How Donald Trump Has Hurt American Democracy, And How The ACLU Plans To Fight Back

Brian Klaas, a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics, and author of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy, has written about five ways in which President Trump has already hurt American democracy — in just 50 days These include Trump’s attacks on the integrity of voting, the integrity of his own election, flouting ethics guidelines without consequence, attacks on the independent judiciary, causing tens of millions of Americans to further lose faith in basic institutions of American government, and his attacks on the free press. More on the final point:

Trump has attacked a cornerstone of every democracy: the free press. He has called legitimate media organizations “fake news” no fewer than 22 times on Twitter in the first 50 days — and many more times in speeches. Worse, Trump called the press the “enemy of the American People,” language that echoes Mao and Stalin rather than Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy.

Trump only views the press as a legitimate player in American democracy insofar as it is willing to affirm his narrative. To Trump, negative polls are fake. Unfortunately, his attacks are working. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that 81 percent of Republicans agree that the media is “the enemy of the American people.” Eighty-six percent of Republicans trust Trump to tell the truth rather than the media (up from 78 percent just two weeks earlier). Throughout history, the blurring of the line between fact and fiction has been a critical precursor to the breakdown of democracy and the creeping advance of authoritarianism.

Klaas concluded:

The Constitution and checks and balances are not magical guardians. Documents don’t save democracy — people do. American democratic institutions are only as strong as those who fight for them in times of duress. This is one of those times, and this is just the beginning. It will be a long fight. To win it, Democrats and Republicans must set aside policy divides and unite in the defense of democracy.

The American Civil Liberties Union is preparing to engage in this defense of democracy, including learning from tools used by Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Reuters reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union is launching what it bills as the first grassroots mobilization effort in its nearly 100-year history, as it seeks to harness a surge of energy among left-leaning activists since the November election of Republican Donald Trump as U.S. president.

The campaign, known as PeoplePower, kicks off on Saturday with a town hall-style event in Miami featuring “resistance training” that will be streamed live at more than 2,300 local gatherings nationwide.

It will focus on free speech, reproductive rights and immigration and include presentations from legal experts, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero and “Top Chef” television star Padma Lakshmi.

Membership in the civil rights organization, which was founded in 1920, has tripled to more than 1 million since Trump’s election, the group says…

Suggested tactics, like the use of text messages as a mass mobilization tool, will mirror some of those employed by the insurgent presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who mounted a surprisingly robust challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“It’s completely unprecedented,” Romero said of the response since Trump’s victory. “People are wide awake right now and have been since the night of the election.”

Three Reports Demonstrate How It Was A Horrible Mistake For Democrats To Nominate Hillary Clinton

Since Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, many Clinton supporters and partisan Democrats have blamed her loss on sexism, Russia, James Comey, and even Barack Obama. They repeatedly fail to acknowledge that the real problem was that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign. Of course the exact same thing could be said about Donald Trump, but when two terrible candidates are running, only one can lose, and Clinton was even more out of touch than Trump. With many Democrats failing to acknowledge why they have lost badly in 2010, 2014, and now 2016, and some even speaking of nominating Clinton again in 2020, it is important for Democrats to face reality. Three recent studies shed some light on the election.

While perhaps not the most consequential, the most interesting was an experiment to look at sexism performed by Maria Guadalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science, and Joe Salvatore, “a Steinhardt clinical associate professor of educational theatre who specializes in ethnodrama—a method of adapting interviews, field notes, journal entries, and other print and media artifacts into a script to be performed as a play.”

After watching the second televised debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in October 2016—a battle between the first female candidate nominated by a major party and an opponent who’d just been caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women—Maria Guadalupe, an associate professor of economics and political science at INSEAD, had an idea. Millions had tuned in to watch a man face off against a woman for the first set of co-ed presidential debates in American history. But how would their perceptions change, she wondered, if the genders of the candidates were switched? She pictured an actress playing Trump, replicating his words, gestures, body language, and tone verbatim, while an actor took on Clinton’s role in the same way. What would the experiment reveal about male and female communication styles, and the differing standards by which we unconsciously judge them?

…Salvatore says he and Guadalupe began the project assuming that the gender inversion would confirm what they’d each suspected watching the real-life debates: that Trump’s aggression—his tendency to interrupt and attack—would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton’s competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man.

