SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who: Pyramid At The End Of The World (Or All We Need Is Love); The 100 Finale; CW Superhero Finales; 12 Monkeys Season 3 Binge

The Pyramid At The End Of The World was not as good as Extremis last week, but still an excellent episode. It does have some of the disadvantages of being the middle episode of a trilogy. This also makes it hard to criticize for apparent plot holes as I don’t know if there will be explanations in the finale. 

The episode seemed to once again tease the Doctor’s impending regeneration with this opening: “The end of your life has already begun. There is a last place you will ever go, a last door you will ever walk through, a last sight you will ever see, and every step you ever take is moving you closer. The end of the world is a billion billion tiny moments, and somewhere, unnoticed, in silence or in darkness, it has already begun.”

There was more misdirection as initially it appeared that the crisis involved the risk of conflict between the earth’s military forces, “at the strategic intersection of the three most powerful armies on earth,” but the actual danger was elsewhere. The concept of the Doctor being the President of Earth was always a silly one, but it did turn out to make sense here as Bill’s association with him gave at least slight credence to Bill negotiating with the Monks due to her association with him. Plus it allowed for this line when the term President was first raised: “How would I know the President? I wouldn’t even have voted for him. He’s… orange.” That pause allowed us to fill in many other adjectives.

Now we have poor Bill’s date being interrupted by the UN, after being interrupted in the simulation last week by the Pope. I do wonder why it was the UN and not UNIT.

There are other intrusions from our world beyond the orange president, the Pope, and the UN. Sometimes fictitious search engines are used, but in this episode Google was mentioned. This might be related to changes in BBC policy, with real brand names not being allowed in the past. Apparently this has changed as this week there was also a reference to Uber.

Besides the old idea of the Doctor being President of earth, they purposely extended the Doctor’s blindness from Oxygen to both put the Doctor in danger, and give Bill a reason to negotiate with the Monks. It is a shame that the door didn’t have a keypad instead of the type of lock it did. The Doctor probably could have entered the code on a keypad by touch and saved the world without need for anyone to surrender to the Monks. (“Hello, I’m the Doctor, saving the world with my eyes shut.”)

While there are certainly questions about how plausible this is, it was a clever idea to have the Monks take over worlds by modeling every moment in the history of a planet, and figuring out when they would be destroyed without the help of the Monks. Then they could be asked to save the planet (with saving the planet but not surrendering control not being a consideration.) With countless alien invasion stories having been written, it isn’t easy to come up with new twists. Of course it does seem far fetched that their models could have predicted the exact sequence of events here, starting with a woman’s glasses being broken because she used her bag to prop her door open. It is also notable that Erica just played the scientists’s role as any woman might, without mention of her stature.

Modeling to this degree was not the only area where the Monks had inexplicable powers. For example, while perhaps they might be able to reset digital watches which are set from a common source to the time of the Domesday Clock, how could they possibly reset all the analog watches on earth? I also question the mechanism by which they could instantly restore the Doctor’s eye sight from a distance. It must be either nanobots moving at superspeed, or magic.

We will see if there is more of an explanation for their powers next week. Perhaps there is some clue in the TARDIS-like nature of the pyramid. While we know that Missy is involved next week from the preview, could the pyramid be related to the Time Lords, and perhaps the John Simm version of the Master (who is also returning this season)?

Their rational used by the Monks is also difficult to understand. The basic premise might make sense: “We must be wanted. We must be loved. To rule through fear is inefficient.” However, they seem to base this on technicalities (not unlike how the Doctor is keeping Missy in the vault but failed to go through with executing in Extremis). While they demanded love, and rejected the surrender of the others based upon fear, Bill’s love was for the Doctor, not for the Monks, and does not translate to love from other humans. I am willing to accept this for now based upon the Monks being aliens, with needs and motives which humans do not understand.

As they have the ability to change their shape, I also do not understand why they took this shape. A true monk, or perhaps an angel, might have led to easier acceptance from humans. Perhaps the third part will answer some of these questions.

The CW Network had several season finales recently. The 100 was the most interesting, and the only one to have a better season than last year. The season was about survival, and late in the episode it looked like we might have the group in the bunker, the group going into space, and Clarke on earth (never doubting that she would survive). The final moments expanded upon this by jumping ahead. Clarke was not alone, and a prison transport ship was landing. Presumably these were real prisoners, not the same as the original 100 to be sent down to earth in the first season. This also leaves open the possibility of other survivors, both on earth and from space.

