Late Night Comics Speculate On An Early End For The Trump Presidency

I’m picturing Mike Pence sitting in his office trying to decide when Trump has acted just crazy enough that he can invoke the 25th Amendment and be seen as a hero. There are certainly plenty of psychiatrists who would argue Trump is unfit to fulfill the duties of the presidency. I’m not sure what the odds are of Trump being removed, either under the 25th Amendment or impeachment, but humor writers have seen this as likely.

Earlier in the year I noted a sequence on The Last Man On Earth in which a plague killed off politicians going through the lines of succession. They started with President Pence, implying that one way or another Donald Trump was already gone. (The video at the link concludes with the death of President Betsy DeVos.)

Late night comedians have had several similar jokes this week:

Vice President Mike Pence denies he’s planning to run for president in 2020. He said, “I’m pretty sure I’ll be president way before then.” –Conan O’Brien

Mike Pence is denying speculation that he wants to be elected president in 2020. Pence was like, “I think you mean re-elected president in 2020.” –Jimmy Fallon

According to The New York Times, Vice President Mike Pence is planning on running for president if Trump doesn’t run for a second term. But he issued a statement strongly denying the article, saying it was disgraceful, offensive to me, my family and our entire team. He said to suggest he is running for president in 2020 is laughable and absurd. Right, why would Mike Pence want to be president in 2020? He’s going to be president much, much sooner than that. –Jimmy Kimmel

Vice President Mike Pence is adamantly denying a New York Times article claiming that he has begun a secret campaign for a presidential run in 2020. He says he has even less interest in being president than Trump does, which is saying something. Pence is like, “This is ridiculous. I’m not focused on being president in 2020, I’m focused on being president after Trump is impeached sometime this year.” –James Corden

Meanwhile in today’s news, Congressional investigators now want to question Donald Trump’s personal secretary, Rhona Graff, in the Russia investigation. If either were still alive, Richard Nixon and Rosemary Woods might tell Donald Trump that bad things can happen after a president’s personal secretary is questioned by such a Congressional probe, even if the specifics were different.

Of course we would have a new set of problems if Mike Pence were to replace Donald Trup. Pence could not honestly say, as Gerald Ford once did, “our long national nightmare is over” should he become president. Hopefully, should Donald Trump be removed from office the Republican brand will be so damaged that Pence won’t be able to do much harm. We can also hope that whatever brings down Trump also brings down Pence. However, unless they are separate events and another Vice President is chosen, Paul Ryan would be next in line.

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

In follow up of my post yesterday on the McCarthyism we are seeing from many in the Democratic establishment in their attacks on the left, it is worth mentioning some signs of sanity from some Democrats. While it only applies to some, Politico has written that Democrats fear Russia probe blowback:

Democrats are increasingly conflicted about how forcefully to press the issue of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Fearful of alienating voters who appear more concerned about the economy and health care, Democrats campaigning in districts across the country are de-emphasizing Russia in their rhetoric — and some are warning that a persistent focus on the Russia investigation could backfire.

“In the races where I’m working, I think voters think that Russia is important and that the questions need to get answered,” Bill Burton, a veteran Democratic consultant, said at a political convention this past weekend. “But they’re mostly sick of hearing about it, and they want to hear politicians talk about things that are more directly important in their lives.”

…California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor, was even more direct in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The Russia investigation, he said, “doesn’t do anything for Democrats at all … It’s a loser.”

The problem for Democrats goes beyond this. While we do not know the final results or everything which Mueller has uncovered, based upon what has been released it increasingly looks like the Democrats have gone far beyond the facts in making this a political issue. While the Russians may have meddled to some degree in the election, the fact is that the Russians have attempted to meddle in our elections for decades–just as we have meddled in their elections and the elections of many other countries.

The arguments from Democrats fall apart when they try to blame Russia for Clinton’s loss. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes made by Clinton which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others. Russia did not force Clinton to ignore the rust belt states, or do a terrible job of campaigning there when she realized she was in trouble. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the rules in setting up her private server, and then repeatedly lie about it for months. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, and use her career in politics for personal financial gain. Russia did not force Clinton to take extreme pro-war positions and other conservative views which alienated many potential Democratic voters. 

While Donald Trump along with members of his family and campaign have had many suspicious actions involving Russia, there has been no evidence of successful collusion between them to impact the election. I have long believed that Trump’s actions were based more upon possible financial crimes and covering up activities of his family and associates. Last spring week former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his Congressional testimony: “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results.” We have not seen anything to alter this.

While Donald Trump, Jr. showed he was not above meeting with Russians to attempt to affect the election, it turned out that Russia had nothing to offer. The closet thing we have to evidence that Russia might have attempted to hack the election showed that they were not successful. The stories of Jared Kushner seeking a back channel to communicate with Russia both suggests that this was over financial dealings, and raises the question as to why he would need to set up a back channel after the election if they had already been colluding with Russia.

There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia was responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if the investigations should show that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. 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. The undemocratic manner in which a major political party picks its nominees is a far more serious threat to democracy than anything actually achieved by Russia.

