Great News For Late Night Comedians: Donald Trump Appears To Actually Be Running This Time

Donald Trump

Donald Trump spoke of running for president before but many did not take him seriously, seeing it as a publicity stunt or ego boost. Earlier this year he claimed he was serious but few believed him, with most assuming he would continue with The Apprentice. The New Hampshire Union Leader now reports that Trump is dropping The Apprentice and is setting up an exploratory committee:

Donald Trump will launch a presidential exploratory committee Wednesday, the eve of the business mogul’s return to New Hampshire.

A senior adviser tells the New Hampshire Union Leader that Trump will not be renewing his contract with NBC for the reality television “Apprentice” series.

Combined with staff hires, Trump’s announcement that he will form an exploratory committee for the first time is a sign the billionaire is seriously considering running for the Republican nomination.

Trump as released this announcement:

I have a great love for our country, but it is a country that is in serious trouble. We have lost the respect of the entire world. Americans deserve better than what they get from their politicians – who are all talk and no action! I have built a great company, created thousands of jobs and built a tremendous net worth with some of the finest and most prestigious assets in the world – and very little debt! All Americans deserve the same opportunity. Our real unemployment rate is staggering while our manufacturing base is eroding on a daily basis. We must rebuild our infrastructure, control our borders, support local control of education, greatly strengthen our military, care for our veterans and put Americans back to work! We must stop other countries from totally taking advantage of our representatives who are being out-negotiated at every turn. I am the only one who can make America truly great again!

This reminds me of what Andy Borowitz once said: “If Trump can do the same magic that he did for NBC, the USA will be the #4 country in the world.”

To his credit, Trump was often critical of George Bush, but during the Obama presidency his political views aligned with the extreme right. He has provided far more material for comedians than serious political comment. He was a strong Birther, claiming Obama was not born in the United States. Jimmy Fallon was among the late night comedians who mocked Trump on this: “Hey, Congratulations to Donald Trump, who just welcomed his fourth grandchild! You could tell it was Trump?s grandchild because as soon as it came out, it demanded to see its own birth certificate.” Jimmy Kimmel quipped, “President Obama celebrated Passover with a Seder at the White House. This morning, Donald Trump demanded to see Obama’s Bar Mitzvah certificate.” Conan O’Brien added, “On Fox News, Donald Trump said Obama’s birth certificate could indicate that he’s a Muslim. Trump said he doesn’t trust anyone with a foreign-sounding name, and neither does his daughter Ivanka.”

Obama mocked him at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner:

“Donald Trump is here tonight,” the comedian in chief said, grinning. “Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is prouder to put this birth certificate to rest than The Donald. Now he can get to focusing on the issues that matter. Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened at Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”

Seth Meyers also joked about Trump at the dinner, including one joke which also mocked John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as running mate. He noted that Trump owns the Miss USA Pageant, “which is great for Republicans because it will streamline the search for a vice president.”

David Letterman mocked the idea of a Republican race with both Donald Trump and Sarah Palin in it in 2010:

Sarah Palin says she’s going to run for President in 2012. 2012. Donald Trump said he’s going to run for President in 2012 against Sarah Palin. Nice to know there will somebody equally unqualified…Now that would be some presidential race. You’ve got Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and the debates. Get there early and get some seats down front for those debates. ‘You’re fired, you becha.’

Trump later canceled an appearance with David Letterman in 2011 after Letterman mocked Trump’s attacks on Obama, saying they “smack of racism.”

Trump joined the Global Warming denialists by asking, “It’s cold outside…so where’s the global warming?” He changed from pro-choice to opposing abortion. “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives,’’ according to the executive vice president of the Trump Organization.

Donald Trump will clearly  make the Republican circus more amusing.

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Clinton’s Use Of Private Email Suggests Democrats Need To Consider A Plan B For 2016

Clinton Email

The reports I discussed yesterday regarding Hillary Clinton using private email as Secretary of State are leading some, such as Frank Rich, to wonder if Democrats need a backup plan for 2016. A follow up story in The New York Times reports how Clinton used her private email to thwart requests for information, including requests from Congress and Freedom of Information requests from journalists. These ethical breaches by Hillary Clinton are of particular concern taking place so soon after scandals in the Bush administration regarding private use of email, making many liberals besides myself question why Clinton could have done something so foolish.

As The Guardian summarized the significance of the news:

It leaves Clinton vulnerable to at least three lines of criticism: that she potentially broke fundamental rules governing the handling and security of state secrets; that she skirted around guidelines put in place to ensure historical accountability and transparency within high public office; and the political attack that she must have had something to hide.

Perhaps the most serious accusation facing Clinton is that she may have breached one of the fundamental tenets of classified information. J William Leonard, former director of the body that keeps watch over executive branch secrets, the Information Security Oversight Office, told the Guardian that if Clinton had dealt with confidential government matters through her personal email, that would have been problematic. “There is no such thing as personal copies of classified information. All classified information belongs to the US government and it should never leave the control of the government.”

The Associated Press is considering legal action in response to her failure to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests for email:

The unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official running her own email server would have given Clinton — who is expected to run for president in the 2016 campaign — significant control over limiting access to her message archives.

It also would complicate the State Department’s legal responsibilities in finding and turning over official emails in response to any investigations, lawsuits or public records requests. The department would be the position of accepting Clinton’s assurances she was surrendering everything required that was in her control…

The AP said Wednesday it was considering taking legal action against the State Department for failing to turn over some emails covering Clinton’s tenure as the nation’s top diplomat after waiting more than one year. The department has failed to meet several self-imposed deadlines but has never suggested that it doesn’t possess all Clinton’s emails.

