies. He has his greatest hits: 120 times he had falsely said he passed the biggest tax cut in history, 80 times he has asserted that the U.S. economy today is the best in history and 74 times he has falsely said his border wall is already being built. (Congress has allocated only $1.6 billion for fencing, but Trump also frequently mentioned additional funding that has not yet been appropriated.)

I’m not aware of any similar counts of repugnant statements from Trump but this number must also be growing. He has always taken advantage of racism and xenophobia, and the refugee caravan has played into this. Yesterday CNN reportedTrump shocks with racist new ad days before midterms:

Trump has repeatedly warned that the caravan is laden with criminals or also includes Middle Eastern terrorists. He has offered no evidence for such claims, however, and even admitted last week there is no proof to support them.

The President has also often used racially suggestive rhetoric in his tweets and launched his presidential campaign in 2015 with a tirade against Mexicans. But he accuses the media, which points out his frequent falsehoods and flaming rhetoric, of being to blame for national divides.

Controversy over the new ad is certain to explode across the final days of the election in which polls suggest Democrats could take back the House of Representatives but Republicans could keep or even expand their Senate majority.

The new campaign web video was the culmination of a day on which the President staked out ever more extreme positions.

He took advantage of his role as commander-in-chief to promise to triple the number of troops to 15,000 that he has pledged to send to the southern border to repel the caravan — which is still hundreds of miles away.

He also made a dubious claim of presidential power to reinforce his vow to change the Constitution on his own to end birthright citizenship that is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

If the Democrats do take back the House as expected, this will give Democrats the ability to investigate the vast amount of corruption by Trump, his family, and top members of his administration.  David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick have posted what they bill as Trump’s Corruption: The Definitive List in The New York Times. They began:

They don’t even try very hard to hide it.

President Trump, his family and more than a few of his appointees are using his presidency to enrich themselves. They are spending taxpayer dollars for their own benefit. They are accepting sweetheart deals from foreigners. And they are harnessing the power of the federal government on behalf of their businesses.

There’s a word for this: corruption.

Given how widespread Trumpian corruption has become, we thought it was time to make a list. It’s meant to be a definitive list of self-dealing by the president, his family, his staff or his friends — since he began running for president. To qualify, an incident needs to seem highly credible, even if it remains unresolved, and needs to involve making money.

Compiling the list made us understand why some historians believe Trump’s administration is the most corrupt since at least Warren Harding’s, of 1920s Teapot Dome fame. Trump administration officials and people close to them are brashly using power to amass perks and cash. They are betting that they can get away with it. So far, Congress has let them.

A Welcome Reduction In Hysteria As We Are Hearing Less About Foreign Hacking Of The 2018 Election (For Now)

The New York Times today asks, Where Are The Russians? In other words, they have bought the sensationalized and highly exaggerated media accounts of Russia’s impact on the 2016 election, and are now surprised that they cannot find evidence that Russia is trying to hack the 2018 election.

Aaron Maté has a more reality-based view at The Nation in writing,With Just Days to the Midterms, Russiagate Is MIA–And that’s a good thing. He wrote, that despite all the “histrionics,” Russia has been found to have done little of consequence:

Russia’s alleged midterm sabotage to date has been disclosed in a newly unsealed criminal complaint against an employee of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian troll farm previously indicted for using fake accounts to spread divisive content on social media. The defendant, Elena Khusyaynova, is not even directly accused of online manipulation. Instead, she is singled out for being the chief accountant for “Project Lakhta,” an IRA initiative that targeted audiences in Russia and around the world, including the United States. The only actions directly ascribed to Khusyaynova concern her “meticulous record-keeping and management” of IRA funds.

As with the initial indictment of 13 IRA employees in February, prosecutors accuse IRA trolls of using social media “to sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” including in the upcoming midterms. But reading the fine print, it is difficult to see how that purported aim can be taken seriously. In the first six months of 2018, Khusyaynova submitted expenditures of $60,000 for advertisements on Facebook and $6,000 on Instagram. The only advertising-related activity that gets detailed in the complaint is an alleged IRA employee’s offering to give organizers of an anti-Trump protest $80 for a Facebook ad. (It’s unclear if the proposal was accepted). The IRA’s alleged social-media accounts impersonated both liberal and conservative personas. The complaint shows six images that were posted by Russian trolls to Facebook; the most impactful of the bunch appears to be a thinly disguised anti-Muslim ad that attracted 104 comments.

Some of this content is overtly racist and bigoted; other posts are banal. All are so juvenile or inconsequential that it is difficult to see how they could have vastly greater influence than the millions of other pieces of political clickbait littering the Internet. The IRA’s social-media imprint seems to have as much impact now as it did during the 2016 election. Back then, the IRA spent a reported on $100,000 on Facebook ads, with most of those ads having nothing to do with the election, and more than half of that total spent after the election.

According to Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch, posts generated by suspected Russian accounts between 2015 and 2017 represented “a tiny fraction of the overall [News Feed] content on Facebook.… about four-thousandths of one percent (0.004%) of content in News Feed, or approximately 1 out of 23,000 pieces of content.” The widely cited figure that “material generated by the Kremlin had reached a hundred and twenty-six million American Facebook users,” (The New Yorker) is in fact a creative take on Facebook’s own speculation. “Our best estimate,” Stretch testified to Congress in October 2017, “is that approximately 126 million people may have been served one of these [IRA] stories at some time during the two year period.” So the 126 million figure is an “estimate” of how many people “may have been served” one piece of IRA content—most unrelated to the 2016 election—in their Facebook feeds over two years. Over on Twitter, a new analysis by the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab finds that “Russia’s troll operation primarily targeted Russian speakers,” posting “significantly more in Russian than in English.”

Maté went on to further debunk many of the Russiagate claims, seeing them as no more than “fodder for ongoing efforts intent on convincing Americans that unsophisticated social-media trolling could somehow divide and weaken their society.” He showed problems with claims that Russia penetrated state voting systems and the many problems with media coverage of Russiagate, as I, and others, have also done many times in the the past.

Matt Taibbi also discussed the problems with coverage of Russia in an interview with Recode, pointing out, “You see a lot of stories where there are four unnamed intelligence sources all saying something that is totally unverifiable.” He discussed additional problems with some stories:

So recently we had a story that … I’ll give you two. Okay? There was one from pretty early on where the New York Times said, “Trump campaign officials had repeat contacts with Russian intelligence.” All right? And again, it was four current and former officials, none of them named. Now, I knew and anybody who lived in Russia knew that you constantly have contact with intelligence officials there often, whether you know it or not. And the story didn’t specify whether the contract was knowing or unknowing, like what the nature of it was, but the headline was incredibly damning, right?