Blaming Clinton’s loss on Russian propaganda on social media ignores the strong opposition to Clinton from many segments of the political spectrum and the large amount of anti-Clinton material which would be present independent of Russia. People on the left have opposed DLC Democrats like the Clintons since the 1990’s, and have opposed Clinton’s neoconservative interventionism since the Bush years, independent of any Russian influence. Russia certainly cannot be blamed for similar Democratic loses in 2010 and 2016 when they also performed poorly by running as a Republican-lite party. The real problem is that by copying the policies of Republicans, Democrats turn off many potential voters while failing to win over Republicans.

Politico is right that Democrats run the risk that they will not win elections based upon their anti-Russia hysteria because this is not the major concern of voters. Democrats face a greater risk that their initial claims might be shown to be unsubstantiated partisan claims, further damaging their credibility. In October, Hillary Clinton claimed that Donald Trump would be threatening democracy by not accepting the results of the election. Democrats now risk being held to Hillary Clinton’s own standards.

Establishment Democrats Relying On New McCarthyism To Attack The Left As They Move To The Right

With the Democratic Party moving right, becoming increasingly like the Republican Party of circa 2002, while current Republicans have become even further detached from reality, they have also increasingly been attacking the left. We already have gone through the last election watching Hillary Clinton campaign against Medicare for All, promoting restrictions on civil liberties, and defending her failed history of neocon interventionism, while her supporters attributed criticism from the left to sexism, and have moved closer towards embracing neoconservativism. This may have just foreshadowed what to expect in the future.

Ryan Cooper recently discussed how the left questions establishment Democrats such as  Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick over their records. He predicted in The Week how the Democratic establishment will respond by continuing to play dirty against the left:

..if they just want to have a retread of the 2015-16 primary, the center could just try to win dirty. The left, they might say (working hand-in-glove with sympathetic columnists), just doesn’t like minority or female candidates because they are racist and sexist.

I would bet quite a lot of money the centrist Democratic establishment will opt for the latter strategy. Indeed, some are already doing so — like Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, elite Democrats’ in-house think tank.

That would be pretty rich coming from the crowd that shamelessly leveraged Islamophobia to keep Keith Ellison — probably the left’s second-most trusted politician, after Bernie Sanders — out of the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Of course that is what we are already seeing. Just today Shareblue has a defense of Kamala Harris which resorts to such dirty attacks, claiming that the objection to Harris from the left is that she “shares a gender with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Such attacks on the left based upon false claims of misogyny are especially absurd considering that many people who ultimately backed Sanders had previously supported Elizabeth Warren before she declined to run. Some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Many are now backing Tulsi Gabbard for the 2020 nomination. (Many of us are also excited about Jodie Whittaker breaking the glass ceiling in the TARDIS.)

Many of the most vile attacks on Bernie Sanders and the left have come from former Clinton staffer Peter Daou, who runs Shareblue. The Washington Free Beacon showed a recent tirade from Daou on Twitter within the past week. Conservative Democrats (often labeled centrists in light of how far right the middle has moved in American politics) have become the major opponents of liberal and progressive ideas, while turning to the tactics of the far right.

George Zornick responded to MyCarthy style attacks on Bernie Sanders from Peter Daou and Melissa McEwan in an article at The Nation entitled, Bernie Sanders Is a Russian Agent, and Other Things I Learned This Week: A case study in how fake news is attracting liberals. He pointed out how Peter Daou has started a string of accusations that Sanders is practically a Russian agent based upon false claims:

The jumping-off point seems to have been when Peter Daou, an avowed Hillary Clinton fan and major Twitter personality, quoted-tweeted my original post. Daou spends almost as much time energetically trashing Sanders as he does attacking Trump, and many of the respondents were followers of his. He certainly did not imply Sanders was a secret KGB asset, though, writing only: “Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the ONLY TWO VOTES **AGAINST** the Russia sanctions bill. Bernie was out of sync with every Dem senator.” (It was a Russia/Iran sanctions bill, and Sanders made it clear he objected only to the Iran part, but never mind.)

Sanders made his position quite clear, including on his web site, but such facts are irrelevant to anti-liberal hatchet men like Daou who are more interested in Swift Boating Sanders (even if Sanders’ concerns were also expressed by John Kerry). If anything, I think that Sanders has been too accepting of the Democratic party line on Russia, which goes far beyond the facts which have been established. Despite this, while Daou’s followers on social media have found it a sign of extremism that Sanders and Paul voted together, I see a view shared by two Senators who frequently differ from their party’s orthodoxy to be worthy of consideration.

Zornick went on:

So how did people jump to this conclusion that Bernie Sanders, by opposing Democrats, must ipso facto be working at the behest of Russia? It wasn’t entirely organic. And it points to how fake news can infect some of our brethren on the left.

Blame starts with the people with megaphones that peddle this nonsense. Eric Garland, who became a Twitter celebrity with his bizarre “game theory” thread, has explicitly tied Sanders to Russia in his threads. So has Melissa McEwan on her Shakesville blog. “Bernie Sanders, who has visited Russia, has not been, to my knowledge, suspected of being vulnerable by Russian kompromat cultivated on his visits, unlike Donald Trump. But, as I said above, if I intend to say something, I will state it plainly, and here I am plainly stating that I do believe these connections warrant more scrutiny,” she wrote. The Palmer Report, which churns out Russia-related fake news by the pixel load, wrote a post in April: “Bernie Sanders must disclose what he knows about his campaign adviser Tad Devine and Russia.” And of course, uber-grifter Louise Mensch has joined the conspiracy theorists.