While Salvatore and Guadalupe were surprised at the results, I was not. Audiences did not like the character portraying Hillary Clinton, even when played by a man. The entire argument based upon sexism, with Clinton supporters finding absurd ways to blame any disagreement with Clinton on sexism, has always been absurd.  This is especially true on the left, where many opponents of Clinton had initially backed Elizabeth Warren, and some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Those on the left who opposed Hillary Clinton also object to Bill Clinton and other DLC Democrats for similar reasons, regardless of gender. For many, the choice of a running mate as conservative as Tim Kaine was the last straw. There are many reasons to oppose Clinton based both on her policy positions and her gross ethical misconduct in using her position to exchange influence for wealth which have nothing to do with gender.

Wesleyan Media Project study elaborates on what I have discussed previously on how Clinton ran a poor campaign, including in states such as Michigan which cost her the election. They noted that Clinton’s loss came from states in which she did not advertise until the last week. When I did start seeing ads for Clinton in Michigan, I questioned the judgement of her campaign. While Trump was advertising with promises (regardless of whether he could keep them) of creating more jobs and a brighter future, Clinton’s ads were based upon personal attacks (even if valid) against Donald Trump. The Wesleyan Media Project study showed that  “Clinton’s message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests.” They found that this strategy may have backfired badly.

Throughout the campaign, Clinton gave little reason to vote for her beyond her gender and it being her turn. Her own negatives, both on her record and her character, despite the denials of partisan Democrats, where on a level comparable to those of Donald Trump. It is no surprise that third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson did three times as well against Clinton and Trump than they did against Barack Obama and Mitt Romney four years previously.

Finally, Huffington Post ran yet another article making a case that the letter from James Comey cost Clinton the election. Many factors were involved in the loss, and it is simplistic to blame it on a single factor, but to blame it on Comey is actually an admission that it was a mistake to nominate Clinton.  There would have not been a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton if Clinton had not violated the rules regarding handling email, as documented in the State Department Inspector General report, and then go on to repeatedly lie about the situation. This included her lies about the initial FBI report.  Clinton’s statement that, “Director Comey said my answers were truthful” was the first lie listed by Glenn Kessler (listed in no particular order) in his listing of The biggest Pinocchios of 2016. Hillary Clinton’s frequent lies during the campaign negated any advantage she might have had over Donald Trump, who has also shown very little regard for facts or reality.

I argued before the nomination that it would be a mistake for Democrats to nominate Clinton in light of the email and Foundation scandals. Beyond the details of these scandals, this emphasized Clinton’s dishonesty. An argument might be made that the coverage of Clinton’s scandals distracted from discussion of the issues, except for the fact that Clinton’s own campaign avoided discussion of the issues.

The lesson here is that it was a mistake for the Democrats to nominate a candidate who acted improperly in her last major government position, including grossly violating the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, and was already distrusted by voters before the nomination.

Democrats were lucky to come as close as they did in the 2016 election with a candidate as weak as Clinton, and would have probably lost by a far greater margin if not for the many problems with Donald Trump. Running Republican-lite candidates have also cost them control of Congress and many state governments in the 2010 and 2014 elections. Democrats were in a strong position during the Bush years, but squandered this by moving as far right as the Republicans of circa 2002 on far too many issues, and engaging in exactly the same types of unethical behavior as they have attacked Republicans over. Democrats had an alternative in Bernie Sanders in 2016 who could have both motivated voters to turn out for him, and brought in the votes of many independent voters. By rigging the system for a more conservative candidate such as Clinton, and ignoring her major ethical failings, very likely cost Democrats both the White House and control of the Senate.

Discussing Obamacare Replacement With A Republican Congressman

House Republicans have finally released their plan to replace Obamacare. I have a lot of concerns about the plan, such as whether the tax credits will be sufficient for low income families to afford health insurance, and their attack on Planned Parenthood.

I am going to wait until I have a chance to look at the details of the plan to discuss it in depth, but for other reasons I have found it a good day to blog about health care. Hours prior to the release of the plan, I met with my conservative Republican Congressman, Bill Huizenga, along with a few colleagues, to discuss health care. I figured it would be futile to change the mindset of a conservative Republican, but when I received the invitation I also thought I should make the attempt to try to explain how health care really works. After all, there is zero chance of changing anyone’s mind if no attempt is made to persuade them. I was also appreciative that he was willing to meet with a group which strongly disagreed with him on the issue, while many Republicans around the country are reportedly hiding from their constituents.