I was very concerned about the vagueness of it, the inability to verify it. And then, sure enough, James Comey came out months later and said, “Well, that story isn’t true.” All right? And so if I’m the reporters, I’m really pissed about that, right? Like, “you burned me on this.”

Right.

Then later, more recently, we had a story that said, “Oh, all of our informants in Moscow have gone dark.” Now, I get that the sources in that story had to be high level.

Sure.

Of course they were, but how do you confirm that story? Think about it as a journalist. If you get a call, it doesn’t matter to me if the source is the head of the CIA.

It’s not like you can go find those intelligence sources and confirm with them.

Right? I mean, can you look at the string of cables that have suddenly ceased? You can’t, right? I even called the paper and asked about that. I said, “What’s the deal with this?”

Taibbi noted a time when The New York Times fell into a similar trap in reporting unverified intelligence claims: FROM THE EDITORS; The Times and Iraq.

While talk of Russia rigging our elections has calmed down going into the midterms, this might also be a temporary break, with politicians on both sides likely to be searching for people to blame for losses after the results are in. However, if there really should be a threat of election rigging, it is notable that, despite all the hysteria since 2016, The New York Times is right on one thing. Very little has been done to change how our elections are held and to deal with the risks in our electronic voting systems. If politicians (along with journalists who called 2016 incorrectly) really took the risk of election hacking seriously, as opposed to a convenient excuse for why Hillary Clinton could not beat Donald Trump, we might expect a strong movement towards paper ballots and more secure voting systems.

The Halloween Horror Story Of Another Clinton Run For President

As if we didn’t have enough terrible events in the past week, yet another scare before this Halloween is the prospect that Hillary Clinton might run for president again. The last Clinton candidacy scare came when she said she would like to be president when asked about running:

“Do you want to run again?” Recode’s Kara Swisher asked during a Friday night Q&A with Clinton.

“No,” Clinton replied quickly, sparking laughter from the audience. But when Swisher pressed her further, she added: “I’d like to be president.”

By itself, this means little. If they answered honestly, pretty much everyone who has ever run for elected office would say they would like to be president, even if they have zero actual plan of running at the time.

This comes shortly after a former aide Philippe Reines raised the question of her running: “It’s curious why Hillary Clinton’s name isn’t in the mix—either conversationally or in formal polling—as a 2020 candidate.” Reines was asked about the likelihood of her running: “It’s somewhere between highly unlikely and zero,” he said, “but it’s not zero.”

Fortunately the chances of someone winning the nomination after losing the general election are very remote. Nobody has successfully done so since Richard Nixon. There are additional circumstances around her loss which must be kept under consideration. Clinton lost to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, being possibly the only politician whose own negatives were high enough to balance out Trump’s. Clinton’s approval ratings remain below those of Donald Trump.

Clinton also won the nomination under unusual circumstances in which the Democratic National Committee did everything possible to rig the nomination in her favor, and yet she still faced a stiff challenge from Bernie Sanders.

If Clinton has any desire to run, there remains the possibility she might convince Democrats to nominate her after losing as a solid majority of Democrats believe the story she fabricated after the election blaming Russia for her loss, despite the evidence failing to support her claims. This helps blind many Democrats to how terrible a candidate she was, and helps her cover up the actual reasons she could not even beat Donald Trump.

Clinton has gone on a series of tours to promote her book, and herself, since losing the election. The Clinton tours have received the expected criticism from the right, along with criticism from the left. Interest in paying to see the Clintons might be higher if the Clintons could convince people that Hillary has a future in politics (at least among those who might see this as something they could support).

One reason Clinton has managed to survive politically has been a lack of awareness by many Democrats of the amount of damage Clinton has done around the world, including causing the development of slave markets along with the casualties in Libya. We might soon receive another reminder–if Americans were only more aware of Hillary Clinton’s role in the coup which destabilized Honduras–creating the conditions under which some have fled to come to the United States.

Hillary Clinton says she would like to be president. I would like to see her brought to justice for all the people around the world who have died and suffered as a result of her policies. Neither of us are likely to get what we would like.

New York Times Reports, “Democrats Embrace Liberal Insurgents, Demanding New Face for Party”

The Democratic Party establishment has desired to nominate more moderate candidates, even in safe Democratic areas where they could not use their questionable arguments that more moderate candidates are more electable. Earlier in the year we saw examples of how the party establishment has attempted to suppress insurgent candidates. The New York Times notes how the Democratic Party establishment is having problems this year:

…Democratic voters and activists have increasingly succeeded at transforming their party into a more ambitious liberal force. In key races, they have also replaced elected leaders with newcomers who look and sound like the diverse, youthful base that the party relies on in presidential elections but that asserts itself sparingly in midterm elections and down-ballot primaries.

Should that mood of insurgency prevail on Election Day, it could set the stage for an even more tumultuous phase of redefinition next year: A liberal base that feels validated after November may be unlikely to heed calls from party leaders to pick their battles in the new Congress, or to approach the 2020 race with sensitivity to more conservative sections of the country. The next presidential primaries could become a climactic test for the awakened Democratic base, with women and candidates of color holding an appeal others might struggle to match.

Martin T. Meehan, a former member of Congress from Massachusetts, a state rocked on Tuesday by primary upsets, said Mr. Trump had helped fuse once-fractious Democratic constituencies into a powerful alliance for primary season. Mr. Meehan, now the president of the University of Massachusetts, likened it to earlier moments of political realignment, when ethnic groups like Italian-, Irish- and Greek-American voters learned to work together in the middle of last century…

The most dramatic upsets have come in New York, where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old activist and former bartender, defeated Representative Joseph Crowley, a Democratic boss in Queens and Washington, in a June primary; and Massachusetts, where Ayanna Pressley, a 44-year-old member of the Boston City Council, on Tuesday wrested the nomination away from Representative Michael Capuano, a 10-term progressive she branded as passive and conventional. Both women channeled liberal alarm at Mr. Trump and at social inequality in their own communities, and promised an unyielding fight for change…

In some revealing open-seat races, Democratic voters have also flouted the directives of party leaders and embraced inspiring activists. They nominated Jahana Hayes, an African-American educator, for Congress in Connecticut over a candidate approved by the state Democratic Party, and picked Andrew Gillum, the African-American mayor of Tallahassee, for governor of Florida over a field of better-funded candidates that included the scion of an imposing dynasty.