Jumping ahead leaves open the possibility of telling one story six years in the future, while still having flash backs about how everyone survived. There are bound to be interesting stories about each group. As I would expect, Jason Rothenberg did say that we will see these flashbacks in an interview about the finale with TV Guide:

We do get a glimpse of Clarke in the flash-forward, and she’s taking care of a Nightblood child. What can you reveal about the life Clarke made for herself after praimfaya and who this girl is?
Rothenberg:
She’s definitely got a maternal bond with that child. Her name is Madi, she’s a Nightblood, you’re right. They probably found each other at some point a few years into being the last person the planet. We’ll play with that in Season 5 and probably go back and tell that story. But her relationship, her connection to Madi, is now as strong as Abby’s connection is to Clarke. These two people are the only two people on planet Earth. They are each other’s everything and they’ve survived together. On top of the age difference, obviously leaning into a mother-daughter thing, they also are each other’s best friends and companions. They’ve only been together for the last however-many-years-ago they met. That’s way longer than Clarke ever knew really anybody other than the people she came down with in the show. So it’s going to be a very, very important relationship in Season 5.

What can you say about the identity of the people on the ship and how they’ll factor into next season?
Rothenberg:
It’s huge. That’s essentially teeing up the story for the next season, which is obviously what we like to do in our finales. It’s prisoners. If you look at the signage on the ship, there are some Easter eggs to sort of indicate who those people may be. It’s a prison ship. So to me, it was really a cool idea to essentially bring things full circle. The 100, when they landed, were prisoners. They were juvenile delinquents, but they were criminals and they found out they were not alone on the ground. And here we have this group of real hardened criminals coming back to Earth thinking that its abandoned and that its their planet to come back to, only to discover, of course, that Clarke is out there, at least when we start things. So they’re not alone just like our heroes weren’t when they first landed. So there’s a real cool symmetry to that and perspective switch.

I definitely sensed some sparks between Bellamy and Echo in the finale, and six years is a long time to be trapped together in space. What can you say about the state of their relationship moving forward?
Rothenberg:
Well, I’m not going to go there, really, with you right now. But definitely six years is a long time to be trapped in space with somebody. And Bellamy and Echo have always had sparks. Their relationship was certainly interesting from day one when they woke up trapped next to each other in Mount Weather. It’s been a long and winding road, and obviously that road’s not over yet… They’re all together in a group in space, so you never know!

Will we get flashbacks to what happened in the six years since praimfaya?
Rothenberg:
Well, for sure the point of a time-jump is to skip a bunch of stuff and put them in another place and try to figure out how they got that way. And the thrust of the story in Season 5 will be going forward and not going backward. But the stuff that we’re jumping, as we’re in the room breaking Season 5, that time period is so filled with great story potential that it’s safe to say that we’ll see some of it. We’ll see the key moments for sure.

 

More in an interview at BuddyTV.

I thought that the DC superhero shows on The CW Network all had a down year, and this was reflected in their season finales.

Despite a meandering season, I thought that Supergirl did improve for the end of the season. I did like the Daxamite invasion storyline at the end, and the return of Calista Flockhart. Hopefully she will be around more next season. There was finally confirmation that she realizes that Kara is Supergirl, which I already assumed after she quickly figured out that James Olsen was the Guardian from seeing only his eyes. The concluding episodes also featured a strong female supporting cast beyond Flockhart with Teri Hatcher, Katie McGrath, Lynda Carter, and Brenda Strong.

The episode had the frequent superhero trope of setting up a situation in which two superheros fight each other, with Supergirl beating Superman. Fortunately they made this brief and went on to fighting the invaders. After this was resolved, it ended with a look at Reign being sent from away from Krypton, and I  assume he will be the big bad for next season. It was probably for the best that they wrote out Mon-El, leaving him alive so there is a possibility of him finding a way to return in a future season.

I was disappointed that after all these episodes dealing with saving Iris on The Flash, the finale used a simple solution with a device introduced the previous week. It also felt awfully contrived to end with someone needing to be a prisoner of the speed force, and then only Barry volunteering. We know he will get out. Hopefully they will at least do something creative with him being there and how he does leave. The highlight of the episode for me was Cisco telling Wally to “reverse the polarity on the neutron flow.” For a show which has used so much timey wimey time travel, this homage to the Third Doctor fit right in.

I thought the least of the finale of Arrow. It just felt like a series of fights and pretending to change sides. The cliff hanger was even less suspenseful than on The Flash as there is no question most, if not all, got off the island in time. Just as the synopsis for the next season of The Flash (released last week) gave away the fact that Iris would return before the finale aired, the synopsis for Arrow in the same post tells who is returning. At least the flashbacks are now over.

Over on Syfy, 12 Monkeys had not only their finale, but the entire season last weekend. As I suspect that some did not have time to watch it all, I’ll avoid spoilers, but the season was excellent, even better than the second season. The season has a continuous story, working well for binging over a short period of time. Generally each episode was also a self-contained story, but sometimes one episode would go right into the next. There were major events and changes in the story to make each of the three nights feel like they were also coming to somewhat of a conclusion before going onto the next, and the story was more compelling by watching this all together.