We have a long way to go until the 2020 primary battles and can expect to see far more of such dirty tactics from conservative Democrats who place victory for someone with a D after their name over principle, failing to understand that their abandonment of principle is a major reason why Democrats have been on such a losing streak and could not even beat Donald Trump.

Update: 

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

Mueller Convenes Grand Jury Indicating Escalation Of Trump Investigation

Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury, giving him the opportunity to increase the intensity of his investigations. This includes the ability to subpoena documents, obtain testimony under oath, and potentially seek indictments. It is also a clear sign that, as most believed, we have only been in an early stage of investigations which are likely to continue for some time. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller’s inquirywill likely continue for months. Mr. Mueller is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with the Kremlin as part of that effort.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Joshua Stueve, declined to comment. Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”

…Grand juries are investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said Mr. Mueller’s decision suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses…

“This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”

Thomas Zeno, a federal prosecutor for 29 years before becoming a lawyer at the Squire Patton Boggs law firm, said the grand jury was “confirmation that this is a very vigorous investigation going on.”

“This doesn’t mean he is going to bring charges,” Mr. Zeno cautioned. “But it shows he is very serious. He wouldn’t do this if it were winding down.”

Another sign the investigation is ramping up: Greg Andres, a top partner in a powerhouse New York law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, has joined Mr. Mueller’s team.

Mr. Andres, a former top Justice Department official who also oversaw the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, wouldn’t leave his private-sector job for a low-level investigation, Mr. Zeno said. “People like Greg Andres don’t leave private practice willy-nilly “The fact he is being added after a couple of months shows how serious this is and that it could last a long time,” Mr. Zeno said.

Reuters adds, “Grand jury subpoenas have been issued in connection with the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., a Russian lawyer and others, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.”

While the news media has concentrated on the Russia aspect of the investigation, Mueller is also reporting the Trump family’s financial ties are under investigation. CNN reports:

Federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The web of financial ties could offer a more concrete path toward potential prosecution than the broader and murkier questions of collusion in the 2016 campaign, these sources said…

The increased financial focus hasn’t gone unnoticed by Trump, who warned Mueller, via an interview with The New York Times, that his financial dealings were a red line that investigators shouldn’t cross. But the order establishing the special counsel makes clear Mueller is authorized to investigate any matters that “arose or may arise directly from the investigation.

…The possible financial ties between Trump and Russia were part of the concerns for US intelligence and law enforcement officials from the beginning, according to one current law enforcement official and one former US intelligence official.

Over the decades, the Trump real estate business and its financial dealings have come under scrutiny by the FBI and the Justice Department multiple times.

In some cases, the FBI was pursuing others who did business with the Trump organization, including alleged mobsters who controlled key contractors used by many real estate developers in New York during the 1980s. The flow of Russian money in real estate — and concerns that some buyers were making the purchases to illegally launder money — had also drawn some attention by US authorities to the Trump business.

The international real estate business is a part of the global economy where foreigners can still use cash with fewer questions asked about the sources of money. Terrorism financing concerns long ago put more stringent rules on banking and other businesses. But the rules are looser in the business of buying and selling high-end real estate, US officials say.

Investigators are looking both at whether financial laws were broken and whether there are any dealings that could put the President or his associates in a compromising position.

There has been concern that Donald Trump might launch is own version of the Saturday Night Massacre in which Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation. A bipartisan bill is being written in the Senate which would limit a president’s ability to fire a special counsel. AP reports:

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware plan to introduce the legislation Thursday. The bill would allow any special counsel for the Department of Justice to challenge his or her removal in court, with a review by a three-judge panel within 14 days of the challenge.

The bill would be retroactive to May 17, 2017 – the day Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Donald Trump’s campaign.

“It is critical that special counsels have the independence and resources they need to lead investigations,” Tillis said in a statement. “A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances.”

SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; Dark Matter; Stranger Things; Star Trek: Discovery; Legion; The Flash; The Magicians; Doctor Who; And Other News From Comic Con

There’s a lot of lat minute news from San Diego Comic Con which didn’t make it into my run down last week, but first there was a major event Saturday night. With only two episodes left after last night’s episode, Guillotines Decide, Orphan Black is rapidly moving towards a conclusion for its mythology, and is free to kill of characters. (Major spoilers ahead.) There have already been deaths, such as M.K. and Susan Duncan, but this really accelerated last might. First Gracie was shot by people from Neolution after trying to protect Helena. Last week I noted a change for the better with Rachel.  Ferdinand, however, came to save her but did not realize her change in priorities, and almost got killed when Rachel betrayed him as part of her plan to take down Neolution.