…Democratic insurgents predict that the party’s shifting attitude toward primary elections is more likely to intensify than recede. As Republican power brokers have found in recent years, once-potent instruments for enforcing partisan hierarchy have diminished in value: Political newcomers have deftly used online fund-raising and social media-based campaign tactics to replace the access to big donors and television airwaves that party leaders can more easily control.

And in Washington, as the number of Democratic upstarts elected to Congress grows, party leaders may face new pressures in navigating primary elections..

In keeping with Massachusetts political convention, Mr. Capuano mobilized a set of muscular institutions behind him, drawing endorsements from labor unions and influential Democrats including Boston’s mayor, Martin J. Walsh; Deval Patrick, the state’s first African-American governor; and black congressional leaders like John Lewis and Maxine Waters.

All that support was not decisive, and Ms. Pressley won by 17 points.

Sam Yoon, a former member of the Boston City Council, said Ms. Pressley’s victory had exposed a momentous cultural transition in the party. Mr. Yoon, 48, mounted a campaign nearly a decade ago against the legendarily iron-fisted former mayor, Thomas M. Menino, attempting unsuccessfully to energize young progressives and minority communities in a movement for change.

“I think the dynamic is just wide-open now,” Mr. Yoon said. “The establishment doesn’t have the hold that it used to.”

While we are undoubtedly seeing a reaction against Donald Trump, the changes in the Democratic Party are likely to be more a reaction to how the party leaders forced a candidate as conservative as Hillary Clinton on the party in 2016–and the excitement created by the campaign run by Bernie Sanders. The winners this year also make a mockery of the bogus “Bernie Bros” smears used by Clinton supporters against the left. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Jahana Hayes, and Andrew Gillum are certainly not the stereotypical white male Bernie Bros which Clinton supporters falsely claimed made up their opposition.

Among those now excited by the successes of the left are Barack Obama, who has returned to public life this week in a speech praising Medicare for all: “Democrats aren’t just running on good, old ideas like a higher minimum wage. They’re running on good, new ideas like Medicare for all,” Obama said. Perhaps Obama should have backed Sanders in 2016 over the Clinton, who campaigned against the plan. At very least, someone who had become president with promises of hope and change should have realized that a candidate as conservative and corrupt as Hillary Clinton was a poor choice in a year when voters demanded change.

Donna Brazile Shows How The Democratic Party Establishment Has No Respect For Democracy

Much has been written accurately demonstrating the authoritarian tendencies of Donald Trump, but a consequence of our two-party system is that far too many people ignore a similar lack of respect for democracy by leaders of the Democratic Party. Donna Brazile showed how the Democratic Party rigged the nomination for Hillary Clinton in a book last fall. In recent statements she inadvertently adds additional evidence of the lack of respect for democracy among the Democratic leadership.

The Democratic Party recently voted to reduce the power of superdelegates by not allowing them to vote on the first ballot as long as the nomination was contested. The real benefit of this is that it it will probably eliminate the tendency of the news media to include superdelegates in their counts early in the nomination process. In 2016 this helped Clinton tremendously, when added to the other mechanisms used by the party to essentially rig the nomination for her, by having counts showing her substantially ahead of Sanders. This played into her strategy of making her nomination appear to be inevitable. Superdelegates will still be able to vote on other matters, such as convention rules, enabling them to play a major role should there be a contested convention even prior to a hypothetical second ballot.

Donna Brazile reminded us that the Democratic Party leadership has many other ways of getting the results they want when she tweeted: “Democrats voted to removed automatic delegates from the first round of voting. But we still have seats at the table. We are still in the room and very much capable of setting the menu.” It is rather shocking that she had no reluctance to admit this, countering the desires of Tom Perez to at least give the illusion that the Democratic Party’s nomination process is fair and honest.

Of course Brazile is correct, with the party using methods as such front-loading southern states, along with superdelegates, to increase the chances that a more moderate, ideally southern, candidate would be chosen. The party greatly increased their actions to hand Clinton the nomination in 2016 with tactics including limiting debates, the deal described in Brazile’s book to essentially give Clinton control of the party, changing fund raising rules during the campaign to help Clinton, making it harder for Sanders supporters to vote in some states, and Harry Reid’s games in Nevada. The party establishment will continue to be able to limit democracy by limiting our choices.

Brazile went further in showing contempt for democracy in an op-ed today in USA Today. I do not believe it is a stretch to assume that this represents the attitudes of others in the party establishment. Brazile complained about the loss of her power, writing as if she and other superdelegates are entitled to decide the nominees and override the decisions of the voters:

According to the new rules, we superdelegates won’t be able to vote on the first ballot at the convention. Or on any ballot, unless there’s a tie or some other sort of deadlock in the process.

So, we superdelegates are now what? Merely the mechanism you default to in case of a tie? Great. I’ve fought for the Democratic Party my entire life, and now I’m one notch above a coin toss.

She argued that the “party faithful” deserve their power to override the decisions of elected delegates for the work they have put into the party, failing to understand that in a democracy power should go to those who receive the votes. She claimed that, “the superdelegates aren’t the infamous ‘smoke-filled room’ full of ‘old white men’ deciding the fate of everybody else.” Having greater racial and gender diversity does not change the fact that having decisions made by the superdelegates are just as undemocratic as the smoke-filled rooms. She argues that “I earned my place at this table,” but in a democracy the table should be made up of those who have been elected to be there.

It would be different if we had a multi-party democracy, or if we were talking about a minor party. I would not mind if those who have built the Libertarian Party limited their nominees to those who have a roughly libertarian philosophy as that would not limit our overall choices. However, in the current duopoly, the system is rigged so that the either the Democratic or Republican Party nominee will win virtually all elections. Supporters of the major parties certainly make that point clear when they insist that this is the case and try to guilt us into voting for their candidates.

They don’t even allow other parties to participate in debates, with participation controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, controlled by the Democratic and Republican Parties. As a result, the two-party duopoly limits views which are considered. The parties essentially differ on reproductive rights, some differences in taxation rates, and on how much is spent on social programs. The elections rarely offer a choice on matters such as continuing our state of perpetual warfare, mass surveillance, or the drug war and mass incarceration.