Matt Taibbi On How The Democrats Need A New Message

Matt Taibbi used the victory by Greg Gianforte in Montana to review what is wrong with the Democratic Party. If this was just a loss in Montana it could easily be ignored as a case of people in a deep red state voting for party regardless of how awful the candidate was. The real message is how often the Democrats have lost:

The electoral results last November have been repeated enough that most people in politics know them by heart. Republicans now control 68 state legislative chambers, while Democrats only control 31. Republicans flipped three more governors’ seats last year and now control an incredible 33 of those offices. Since 2008, when Barack Obama first took office, Republicans have gained somewhere around 900 to 1,000 seats overall.

There are a lot of reasons for this. But there’s no way to spin some of these numbers in a way that doesn’t speak to the awesome unpopularity of the blue party. A recent series of Gallup polls is the most frightening example.

Unsurprisingly, the disintegrating Trump bears a historically low approval rating. But polls also show that the Democratic Party has lost five percentage points in its own approval rating dating back to November, when it was at 45 percent.

The Democrats are now hovering around 40 percent, just a hair over the Trump-tarnished Republicans, at 39 percent. Similar surveys have shown that despite the near daily barrage of news stories pegging the president as a bumbling incompetent in the employ of a hostile foreign power, Trump, incredibly, would still beat Hillary Clinton in a rematch today, and perhaps even by a larger margin than before.

Tabbi next ran through a long list of excuses the Democrats give for losing and correctly dismissed them:

The unspoken subtext of a lot of the Democrats’ excuse-making is their growing belief that the situation is hopeless – and not just because of fixable institutional factors like gerrymandering, but because we simply have a bad/irredeemable electorate that can never be reached.

This is why the “basket of deplorables” comment last summer was so devastating. That the line would become a sarcastic rallying cry for Trumpites was inevitable. (Of course it birthed a political merchandising supernova.) To many Democrats, the reaction proved the truth of Clinton’s statement. As in: we’re not going to get the overwhelming majority of these yeehaw-ing “deplorable” votes anyway, so why not call them by their names?

But the “deplorables” comment didn’t just further alienate already lost Republican votes. It spoke to an internal sickness within the Democratic Party, which had surrendered to a negativistic vision of a hopelessly divided country.

Things are so polarized now that, as Georgia State professor Jennifer McCoy put it on NPR this spring, each side views the other not as fellow citizens with whom they happen to disagree, but as a “threatening enemy to be vanquished.”

The “deplorables” comment formalized this idea that Democrats had given up on a huge chunk of the population, and now sought only to defeat and subdue their enemies.

Many will want to point out here that the Republicans are far worse on this score. No politician has been more divisive than Trump, who explicitly campaigned on blaming basically everyone but middle American white people for the world’s problems.

This is true. But just because the Republicans win using deeply cynical and divisive strategies doesn’t mean it’s the right or smart thing to do.

After further discussion, Taibbi got to his main argument that Democrats have no message other than to attack Republicans:

They’re continuing, if not worsening, last year’s mistake of running almost exclusively on Trump/Republican negatives. The Correct the Record types who police the Internet on the party’s behalf are relentless on that score, seeming to spend most of their time denouncing people for their wrong opinions or party disloyalty. They don’t seem to have anything to say to voters in flyover country, except to point out that they’re (at best) dupes for falling for Republican rhetoric.

But “Republicans are bad” isn’t a message or a plan, which is why the Democrats have managed the near impossible: losing ground overall during the singular catastrophe of the Trump presidency.

The party doesn’t see that the largest group of potential swing voters out there doesn’t need to be talked out of voting Republican. It needs to be talked out of not voting at all. The recent polls bear this out, showing that the people who have been turned off to the Democrats in recent months now say that in a do-over, they would vote for third parties or not at all.

This is a far more realistic look at politics than we saw from Hillary Clinton last week when she called third party voters crazy, as she repeated her long list of excuses for losing. Personally I think it would have been far crazier to vote for a corrupt warmonger like Clinton or a xenophobic racist like Trump than to vote based upon principle for a third party.

Clinton is the most obvious example of a politician running with no message, beyond her gender and claims that it is her turn. This was most clearly seen at the end of the race, when she finally realized her mistake of not campaigning in states like Michigan where she was vulnerable. When Clinton finally realized at the last minute that she was in trouble, both candidates started advertising heavily. Trump’s ads contained promises of jobs while Clinton’s ads attacked Trump’s character without giving any good reasons to vote for her. Even if Trump’s promises lacked substance, it should come as no surprise that his message was more effective.