Having checked more coverage in the media and blogosphere since my initial post, I was pleased to see that most liberal bloggers I read did question Clinton’s conduct. For example, rather than a partisan defense Steve Benen‘s post raised the same objective points:

There’s no shortage of problematic angles to this. Obviously, there’s the question of transparency and compliance with the Federal Records Act. Clinton wasn’t the first Secretary of State to make use of a personal email account – Colin Powell did the same thing during his tenure in the Bush/Cheney administration – but preservation rules have changed and Clinton apparently faced more stringent requirements.
There’s also the matter of security: as Secretary of State, Clinton sent and received highly sensitive information on a daily basis, including classified materials, from officials around the world. By relying on private email, instead of an encrypted State Department account, Clinton may have created a security risk.

Other liberal bloggers have been far harder on Clinton.  Clinton is also receiving criticism on MSNBC, as opposed to the partisan defense we would expect in the reverse situation from Fox. Needless to say, conservatives tended to be quite critical, and  hypocritical, usually ignoring the comparable use of private email by many Republicans, including officials in the Bush administration, Chris Christie, and Sarah Palin.

It was disappointing but not surprising to see that the Clintonistas did quickly get some writers out to defend Clinton. Typically their defenses were no more honest than a report from Fox. Defenses of Clinton tended to concentrate on the arguing that Clinton did not actually break the law. This is definitely a case of moving the goal posts and possibly also incorrect. The initial articles raising these concerns did note that Clinton may have broken the law and with the complexity of the regulations involved avoided a definite conclusion, but it was her conduct and judgment, not whether she was in violation of the law, which is the heart of the issue.  The defenses of Clinton point out that Colin Powell used private email, but ignore the changes in regulations made in 2009 which “required that all emails be preserved as part of an agency’s record-keeping system.” Her defenders have also ignored the more stringent requirements put into place in 2011. As a consequence of these rules changes, John Kerry has used government email for his communications, as has Barack Obama since taking office in 2009.

Many of the other defenses of Clinton are rather trivial attacks on the journalist who wrote the story. The statements that these revelations came out as part of the Benghazi hearings is contradicted with finding a journalist who had reported on this previously. This is analogous to the debates as to who discovered America. Finding that someone had previously reported on Clinton’s private email does not change the substance of this story any more than discovering that Vikings beat Columbus to America substantially other facts regarding American  history post-Columbus.

The rapid release of such dishonest defenses of Clinton by her allies is yet another reason why I would hate to see Hillary Clinton as president. I have always been disturbed by the degree of secrecy when she was working on health care reform, her push for war against Iraq based upon fictitious claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, along with many questionable statements I’ve heard from her over the years. Electing Clinton would be a great blow to honesty and transparency in government. Democrats should be able to do better.

There is no question that Clinton was at least skirting the rules in effect when she became Secretary of State, if not outright breaking them. Her honesty has already been a serious question. Someone with a reputation for dishonesty and lack of transparency should have realized that this would only make matters worse. Her credibility, already in question, will be even lower when there is always the question of secret emails looming. Republicans will be able to drag out their hearings on Benghazi even longer because of this. If she runs against Jeb Bush she would be on the defensive over transparency after the release of his emails. Clinton has never been a very good campaigner, and her lack of judgment in this matter only raise.

Update: Hillary Clinton On Private Email 2007 And 2015

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Did Hillary Clinton Learn Anything During All Her Years In Politics?

The report in The New York Times that Hillary Clinton used a private email account while Secretary of State, possibly violating the law, has me wondering whether Hillary Clinton has learned anything during her years in public life. There is no doubt that the majority of attacks on Clinton from the right are bogus. To a certain degree these attacks even give her some protection among thinking people who have seen right wing attacks and conspiracy theories, such as those over Benghazi, constantly being debunked. However this does not mean that there are not people beyond the Fox sheep, including myself, who still have concerns regarding the judgement and integrity of Hillary Clinton. This only increases such concerns, along with concerns about secrecy and lack of transparency on the part of the Clintons.

Hillary Clinton followed the same procedures as Colin Powell before her, and many other politicians, such as Chris Christie and Sarah Palin, have had problems with using private email accounts. In contrast, John Kerry and Barack Obama use secure government email systems. Clinton’s actions look worse in historical context, following the scandals and reckless disregard for transparency during the Bush administration, just before she became Secretary of State. It is also reasonable to hold a Secretary of State, with aspirations to become president, to a higher standard than a corrupt Governor of New Jersey and the incompetent half-term former governor of Alaska. We have low expectations of people such as Christie and Palin, but should expect more of a potential Democratic candidate for president.

Hillary Clinton, if she has any real awareness of her public reputation, should have been aware of how this would have looked. Beyond the legal and security issues this raises, there is the simple question of whether she should have known better, even if no evidence of actual dishonesty is uncovered. Democrats should also have learned something about Clinton in light of her conduct during her 2008 campaign. In retrospect. Jeb Bush now looks far smarter for having released his email, despite the embarrassment of including some private information on constituents which should have been redacted.

Update: Clinton’s Use Of Private Email Suggests Democrats Need To Consider A Plan B For 2016. Plus response to the initial reports, and concerns over national security and use of private email to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests.

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A Day In Conservative Stupidity: Three Examples

palin-finger-two

The conservative movement has become totally divorced from reality, often denying science and facts to make their positions. Here’s just three examples from the past day.

Conservatives Hate Historical Facts

Conservatives hate actual American history as the facts contradict so many of their claims. As Joseph Ellis has explained, the Founding Fathers established a secular state with overlapping sources of authority and a blurring of jurisdiction between federal and state power. Conservative claims of states’ rights and claims that the United States was founded as a Christian nation do not hold up. Oklahoma has a unique answer to teaching all those inconvenient facts in Advanced Placement History classes. Republicans there want to eliminate the AP classes and replace them classes which include the Ten Commandments and three speeches by Ronald Reagan.