The first time I spoke today I made a point of explaining how I am self-employed and have purchased health care on the individual market for my entire life. Therefore I could definitely state that high premiums and high out of pocket expenses, often cited as a failing of the Affordable Care Act by Republican, have always been a characteristic of the individual market–and are not something created by Obamacare.

Discussion got bogged down for quite a while over philosophical issues, especially when someone referred to health care as a right. Congressman Huizenga disagreed. While I managed to get out most of what I wanted to say today, in a conversation with multiple people present, sometimes the topic changed before I got a chance to speak. I didn’t get a chance until after the meeting while speaking to a colleague that I can understand a Republican’s position in not seeing health care as a Constitutional right in the same way as civil liberties specifically expressed in the First Amendment. After all, the Founding Fathers would have never conceived of health care being as expansive, and expensive, as it is now. However, regardless of whether you want to call it a right, access to affordable health care is both highly desirable, and something which is expected in a modern, advanced, industrialized society such as the United States. We should do it regardless of whether you want to label it a right.

The limited nature of assured coverage in the United States, compared to the rest of the world, was an underlying thought in many of our comments. It did come up that 1) the sick can show up to the Emergency Room and will not be turned away and 2) a significant portion of the Medicare population consists of the disabled. In typical Republican dodging of the issue, the Congressman at one point tried to claim that this does provide some form of basic health care as people can go to the Emergency Room. I pointed out that it is one thing to receive coverage in the Emergency Room, but this does not mean that people will receive necessary follow up medical care, especially for the types of chronic medical conditions I typically treat, such as diabetes, heart failure, and emphysema. Initial stabilization in an Emergency Room is both costly and not adequate health care. Plus an Emergency Room physician present pointed out that being seen does not mean patients do not receive large bills, which could be well beyond their ability to pay.

Congressman Huizenga responded that the disabled can receive coverage on Medicare, but I pointed out that people with chronic medical problems are not necessarily disabled, especially if they receive adequate medical treatment. Someone with diabetes, for example, can live and work for many years with the condition. However, without adequate care, twenty years down the road they are far more likely to develop problems such as heart attacks, strokes, and renal failure.

The Congressman’s philosophy on limited government (which, like most Republicans, is terribly selective, ignoring everything from infringements on reproductive rights to today’s revised anti-Muslim travel ban), also influenced his responses. Before his arrival I had discussed with others how market solutions have not worked well, with insurance companies having developed a business strategy based upon collecting premiums and then finding ways to deny care. Congressman Huizenga brought up irrelevant matters such as restrictions on choice present in Canada and other countries which Americans might not tolerate. The typical Republican scare stories. My response was simply that we do not have to adopt the restrictions which he mentioned, regardless of what other countries have done. One point I did not manage to get in was that in the United States, private insurance plans are often far more restrictive on the choices which patients and physicians can make than the government Medicare program is.

The physicians present generally saw Obamacare as an improvement over the previous system, but not going far enough, with Medicare for All being seen as a preferable solution. As a couple of us discussed afterwards, this is a far easier sell for physicians, who see first hand the amount of time and money wasted in having to deal with multiple different insurance companies, with  multiple different sets of rules. Plus this has the huge advantage of taking the astronomical profits received by the insurance industry, and using that money to actually provide health care. (Medicare for All was promoted by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 nomination battle, leading to politically-based opposition from Hillary Clinton.)

If Medicare for All is too hard a sell immediately, I, and others, suggested phasing it in. I also mentioned ideas such as the public option and the Medicare buy-in which were considered when the ACA was being written, but died when the two most conservative Senators voting with the Democrats (Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson) opposed the ideas. Either would help with the high costs on the individual market.

The  higher cost for caring for older individuals, with some of that cost spread to the premiums of younger purchasers, is a major problem in health care coverage.  I doubt insurance companies even want to cover their older customers, who are responsible for the bulk of their costs. Either outright lower the Medicare age (even if gradually, such as initially to 50 or 55, and ultimately to around 40) or allow a Medicare buy-in.