Clinton’s entire candidacy highlighted how the Democrats have no message and stand for nothing these days. Many people voted for the Democrats because of opposition to the policies of George W. Bush. Now the Democrats were running a candidate who backed all the worst features of the Bush agenda, especially support for military interventionism and a hostility towards government transparency. In 2007 Clinton attacked members of the Bush administration saying, “Our Constitution is being shredded” over their support for the surveillance state and use of private email. Now we had Hillary Clinton spending over a year lying about her own violations of policy written to promote transparency and mocking freedom of speech. Wikileaks even revealed how little difference there was on economic views between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

Democrats have been repeatedly losing by running as a Republican-lite party and refusing to stand for anything. Democratic rules since the loss by George McGovern have been rigged to support a more conservative candidate, and in 2016 the Democrats further intervened to clear the field for Clinton. The irony is that rules initially written with the intent of providing winning candidates gave them a candidate so bad that she could not even beat Donald Trump, and were used to prevent the nomination of a surprise candidate who showed he could win. Democrats failed to understand how the world has changed since 1972, and that the old left/right linear political spectrum no longer applies. At least Bernicrats now have some victories on the local level which are showing that a Democrat with a message does have a chance of beating Republicans.

Donald Trump Thought He Could Negotiate End Of Cold War In 1980’s

There have been multiple stories in recent months about Donald Trump’s misplaced admiration for Vladimir Putin, but The Hollywood Reporter has uncovered a story about Trump being interested in an earlier Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev:

Donald Trump, in the mid-1980s, aggressively pursued an official government post to the USSR, according to a Nobel Peace Prize winner with whom Trump interacted at the time.

“He already had Russia mania in 1986, 31 years ago,” asserts Bernard Lown, a Boston-area cardiologist known for inventing the defibrillator and sharing the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize with a top Soviet physician in recognition of their efforts to promote denuclearization. Lown, now 95 and retired in Newton, Massachusetts, tells The Hollywood Reporter that Trump sought and secured a meeting with him in 1986 to solicit information about Mikhail Gorbachev. (Gorbachev had become the USSR’s head of state — and met with Lown — the year before.) During this meeting, Lown says, the fast-rising businessman disclosed that he would be reaching out to then-President Ronald Reagan to try to secure an official post to the USSR in order to negotiate a nuclear disarmament deal on behalf of the United States, a job for which Trump felt he was the only one fit.

“He said to me, ‘I hear you met with Gorbachev, and you had a long interview with him, and you’re a doctor, so you have a good assessment of who he is,'” Lown recalls. “So I asked, ‘Why would you want to know?’ And he responded, ‘I intend to call my good friend Ronnie,’ meaning Reagan, ‘to make me a plenipotentiary ambassador for the United States with Gorbachev.’ Those are the words he used. And he said he would go to Moscow and he’d sit down with Gorbachev, and then he took his thumb and he hit the desk and he said, ‘And within one hour the Cold War would be over!’ I sat there dumbfounded. ‘Who is this self-inflated individual? Is he sane or what?'”

On the one hand we see Trump was the same then as now in believing his knowledge and abilities are far beyond what they actually are.  On the other hand, nuclear disarmament and ending the Cold War were hardly bad goals.

Further in the article:

In an April 8, 1984, profile in The New York Times, Trump revealed that concern about a nuclear holocaust had plagued him since his uncle, the groundbreaking nuclear physicist Dr. John Trump, first spoke to him about it 15 years earlier. “His greatest dream is to personally do something about the problem,” wrote the TimesWilliam E. Geist (NBC anchor Willie Geist‘s father), “and, characteristically, Donald Trump thinks he has an answer to nuclear armament: Let him negotiate arms agreements — he who can talk people into selling $100 million properties to him for $13 million.” Geist continued, somewhat snarkily, “The idea that he would ever be allowed to go into a room alone and negotiate for the United States, let alone be successful in disarming the world, seems the naive musing of an optimistic, deluded young man who has never lost at anything he has tried. But he believes that through years of making his views known and through supporting candidates who share his views, it could happen someday.”

Trump expounded on these ambitions in a Nov. 15, 1984, Washington Post profile at the urging, he said, of his mentor and lawyer Roy Cohn, who was best known as Joseph McCarthy‘s chief counsel during the Army-McCarthy hearings. The Post‘s Lois Romano asked Trump for specifics about how he would approach a U.S.-Soviet deal, and recounted how he demurred (using terms familiar to those who followed the 2016 presidential campaign): “‘I wouldn’t want to make my opinions public,’ he says. ‘I’d rather keep those thoughts to myself or save them for whoever else is chosen. … It’s something that somebody should do that knows how to negotiate and not the kind of representatives that I have seen in the past.’ He could learn about missiles, quickly, he says. ‘It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles. … I think I know most of it anyway. You’re talking about just getting updated on a situation.'”

In Ron Rosenbaum‘s November 1985 profile of Trump in Manhattan, Inc. magazine (later republished as part of the 1987 book Manhattan Passions: True Tales of Power, Wealth and Excess), Trump discussed his obsession with brokering this ultimate deal, stating, “Nothing matters as much to me now.” He coyly suggested that he already was “dealing at a very high level on this,” hinting at connections in Washington and at the White House, and that negotiators like him were needed: “There’s a vast difference between somebody who’s been consistently successful and somebody who’s been working for a relatively small amount of money in governmental service for many years, in many cases because the private sector, who have seen these people indirectly, didn’t choose to hire these people, any of them, because it didn’t find them to be particularly capable.”