Ferdinand survived the first threat and appeared like he was going to strangle Rachel, who should have been better prepared for the possibility of him surviving. This led to a showdown with Mrs. S. in which each got off a fatal shot at the other (sort of like what happened to one of the major characters in this season’s finale of Fargo). It is commonplace on television for major characters to not really be dead despite appearances but Maria Doyle Kennedy did confirm that he character was dead in an interview with TV Line.

Despite the three deaths, the episode also managed to have the type of fun sequence which is often most enjoyable for the show–seeing the clones and major cast members living their lives and interacting Felix had his art show, introducing what looked like various versions of his sister to those unaware of them being a set of clones. At the end, however, Sarah did feel the disruption in the Force with the death of Mrs. S.

The best lines in the episode came when Donnie complained about Alison being too controlling. She responded, “I’m not going to micromanage you, Donnie.” This was quickly followed by, “Is that what you’re wearing?”

Entertainment Weekly discussed the episode with Graeme Manson:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How dare you go and depress all these people on a Saturday night. What’s wrong with you, for chrissakes?
GRAEME MANSON: Because if you track the story and you track the story of Sarah and Mrs. S, we’re telling a generational story now. Ultimately, we’re telling that story about Sarah’s journey, and to step into those big shoes of her mother is really the strongest journey that Sarah can make. So, there was a drop in the writer’s room. There was one of those moments of deep breath when the idea came up because it’s our final season. Someone has to go, and this made sense. And the first phone calls that we made were to Tatiana and to Maria to talk about this, and everybody had the same reaction — that gut reaction that this was the gut punch the series needed.

So why was this the time and place and way to do it and kill off Mrs. S?
We have two episodes left, and it was the most traumatic point that we could do this and complete the journey of the girl that we saw step onto the train tracks in the very first episode of Orphan Black. And it’s time to set the stage for the final two episodes now. We’ve got a two-parter coming up, and what is Sarah’s reaction going to be? Is she going to be the impulsive Sarah that we’ve known so much? Is she going to be beaten down? How are her sisters going to get through this together without the mother figure of this chosen family? We’re just tremendously excited to see this play out and see how our girls will take the hardest thing that we could throw at them…

Of course, Mrs. S not the only character who died. You also killed off Ferdinand and Gracie, who have been big characters on this show. Are you guys like, the end is near, let’s just start offing everybody now?
[Laughing] Well, it’s definitely ramping up, and it’s ramping up in real time with Helena’s pregnancy, so the crux of what’s coming is about new life, as well as the loss that we’ve just experienced. I just can’t wait for these final two episodes. It’s a great two-parter.

What if Ferdinand had taken Rachel up on her offer to go off the grid? Would they be sipping Mai Tais somewhere right now?
Yes. And so I think she would have left Kira. But that was the moment when Rachel chose to stand with her sisters, and it’s more than just the I. Rachel and Mrs. S had a moment where they connected, and Mrs. S had told her before — there will come a time when you need us. So Rachel’s journey over the last couple of episodes has been one of our favorites as well, certainly one of Tatiana’s favorite to play. Episode 7 was very deep, and in episode 8 we see the results. Rachel is stepping to our side, what’s going to happen now? Rachel and Sarah the old arch enemies. This is what the death of Mrs. S does. It throws everybody together…

And looking ahead a little bit to that, what can you say about Helena? We see her taken — I’m guessing being taken to the island now. What can you say as far as that?
End game. It’s coming from all ends. Now, the crux is all coming down to Helena’s babies. Rachel did the right thing and saved Kira, but now we’ve got Helena out there, and she’s about to have those valuable genetic children that everybody wants. So, the stage is set, my friend. Next week’s episode is really about getting back together, closing the circle with Rachel. Is Sarah going to murder Rachel? There’s a lot of stuff up in the air, and it all hinges on Sarah’s reaction to this event. So, it’s a great episode that ends in a huge, huge cliffhanger that’ll lead us into the finale.

Who would have predicted during the first season that the end game would be about rescuing Helena?

Also this weekend, Dark Matter continued to cycle through all the major genre troupes, this time with the time travel episode in which their actions led to the technology they depend upon. Plus they did the Stranger Things homage including kids, and there were video games.

Speaking of Stranger Things, ScreenRant report that it was revealed at Comic Con that the upcoming second season will help set up the eventual end point for the series, whenever that may be. More news on Stranger Things last week.

Last week we also learned that Michael Emerson will have a recurring role on Arrow next season. Spoiler TV reports that he will also have a recurring role on Mozart In The Jungle:

Emerson plays Morton Norton, an eccentric collector of classical music ephemera and curiosities who prefers the past to the present. He spends his days alone in a gothic mansion surrounded by classical music relics, dressed as a 16th century homicidal composer named Gesualdo (a composer he finds very underappreciated). When Rodrigo (Gael García Bernal) arrives, he will be pulled into Norton’s bizarre world, taking a tour of his collection.