After the Congressman left, his Legislative Director remained for a brief time and suggested that Americans would not go for expanding a government program such as Medicare. While a typical Republican thought, it does not hold up. I pointed out that we all do wind up on a government program, with most people going on Medicare at age 65. Not only are Americans failing to rebel at the though of going on Medicare at age 65, many look forward to the opportunity. Remember all those tea party protests with signs like “Keep Government Out Of My Medicare.”

My parting comment to Congressman Huizenga before he left was that Republicans must move beyond their anti-Obama rhetoric and actually address the problem. I related how for the past eight years I have often heard patients blame Obama for anything wrong with the health care system, even if it was over matters not even related to the Affordable Care Act. However, in early January, before Donald Trump even took office, I started to hear patients blame Trump for their healthcare problems. Republicans now “own” healthcare and must deliver.

I have my doubts as to whether the plan released today does deliver, but I do want to take a look at the details beyond what is in the initial news stories I have read.

SciFi Weekend: Time After Time; Arrow; X-Men Casting News; Dark; Sense8; Santa Clarita Diet; Shows From Matthew Weiner and Amy Sherman-Palladino on Amazon; Doctor Who; Star Trek Discovery Air Date; Saturday Night Live

Time After Time is the next network time travel show to premiere. TV Guide answers some questions about it:

Is this really about Sexy Jack the Ripper and Sexy H.G. Wells? Boy, is it! You see, back in the day, before H.G. Wells wrote any of his now legendary novels, he apparently built a real time machine. He was showing off this game-changing piece of machinery to his good friend John — who, as it turns out, is actually the notorious anonymous serial killer Jack the Ripper. And once John discovers the authorities were hot on his tail, he uses the time machine to hightail it to modern-day New York City. Realizing he’s the only one who can stop John from killing again, H.G. follows his old friend to the future, where the world’s sexiest cat-and-mouse game begins!

Is it weird to feel attracted to Jack the Ripper? Yes and no. It’s totally weird to be sexually attracted to a serial killer, but the charismatic power of Josh Bowman is also impossibly hard to deny. Plus, this version of Jack the Ripper isn’t completely evil. There is a part of John that does want to change and leave his psychopathic, murderous tendencies behind. It’s a small part, but it’s big enough that you should feel slightly less confused by your newfound crush on the legendary murderer…

Don’t we have enough time-travel shows on TV right now? While time-travel is definitely one of the TV trends of the season, Time After Time isn’t exactly a time-travel show. In its second episode, the drama establishes its rules for time travel – ones which make it very dangerous to actually travel through time too often. That’s why H.G. Wells doesn’t simply go back in time to stop John from ever taking the time machine in the first place. It’s also why the show only time-travels four times in the first season.

Instead, Time After Time is far more interested in exploring how H.G. Wells’ adventures in modern-day Manhattan eventually inspire him to write The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau and War of the Worlds, which is a fun way to fully take advantage of having H.G. Wells as the show’s dashing protagonist.

The identity of Prometheus has been revealed on Arrow. TV Line spoke with the show’s producer and actor who played him, noting how this differs from the comics:

In the comics, Chase’s alter ego is Vigilante, but the producers chose to flip the script “because everybody would be thinking, ‘Of course he’s going to be Vigilante,’” executive producer Wendy Mericle explains. “We thought it would be a really fun twist to… take the comic-book mythology and turn it on its head and see what kind of story we can mine from a surprise like that. It was also something different for this season. We wanted to change up how we introduced the Big Bad and when we did it.”

…Although viewers are now aware of Prometheus’ true face — he exposed his mug to the audience when he took off his mask following a fight with Vigilante — Team Arrow will remain in the dark for the time being. As a result, the show gets to have “fun” as the characters continue to “interact with Adrian Chase in City Hall and elsewhere without knowing his real identity,” Mericle describes. “We’re going to play around with that for a little while before we let Oliver and the team find out.”

And find out they will, possibly sooner rather than later. “We’re not going to leave it to the end of the season,” Segarra promises. “We’re going to get to watch the pot get stirred a little bit. It’s hard because I already know how [Oliver] reacts, and I love the way it goes. You’re going to see Chase just kind of trying to burn the world around him.”

While we no know the identity of Prometheus, we will probably not learn the identity of the person under the vigilante mask this season.