By December 1985, Trump’s infatuation with negotiating a deal between the Americans and the Soviets was so widely known that The New York TimesGeorge Vecsey proclaimed, “People used to titter when Donald Trump said he wanted to broker a nuclear-arms reduction. … If the United States gave Donald Trump an official title and let him loose on the arms race, he might lay off on his threat to darken the western sky of Manhattan with his personal Brasilia North. Make peace, not skyscrapers, that’s the general idea.”

With his limited understanding of foreign policy and nuclear weapons I certainly have doubts about Trump’s ability to negotiate successfully with Russia, and bet that Putin would outsmart Trump in any deal. I also have my doubts as to whether the post-election attempts to open back channel lines of communication with Russia were for such benign purposes.  However, Trump’s stated goal of ending the Cold War is far more admirable than Hillary Clinton’s plans in recent years to return to Cold War  hostilities with Russia, despite the great dangers inherent in her policies.

More Bad News For Trump On Travel Ban, Russia Probe, And GOP Health Care Plan

There was yet another round of bad news for Donald Trump the last couple of days. This includes a federal appeals court refusing to reinstate Trump’s travel ban. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond ruled that this was a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion:

“Then-candidate Trump’s campaign statements reveal that on numerous occasions, he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his intent, if elected, to ban Muslims from the United States,” Judge Gregory wrote. He cited, as an example, a 2015 statement calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our representatives can figure out what is going on.”

The travel ban is far more about prejudice than effective defense against terrorism. Donald Trump continues to show that his policies are counterproductive, most recently with police in the U.K. not wanting to share information with the United States due to leaks. Of course the biggest leaker of intelligence information in the Trump administration is probably Donald Trump himself.

There was additional bad news. Jared Kushner is reportedly under scrutiny by the FBI in the Russia probe. There are no specifics as to what his role was but the inclusion of Kushner is consistent with my suspicions that any misconduct by high administration officials will most likely turn out to be financial. Despite partisan claims, those involved with the investigation have consistently stated that there is no evidence of any collusion between Trump and the Russians with regards to meddling in the 2016 election. Without such collusion, any Russian meddling becomes of far less significance, representing the type of activity which both the United States and Russia has engaged in for decades. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign showed how the Clinton campaign initiated a strategy to blame Clinton’s loss on others, such as Russia, within twenty-four hours of her loss. 

While no crimes have been proven on Trump’s part before being elected, there has been a suspicious pattern of cover-up–and most likely obstruction of justice with the firing of James Comey. Evidence of this was further increased this week when news came out that Trump had attempted to get two top intelligence officials to help him block the FBI investigation. The Washington Post reported:

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans also received bad news this week when the Congressional Budget Office released their scoring of the House health care bill. Their report indicated that repealing ObamaCare in this nature would result in twenty-three million people losing health care coverage over ten years, and that many people with pre-existing conditions would find health insurance either unavailable or affordable.

FCC Will Not Take Action Against Stephen Colbert For Anti-Trump Monologue

Conservatives love to censor free speech, and late night talk show hosts who make fun of Republicans are a common target. This includes the attacks on David Letterman in 2009 when conservatives falsely accused him of making a joke about Willow Palin while she was a minor. Conservatives probably like his successor, Stephen Colbert, even less. Colbert tends to be much more political than Letterman. This includes this rant against Trump in his monologue following Trump’s interview with John Dickerson:

Mr. Trump, your presidency — I love your presidency. I call it ‘Disgrace the Nation.’ You’re not the POTUS — you’re the BLOTUS. You’re the glutton with the button. You’re a regular ‘Gorge’ Washington. You’re the presi-dunce, but you’re turning into a real prick-tator. Sir you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c**k holster. Your presidential library is gonna be a kids menu and a couple of ‘Jugs’ magazines. The only thing smaller than your hands is your tax returns. And you can take that any way you want.

Video of the full monologue follows:

Conservatives complained about the line, “the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c**k holster” (with the potentially offensive word bleeped out when the show aired). Complaints were filed with the FCC, which reviewed Colbert’s monologue and found no violation of their rules: “Consistent with standard operating procedure, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has reviewed the complaints and the material that was the subject of these complaints. The Bureau has concluded that there was nothing actionable under the FCC’s rules.”

It was not expected that the FCC would take action against Colbert as it gives a lot of leeway between 10 pm and 6 am. Taking action against comedians mocking Trump would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech.

The election of Donald Trump has been great for the ratings of the late night talk show hosts, and has benefited the more political hosts such as Colbert as opposed to previous ratings leader Jimmy Fallon. Deadline reports:

Colbert’s CBS Late Show will win the 2016-17 TV season in total viewers – CBS’ first win over NBC’s The Tonight Show in overall audience with a season-long host since the 1994-95 TV season. The qualifier excludes the 2009-2010 TV season when NBC replaced Conan O’Brien with Jay Leno midway through the season.