Some Conservatives Still Think Obama Is A Muslim

The American Thinker is still making the conservative claim that Obama is a Muslim. Their evidence is a picture of Obama with a raised finger:

Is President Obama a Muslim?  A lot has been written about this, but if photographs speak louder than words, then a photo taken at last August’s U.S.-African Leaders’ Summit in Washington D.C. might shed considerable light.

It shows Barack Hussein Obama flashing the one-finger affirmation of Islamic faith to dozens of African delegates.

Steve M. gathered pictures of several other people who are also Muslims by this logic. The pictures include: Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Ben Carson, Scott Walker, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, Andrew Breitbart, and Pam Geller. Who knew that the conservative movement was infiltrated by Muslims to this degree.

Conservatives Still Lack Any Actual Facts To Support Their Arguments Against Obamacare

Bill Maher called them Zombie Lies. Conservatives lack any real facts to dispute what a tremendous success Obamacare has become so they tell the same lies over and over, even when repeatedly proven to be lies. They are lies which just don’t die, because conservatives don’t care about facts. Jonathan Chait reviewed the latest claims from Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation. See the full article to see how Chait shows that Moore’s claims are demonstrably wrong and that, “There is not a single substantive claim in this column that appears to be true.”

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SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; The 100; Supergirl; Person of Interest; The End of Parenthood and Parks and Recreation & The Decline of NBC; 12 Monkeys; Netflix Marvel Series; The Americans; Sleepy Hollow; The End of The Marvel Universe; The Humor Of Sarah Palin; Mellisa Raunch Sex Scene

Agents of Shield Coulson Skye

Agents of SHIELD has come a long way from the first season. While they always hinted there was something special about Skye, they didn’t have the payoff on this plotline until the midseason finale with her conversion to an Inhuman. This might have major ramifications for her relationship with Coulson:

Executive producer Jeph Loeb says that the current Inhumans plotline has always been the plan for “Agents of SHIELD.” Like they always knew that Grant Ward was going to be HYDRA in Season 1, the seeds of Skye being something other were planned in the pilot.

“Once we started down that road hopefully you were coming along for the adventure, and now that you’ve come along for the adventure one of the things that’s so amazing about what’s happening on that show is so now we know she has gone through a transformation,” he says. “How is everyone going to react to that? And in the same kind of way you’re asking as an audience member, one of the things that I think is really valuable and one of the things that I think Jed [Whedon] and Maurissa [Tancharoen] and Jeff Bell and the writing staff really do have a great feeling for is they are audience members. The writers room sits around and tries to come up with, ‘What is it that you think we’re going to do and how can we then turn that on its ear in a way that makes it feel like it’s fun and valuable?'”

Blood says “SHIELD” has often gone in a different ways from what he expected. He says the latest script he read “just turned another corner,” and that audiences will “be surprised of a lot of stuff that’s coming up.” Because the SHIELD team doesn’t know about the term “Inhumans” like audiences do, Blood says “it’s going to be something that is unraveled.” He has yet to find out where the storyline is going.

The obvious turn would be that Coulson helps Skye — someone Gregg says is the “the person he cares about most” — through her transformation into an Inhuman. But what if he views her as a threat instead of an ally because of her new powers?

“His no. 1 job is to be responsible for SHIELD, which he views as being responsible for the safety of billions of people from things they don’t know about. That’s what SHIELD is. No matter how much he loves Skye — and it’s as much as you can love somebody — it’s the closest thing to a daughter he has. That’s a sacred trust,” Gregg says. “I hope he doesn’t get put in that situation [where she is a threat] because it would mess him up.”

He teases there will be trouble within SHIELD in the aftermath of Trip’s death and Skye’s transformation. “I don’t think the whole team is going to be unified behind what just went on, and it’s hard to blame them. He’s got a couple of people that he’s come to really trust,” Gregg says. “One of my favorite things about this season is that everybody comes up to me on the street really worried about Fitz and these new characters we introduced this year. Coulson also has these new people … he doesn’t have the same type of history with those people. It’s going to be hard to hold the baby brand new, on the run SHIELD together in the wake of what just happened.”

There’s also the question of Bobbi’s secret, which Blood says is as big a mystery in the second half of Season 2 as who the man with no eyes is. “I honestly think people are going to freak when they see some of the stuff we’ve been filming recently,” he says.

The 100
The 100 returned last week and the events of the fall finale continued to have a major impact on the characters. While I originally did not watch this show, thinking it was another CW show putting attractive young people in a sci-fi scenario which has been done before, I found that this was far better done than I anticipated.

Yes, it does have its attractive young cast members, led by Eliza Taylor as Clarke Griffin, who does an excellent job in the role. (Having binged on the first one and one-half seasons over a weekend, I did notice that Eliza Taylor does show less cleavage in the second season, which must have been a conscious decision by the producers considering that the characters couldn’t just run out to clothing stores in this post-apocalyptic world to change their wardrobe). There are also the CW love triangles, but they do not distract from the stories. Both the characterization and plot lines have been strong, even when going where other shows have gone before. Bustle and The Mary Sue both have posts on why you should watch the show.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

CBS has chosen Melissa Benoist to play the lead role on Supergirl. Previous reports on the show have described it as more of a CBS procedural with Supergirl as a feminist investigating crimes, but with cross overs possible with the CW shows Arrow and The Flash.

CBS is showing success with another mixture between procedural and genre with Person of Interest. The show started out as a procedural show with a science fiction gimmick to propel it, and has evolved to what might be seen in the future as “a modern sci-fi epic that is considered a must-see show along the lines of Firefly or Battlestar Galactica…”

Many blogs and podcasts, along with this thread on Reddit, have looked at the question of how someone could get caught up with the show without watching all the old episodes. The purely procedural episodes of the first two seasons are mostly unnecessary to appreciate the more recent episodes since the show evolved into a more significant science fiction series, but it is hard to say exactly what can be skipped and must be watched as often early episodes would have a few minute segment towards the end to slowly develop the mythology in addition to the number of the week story.