Regardless of whether they are able to use the X-Men name, we will be seeing a lot of the X-Men in some form on television. ABC will be getting an Inhumans show. FX already has premiered Legion (which is highly recommended). Fox has some casting news on their upcoming untitled show. This includes Natalie Alyn Lind of Gotham:

Written by Matt Nix and directed by Bryan Singer, the pilot focuses on two ordinary parents who discover their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive. Lind will play Lauren, one of the children at the center of the story. Smart, pretty, popular, organized and already ahead on her college applications, Lauren is the model of a perfect kid.

Amy Acker, who has a lot of genre experience in shows including Angel, Dollhouse, and Person of Interest, will play the other female lead:

Acker will star as Kate Stewart, a woman who is struggling with her separation from her husband, Reed (True Blood‘s Stephen Moyer), and her increasingly challenging teenage children. When her family situation takes a dark turn, she finds that she’s stronger than she thinks.

As noted above, Stephen Moyer has been cast as the male lead:

Moyer will play Reed, an ambitious attorney trying to balance the demands of his job at the DA’s office with his responsibilities to his family.

Patrick Stewart recently announced his retirement with regards to playing Professor X, but now states he might reprise the role in a Deadpool sequel. As I posted on Friday, he has also announced plans to become an American citizen to help fight Donald Trump. Make it so!

Netflix has released a teaser for Dark, an upcoming show being made in Germany, which appears somewhat like a darker version of Stranger Things. The description reads, “A missing child sets four families on a frantic hunt for answers. Their search for a culprit unearths a small town’s sins and secrets.”

Netflix is reassembling the cast for a potential third season of Sense8. The second season will be released May 5.

While reviews have been mixed, I’ve been  hearing a lot of great buzz from viewers of Santa Clarita Diet. We binged a large portion of the season last night and, while certainly not a hard-core zombie show, it was very enjoyable.

Mathew Weiner’s next show, The Romanoffs, to be on Amazon Prime, sounds nothing like Mad Men:

“Romanoffs” will consist of eight hourlong episodes, each of which will tell a standalone story with no recurring plot elements or actors. The only common thread is that each episode will tell the stories of people in contemporary times who believe they are descendants of the imperial family that ruled Russia from 1613 until the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917…

Weiner came up with the notion for “Romanoffs” about a year ago, after a long break following the end of his work on “Mad Men” in late 2014. He had the chance to watch other TV shows “in a non-competitive atmosphere,” and he realized that there was room for a show of this nature. “The rise of (Netflix’s) ‘Black Mirror’ made it easier for me to explain it, even though this show is not in that genre,” he said.

Amy Sherman-Palladino also has a pilot for Amazon:

After venturing into streaming TV with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix last fall, the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is trying her hand with Amazon this spring. The site announced today that Palladino’s pilot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, will be among the batch of programs up in pilot season starting on March 17. The one-hour pilot stars Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards, Manhattan) as the titular Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a 1950s housewife who starts a career in stand-up comedy. Monk’s Tony Shalhoub will play her father; Michael Zegen (Boardwalk Empire) will play her husband. Alex Borstein (the original Sookie!) is also in the cast.

Speculation this week about the replacement for Peter Capaldi on Doctor Who includes Kris Marshall and Anthony Head. Doctor Who returns on April 15 with DoctorWho TV recapping everything which is known about the series so far.

After having been delayed twice, CBS is now saying that the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery will be in late summer or early fall.

The election of Donald Trump has been fantastic for the ratings of the late night comedy shows. Having Donald Trump as a regular target has improved the material on shows including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Saturday Night Live. The cold open on SNL last night had Kate McKinnon portraying Jeff Sessions as Forest Gump. Of course Donald Trump will likely be upset about him being portrayed by a woman, as when Melissa McCartney played Sean Spicer.

Last night’s episode of SNL has also received a lot of buzz for the above skit:

“Saturday Night Live” just ran a nearly two-minute liberal’s dream sequence disguised as a movie trailer.

The trailer — which promises a Republican “patriot who will put country over party” — features a notable omission: a title character. The point is that no Republican has really stood up to President Trump. You get it.

Trump Returns To Madman Role In Tweets Accusing Obama Of Wiretapping His Phone

The attempts to portray Donald Trump as a sane president in his speech before Congress earlier in the week were destroyed in a series of Tweets this morning. Without citing any evidence, Donald Trump accused Barack Obama of having wiretapped his phones prior to the election. The Tweets said:

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!

I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!