The Star Trek: Discovery panel begins with the video above. TrekMovie.com has coverage including here, here, and here. Quotes include the producers considering both long time fans and a new audience:

We are very, very attentive of the divergence between audience bases. We know that there are folks like us – who know way too much – and folks who know little or none at all. So the barrier to entry has been reduced. We are trying to be welcoming to people who have never seen an episode of Trek, but also really delightful to those us who can’t stop seeing them. So that is our outcome goal. Star Trek is always about a world that is for everyone. Our show tries to be for everyone…

The fact that we are on a streaming channel allows us to tell the stories in a different way. These are serialized stories. They are not stand-alone stories. So there there is an emotional continuity and characters are learning as they go. They don’t forget what happened last week. And that is really exciting. So in the way you would watch any series for the characters and for that approach we get to do that here and that is really exciting…

With the increased tensions between the United States and Russia, I am happy to see that Discovery is getting away from the idea of the Federation vs. Klingon conflict being analogous to the United States vs. the Soviet Union:

We are also talking about not only war, but something that is really bubbling up in the United States right now, isolationism. Our country has so many different philosophies. Do we extend a hand? Do we shut it down? And that is also two viewpoints that are being expressed. The Klingons are not necessarily the Russians anymore. The Klingons – I think we will see far more in, frankly, people in the United States and different factions in the United States.

And that is not to say they are bad, but what we really wanted to do too is understand two differing points of view and really explore it. And I think when people look at the Klingons – I frankly love what they represent. Not in terms necessarily of all the messaging, but in terms of learning about them and learning why they are who they are and making sure they aren’t just the enemy.

And then finding a way to come together. How do we bring everyone back together? What do we do? What does it take? It is a big challenge for us, but that is what season one is all about.

The biggest news revealed was that Sonequa Martin-Green revealed that her character, First Officer Michael Burnham, is actually the adoptive daughter of Spock’s parents Sarek and Amanda. That explains earlier reports that Sarek will be included on the show, and leaves open the possibility of a younger Spock.

While they have taken liberties with the look of the Klingons and giving it a more modern look than The Original Show, they are considering canon. A video has also been released with producer Alex Kurtzman discussing the show and canon:

If you are a fan of Trek you are going to see a lot of things which hearken back to the original series and elements of the original series. I am not just talking plot, but the spirit of what that show was. We are going to be revisiting a couple of things on Star Trek: Discovery that I think people are going to find familiar. Without spoiling anything we are adhering to a timeline and sticking to the rules, but also I think finding some new areas and avenues that have only been alluded to, but never fully explored…

You have got a roomful of people with very different and very devoted relationships to Star Trek in that writers’ room. And that carries on a pretty proud tradition of Trek being written by fans.

You have to respect canon as it’s being written. You cannot say, “That never happened.” No, no no, you can’t do that, they would kill you. Star Trek fans would kill you. No, you have to respect canon. You have to understand the timelines and what the different timelines were and what the different universes were and how they all worked together. You have to keep very meticulous track of who, what, where, when and why. And we have people in the writer’s room whose sole job is to say, “Nope, can’t do that!”

We also learned more about Bryan Fuller leaving the show, and his initial plans to make Discovery an anthology show.

International Business Times summarized what was learned about season two of Legion at San Diego Comic Con:

Hawley already revealed that the second season will spread across 10 episodes. At the Comic-con, he revealed that he was not sure when the show will end but he confirms that it will come to an end when it has to.

“I have a structure, I have a kind of endpoint in my mind, but I don’t know yet how many episodes or seasons that is. I never want to overstay the welcome and I never want the show to become predictable. There will be an ending, that we know,” he told Comicbook.com.

Discussing the second season, David actor Dan Stevens told the website that the new season will most definitely explore David’s mind and things will become more complicated.

“We haven’t even really scratched the surface of the number of characters or entities that are contained within Legion. The Shadow King was obviously one of them and a large part. But there’s a lot more going on and anyone who knows the comics knows the scope of the world in which it set. So yeah, there’s a lot more to dig out of his head,” he told.

So will fans get to see Professor X aka Patrick Stewart in the upcoming episodes? According to Stevens, he surely will be a part of the show. Talking to ET Online, the actor revealed that the new season will talk about David’s dad. And according to Stevens, Stewart seems interested in reprising the role of Prof X in the show.

“He seemed very unaware of the show, but I mentioned that he was my dad, and he seemed pleasantly surprised. I think we want to address that,” he said.

“It’s normal when you learn you’re adopted to want to know who your real family is. He doesn’t yet know the identity, so I think it will be a process to get there. There’s quite a lot of explaining there, that your dad is Professor X,” Stevens added.

While the mystery about Professor X remains to be seen in the new season, Hawley did confirm that Wonder Woman star Saïd Taghmaoui will be donning the role of Shadow King. “Theres going to be a lot of things that are going to happen that I can’t tell you. But what I can tell you is that Saïd Taghmaoui, who was recently on Wonder Woman, will be playing Amahl Farouk a.k.a. the Shadow King,” Hawley confirmed.

Last week I had posted trailer and some news on the upcoming season of The Flash. Comic  Book has more on the changes in Barry Allen after spending time in the Speed Force from Grant Gustin:

“We’re not necessarily going to see Barry’s experience in the Speed Force. We’ll see kind of the effects that the Speed Force has had on Barry, and he’s been in there six months real-time,” Gustin started.

“I suspect the Speed Force is kind of nonlinear with time, so Barry has experienced his entire life from star to end infinity times over since he’s been in there.”