There have been some posts, such as here and here, which might help in listing some of the more essential episodes. It would really be helpful if some of the other mythology segments which are only small parts of other episodes could be accumulated in a video.

Parks and Recreation

Time looked at the politics of Parks and Recreation, which is concluding its run on NBC.

But there’s a big idea in Parks’ small-scale vision. In the frame of today’s politics, it might be a liberal notion, but it’s one that for much of the 20th century was centrist, and even championed by Republicans like park lover Teddy Roosevelt: that we need government to do things the private sector can’t or won’t, like preserving public spaces.

Shockingly, Parks has dared to suggest that while some civil servants might be bumbling–sorry, Jerry!–they can also be well-intentioned and competent. (This too wasn’t considered a liberal notion before the era when Ronald Reagan joked that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”) Leslie is comically tenacious–Poehler plays her as a cheerfully overprepared super-wonk–but she’s good at what she does and is driven by a fierce love for her hometown as well as its famous waffles…

Leslie can’t do it alone, though: she’s assisted by a network of co-workers and friends (played by a comedy-powerhouse cast, many of whom–like Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza and Aziz Ansari–have deservingly become stars). Even her former supervisor Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) admires Leslie’s commitment, even though he’s so libertarian, he once illustrated the evils of taxation to a fourth grader by eating 40% of her lunch. Parks argues not only that we need our neighbors’ help but that helping makes us better ourselves; it’s in the small-town, populist tradition of Friday Night Lights and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Parenthood Series Finale

When I recently posted my list of top television shows of the year, I noted how little representation the major broadcast networks had on the list. Perhaps the biggest decline is being seen at NBC. They will soon be without two of their highest quality returning shows. Besides trying to run through Parks and Recreation as quickly as possible,  Parenthood concludes this week, apparently with Lorelei Gilmore marrying Ray Romano. If it ends with Zeke dying, I’m imaging angry mobs storming Rockefeller Center. After these are gone they will still have some shows worth watching, most notably Hannibal, which I’m amazed a network is broadcasting, but the lineup of quality shows will sure be thin. Their announcements of upcoming shows is being greeted with far more snark than interest.

In the past NBC would often be the home of some of the highest quality drama shows on television, such as The West WingFriday Night Lights, I’ll Fly Away, and St. Elsewhere. They probably had better ratings success with some, but not all of their sitcoms, which included shows such as Cheers, Frasier, Friends, Community, 30 Rock, and Will and Grace. Going further back, it was also the home of some classic genre shows such as the original Star Trek and The Man From UNCLE. (We won’t talk about some of their more recent attempts at genre such as Revolution, The Cape and Heroes after the first season.)

So, what happened to NBC? I suspect that that it is a victim of otherwise good changes in television. Writers and producers for many high quality shows are now going to cable and streaming networks, where they can develop an audience without the need for netw0rk-level ratings. (In the case of Community, it is moving directly from NBC following cancellation by NBC, with the first two episodes to be streamed by Yahoo! on March 17.) It will be a challenge for NBC to attract this type of quality show in the future, and it is questionable as to whether they even care considering that lower quality shows will probably deliver higher ratings.

Increasingly cable or smaller networks owned by the major networks are offering higher quality shows than the major networks. FX and FXX are offering some of the best shows on basic cable. CBS has Showtime and CW, with The CW Network  turning into one of the strongest networks, especially for genre, as it attracts a totally different audience than CBS. NBC/Universal have even lagged behind other cable networks which have produced better science fiction than its Syfy Network.

12Monkeys_gallery_102Recap_04

Syfy is finally trying to compete with hard science fiction. 12 Monkeys remains promising after the second episode, which aired Friday and was available for streaming last week. With Leland Goines dead, his daughter Jennifer becomes a major character. Her character in an insane asylum serves as an alternate version of the Brad Pitt character in the movie. As discussed previously, the television show can cover far more ground with changes such as having the ability to change time and with the Army of the 12 Monkeys playing a more significant role.

I saw a posted link here which supposedly allows streaming of the third episode for cable subscribers in the United States but it would not allow viewing through either my Charter or Xfinity account. I’m posting the link in case it works for other cable systems, or if it becomes active later. The first two episodes are available for streaming there.

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Netflix has released a brief synopsis for their upcoming Marvel shows. While previous reports suggested that we might have to wait a year between shows, it looks like the Jessica Jones show (staring Krysten Ritter) will be out sometime later this year.

Daredevil
“Marvel’s Daredevil” is a live action series that follows the journey of attorney Matt Murdock, who in a tragic accident was blinded as a boy but imbued with extraordinary senses. Murdock sets up practice in his old neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, New York where he now fights against injustice as a respected lawyer by day and masked vigilante at night. Coming April 10

A.K.A. Jessica Jones
Working as a private investigator in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, a troubled ex-superhero’s past comes back to haunt her in the live-action series, “Marvel’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones.” Coming 2015

Iron Fist
“Marvel’s Iron Fist” follows superhero and martial arts master Danny Rand in the upcoming live-action series. Coming soon

Luke Cage
In this Marvel live-action series, a street-fighting ex-con battles crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen as the superhero Luke Cage. Coming soon

The Defenders
“Marvel’s The Defenders” brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Luke Cage in an epic superhero team-up in New York City. Coming soon

The Americans returns this week. Unreality Primetime has a couple spoilers on upcoming episodes. The season three trailer is above.