How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!

This round was preceded by a Tweet accusing the Obama administration of setting up Jeff Sessions, and followed by a Tweet attacking Arnold  Schwarzenegger (who recently announced he is leaving Celebrity Apprentice).

Trump’s speech on Tuesday, received strong approval in the polls and the stock market soared. There were subsequently questions as to whether Trump was at least managing to act sane in public, and the Trump administration even postponed the release of the updated travel ban to take advantage of the positive reception. By late in the week, the news was dominated by stories of Attorney General Jeff Sessions having lied to the Senate about having met with the Russian ambassador. This does look like a warped response by Trump to the negative stories, and resolves any questions as to whether Trump is capable of changing his behavior.

While no evidence was cited, it appears Trump is repeating thing being said on right wing talk radio and at Breitbart. Once again, it is hard to take Trump’s attacks on “fake news” seriously when he, and his administration, have become the major source of spreading “alternative news.”

Former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes Tweeted in response to Trump: “No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens like you.”

The New York Times adds:

Mr. Trump’s aides declined to clarify whether the president’s explosive allegations were based on briefings from intelligence or law enforcement officials, or on something else, like a news report. A spokesman for Mr. Obama did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The president’s decision to lend the power of his office to such an accusation — without offering any proof — is remarkable, even for a leader who has repeatedly shown himself willing to make assertions that are false or based on rumors.

It would have been difficult for federal agents, working within the law, to obtain a wiretap order to target Mr. Trump’s phone conversations. That would mean the Justice Department had gathered sufficient evidence to persuade a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe that he had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal or foreign intelligence wiretap.

Politico reports that Trump’s top aides were caught off guard:

Trump’s top aides were caught off guard by the tweets Saturday morning, a senior administration official said. The president is scheduled to spend a quiet day golfing and relaxing at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. After several days without a controversial tweet and a relative message discipline following his speech to Congress Tuesday evening, Trump’s angry Twitter tirade marked a return to form—and a trusted tactic of turning around the exact words being used against him on his opponents.

Patrick Stewart To Obtain American Citizenship To Fight Trump

It is Captain Jon Luc Picard, or Professor X, depending upon which franchise you prefer, to the rescue. Patrick Stewart says he is applying for U.S. citizenship so that he can oppose Donald trump. NBC News reports

British actor Sir Patrick Stewart says he’s applying to become an American citizen so that he can oppose President Trump and his policies. Stewart opened up about his decision to apply for citizenship in the wake of the 2016 election on ABC’s The View Thursday.

“Maybe it’s the only good thing as a result of this election, I am now applying for citizenship,” Stewart said. “Because I want to be an American too because all of my friends in Washington said ‘There’s one thing you can do, fight, fight oppose, oppose! But I can’t do it because I’m not a citizen.”

Now that I have reported the real new, here is the alternative news: Picard is intervening in response to rumors of communications between Trump’s advisers and the Romulan Star Empire.

Donald Trump responded by declaring, “Resistance is Futile.”

In related alternative news, the Vulcan High Council has decided against initiating First Contact with earth after observing Donald Trump and his most illogical behavior.

Jeff Sessions Exposed For Lying To Senate About Meeting With Russian Ambassador

As with every other bit of news which comes out with regards to Russia and the Trump administration, the news that Jeff Sessions spoke with the Russian ambassador raises more questions. Without knowing what he spoke to him about, it is not possible to determine how much this matters. It might be no big deal if the Russians were just trying to get more information about Donald Trump, but it could be the biggest political scandal in American history if it were to turn out that the Trump campaign was actively working with Russia to attempt to rig the election.

As of now we only have evidence that Russia probably tried to influence the election, with questionable impact considering that the material released by WikiLeaks all appears to be factual. There is no evidence at this time of any conspiracy between Trump and Russia, and this needs to be investigated independent of any partisan concerns.

Having Sessions involved creates two new wrinkles to the case. First, he lied to the Senate about the matter. Secondly, as Attorney General, it is impossible to see how he could be trusted to be involved in this investigation. He has agreed to recuse himself from the investigation, which is the least he could do, but only after having been exposed for lying to the Senate.

Many are calling for more. Arn Pearson, a senior fellow at People For the American Way, wrote in USA Today that Sessions has destroyed his credibility and must go:

Not only is Sessions’ impartiality being questioned, his honesty to Congress and the American people has been thrown into doubt. Sessions must not only recuse himself from future investigations into the Russian influence scandal, which he did on Thursday, he must resign.