The Democratic Party remains stuck in the past, seeing current elections as filtered by the 1972 loss by George McGovern. For Democrats to say that they should not nominate a candidate of the left because McGovern lost badly back in 1972 would be like Republicans saying they should not nominate a conservative because Barry Goldwater lost badly in 1964.

A better parallel for Democrats to think about would be fifty years ago when the party leadership rigged the nomination for Hubert Humphrey, instead of allowing an anti-war candidate supported by the party’s base to be the nominee. This resulted in the Democrats losing to Richard Nixon, comparable to how the Democratic Party lost to Donald Trump after the party leadership rigged the nomination for pro-war candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Our most realistic chance of having a real choice in elections is to have the ability for candidates outside of the system to have a fair shot at the major party nominations. It is not fair for Democrats to both support a system which only allows those they consider to be true Democrats to run, and to simultaneously support a system which intentionally makes it extraordinarily difficult for outsider candidates to win outside of the two-party system.

The reality is that the rules changes by the Democratic Party were far too limited. Superdelegates should be entirely abolished. Our entire electoral system also needs to be overhauled, included rank-choice voting and proportional representation. These are necessary so that people like Donna Brazile can no longer set the entire menu of which people we can vote for and which issues are considered during elections.

Gallup Poll Shows 78% Of Democrats Mistakenly Believe Russia Changed Election Results

Democrats have often claimed to be the reality based community, citing many false beliefs held by Republicans. For example, a poll as recent as 2015 showed that half of Republicans still believed that WMD had been found in Iraq. Gallup shows that Democrats are doing even worse regarding false claims being used to promote neocon goals. A Gallup poll released August 20 shows 78% of Democrats believe not only that Russia interfered in 2016 election but that it changed the result, despite a lack of evidence for this view.

As with false views about WMD in Iraq, false views by Democrats about the 2016 election have negative consequences. Democrats are using the belief that Clinton lost because of Russian actions to avoid necessary reform in the party. Democrats must face reality, accept responsibility for their losses, and reform their party, as opposed to dwelling on conspiracy theories blaming others. Rigging the nomination for a candidate as terrible as Clinton cost the Democrats about 10% of the vote and is the main reason they lost in 2016–not any foreign interference.

Even worse, this has led to a more hostile view on foreign relations by Democrats. The same poll found that, “Americans believe it is more important to try to continue efforts to improve relations between the countries (58%), rather than taking strong diplomatic and economic steps against Russia (36%).” In contrast a majority of Democrats (51%) favor taking steps against Russia while 45% believe it is more important to continue efforts to improve relations. Hysteria over Russian bots and “fake news” has also led to an increase in censorship of Americans on social media, as I most recently discussed yesterday.

A majority agree that Russia did interfere in the election. This is hardly surprising considering that Russia has meddled in our politics for decades, just as the United States has meddled in elections in Russia and around the world. I find that many Democrats have difficulty separating the different aspects of this. They see legitimate criticism of Trump’s policies as somehow being proof that Russia changed the result of the election, or fail to distinguish between low level meddling and actually altering the result.

Some of this comes from misinformation deliberately spread by Clinton and the DNC to distract from the reasons for her loss.  As was revealed in Shattered, Hillary Clinton decided upon the strategy of blaming others such as Russia for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing. The Washington Post exposed the fact that the Clinton campaign and DNC had paid for the Steele dossier, after they had denied their involvement for months.

We also have often seen false information being repeated, even after retracted. Today we saw one of many false claims being retracted, this time a claim from Democrats about a hacking attempt turning out to be a false alarm. I’ve repeatedly found that Democrats will continue to cite the original incorrect stories without realizing they have been retracted. This includes the repeated incorrect claims about seventeen intelligence agencies, and incorrect reporting regarding hacking of voter databases. I listed additional examples here, and The Nation has also debunked the irresponsible media coverage of claims about Russia.

Just as many Democrats are quick to accept any excuse for Clinton’s loss, many reporters who had predicted Clinton would win easily prefer to blame her loss on Russia, rather than admitting they had totally misread the election. In reality, signs of Clinton’s weakness in the battleground states, among independents, among liberals, and among young voters was apparent even before she was nominated, as I had warned in multiple posts.

Evidence from the Congressional investigations showed that the Trump Tower meeting, while possibly a violation of election laws, was of little consequence. No evidence came up showing any evidence that any votes were changed during the Congressional investigations. The hearings revealed that Russian ads and propaganda accounted for a minuscule portion of overall Facebook content, representing  “less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items” on Facebook. Over half of the ads were not seen until after the election, most had nothing to do with promoting Trump over Clinton, and the ads were more concentrated in safe blue or red states as opposed to the battleground states.

The various guilty pleas and indictments from Robert Mueller have dealt far more with crimes such as money laundering and tax evasion as opposed to anything which involved the election. Some indictments were for violations of campaign law, and others were for allegedly hacking the DNC, with neither claimed to have altered the election results.

With the DNC having refused to allow the FBI to investigate their computers, there remains question as to whether the release of email was really a hack or a leak. Even if a hack, there has been no question as to the validity of the email released by Wikileaks. Blaming the loss of the election based upon the release of factual information which exposed dishonesty by Clinton and the DNC is hardly a meaningful excuse, and the blame for the loss still falls on Clinton and the DNC.

Democrats must face reality as to why they lost the 2016 election and make necessary reforms in the party–including reforming the nomination process at their meeting this week where super delegates are under consideration. Rigging the nomination for a candidate who could not win the nomination fairly on her own both alienated many potential voters, and left the Democrats with a candidate too unpopular to beat even a candidate as dreadful as Donald Trump.

ACLU Joins Other Civil Libertarians In Warning About Dangers Of Censorship On Social Media

Censorship on social media has been an ongoing problem involving people on both the left and the right, but the recent banning of Alex Jones has increased attention to the issue. While many civil libertarians have seen the dangers, others have allowed their views of Alex Jones to distract from the urgent civil liberties issues at stake. Attacks on civil liberties have often started with unpopular targets, and then extending to others. The American Civil Liberties Union has warned about the worrisome implications:

Several companies, including Facebook and YouTube, have removed Jones and his radio show for violating their hate speech policies. But doing so may set a dangerous precedent, according to Ben Wizner, director of ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

As private institutions, these sites have the constitutional right to decide whether to host Jones. But a hate speech policy defining when an individual warrants being banned could be “misused and abused,” Wizner told HuffPost on Monday.

“If [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, for example, were deciding what’s hate speech, he would be less likely to think KKK and more likely to think [Black Lives Matter],” Wizner said. “It turns out to be an extremely subjective term.”