Continuing, the actor said, “He’s going to have kind of an awakening when he comes out. He’s going to have some knowledge that he probably doesn’t even quite understand yet. He’ll also be little scrambled; He won’t really be himself the first time we see him.”

Fans won’t be too surprised to hear about the Speed Force’s effect on the Flash; After all, Barry was well-aware during the season three finale that his sacrifice wasn’t going to be an easy one. Being stuck in the Speed Force is damaging, and The Flash went so far as to prove that by trapping Wally West there for a spell. When Barry exits the Speed Force, he will not be the same man he was before he stepped foot into it, and Gustin said that truth makes his job a bit more exciting next year.

“It’s almost like a fresh start for me as an actor,” the actor said, nodding to how different Barry will be in season four.

The Flash movie will deal with Flashpoint, and there has been speculation that this will provide a way to do a reset for Batman from the Ben Affleck version.

IO9 reports on next season of The Magicians:

The Magicians took the chance provided by Comic-Con to reveal the Muntjac, a magic, living ship that will play a huge part in season three of the Syfy show. In a press event that same day, executive producer John McNamara said, “It will kind of be our Fury Road season. No resources. What do you do?”

Season two ended with Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Julia (Stella Maeve) causing a bit of a problem for everyone. “Quentin and Julia kind of killed magic,” explained executive producer Sera Gamble. “It’s still called The Magicians, so we felt a certain responsibility to bring something cool and magical. It just comes from completely unexpected and different places in season three,” she continued.

Gamble also revealed a bit about where certain characters would be starting the season, with Quentin thinking about how much he would like to have magic back, while Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is trying to figure out who she even is without it. There’s also the question of Julia, who was shown in the end of the season to still have at least a bit of magic. Gamble added that Margo’s (Summer Bishil) story was, and is, about how when you are in charge and have to make decisions, sometimes there is no perfect answer and people you love get hurt…

Interview with Olivia Taylor Dudley in the video above, discussing what happens with Alice now that she is human again. 

Jodie Whittaker already had a run in with the Daleks at the BAFTA awards ceremony in 2013. See the video above. Curiously the next Doctor showed that she recognized the Daleks, but they did not appear to recognize their most powerful enemy.

Steven Moffat certainly foreshadowed the upcoming regeneration into a woman, leaving open the question of whether he knew that it would be as soon as the December? Moffat revealed that he knew all along at Comic Con: “I’ve known for the entire series I’ve been working on that the next Doctor was going to be a woman. I didn’t know that it would be Jodie. I didn’t know that until the Friday before the announcement. I didn’t want to know until Peter knew. That was my rule.”

Den of Geek has several excerpts from Peter Capaldi’s comments in his last appearance at SDCC as the Doctor.’

While not at all genre, I can’t resist noting this additional bit of television news: Megyn Kelly’s show on NBC has been cancelled after just eight episodes due to poor ratings.

Clinton Plans On Doubling Down On Blaming Others For Her Loss In Upcoming Book

Republicans who hope to keep control of the House have received great news. They will still have Hillary Clinton to kick around. The Hill reports that Clinton is doubling down on her claims that she lost due to James Comey, Russia, and sexism rather than being  a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign:

Hillary Clinton’s new memoir will blame her 2016 presidential election loss on Russian interference and former FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that he was reopening the investigation into her emails.

Sources familiar with the memoir told the Hill that Clinton made the two scenarios cornerstones of her book, which will be released in September.

“She really believes that’s why she lost,” said a longtime Clinton ally. “She wants the whole story out there from her own perspective. I think a lot of people are going to be really surprised by how much she reveals.”

…While the book will zero in on Russia and Comey — which Clinton has said are the two biggest contributing factors to her loss — it will also examine other factors she blames for a role in her defeat, including sexism and misogyny.

Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book will double down on Russia’s interference and James Comey’s involvement in her stunning election defeat, according to sources familiar with the memoir.

Earlier this week I cited the opinion from FiveThirtyEight that having Clinton on the ballot hurt the Democrats in down ticket races. FiveThirtyEight expressed the view that not having Clinton on the ballot will  help Democrats in 2018. On the other hand, having her on a speaking tour promoting her book and her excuses for losing could be harmful to Democrats running. Clinton’s popularity has fallen even more than Trump’s since the election, and I suspect that Clinton’s blame tour to date has been part of the reason.

Some Democratic leaders are recognizing the problem:

Some Democrats are worried that their party’s goal of rebuilding and rebranding itself will be undermined by Clinton’s book.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) has publicly stated that Clinton should not blame anyone but herself and lack of messaging.

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things—Comey, Russia—you blame yourself,” Schumer told the Washington Post. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden has also criticized Clinton for her campaign.

“I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” he said in May.

“What happened was that this was the first campaign that I can recall where my party did not talk about what it always stood for—and that was how to maintain a burgeoning middle class,” Biden said in March.

“You didn’t hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about the guy working on the assembly line making $60,000 a year and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess,” he said.