Lying under oath and intentionally making a false and misleading statement to Congress are crimes under federal law. In 1999, Sessions voted to convict Bill Clinton of perjury in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, having earlier said that, “I have no doubt perjury qualifies under the Constitution as a high crime.”

Whether or not Sessions did in fact commit perjury is a matter for Congress and the judicial process to decide, but there is certainly sufficient cause for investigation. What is not in doubt is that he seriously misled the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sessions is doing his best to equivocate, saying he did not discuss the elections with Kislyak and met with him as a member of the Armed Services Committee, not the Trump campaign. But that wasn’t Sen. Al Franken’s question. Franken asked about any communications with the Russian government, and Sessions responded with his blanket statement about not having had communications with the Russians.

Sessions’ explanation doesn’t hold much water. The Washington Post reached all 26 members of the 2016 Armed Services Committee including Chairman John McCain, and Sessions was the only one who met with Kislyak that year. And Sessions’ meetings with the Russian ambassador came in the heat of the presidential campaign: first in July — the same month Sessions formally nominated Trump for president at the Republican National Convention and delegates were making pro-Russia changes to their platform; and then again in September — when concerns about Russian hacking dominated the news.

It is hard to imagine how Sessions could think those meetings were not worth mentioning during his confirmation hearing.

Richard Painter agreed in an op-ed in The New York Times. He compared this to when Richard G. Kleindienst was forced to resign as Attorney General in 1972 during the Watergate scandal:

Once again, we see an attorney general trying to explain away misleading testimony in his own confirmation hearing. A spokeswoman for Mr. Sessions says that “there was absolutely nothing misleading” about his answer because he did not communicate with the ambassador in his capacity as a Trump campaign surrogate. His contacts with the Russian ambassador, he claims, were made in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

That may or may not have been the case (individual senators ordinarily do not discuss committee business with ambassadors of other countries, particularly our adversaries). Regardless, Mr. Sessions did not truthfully and completely testify. If he had intended to say that his contacts with the Russians had been in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and not for the Trump campaign, he could have said that. He then would have been open to the very relevant line of questioning about what those contacts were, and why he was unilaterally talking with the ambassador of a country that was a longstanding adversary of the United States…

President Trump has already fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for misleading Vice President Pence about his conversations with the Russians. Misleading the United States Senate in testimony under oath is at least as serious. We do not yet know all the facts, but we know enough to see that Attorney General Sessions has to go as well.

Trump Reduces Nations’s Fears Of A Madman In The White House In Speech To Congress

After just over a month of Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans have very low expectations. His speech to Congress (transcript here) was received very favorably as he did not attack the media, or anybody else, and there wasn’t a single false claim about how large his election victory was. He even managed to wear a good looking tie which was not too long.

The speech boosted optimism. Hopefully that came more for a general feeling of decreased panic over fears that we might have an insane president, as opposed to any true belief in his policies. While the preliminary polls do show support for his agenda, viewers are often initially supportive of the speaker. The devil is in the details, and he gave very little detail as to how his general principles could turn into legislation. As Politico put it, Last night, Trump promised America could have all the cake it wants, and lose weight, too. What happens when he needs to deliver? Unfortunately this point seemed to be lost by many in the media who gushed over the speech, relieved that they were not attacked once again.

Brian Beutler also pointed this out, among several other failings in the speech which the media has paid too little attention to:

He alluded to courtroom convictions to create the false impression that terrorism in the U.S. is principally a consequence of weak vetting and porous borders—a false justification for his Muslim ban, which the courts have enjoined. He cited an increase in homicides in 2015 to foster the impression that violent crime is at a historic high, rather than a historic low. He outsourced to Defense Secretary James Mattis a lie about a raid he ordered in Yemen—which resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL, numerous civilians, and an eight-year-old American girl—falsely heralding it as “a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence.” Hours earlier, Trump had blamed his own military planners and Obama for its obvious failure. He also claimed to support NATO, which he has previously described as obsolete.

Fact checkers, including The Washington Post, PolitiFact, and Factcheck.org had their usual lists of falsehoods from Donald Trump. These might not matter with regards to public perception of the speech. The facts will matter when they try to govern based upon fantasy.