Can Henry be redeemed? The cast of Sleepy Hollow answer questions such as this in videos available here.

The Marvel universe ends as we know it in the comics this spring.

Who needs Tina Fey to mock Sarah Palin? Her own words are ridiculous enough. Check out the reaction to her latest speech from Twitter.

bronze

Melissa Raunch of The Big Bang Theory has received a lot of attention at Sundance for her raunchy sex scene in The Bronze.

“The Bronze” kicked off the 2015 edition of the Sundance Film Festival on a foul-mouthed note Thursday, sticking a dagger through the concept of hometown heroes and providing one of the raunchiest sex sequences in movie history.

The scene in question, one that involves pole vaults, cartwheels and pirouettes, was a constant source of amusement during a question and answer period immediately following the film’s premiere at the Eccles Theater.

“Right after this there’s going to be an audition for the sex scene in the sequel,” joked director Bryan Buckley.

Melissa Rauch, the star of the film and its cowriter along with husband Winston Rauch, said, “As for the sex scene, you write what you know.”

Her husband added that it gave the couple a chance to “show you what we do in our bedroom.”

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Obama Approval Reaches 48%

Obama Affordable Care Act

Gallup reports that President Obama’s job approval has increased to 48 percent, the highest since August, 2013. This matches his disapproval rate, being the first time this gap has not been negative since September, 2013. They don’t give firm data to explain this improvement, but note that this partially can be explained by an improvement among Hispanics. They further speculate that the increase might be due to improved views on the economy, as well as people being more generous in their ratings around Christmas.

I wonder if other factors are involved, including his recent successes on foreign policy, the disappearance of the Ebola crisis in the United States which Republicans spread considerable misinformation about prior to the midterm elections, and the success of the Affordable Care Act.

As a sign of how desperate conservatives are to deny the considerable success of Obamacare in both expanding insurance coverage and making it more affordable, they are going further in cherry picking and distorting statements from Jonathan Gruber going back to 2009, with many conservative sites falsely calling him both the architect of Obamacare and its leading spokesman. Strangely, they don’t pay any attention to the far greater statements from him on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. The Tea Party New Network, which is essentially a dishonest propaganda outlet like Fox but more honest about its political position, even defends Sarah Palin for her rants about death panels, and repeats all the other claims greatly distorted by conservatives. Their complaints about Obama’s poorly worded statements about keeping one’s own doctor or insurance are hardly meaningful considering that their policies would greatly increase the likelihood that people would lose their doctor and insurance, while Obamacare (even if unable to guarantee this will never happen in a market-based system) greatly reduces this risk.

Obama’s improvement in the polls could be a consequence of him becoming more aggressive after the midterm elections, no longer being fearful of taking actions which might place Democratic candidates at risk in red states (a foolish plan which backfired when it led to Democrats staying home). I believe that the Democrats would have still lost seats because of the seats which were up for grabs in 2014, but would have done better if they hadn’t run as Republican-lite. On the other hand,  Dan Pfeiffer told Huffington Post that he believes that if Obama had not waited until after the election, his actions would have been overwhelmed by politics.

The big question is whether this is a transient bounce or if this improvement will continue. Either way his approval is certainly far greater than for Congress. The Republican Congress might give Obama an opportunity to gain further public support if the Republicans actually proceed to pass legislation pushing many elements of their agenda which will be unpopular with a majority of American voters.

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St. Louis Police Oppose Non Violent Protest By Football Players

The controversy over the decision not to indict Darren Wilson extended to football this weekend when five of the St. Louis Rams plays entered the stadium with their hands raised. This was in reference to the eye witnesses who testified before the grand jury that Michael Brown had his hands raised, attempting to surrender, when he was shot to death. These players were engaging in their right to freedom of expression in a peaceful manner.

While I can understand that the police would not be happy to see this, I am disturbed by their reaction. ESPN reports:

The St. Louis Police Officers Association called for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a “very public apology,” its statement read in part.

“I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights,” SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda said in the statement. “Well, I’ve got news for people who think that way: Cops have First Amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

It is understandable for anyone to be upset violent protests but this was a totally peaceful expression of their views. The SLPOA has the idea of the First Amendment totally backwards if they think that the First Amendment was designed for the police to try to shut down protests. I haven’t heard such a confused interpretation of the First Amendment since Sarah Palin expressed the belief it was to protect her from questioning by the media.

While I don’t condone those who are violent, I am also disturbed by the implicit idea of separating the good (you can almost hear white) people of St. Louis and other NFL towns from those (black) people who are protesting, not all of whom are protesting violently. Those football players certainly were engaged in non-violent protest.

The SLPOA took  advantage of unfair nature of the grand jury proceedings to falsely claim that this exonerated Wilson:

“SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda said, “now that the evidence is in and Officer Wilson’s account has been verified by physical and ballistic evidence as well as eye-witness testimony, which led the grand jury to conclude that no probable cause existed that Wilson engaged in any wrongdoing, it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again.”

The argument that there was probable cause to indict Wilson, despite the ruling of the grand jury, was never disproven. Both physical evidence and eye witnesses contradict Wilson’s statement. As I discussed here and here, the grand jury proceedings were highly irregular, with the prosecutor essentially acting as the defense, leading the grand jury to come to a decision not to indict. There were also irregularities in the collection of evidence after the shooting.

It is shocking that it has suddenly become controversial in this country to insist that a police officer who shot an unarmed person, who some eye witnesses say was trying to surrender, should have to face cross examination when giving his testimony. There is an incestuous relationship between the police and prosecutor’s office with the prosecutor seeing the police on his side, desiring to protect them. Grand juries are generally used to present the case for indictment, not to present the defense case. Why is it that conservatives who generally distrust the government are suddenly showing complete trust when an unarmed black kid is killed, despite clear abuses of the system by the prosecutor? There is certainly room for disagreement about Wilson’s guilt based upon the evidence presented, both supporting and contradicting Wilson,  but this should be dealt with under normal trial rules, with an adversarial proceeding including  cross examination of the witnesses, not a sham proceeding rigged to exonerate Wilson.