Sinkhole Forms In Front Of Mar-a-Lago

A sinkhole has formed in front of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Palm Beach. It is widely believed to be there because the planet earth has become humiliated by the presence of Donald Trump and is seeking to swallow him up.

During the presidential  campaign there was considerable support for a giant meteor destroying the earth as an alternative to voting for Trump or Clinton. The sinkhole is rapidly replacing the meteor as an American hero.

The sinkhole does not currently affect Donald Trump as he is out of the country on an international trip. The bar has been set so low that the trip will be considered a success if Trump manages to read off a teleprompter and does not provoke an international crisis.

This might turn out to be too hard for Trump, who complained about being exhausted just three days into the trip. A senior While House official has already attributed a mistake in planned wording used by Trump to his exhaustion. Who would have guessed the job would be so difficult? Trump has previously claimed he would be the healthiest president ever  and has said that Hillary Clinton lacked the stamina to be president.

Donald Trump Mocked For Claiming He Is Subject Of Greatest Witch Hunt In American History

Donald Trump, objecting to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his administration, tweeted: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” The claim came after Robert Mueller was appointed to be special counsel after Trump fired James Comey. Comey is also saying that Trump was trying to influence his judgment about the Russia probe.

This resulted in responses from some of the late night comedians:

President Trump is having one heck of a week. The Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate ties between his campaign and Russia, which he did not like at all. But sources inside the White House say when he found out about it, he didn’t yell or scream. He told his staff, “We have nothing to hide.” He was calm. He punched Sean Spicer in the stomach a few times. Then this morning at 7:52 a.m. he got on Twitter and wrote: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Even his witch hunts are the greatest in American history. –Jimmy Kimmel

It’s been a wild week for President Donald Trump. On Wednesday, the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia. Robert Mueller will be the special counsel. And today, Trump reacted by saying, “No fair, why does that guy get to be called special?” I’m kidding; Trump reacted by tweeting, of course. This morning, Donald Trump tweeted that he is the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” The single greatest — even when he’s whining, Trump still has to be the greatest.–James Corden

Meanwhile, Trump started tweeting again. Today he criticized the Russia investigation, saying, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Then one guy was like, “Do you still want to see my birth certificate?” –Jimmy Fallon

President Trump today called the appointment of a special counsel to investigate his campaign’s ties to Russia “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Though it didn’t help his case much when he flew away on a broom. –Seth Meyers

But the best response came from The Washington Post, which reprinted this story:

Nixon, Aides Believe Hearing Is Witchhunt

By Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
July 21, 1973

President Nixon and his top aides believe that the Senate Watergate hearings are unfair and constitute a “political witchhunt,” according to White House sources.

Despite apparent bipartisan and public support for the hearings and the manner in which they are being conducted, the sources said that the President in the last weeks has expressed bitterness and deep hostility toward the two-month-old proceedings.

“The President,” one source said, “sees the hearings as an attempt to get Richard Nixon and do it just damn unfairly.” According to four separate sources, the hostility toward the hearings is also pervasive in the White House staff, especially among former assistants to H.R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman, the deposed former top presidential aides…

We know how that “witchhunt” turned out.

Democrats Risk Continued Failure In Denying Reasons For Clinton’s Loss

Aaron Blake shows how Democrats are burying their heads in the sand with their denial as to how terrible a candidate Hillary Clinton was, even when Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have pointed this out:

“I never thought she was a great candidate,” Biden said, according to reports. “I thought I was a great candidate.”

…Biden isn’t the first leading Democratic figure with possible designs on 2020 to apparently slight Clinton. Clinton’s 2016 primary foe, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has repeatedly offered some version of this quote: “It wasn’t that Donald Trump won the election; it was that the Democratic Party that lost the election.”

Those comments have definitely rubbed some Clinton supporters the wrong way, and Biden’s are likely to even more so, given how direct they were.

Of course, Biden isn’t saying anything that most every election analyst hasn’t. You can make a pretty objective case that Clinton wasn’t a great candidate, given she lost an election she was expected to win to an opponent who became the most unpopular president-elect in modern history.

…in most situations, a party that lost a presidential campaign wouldn’t so fiercely guard the good name of the candidate who lost — much less one who had just lost a second presidential campaign in eight years. Republicans, for instance, were only so happy to place the blame for their 2012 loss squarely on the shoulders of Mitt Romney and his failure to connect with people. The same goes for Democrats and John Kerry in 2004.

So why not Democrats in 2017? Part of the reason is that they simply don’t feel Clinton really lost. Russia’s hacking, FBI Director James Comey’s late announcement about her emails (and the media’s coverage of that issue) and her popular vote win have combined to create a genuine sense that she was robbed — almost literally so. And Clinton has only fed that beast with her repeated comments dissecting the unfair reasons why she lost.