“I have some of the same concerns about platforms making those decisions,” he added. “Governments at least purport to be acting solely in the public interest, but platforms are making these decisions based on what’s in their financial interest. So their interest might be in avoiding controversy, but do we want the most important speech platforms in the world to avoid controversy?”

“Who should decide what’s fake? … It’s not so easy to do in a way that is objective,” he said. “If these platforms get in the business of trying to be the arbiters of truth or falsity, pretty soon everyone is going to have something to complain about.”

“Do we really want corporations that are answerable to their shareholders and their bottom lines being the ones who decide which political speech Americans should see or not see?” he added. “Because that’s what we’re asking for here.”

Some have questioned whether this is a civil liberties issue as on the surface it involves private companies as opposed to the government. The point is not that whether this is a First Amendment issue, but that our concept of censorship and the First Amendment must be updated due to how social media is being used by government to restrict speech. Social media has become the equivalent of the old fashioned town square. When we have a near monopoly controlling social media on the internet (which happened to be developed with taxpayer’s money), and government then instructs these companies to restrict the speech of people, it can be more dangerous than our conventional concept of censorship. Making matters worse, there is no due process when done with supposedly private companies in this manner.

The purpose of the First Amendment was to protect free speech–not to give excuses to support censorship when it does not strictly fall under the wording of the First Amendment. Wired had  warnings about allowing Facebook to censor free speech, and responded to the argument that this is not a First Amendment issue:

The lamest of counterarguments to Zuckerberg’s absolutist position is the drearily predictable one of “the First Amendment doesn’t apply to companies.” It’s the nitpicky point of the eighth-grade know-it-all. How about I quarter troops from my private army in your house, and when you cite the Third Amendment, I’ll reply with “well, they’re not government troops,” and see how you feel about it?

Concepts like “trespassing” and “privacy” are not mentioned in the Constitution and did not then exist in the form we know today. We have extended the animating spirit of the Third and Fourth Amendments—respecting a person’s property and privacy—more broadly, because it’s a foundational value we want to see respected everywhere. Ditto the First Amendment: We want companies to embrace it too.

Internet censorship greatly increased as a result of pressure from Democrats who blame Russian ads and “fake news” for the defeat of Hillary Clinton, as opposed to being willing to acknowledge the serious problems in nominating Clinton, and the terrible campaign she ran, which caused her defeat. Clinton herself called on Congress to regulate what she considered to be fake news after her defeat–a rather serious attack on First Amendment rights.

It is easy to look the other way when someone as vile as Alex Jones is the target, but internet censorship has extended to many others on both the left and the right. If censorship is justified based upon expressing hatred, promoting violence, and spreading false information, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are far more dangerous. If kooky right wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones should be banned, the same could just as easily be said about kooky left wing conspiracy theorist Rachel Maddow, whose conspiracy theories risk starting a war with a nuclear power.

Before the government pushed internet companies to act as their censors, they preferred to be regarded as common carriers who are not responsible for regulating content. Either we go with that concept, or we have a handful of executives in Silicon Valley deciding what any of us can say. There is no middle ground. As Matt Taibbi pointed out, “as was obvious during the Senate hearing with Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year, politicians are more interested in using than curtailing the power of these companies. The platforms, for their part, will cave rather than be regulated. The endgame here couldn’t be clearer. This is how authoritarian marriages begin, and people should be very worried.”

After Alex Jones was removed by multiple social media companies, Senator Chris Murphy tweeted: “Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it.”

Instead of falling into the trap of saying this is not a First Amendment issue as it is not the government doing the censorship (at least directly), we should be exerting pressure on both members of Congress and the social media companies to consider social media companies as common carriers rather than taking on the job of censoring speech. The alternative would be as if AT&T, when they had a monopoly, was also entrusted with determining what types of speech could be allowed over its telephone lines.

In a follow up article to the one I quoted from above, Taibbi wrote on this topic in greater detail:

Two weeks ago, we learned about a new campaign against “inauthentic” content, conducted by Facebook in consultation with Congress and the secretive think tank Atlantic Council — whose board includes an array of ex-CIA and Homeland Security officials — in the name of cracking down on alleged Russian disinformation efforts.­ As part of the bizarre alliance of Internet news distributors and quasi-government censors, the social network zapped 32 accounts and pages, including an ad for a real “No Unite the Right 2” anti-racist counter-rally in D.C. this past weekend.

Last week, we saw another flurry of censorship news. Facebook apparently suspended VenezuelaAnalysis.com, a site critical of U.S. policy toward Venezuela. (It was reinstated Thursday.) Twitter suspended a pair of libertarians, including @DanielLMcAdams of the Ron Paul Institute and @ScottHortonShow of Antiwar.com, for using the word “bitch” (directed toward a man) in a silly political argument. They, too, were later re-instated.

More significantly: Google’s former head of free expression issues in Asia, Lokman Tsui, blasted the tech giant’s plan to develop a search engine that would help the Chinese government censor content…

Both the Jones situation and the Facebook-Atlantic Council deletions seem an effort to fulfill a request made last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Last October, Facebook, Google and Twitter were asked by Hawaii Senator Mazie Hizono to draw up a “mission statement” to “prevent the foment of discord.”

Companies like Facebook might have balked before. They have long taken a position that’s very Star Trek, very Prime-Directive: We do not interfere. Mark Zuckerberg, as late as 2016, was saying, “editing content… that’s not us.”

…After Trump’s shocking win in 2016, everyone turned to Facebook and Google to fix “fake news.” But nobody had a coherent definition of what constitutes it.

Many on the left lamented the Wikileaks releases of Democratic Party emails, but those documents were real news, and the complaint there was more about the motives of sources, and editorial emphasis, rather than accuracy…

Within a year, Google bragged that it had deleted 8 million videos from YouTube. A full 6.7 million videos were caught by machines, 1.1 million by YouTube’s own “trusted flaggers” (we’re pre-writing the lexicon of the next dystopian novels), and 400,000 by “normal users.”

Subsequently, we heard that Facebook was partnering with the Atlantic Council — which, incidentally, accepts donations from at least 25 different foreign countries, including United Arab Emirates and the king of Bahrain, in addition to firms like weapons manufacturer Raytheon and my old pals at HSBC — to identify “potential abuse.”