Of course pushing Clinton’s candidacy on the country, which ultimately led to the election of Donald Trump, was the last stray in destroying the credibility of the Democratic establishment. As an op-ed in The New York Times notes, the real civil war in the Democratic party is “is between those willing to trust the existing establishment and those who want entirely new leadership.” (While Lee Drutman’s op-ed does make some good points here, he does underestimate how great an ideological gap also exists.)

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes on Clinton’s fault which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others

Clinton’s excuses are all very weak. 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.  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. Clinton’s credibility was also seriously harmed by the manner in which she grossly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Placing the blame on Russia does not hold up either. The evidence released so far has shown that Russia was not able to hack into the voting machines or change a single vote. There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia is responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if we accept the view that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. 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. Again it comes down to Clinton losing due to her own major flaws.

Some of those who blame Russia have moved on to claims that Clinton was hurt by fake news spread from Russia. This ignores the vast amount of criticism of Clinton going back for years–including both factually accurate criticism along with bogus criticism from the right wing. The left has opposed the policies of the Clintons and DLC since the 1990’s. Views of Clinton were already set well before her nomination, and if any fake news did come from Russia, it would have been lost in the vast amount of noise already present on the internet.

While some undoubtedly would not vote for Clinton due to misogyny, these were primarily people who would never vote for any Democrat. Clinton was probably helped more than hurt by her gender among Democratic-leaning voters. A male candidate with Clinton’s repeated failures during her career, along with holding views more conservative than the Democratic base, would probably have only been a third-tier candidate with no chance of winning the nomination. Far too many Democrats overlooked Clinton’s serious flaws because of her gender.

The Democratic Leadership Has Failed To Give A Good Reason Why Their Party Should Continue To Exist

In followup of yesterday’s post on the struggle of the Democratic leadership to revamp their party by coming up with a new slogan, Chuck Schumer has an op-ed in The New York Times on The Better Deal. As I quoted Nancy Pelosi in saying yesterday, this “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” Democrats who turned out to willingly vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 will be pleased, but only a major course direction will satisfy those of us who did not. This offers little to win back the votes of those of us who did not vote Democratic in 2016. That includes those of us who voted third party, and the even larger numbers who crossed over and voted for Trump over Clinton or stayed home.

These proposals leave the Democrats as a party which stands for nothing. At least they didn’t mention Russia. Unfortunately this also didn’t really discuss  health care. It is like trying to steal Bernie Sanders’ agenda while ignoring Medicare-for-all or actually getting big money influence out of politics.

Beyond this, the problem comes down to thinking they can substitute a new slogan for real policies or ideas. They hardly inspire confidence when the principles of one election, to the limited degree they express any, are ignored in the next. Running on social issues alone was not enough (especially when led by a socially conservative presidential candidate), but that does not mean they should ignore liberal social issues now.

Those of us who voted Democratic because of outrage over policies of George W. Bush are hardly going to be enthusiastic about a party which nominated a candidate who supported the worst abuses under Bush–neoconservative interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties, and increased government secrecy.  Nor is there any offer to reform the undemocratic nomination rules which make the mockery out of the primary process, making it little different than picking the nominee in the old smoked filled rooms.

The new slogan has been received with considerable derision. Jonathan Allen compares the new Democratic slogan, “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages” to the pitch from Papa John’s, “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” Except the Democrats failed to add better ingredients.

First Read has a more serious but equally devastating criticism of Schumer and Pelosi in asking, “Can Democrats promise a ‘Better Deal’ with the same leaders in charge?”

The one thing that Democrats do have going for them in 2018 is that Donald Trump will (probably) be sitting in the White House, and Hillary Clinton will not be on the ballot. Hillary Clinton’s popularity has fallen even more than Donald Trump’s. FiveThirtyEight showed how the nomination of Hillary Clinton cost the Democrats not only the White House, but Congress:

Clinton’s unpopularity turned out to be a key factor in 2016 congressional races. Unsurprisingly, people who had a favorable view of Clinton primarily voted for Democrats in House races, while people with a favorable view of Trump primarily voted for Republican candidates. But among the 19 percent of voters who had an unfavorable view of both presidential candidates, House Republican candidates won by a margin of 30 percentage points. (Some voters may have cast a ballot for a Republican House candidate in the belief that a House controlled by the GOP would balance Clinton’s power after what most Americans thought would be a Clinton win.)

Not having Clinton on the ballot should help Democrats pick up seats in 2018, but it is likely to be a dead cat bounce, and perhaps more limited than Democrats hope, if the Democrats do not come up with more of a reason to attract voters than opposing Trump. It might be best if the Democrats could get out of the way and allow a new party to take over as a the true opposition and resistance.

The Democrats Are Hopelessly Lost

After terrible showings in the 2010, 2014, and 2016 elections, the Democratic establishment is looking for a solution. The Washington Post reports that they are going to announce a new slogan:

Completely sapped of power in Washington, top leaders of the Democratic Party now believe that the best way to fight a president who penned “The Art of the Deal” is with an economic agenda that they plan to call “A Better Deal.”

The campaign-style motto, panned by some liberal activists as details began to trickle out ahead of the Monday rollout, is designed to revive a party desperate to win back at least some control next year. The push comes months earlier than most campaign-year sales pitches begin — an acknowledgment of the need to shore up public opinion of the Democratic Party in the faster pace of modern politics.