It’s a delicate dance for the likes of Biden and Sanders right now. They want to emphasize that the party can do better, but in doing so, they risk alienating some very passionate and outspoken Clinton supporters with an almost religious sense of righteousness about 2016.

Perhaps it could be done more delicately, but to pretend Biden is wrong about Clinton not being a great candidate is to bury your head in the sand. And that’s a pretty dangerous thing for Democrats to do right now.

Of course Hillary Clinton was one of the worst candidates ever nominated by a major political party. She unethically used her political career to build a personal fortune and capitalize on the Clinton name after Bill left office, despite how this shaped her reputation. As Matt Taibbi has argued, once she made this decision, she should have left politics. She has spent her career undermining liberal values–a progressive who gets conservative results. Polls showed long before the nomination that she was untrusted by the voters. She polled poorly among independents, liberals, swing state voters, and in the rust belt. Nominating her in the midst of her major scandals would have been as if the Republicans had nominated Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal had become well known.

Donald Trump might have even bigger negatives than Clinton, but Clinton ran such a terrible campaign that she could not even beat him. Clinton’s own negatives were large enough to negate his. Democrats even allowed themselves to be outflanked on the left by the Republicans on economics and foreign policy with the nomination of Clinton (even if this was based upon incoherent positions held by Trump).

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign shows how Clinton latched onto the strategy of blaming other for her loss within twenty-four hours of her loss. Partisan Democrats who were foolish enough to nominate a candidate as unfit for public office as Hillary Clinton were also gullible to fall for this.

As I wrote in the previous post on her use of these excuses, The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. There has been absolutely no evidence that anything released by Wikileaks was not accurate information. In blaming Russia, Clinton is admitting that the facts about her and the DNC were sufficient to sink her campaign.

Despite blaming the media, Clinton’s violation of the rules regarding her use of the private server was confirmed to be in violation of the rules in effect in 2009 by the Obama administration State Department Inspector General Report. Fact checkers repeatedly showed that Clinton was lying about the email and Foundation scandals. It was Clinton who grossly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton, not the press, was responsible for this story.

In blaming James Comey, Clinton ignores the fact that James Comey would not have been investigating her in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding email and  hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated that she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the  law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.

Hillary Clinton brought this all on herself. Clinton lost due to both her own flaws, and the foolishness of those in the Democratic Party who supported her for the nomination, even to the point of violating their own party rules to rig the nomination for Clinton.

Democrats need to move on from both the disastrous nomination of Hillary Clinton and the entire DLC strategy of turning the Democrats into a Republican-lite party. Bill Clinton might have won on this strategy, but that was more because of his personal political skills than the wisdom of this conservative philosophy. Democrats have lost badly in 2010, 2014, and now 2016 by failing to stand for liberal principles. Instead of learning from their mistakes, the Democrats appear determined to repeat them. This includes recently excluding Bernie Sanders from the “Ideas Conference” held by the Center for American Progress.

The 2016 election might change politics for years to come. Donald Trump could damage the Republicans for many years, and Hillary Clinton could do the same to Democrats. It is not clear yet which party will be hurt the most by the awful choices they made in 2016. If we are lucky, the combination will end the two party duopoly and we will have real choices in the future.

Democratic Party Establishment Excludes Bernie Sanders From “Ideas Conference”

The Center for American Progress held an Ideas Conference but The Nation reports that Bernie Sanders was not welcome:

But there was an awkward absence: Senator Bernie Sanders. He was not invited to the “Ideas Conference,” and his exclusion makes clear that, while Democrats are converging around a general set of ideological principles, the party still faces some serious coalition-building problems.

CAP president Neera Tanden explained to The Washington Post that “We were trying to emphasize a new generation,” and a CAP spokesperson told The Nation that nobody who ran for president before was invited.

That’s true as far as it goes, but with any scrutiny it feels more like a post facto justification for not including Sanders. There’s a big difference between Hillary Clinton—now a private citizen with no future electoral plans—and Sanders, a sitting senator who polls as the most popular politician in the country and who has pointedly not ruled out a 2020 presidential campaign. The press materials for the conference proclaimed it would “bring together national leaders of the progressive cause,” and there’s no real way Sanders doesn’t fit that description, or rationally should have been excluded simply because he ran for president last year. (The presence of Susan Rice and Tom Daschle onstage also puts considerable strain on the idea that only new voices were being elevated.)

This division has help to show who has sold out to the establishment and who is really for reform.

Daily Kos founder and self-appointed “granddaddy of the resistance” Markos Moulitsas drove the point home when he huffed during a panel about “that grassroots Bernie thing” and how it was a detriment to the party.

This comes from someone who made the Iraq war his main litmus test in 2004. Now that he is part of the establishment, he backed the candidate who was one of the strongest proponents of military interventionism.

The article concluded with a look at the division between “the elites” and “the grassroots.”