…For more than half a century, we had an effective, if slow, litigation-based remedy for speech violations. The standards laid out in cases like New York Times v. Sullivan were designed to protect legitimate reporting while directly remunerating people harmed by bad speech. Sooner or later, people like Alex Jones would always crash under crippling settlements. Meanwhile, young reporters learned to steer clear of libel and defamation. Knowing exactly what we could and could not get away with empowered us to do our jobs, confident that the law had our backs.

If the line of defense had not been a judge and jury but a giant transnational corporation working with the state, journalists taking on banks or tech companies or the wrong politicians would have been playing intellectual Russian roulette. In my own career, I’d have thought twice before taking on a company like Goldman Sachs. Any reporter would.

Now the line is gone. Depending on the platform, one can be banned for “glorifying violence,” “sowing division,” “hateful conduct” or even “low quality,” with those terms defined by nameless, unaccountable executives, working with God Knows Whom…

Google and Facebook have long wrestled with the question of how to operate in politically repressive markets — Google launched a censored Chinese search engine in 2006, before changing its mind in 2010 — but it seems we’re seeing a kind of mass surrender on that front.

The apparent efforts to comply with government requests to help “prevent the foment of discord” suggest the platforms are moving toward a similar surrender even in the United States. The duopolistic firms seem anxious to stay out of headlines, protect share prices and placate people like Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who just said deleting Jones was only a “good first step.”

Americans are not freaking out about this because most of us have lost the ability to distinguish between general principles and political outcomes. So long as the “right” people are being zapped, no one cares.

But we should care. Censorship is one of modern man’s great temptations. Giving in to it hasn’t provided many happy stories.

Slate warned that, “placing the distribution of information in the hands of a few tech companies will remain a very big problem.”

Did anyone vote to make Google and Facebook monopolies. Did anyone vote to say we are going to make private actors make these decisions? There hasn’t been such a vote. People are just waking up to the fact that these guys are monopolies. People are just waking up to the fact that these guys have built these machines and amplified these kinds of voices. We only had our first major hearing in Congress last summer. This is pretty fresh, pretty new. I think if you put it to a vote, you sure as hell wouldn’t have anybody say, “We will choose these people to be our censors, we will choose these people to be our regulators.” And remember that this is a two-edged story. Any time you say that you are going to allow for this type of private action or private censorship, it is something that can be used against your friends next year, tomorrow.

Caitlin Johnstone, who herself was the target of internet censorship this month, further discussed how In A Corporatist System Of Government, Corporate Censorship Is State Censorship:

In a corporatist system of government, wherein there is no meaningful separation between corporate power and state power, corporate censorship isstate censorship. Because legalized bribery in the form of corporate lobbying and campaign donations has given wealthy Americans the ability to control the US government’s policy and behavior while ordinary Americans have no effective influence whatsoever, the US unquestionably has a corporatist system of government. Large, influential corporations are inseparable from the state, so their use of censorship is inseparable from state censorship.

This is especially true of the vast megacorporations of Silicon Valley, whose extensive ties to US intelligence agencies are well-documented. Once you’re assisting with the construction of the US military’s drone program, receiving grants from the CIA and NSA for mass surveillance, or having your site’s content regulated by NATO’s propaganda arm, you don’t get to pretend you’re a private, independent corporation that is separate from government power. It is possible in the current system to have a normal business worth a few million dollars, but if you want to get to billions of dollars in wealth control in a system where money translates directly to political power, you need to work with existing power structures like the CIA and the Pentagon, or else they’ll work with your competitors instead of you.

For more on this topic, I would also recommend the following video discussion with Glenn Greenwald (who has written extensively on civil liberties and social media), Sam Biddle, and Briahna Joy:

Democrats Voting On Eliminating Superdelegates This Week–Will They Vote For Or Against Democracy?

A political party which uses superdelegates should not be able to use Democratic in its name. This week we will see if the Democratic Party continues to oppose democracy as the DNC votes on a proposal to eliminate superdelegates at their meeting in Chicago.

There have been proposals to eliminate superdelegates for years, including a recommendation by the Democratic Change Commission in 2009. More recently the Unity Commission recommended reducing the number of superdelegates. This has been expanded to a proposal which would remove the ability of superdelegates to vote for the presidential nominee on the first ballot, but they would still be able to vote on convention rules.

In 2016, the DNC worked to clear the field for Hillary Clinton early in the race. When Bernie Sanders did subsequently attempt to run against her, he was faced with the news media broadcasting delegate counts showing him to be way behind before a single vote was cast, playing into Clinton’s strategy of inevitability.

The proposal to prevent superdelegates from voting on the first ballot would make it much harder for a candidate with the support of superdelegates to take advantage of this, assuming recent trends hold and the nomination is decided on the first ballot.

Of course many establishment Democrats oppose this threat to their power. Not unexpectedly, some even see this change as a Russian plot (demonstrating  one of many reasons why we desperately need new leadership in the Democratic Party).

Norman Solomon, author of Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis, points out the irony of this vote taking place in Chicago:

The 1968 Democratic National Convention remains notorious mainly because of bloody clashes in the streets of downtown Chicago, where thousands of antiwar protesters encountered what a federal commission later called a “police riot.” Passions were also fraught inside the convention hall. From the podium, Sen. Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut denounced “Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago.”

But it’s less well known today that much of the mayhem in the streets and the angry dissent inside the amphitheater a half-century ago stemmed from the well-grounded belief that the Democratic establishment had rigged the nominating process for its candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Many of the delegates for the two antiwar contenders at the convention, Sens. Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, were incensed at the party’s disregard for the will of the voters.

About 70 percent of the votes in the presidential primaries had gone to antiwar candidates, including Sen. Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated the night of his election victory in the California primary in early June. Yet the party conferred its nomination on Humphrey, a supporter of the still-escalating Vietnam War who had stayed out of the primaries ― but still ended up with more than two-thirds of the delegates at the national convention. The undemocratic process deepened the divisions inside the party and weakened public support for its ticket, aiding Richard Nixon’s narrow victory in the November 1968 election.

In other words, the Democratic establishment candidate lost in both 1968 and 2016 due to rigging the nomination for unpopular candidates as opposed to giving the nomination to the types of candidate who could win in fair primary system.

Eliminating superdelegates is an important step towards supporting democracy, but just one of many important steps. We also need to have the Democrats eliminate their other rules which help them rig their nominations, including front-loading primaries in southern states, and changing fund-raising rules and the debate schedule as in 2016.