Nancy Pelosi remains one of the captains of the sinking ship, saying this “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.” No, the Democrats need a full fledged course correction. The Democratic Party’s answer for the Titanic would be to find a better way to talk about the iceberg before hitting it.

At least there was one bit of sense in the article:

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview previewing the new plan. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Unfortunately the new slogan still sounds like they are against Trump but otherwise stand for nothing. As Mahablog says, “The Democratic Party is like your unhip parents trying to be cool, and failing.”

The Democrats took the wrong lesson out of their loss. The conventional wisdom is that they lost because they concentrated on social issues as opposed to economics, but that is a misreading of their problem. They compromised so much on social issues with a socially conservative candidate such as Hillary Clinton that they had no chance to build a winning coalition on social issues. That does not mean that they should abandon liberal social issues entirely.

Just as they now look to abandoning social issues, they gave up on opposing neocon interventionism and support for civil liberties in 2016 with a candidate who was far right wing on both, throwing out their previous advantages over the agenda of George W. Bush. Democrats need to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Instead they focus on one voter group while giving others no reason to support them, and don’t even do a good job with the group they are focusing on.

The new slogan sounds like a watered-down copy of Bernie Sanders’ agenda. The Hill points out that Bernie Sanders is keeping the door open for 2020. Unfortunately the article points out that establishment Democrats oppose him, both because of Sanders being an independent, and as he is on their long list of people to blame for Hillary Clinton losing an election she should have been able to win. Establishment Democrats complain that Bernie Sanders is an independent and not a Democrat. In contrast, Sanders supporters complain about far more consequential matters, such as the Democratic establishment picking their nominees with an undemocratic process, the Democratic establishment choosing a neocon warmonger as their last nominee, and the Democratic establishment being in the pocket of corporate money.

Update:  The Democratic Leadership Has Failed To Give A Good Reason Why Their Party Should Continue To Exist

Can Donald Trump Pardon Himself? Can He Be Indicted While Still In Office?

It has become so widely accepted that the investigations into Donald Trump’s business dealings are very likely to reveal criminal activities that subjects including whether Trump can pardon himself and whether he can be indicted while in office are now being discussed. While many disagree, Donald Trump claims he does have the power to pardon himself. The New York Times reports:

President Trump on Saturday asserted the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as he came to the defense of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days after expressing regret about appointing him.

Mr. Trump suggested in a series of early morning messages on Twitter that he had no need to use the pardon power at this point but left the option open. Presidents have the authority to pardon others for federal crimes, but legal scholars debate whether a president can pardon himself. Mr. Trump’s use of the word “complete” seemed to suggest he did not see a limit to that authority.

“While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” he wrote on Twitter. “FAKE NEWS.”

The Washington Post reported in recent days that the president and his advisers had discussed pardons as a special counsel intensifies an investigation into whether associates of Mr. Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia to intervene in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Many Constitutional experts and lawyers disagree with Donald Trump. Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, Richard Painter,  a law professor at the University of Minnesota and chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, and Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and chief White House ethics lawyer for Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, No, Trump can’t pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so:

Can a president pardon himself? Four days before Richard Nixon resigned, his own Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel opined no, citing “the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.” We agree.

The Justice Department was right that guidance could be found in the enduring principles that no one can be both the judge and the defendant in the same matter, and that no one is above the law.

The Constitution specifically bars the president from using the pardon power to prevent his own impeachment and removal. It adds that any official removed through impeachment remains fully subject to criminal prosecution. That provision would make no sense if the president could pardon himself…

The Constitution’s pardon clause has its origins in the royal pardon granted by a sovereign to one of his or her subjects. We are aware of no precedent for a sovereign pardoning himself, then abdicating or being deposed but being immune from criminal process. If that were the rule, many a deposed king would have been spared instead of going to the chopping block…

President Trump thinks he can do a lot of things just because he is president. He says that the president can act as if he has no conflicts of interest. He says that he can fire the FBI director for any reason he wants (and he admitted to the most outrageous of reasons in interviews and in discussion with the Russian ambassador). In one sense, Trump is right — he can do all of these things, although there will be legal repercussions if he does. Using official powers for corrupt purposes — such as impeding or obstructing an investigation — can constitute a crime.

But there is one thing we know that Trump cannot do — without being a first in all of human history. He cannot pardon himself.

While it is commonly believed that Donald Trump would not be indicted until out of office, The New York Times reports that the commonly held view that a president cannot be indicted while in office is wrong:

A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Bill Clinton was impeached, but was neither convicted in the Senate nor indicted while in office. While the investigations are at an early stage, it does appear likely that Donald Trump has committed acts far more significant than lying about an affair, and these considerations regarding indictment very well could wind up applying to him.

Quote of the Day: Seth Meyers on Jeff Sessions

President Trump said in a new interview that he had regrets about appointing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions said today that he will continue to serve as long as it is appropriate. So only until about 1955. –Seth Meyers

At least he managed to remain around longer than Sean Spicer, who announced his resignation today.

Today’s news also makes it likely that Sessions will again be a target of the late night comedians. The Washington Post reports: Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show.