It’s hard to envision a functional political party where there’s such a fissure between the elites and the grassroots. It has already caused the Democrats no shortage of pain, even in the Trump era: The race for DNC chair was also much less about ideology and more about who would get control of the party mechanics—the established hands or the newcomers.

Elbowing Sanders out of the party isn’t going to solve this problem, though many Democrats seem intent on doing it. Politico ran a story on the same day as the Ideas Conference quoting several top Democrats who clearly want Sanders to go away, while blaming him for the party rifts. “He’s a constant reminder. He allows the healing that needs to take place to not take place,” one said.

Meanwhile, being shunned by party bosses is rocket fuel for the Sanders movement. “If you want to understand why establishment Democrats lose, look at CAP. They hold their…grassroots conference at the Four Seasons and don’t invite grassroots progressives,” one progressive strategist affiliated with Sanders but not authorized to speak for him told The Nation. “They charge $1,000 per ticket to attend their ‘Progressive Party’…and eat canapes while wondering why they are out of touch with the rest of the country.”

While there is division in the party between the establishment and reformers, and considerable disagreement over the nomination of Hillary Clinton, at least most Democrats will hopefully agree on opposing Donald Trump. The New York Times noted this aspect of the conference:

In a speech to the liberal Center for American Progress on Tuesday, Representative Maxine Waters of California drew applause and whistles when she reminded the audience of her insistence that Mr. Trump be driven from office. But even more notably, Ms. Waters, a veteran lawmaker, has also been intensifying pressure on her colleagues to recognize the threat she said is posed by a reckless president.

Update: Democrats Risk Continued Failure In Denying Reasons For Clinton’s Loss

Update II: Democratic Party Stronger Without The Clintons (How Bernie Sanders Has Reshaped The Democratic Party)

A Very Bad Ten Days For Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s presidency appeared to be on a path towards disaster from the beginning, considering his lack of respect for democratic norms and a lack of understanding of the position. What is remarkable is how much has gone wrong in just over a week, and how much of the damage was self-inflicted. If Richard Nixon had used twitter as Donald Trump does, the Watergate investigation might have been wrapped up in half the time.

David Graham has a good chronology at The Atlantic. This is a condensed summary:

May 8: Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates appeared before Congress contradicting White House statements about Michael Flynn’s firing as national-security adviser.

May 9: Trump fired FBI Director James Comey who was investigating his administration.

May 10: The Trump administration changed its account regarding the reasons for firing Comey. Press reports concentrated on Trump firing Comey because of the Russia investigation and because of him contradicting Trump’s claims that Barack Obama had wiretapped him.

May 11: The Economist published an interview with Trump which showed him to be ignorant of economic policy.  Later the same day Trump gave an interview to Lester Holt of NBC News which directly contradicted the vice president and White House spokeswoman,  and admitted that the Russia probe was a factor in Comey’s dismissal. There were also reports that Trump had previously demanded a pledge of personal loyalty from Comey.

May 12: Trump appeared to threaten Comey, suggesting their conversation might have been taped. Later that day Trump released a letter from his lawyers to claim that he did not have business ties with Russia. The letter was widely mocked for mentioning “a few exceptions,” and tax experts said the letter proved nothing.

May 15:  Politico published a story saying Trump staffers were routinely passing him fake news stories, both to manipulate him and out of fear that the real news would upset him. Later that day a story in The Washington Post reported that Trump had shared highly sensitive classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador which was obtained from an ally.

May 16: The New York Times reported that the the source of the intelligence is Israel. They also reported on a memo previously written by James Comey which quotes Trump as asking him to drop the FBI investigation into Flynn and his ties to Russia.

If matters were not bad enough in this summary as posted, today Robert S. Mueller III,  FBI director from 2001 to 2013, was appointed as as a special council to investigate possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian officials. While Democrats had been speaking of impeachment, and op-ed writers at The New York Times were suggesting that Trump is a criminal president, today also marked the day that the first Republican Congressman, Justin Amash, spoke of impeachment:

Republicans are beginning to talk of the possibility that President Trump could face impeachment after reports that he pressed ousted FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

While Republicans are choosing their words carefully, the fact that impeachment is even being mentioned is notable in Washington’s polarized political environment.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) on Wednesday said if the reports about Trump’s pressure on Comey are true, it would merit impeachment.

There is reason to be skeptical of the claims of actual collusion between Trump and Russia to interfere with the election. Shattered did show how Hillary Clinton did grasp onto Russia as an excuse for losing the election and to avoid taking personal responsibility.  While there has been no evidence seen so far of collusion to affect the election, we do know that there have been questionable actions involving members or former members of the Trump administration and Russia. Russia does have a history trying to interfere in foreign elections (just as the US does). Regardless of whether there was actual collusion to affect the election, it would be wrong for a president to fire the FBI director for investigating members of his administration, and wrong to demand an oath of personal loyalty.