It is an even worse attack on democratic principles when the democratic party both works to keep out true liberal and progressive views, while working with Republicans to limit the influence of third parties. The Intercept recently looked at a bill which was introduced by Democrats, although with limited support,which would help to promote real choice in elections:

In 2017, a group of House Democrats, led by Virginia Rep. Don Beyer, introduced H.R. 3057, the Fair Representation Act, which would require every congressional district in America to use ranked-choice voting. It would also require districts to be redrawn by independent redistricting committees, which would diminish the effects of partisan gerrymandering, and it would require the installation of multimember districts — a reform that would allow voters in each district to elect multiple lawmakers instead of just one, so that more people would be represented.

…advocates of ranked-choice voting raised the benefits of alternative voting schemes when, after Michigan’s recent governor’s race, the results suggested that if the third place candidate, who branded himself as a progressive, had been reallocated in a ranked-choice system, Abdul El-Sayed, a genuine progressive, might have come within arm’s reach of winning.

Europe provides several examples of other voting alternatives. French President Emmanuel Macron, for instance, ran on introducing greater proportional representation in the French legislature, and is slowly making good on that promise. Under proportional representation, parties are allotted seats based on the total percentage of the vote they get. Under that system, if Democrats were to receive 51 percent of the vote, Republicans 44 percent, and Greens 5 percent, they’d each get that percentage of seats in Congress.

Proportional representation is how elections are run in countries like Sweden, Germany, and Israel. It’s no surprise that legislatures in these countries often have seven or eight different political parties with significant clout, which then work together in coalitions on legislation, offering far more choices to voters.

By contrast, American political parties tend not to offer third-party voters any sort of election reform plans — even to win over their votes.

Ideally, if we are successful in reducing the influence of superdelegates, the long-term goal should be to both totally eliminate superdelegates and to institute these other reforms.

SciFi Weekend: The 100 Season 5 Finale; Star Trek News; Space Force Humor

The season five finale of The 100 showed why I have had mixed feelings about this series for the last few years.  While the show has its problems, it sure knows how to put together an intriguing season finale. It was the end of yet another cycle of continuing battles, followed by another reset, which I fear will lead to more of the same. Yet the reset in the finale has me interested enough to give the show yet another chance next season.

This season did do some interesting things. Once again the cast was put in a situation in which terrible decisions had to be made to survive. This led to fighting pits and cannibalism, along with a major character developing a drug addition in response to the decisions which were made. However, each season’s enemy and war might be more enjoyable if they didn’t drag on so long and sometimes become so convoluted. Jasper summed up the problem in his suicide note earlier in the season: “There is no light at the end of the tunnel, there is only the tunnel. Another enemy to fight, another war.”  Diyoza showed how convoluted the plots become in saying to Clarke, “It’s hard to keep track of whose side you’re on.”

The time jump and new setting starts Book 2 of the series, and largely resets to being more like early in the series. Instead of a dying earth there will be a new planet. The characters we know, which combines various groups as opposed to the original 100, and at least one new character, will again be trespassers on an inhabited planet. Most likely they will go through yet another tunnel with another enemy to fight and another war. The question will be what interesting things come into play while doing so with a new combination of characters.

TV Line interviewed Jason Rothenberg about the finale:

TVLINE | Let’s start at the very last shot: “End of Book One”? Explain yourself.
As the season was unfolding, we didn’t know that we were going to get another season, which is a difficult position to be in. I assumed we would, but we hadn’t gotten an official order. So I had to write an ending that would be both satisfying as a series finale and would tee up the next adventure. That was my target, which I feel like we hit. Had that been the end of everything, it would have been a bummer not to explore what’s down [on that new planet], but it would have been emotionally satisfying the way Monty’s life passes before our eyes and Bellamy and Clarke weep during his final speech. Thematically, Monty’s speech summed up a lot of what we’ve been talking about for five seasons. As we move into this new world, I really wanted it to be a new book. The first volume is closed and now we get to tell an entirely new adventure with the people we’ve come to love. It’s going to be crazy and amazing and beautiful and very, very different…

TVLINE | How did Christopher Larkin and Chelsey Reist react to finding out that this was their last episode?
It’s always a hard conversation to have. When I called Chelsey about it, she was in her car on the way to work, and she had to pull over because she got upset. But when I pitched her what it was, she immediately embraced it, loved it and saw how beautiful it was and what a satisfying emotional ending it would be for her character and the Monty-Harper relationship. I start from the point of those characters and what they wanted all season. Monty wanted to get back to space. He was happy in space. He did not want the war. So he found a way to live an entire happy, long life with the woman he loves, and to create a family. It felt like something we hadn’t done before, and I knew it was going to be emotionally devastating. I actually wrote the final act of the finale before the rest of the episode. It came out all in one creative burst. On the day we shot it, it was the most emotional anyone has ever been on set. Dean White, who did a fantastic job directing, knew that as soon as Chris [Larkin] started reading his lines, everyone would just burst into tears. So we had our first AD, Ian Samoil, read Monty’s part — and people were still crying. The camera guys were crying, I was crying, Dean was crying. It was crazy! You see it on camera where Bob and Eliza are just … the tears are pouring. I actually had to edit it down, because there was too much crying. I needed to pace it.

TVLINE | As was I. And I’m so thrilled we finally got to meet Shannon Kook’s character! As the son of the people who saved everybody, how important will Jordan be to the survivors in Season 6?
He’ll be very important. And his story is very fascinating. He’s a blank slate. He’s never been off that ship. He’s never known anyone but his mother and father. Everything he experiences is going to be for the first time — he’s never tasted anything other than algae before! It’s going to be a fascinating journey to see if he can keep that innocence and wide-eyed excitement that he’ll enter the season with, surrounded by all these people who are drenched in blood. As for how the other characters are going to feel about him: Murphy will be the uncle who tries to corrupt him, Bellamy and Clarke are the protective aunts and uncles who won’t let him get into danger. Everyone will have a different reaction to the child of Monty and Harper.

TVLINE | Switching gears a bit, many fans were worried that Octavia was becoming irredeemable. Do you think her actions this week (and last) helped, or does she still have a lot of work to do?
She definitely reached a breaking point and had a realization that it was her fault, for lack of a better word. She was willing, in last week’s episode, to try and make good by letting Bellamy, Indra and Gaia escape. Had she been killed saving them, that would have been a redeeming death for her. But she didn’t get that. We see that scene between Bellamy and Octavia at the end of the finale, where he’s putting her into cryosleep, and she’s looking for some sort of emotional connection with her brother, but he doesn’t really give it to her. She’s broken, and when she wakes up 125 years later, she’ll be in the same place where she went to sleep. It’s not like the six-year time jump of last season. She’ll be bringing everything into the new world with her. Her character in Season 6 is going to have to grapple with what she’s done and who she’s become and how everyone looks at her. It’s going to be a fascinating arc; it would have been too easy ending this season by killing her off. I do look forward to some sort of reconciliation in the future between the Blakes.