It is only understandable that people will be driven to protest considering the irregularities in this case. This includes football players, who also have the right to freedom of expression. Fortunately the NFL understood this and Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s VP of communications, responded to the SLPOA with this statement, declining to initiate disciplinary action against the players:  “We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.”

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Agent Carter; Under The Dome; True Blood (vs. Sarah Palin); Utopia; Sleepy Hollow; Doctor Who (and flirting); Big Bang Theory;Allison Williams as Peter Pan

Arrow Selfie

This picture of the cast of Arrow might very well be the best selfie to come out of Comic-Con last weekend. The latest news on Arrow is that Charlotte Ross  has been cast as Felicity’s mother. Last week Collider asked Stephen Amel about topics including the Justice League and Oliver’s true love at Comic-Con:

Are you happy you don’t have to answer any more Justice League questions?

Stephen Amell: Yes — and by the way, there’s a The Flash show, we have Firestorm, we have Canary, we have The Atom… The actual Justice League film — I don’t know when that’s coming out. You can watch The Justice League on television now. But the reason I’m happy to not have to answer the question anymore is because I think it undersold what we did on TV. I would put our degree of difficulty – having to produce twenty-two episodes of television every year, spinning off the show, giving people the confidence to green-light other DC properties — up there with producing a two hundred million dollar film. They’re very different things. I never want to feel as though our existence is only going to be justified by being part of the cinematic universe. That has nothing to do with anything. We are stamping out our own spot.

[What is the romantic situation like for Oliver this season?]

Stephen Amell: There’s one lady in Oliver’s life.

Just one?

Stephen Amell: Just one. There’s one woman in Oliver’s life this year.

Is that his sister?

Stephen Amell: No — it’s Felicity.

It just seems he’s got Sarah out there and Laurel…

Stephen Amell: The ship has sailed on those romances. I don’t think we’ll ever see Oliver & Sarah or Oliver & Laurel together again. I mean – they’ll be together but just not ‘together-together’. They’ll be teammates. We discover in the premiere the way that Oliver feels about Felicity. Because of that — if we just introduced random love interests, it would undersell what we do in the premiere.

How aware are you of the direction of the character throughout this season and for future seasons as well?

Stephen Amell: I really do think we are moving to a spot where we will refer to my character as ‘The Green Arrow’. We are moving to a spot where we will continue to embrace the fundamental classic elements of the character. Because we have that license now. We’re 46 episodes in. People like it. They buy into it. But unless this character is evolving — The Hood to Arrow to The Green Arrow — then people are going to lose interest. So I always want there to be a journey for him. And this year’s journey is really interesting.

Does that evolution involve the goatee?

Stephen Amell: No.

There’s more information on Agent Carter in the above interview with Hayley Atwell. The show is being described as being like Fargo or True Detective in being like an eight hour movie, and it sounds like it takes place before the formation of SHIELD. It might also contain one major Marvel villain who is unnamed. Also above is the full Agent Carter panel from Comic-Con.

Under the Locker

After True Blood, Under the Dome has to be the worst show I watch. Among its many faults, anything can happen with no apparent rules. In one recent episode there was reason to have a character get a message from outside to propel the plot so for an unknown reason email briefly went through, and then stopped again. Last week they checked out the locker at the site of the death of a character and found that there was a tunnel coming out of the locker. Does it go deep enough underground to get under the dome?

I’ve also wondered since the start of the show why there is not major activity going on outside the dome to try to both figure out what it is and how to get through it, including an effort to tunnel underneath from outside.

Despite all the implausible things which happen, the show somehow remains interesting to watch. On the other hand, I primarily stick with True Blood because I’ve gone on this long and want to see the ending. I had hoped that with this being the final season they would come up with a better storyline to end the series, but so far they have not done this. I can’t even blame Sarah Palin for her snub of the show in response to attacks such as calling her type of people (even if more monstrous than many of the characters on True Blood) Republic*nts.

Utopia has been the best summer genre show on, but as it has not aired in the United States I will avoid any spoilers. I was concerned by the end of the first season whether they could keep up the quality of the show once they began to reveal the secrets behind the conspiracy. They are pulling this off well in the second season. The first episode was a flash back which fills in may of the details about the conspiracy and how the major characters are interconnected. From there, instead of being a mystery about what is going on, the series has done an excellent job of moving on with the story now that we understand the full setup.

New trailer for season two of Sleepy Hollow above. More videos here.

Doctor Who Entertainment Weekly Capaldi

Back in July, 2012 Doctor Who made news by being the first British television show to make the cover of Entertainment Weekly. The show has returned several more times as it has become a bigger hit in the United States, including this week as we head towards the introduction of a new Doctor.

On August 23, Peter Capaldi will begin his first season starring in Doctor Who when the long-running British science-fiction show returns to BBC America. But it wasn’t so long ago that the Scottish actor and lifelong Who fan was certain he would never get his hands on the controls of the Time Lord’s TARDIS. “I wouldn’t have thought I would be the guy,” Capaldi says. “I wouldn’t have thought it would be me.” Why not? “Because of my age. I would have thought they were automatically heading younger.”

It was a reasonable assumption to make. At 56, Capaldi is roughly the same age as William Hartnell when he originated the role of the two-hearted, monster-battling alien way back in 1963. But since the BBC relaunched Doctor Who in 2005 after a lengthy hiatus, the actors playing the lead role have all been younger than Capaldi—and have gotten younger over time. The first of the new Doctors, Christopher Eccleston, was 41 when he first appeared on the show, while his successor David Tennant was 34. Capaldi’s immediate predecessor Matt Smith was just 26 when he was cast in the role.