Betsy DeVos Sees Segregation As Example Of Providing More Options

Betsy DeVos was appointed Secretary of Education in the Trump cabinet, despite a lack of qualifications, based upon her work promoting school choice. She wrote a statement which cites segregated schools as an example of what we could get when we have school choice. Politco reports:

“HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice,” DeVos said in the statement, released Monday night in advance of Trump’s planned signing of an executive order giving the schools more clout. “They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”

The executive order, which Trump is scheduled to issue Tuesday afternoon, was supposed be an easy bit of outreach on the final day of Black History Month to the black community that soundly rejected Trump on Election Day. It is expected to move a federal initiative focused on the colleges from the Education Department to the White House and set an aspirational goal for government spending at the schools.

But the goodwill was quickly overshadowed by DeVos’ statement, which came on the heels of a Monday meeting between Trump and presidents of the schools that left some dissatisfied. Some experts on historically black institutions panned the statement as ignorant, while others said she was inadvertently praising segregation.

Maybe such segregated schools would be the choice of segments of Trump voters (the more despicable ones), but black students certainly have never seen this as giving them more options.

At Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley  writes Insane Betsy DeVos Press Release Celebrates Jim Crow Education System as Pioneer of “School Choice”

First of all, it sounds like a seventh-grader wrote this, which is perhaps what happens when you put someone who has never really had a real job in charge of the Department of Education. Second, this official 2017 federal government press release celebrates legal segregation (!!!) on the grounds that the Jim Crow education system gave black students “more options,” as if there was a robust competition between HBCUs and white universities for their patronage. (When black Mississippian James Meredith chose the “option” of enrolling at the University of Mississippi in 1962, a massive white mob formed on the campus; two people were shot to death and hundreds injured in the ensuing battle/riot, during which federal marshals came under heavy gunfire, requiring the ultimate intervention of 20,000 U.S. soldiers and thousands more National Guardsmen.)

I tweeted this before reading the statement by DeVos, but it still holds: Just in case something horrible happens, please don’t let Betsy DeVos be the designated survivor during Trump’s speech to Congress.

Oscars Feature Anti-Trump Jokes And Epic Mistake

The Oscars had many political jokes at the expense of Donald Trump, but will be most remembered for an epic mistake in announcing the wrong winner for Best Picture. The accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers has taken the blame for handing out a duplicate envelope with Emma Stone’s award for Best Actress, leading to La La Land being announced as the winner instead of Moonlight.  Donald Trump has blamed Hollywood’s obsessive focus on politics for the mistake.

Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue mocked Trump’s attacks on Meryl Streep following the Golden Globe Awards, with Kimmel jokingly referring to “her many uninspiring and overrated performances.” After also jokingly calling her “highly overrated,” he commented on her dress: “Nice dress, by the way. Is that an Ivanka?”

There were multiple references to diversity and immigrants throughout the awards. He introduced Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, by noting that she is a president who supports both the arts and sciences. Donald Trump’s use of Twitter was also the topic of jokes. Kimmel announced that, “Some of you will get to come up here on this stage tonight and give a speech that the president will tweet about in all caps during his 5 a.m. bowel movement tomorrow, and I think that’s pretty excellent if you ask me.” Later in the show, Kimmel tweeted Donald Trump.

The Academy Awards was also an easy target for those of us watching and tweeting from home. I posted a comment on Facebook prior to the announcement, with La La Land expected to be the winner: “If I were to decide to go into making movies, I would make movies about Hollywood. That way I would have a good shot at winning more awards than better movies.”


When La La Land was announced as the winner, I quickly posted: “Sure La La Land won more than it deserved. Wikileaks has revealed that they had Debbie Wasserman Schultz rig the Oscars.” I quickly had to respond on Facebook and Twitter when the correction was made. This included a correction that, “Apparently La La Land won the Alternative Oscar for Best Picture.”  I subsequently posted this explanation: “The explanation is that La La Land won the popular vote for Best Picture, but Moonlight won the official award in the Oscar Electoral College.”

By then the political comparisons were irresistible. I wrote, “Cast of La La Land is now blaming Vladimir Putin and James Comey for them not getting the Oscar.” Then I added that they also blamed Bernie supporters and Jill Stein voters, and that Jill Stein was raising money for a recount.