TVLINE | Even though nearly everyone survived, some of the injured characters are played by actors who are involved with other projects. What can you say about the fates of Kane and Gaia, specifically?
Everybody who went into cryo will come out of cryo. So all the characters who are with us at the end of Season 5 will be with us at the beginning of Season 6. Actors have deals that make things tricky, but we’ll do our best to work around [schedules] as much as we can. It’s a show where characters don’t necessarily get jobs in Cleveland and move away — especially in a world where there is no Cleveland anymore. The business side of it is always tricky, but creatively, I love Gaia and I think there’s a lot still there to explore. And what can you say about Henry Ian Cusick? He’s a legend, he’s amazing. He was great all season, and for the last five seasons. It’s been an honor to have him on the season. And he, too, will continue to play a role in Season 6.

TVLINE | Lastly, I have to ask: What was the significance of Clarke and Bellamybeing the first to wake up.
It was Monty’s plan to wake the two of them. When the two of them are on the same page, things go well. They are the leaders of this show and of the remaining people in the human race — until we find out what may or may not be on the ground of this new planet. [Monty] wanted to wake them and talk to them first and let them decide who to wake next and how to break the news. So that’s where that came from.

There was plenty of additional news coming out of the Star Trek Las Vegas Convention since last week’s post. TrekMovie.com has several quotes from the cast, including Anson Mount on his role as Christopher Pike:

There is “The Cage” and then there is  “The Menagerie,” and those are two very different things. I do kind of play around with this idea that we have this established character and now we are going back, and I am wondering, am I establishing a guy we can see moving forward that ends up making that decision in “The Menagerie,” but in a way that is victorious and self-realizing and not a tragedy. But, that hasn’t really informed me at all.

What has informed me more is growing up and watching The Original Series, and knowing the series and knowing Roddenberry’s work and that if this is Roddenberry’s original guy, he kind of has to be the embodiment of an optimism, the same optimism that Roddenberry had that we are at our most basic, good and curious and adventurous. So, having to put together a guy that covers those bases, but is still not a flat portrait of something that is just a protagonist. Because I am not the protagonist. I am here to augment the protagonist of this show.

It was announced that the Discovery season one Blu-ray and DVD will be released in November, providing an opportunity for those who do not subscribe to CBS All Access another means to view the series. However, unless you really want to own the set, the more economical way to legally view the season for those who do not want to pay every month would be to subscribe for one month and binge. Another option would be to get the seven day free trial and use it to watch quickly. As the price for the Blu-ray is currently $47.77, I personally have no plans to purchase considering that I can rewatch any episodes if desired on CBS All Access.

CBS TV Studios president David Stapf  told Deadline that the planned Star Trek series with Patrick Stewart reprising his role as  Jean-Luc Picard is part of a plan to have “a Star Trek something on all the time on All Access.” As I suggested last week, this should help give fans a reason to continue a subscription to CBS All Access throughout the year. I just hope they don’t dilute the quality of Star Trek as has happened with other franchises. Ron Moore also warned about the risk of franchise fatigue, among other quotes at TrekMovie.com. In this age of peak TV, I also wouldn’t mind if they did take a month or two break between each series. From the interview, after a discussion of other shows planned for All Access:

DEADLINE: How did the idea of bringing back Patrick Stewart’s character come about, and how long did it take to get him to do it?
STAPF: It came to us, as do all things Trek now, through Alex Kurtzman, with the idea of, wouldn’t it be cool to do something Next Gen-oriented, and/or get Patrick Stewart and/or any of those iconic Next Gen characters. As Patrick himself has said, he was of the opinion that “I’ve done that character,” but he got a meeting with Alex and some of the other guys and they won him over. The deal didn’t take that long once he decided to do it.

DEADLINEAny other former Trek franchises you are looking at next?
STAPF: No.

DEADLINESo that’s a definite No on William Shatner?
STAPF: (laughs) I would say, never say never.

DEADLINEIs it certain that one of the new Trek series will be a spinoff from Discovery, and how big a franchise universe are you looking to build?
STAPF: My goal is that there should be a Star Trek something on all the time on All Access. We know it draws an audience, and Discovery has done quite well.
DEBEVOISE: We started well and we’d love to have a second one.
STAPF: Yes, and as we learned, we want to do it right.

We have learned that we will be introduced to a new Spock on Discovery. Not it appears that there might be a new Kirk for the movie series. The Hollywood Reporter says that talks have fallen through with Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth. Apparently the poor box office for Star Trek Beyond leaves Paramount reluctant to pay Pine what previous contracts provided for (or what he can make in the Wonder Woman movies). Chris Hemsworth can also pull in far more as Thor than Paramount is willing to pay for him to reprise the role of George Kirk for the planned time travel story in Star Trek 4.

It is possible that this is all a negotiating tactic which will be worked out. If not, Paramount might come down to a choice of paying more in hopes of long term profits from the movie series versus recasting. If they recast Pine and Hemsworth, this then leaves open the question of a recasting the rest of the crew–which then might include Chekov following the death of Anton Yelchin.

It seems to me that with it coming down to money, another possibility might be to give in to Chris Pine, who is far more important for continuity. It would be far easier to have a different actor play George Kirk, who only appeared briefly in the first movie, unless they were counting on Hemsworth bringing in a larger audience.  If they do want a big name actor to play Kirk’s father, but one who might not be in as much demand as Chris Hemsworth, what about William Shatner? He does currently look like he could be Jim Kirk’s father, but that would have been more feasible if George Kirk had lived to an older age.

Speaking of William Shatner:

Except that I don’t think that only having played a Captain on television would change Trump’s mind about hiring him. Space Force has probably been the most popular meme on political sites this week, including one based upon Arrival below. Some more examples:

While this really has nothing to do with the proposal for Space Force, here is an interesting take on the risk of unintentional interplanetary war. While I don’t know enough about the physics to evaluate it, the article seemed worth looking at. If nothing else, it gives a potential science fiction plot. After I posted this on Facebook, I received a response with this article.