But what Capaldi saw as a barrier to him playing the Doctor was actually an asset as far as Doctor Who executive producer and head writer Steven Moffat was concerned. “I did say, ‘No, we probably won’t end up with another quirky young man,’” says Moffat. “I didn’t think there was any space around Matt to have another Doctor of that kind, because he sort of sums up what you could do with that. I very very quickly, very quickly just thought about Peter. There is no right age to be the Doctor.”

Capaldi agrees. “I’m technically too young for the part,” chuckles the actor. “Because he’s over 2,000 years old.”

In contrast to Matt Smith and David Tennant, Peter Capaldi will not be flirting with his companion:

Incoming Doctor Who Peter Capaldi has revealed there will be no flirting with co-star Jenna Coleman in the new series.

The previous Doctor was engaged in a close relationship with his sidekick Clara that even led to a passionate kiss.

But Capaldi, 56, insisted his Time Lord would not be following in Matt Smith’s footsteps by getting intimate with 28-year-old Coleman’s character.

“There’ll be no flirting, that’s for sure,” he told the Sunday Times Magazine. “It’s not what this Doctor’s concerned with. It’s quite a fun relationship, but no, I did call and say, ‘I want no Papa-Nicole moments’. I think there was a bit of tension with that at first, but I was absolutely adamant.”

The Papa-Nicole comment relates to a series of 1990s Renault Clio car adverts which hinted at a romance between an older man and a younger woman, before they were revealed to be father and daughter.

Capaldi also had good news for those Doctor Who purists who believe the show’s storylines have become over the top.

“It’s going to be a bit different from what we’ve seen over recent years. A bit more gravity,” he said. “Some situations are more sombre and I think there are more rooted dramatic scenes. Over the past two or three years, which I’ve loved, there has often been a breathless vigour; we still have that attack, but we have another level of drama, another tone. And the scenes are longer.”

Big Bang Theory Cast

There’s optimistic news that the contracts will be settled with the cast of The Big Bang Theory. While filming has been postponed due to the lack of a contract, I don’t think anyone doubts that it is has just been a matter of haggling over exact dollar amounts and this will ultimately be settled, whether or not the stars get the full one million dollars per episode they are demanding. Both sides have have good reason to eventually come to an agreement.

Allison Williams

NBC is following up their live broadcast of The Sound of Music with Peter Pan. Allison Williams of Girls has been cast in the title role. She says she has wanted to play Peter Pan since she was three years old. While she very well might have obtained the role without any help, it might not have hurt to have some major connections with NBC. While excited about the role, Williams wonders, “what could go wrong in a live televised production with simultaneous flying, sword fighting and singing?”

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Sarah Palin Adds New Litmus Test To Far Right Wing GOP Agenda: Impeaching Obama

sarah palin

There were times when Republicans were divided by real ideological differences, such as the Goldwater versus Rockefeller wings of the party. Since then nearly the entire Republican Party has moved so far to the extreme right that not only would Rockefeller be too liberal but so would Barry Goldwater with his strong opposition to the religious right. In the 1960’s conservative leaders such as William F. Buckley, Jr. worked to keep extremists such as the Birchers out of the GOP. Now their modern day equivalents in the Tea Party set the agenda for the party, with internal party debates limited to matters of how far to go in their tactics.

Dana Milbank described the current position of the Republican Party:

Imperial Japan taught its soldiers that death was preferable to surrender. The tea party’s code is similar: Stand firm, regardless of the odds of success or the consequences of failure. I’ve argued before that the struggle between the Republican establishment and the tea party is no longer about ideology — establishment figures have mostly co-opted tea party views — but about temperament.

It has become the amiable vs. the angry, the civil vs. the uncivil, a conservatism of the head vs. a conservatism of the spleen. The division now is between those who would govern and those who would sooner burn the whole place to the ground…

In past years Ronald Reagan would not hesitate to raise the debt ceiling to cover the nation’s debts. Now the Republican establishment fights with the Tea Party over whether to shut down the government over this.

Sarah Palin has now established a new litmus test for the establishment versus bat-shit crazy Republicans–impeachment of Barack Obama over immigration:

Without borders, there is no nation. Obama knows this. Opening our borders to a flood of illegal immigrants is deliberate. This is his fundamental transformation of America. It’s the only promise he has kept. Discrediting the price paid for America’s exceptionalism over our history, he’s given false hope and taxpayer’s change to millions of foreign nationals who want to sneak into our country illegally. Because of Obama’s purposeful dereliction of duty an untold number of illegal immigrants will kick off their shoes and come on in, competing against Americans for our jobs and limited public services. There is no end in sight as our president prioritizes parties over doing the job he was hired by voters to do. Securing our borders is obviously fundamental here; it goes without saying that it is his job

President Obama’s rewarding of lawlessness, including his own, is the foundational problem here. It’s not going to get better, and in fact irreparable harm can be done in this lame-duck term as he continues to make up his own laws as he goes along, and, mark my words, will next meddle in the U.S. Court System with appointments that will forever change the basic interpretation of our Constitution’s role in protecting our rights.

It’s time to impeach; and on behalf of American workers and legal immigrants of all backgrounds, we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment.

This could cause new dilemmas for Republicans who fear primary challenges from the right but hope to avoid looking too extreme in a general election. Aaron Blake outlined the choices Republicans now have:

If a significant pro-impeachment portion of the conservative base does materialize — and that’s a big “if” — it will put Republican lawmakers in the unenviable position of responding to questions about whether they, too, agree with the idea of impeachment.

From there, there are three options:

1) Oppose impeachment and risk making yourself a target in the 2016 primary
2) Try to offer a non-response that doesn’t really support or oppose impeachment
3) Support impeachment and, while likely saving your own hide from becoming a target, exacerbate the problem with the larger Republican Party.

So just why is the whole impeachment talk bad for the GOP?

Well, as we’ve said before, it throws a sizable and unpredictable variable into what was already shaping up to be a good election year for Republicans. That same could be said for the Benghazi investigation (though that effort appears to have the support of the American people). The name of the game for the GOP right now is maintaining their edge and trying to win back the Senate. Everything else is noise.

Secondly, it lends credence to Democrats’ argument that Republicans are controlled by the extreme wing of their party. And to the extent that Democrats can make the 2014 election a referendum on the GOP’s conduct in Congress (see: government shutdown), it’s to their benefit.

Lastly, impeachment is a very difficult issue to press. Even in the late 1990s, when an American president had an affair in the White House and then lied about it, support for impeachment was still well shy of a majority — as low as 30 percent.

John Boehner has been caught in the middle of the disputes between the establishment and the Tea Party. If he was really in control he seems like the type who might be willing to compromise with Obama, as Tip O’Neil compromised with Ronald Reagan, and then get back out on the golf course. He has come out against impeachment, realizing what a disaster proceeding with impeachment would be for the Republicans. Once again, this is purely a difference in opinion regarding tactics, with Boehner preferring his frivolous lawsuit against Obama. Paul Begala had this to say about the lawsuit:

As political stunts go, Boehner’s is too transparent for my tastes. And I say this as a guy who has perpetrated some serious stunt work in my political career.
Boehner’s not a bad guy. One gets the sense he’d rather be sharing Marlboros and merlot with Obama than taking him to court. But he is a SINO: Speaker in Name Only. The tea party is driving the GOP train these days, which explains the frequent train wrecks. So, perhaps to appease the tea party bosses, Boehner has decided to sue the President.

But appeasement never works. Highly influential conservative blogger and pundit Erick Erickson calls the Boehner lawsuit “taxpayer-funded political theater” and notes that some of Boehner’s complaints about Obama are political, not legal or constitutional.

Then there’s the small problem of hypocrisy. As the progressive group Americans United for Change notes in this clever ad, Boehner has long opposed citizens’ rights to sue corporations over, say, defective products or gender discrimination in the workplace. He rails against “frivolous lawsuits” — until he decides to file one.

A second way Boehner is being hypocritical is his support for robust executive authority when George W. Bush was exercising it. Bush issued far more executive orders than Obama, going so far as to use his executive authority to authorize waterboarding, which Sen. John McCain flatly describes as torture and a “violation of the Geneva Conventions.”

So, to be clear: Dubya uses his executive authority more often — including to turn Americans into torturers — and Boehner goes along. But Obama uses his executive authority to give businesses more flexibility in complying with Obamacare or to extend family leave to gay couples, and Boehner literally wants to make a federal case of it.

There is no longer any principle behind the actions of Republicans. They supported Bush and Cheney while they  lied the country into a disastrous war, crashed the economy in order to transfer more wealth from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy, and ignored the Constitution with theories such as the Unitary Executive which would give virtually unlimited power to the President and/or Vice President. Now Republicans are united on an extremist, far right wing platform while they fight over matters such as whether to shut down the government or to impeach versus sue the president with no real justification for either.

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Sarah Palin’s Lost Email

When not inventing conspiracy stories regarding Benghazi, conservatives are preoccupied with conspiracy theories about the IRS, primarily spread by looking at investigations of conservative groups while ignoring similar investigation of progressive groups. The lost email has further excited them, despite a policy of only backing up email on IRS servers for about six months, making the claims of lost email appear quite plausible. Surely conservatives are capable of understanding the consequences of government inefficiency, such as a poor backup policy.

Of course the same conservatives who see a conspiracy here showed no concern over the 22 million lost emails under Bush during the controversy over the improper dismissal of U.S.  attorneys for political reasons (when, contrary to the IRS case, there was real evidence on wrong doing). Similarly they ignore the manner in which the Bush administration broke the law by using outside email accounts to avoid detection.

If we are seeing rampant hypocrisy among conservatives, the most flagrant, not surprisingly, is Sarah Palin. Despite all her attacks on Obama over the lost email (which would have nothing to do with him even if Lois Lerner really was hiding something), Palin had a number of missing email of her own:

Perhaps Palin forgot what it was like to be the subject of a similar investigation exactly three years earlier after her office released her emails to the press. On June 13, 2011, the Anchorage Daily News reported that “Nearly a month of former Gov. Sarah Palin’s emails are missing from the documents released to media organizations last week, a gap that raises questions about what other emails might also be missing from what’s being nationally reported as her record as Alaska governor.”

According to the documents Palin’s office provided, she sent no official emails from between December 8, 2006 and December 29, 2006, in other words her first full month in office. As the paper put it, “That means zero emails during a period during which, among other things, Palin put out her proposed state budget, appointed an attorney general, killed the contract for a road out of Juneau and vetoed a bill that sought to block state public employee benefits to same-sex couples.”

The Anchorage Daily News that the gap was due to Palin’s preponderance to use a personal Yahoo email account instead of the official state account, thereby allowing her to hide certain communication from public view. The first email Palin was on record as sending came on January 2, 2007, one month after she took office.

If the IRS deliberately destroyed evidence of wrongdoing by “losing” emails, that would be unacceptable. So far, there is no concrete evidence that that is what happened. Similarly, Palin’s camp never offered an explanation for the missing emails from her office and we will likely never know if they were intentionally trying to hide specific actions.

Either way, Palin’s decision to focus her anger on missing emails has more than a whiff of hypocrisy.

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