No Paid Days Ahead for Kathy Griffin

Kathy Griffin, famed D-list comedienne and cousin of Family Guy star Peter Griffin is in somewhat of a career rut according to an article in The Daily Wire.  “I just want you guys to know, when I get home, I do not have one single day of paid work in front of me.”

Whaah.

I watched the first two seasons of Griffin’s show, Life on the D-List, in my never ending search for a truly funny female comedian.  That search is an entire post in itself, but the consequences for the purposes of this post is that I’m familiar with Griffin’s work, and her life somewhat.  Or at least as much as “reality” TV actually shows.  She really only had one unique hook, and that was her willingness to talk trash about other Hollywood celebs.  But of course, that has its own limiting ceiling.  You can’t leave the D-list if you keep trashing the A-list.  Still, Griffin hustled for work and made a pretty good living.  But entertainment is a fickle business.  Rape one teenager, or put out one jihadi picture, and suddenly the prudes start attacking your business model.

Still, there might be a little career left for Griffin.  Her famed jihadi picture was what effectively ended her career in the West.  Even those who hate Trump and love pictures of a Trump beheading hate being embarrassed by having their deepest fantasies revealed.  So are there new horizons that Griffin could explore?

Just a modest proposal, but since Kathy Griffin has worked the USO tour circuit before, she’s familiar with the Middle East.  Why not try working the other side of the street?  With the fall of Raqqa, ISIS and its associated groups must be really in the doldrums right now.  Fleeing from bombing, and losing your sex slaves could be a real kick in the teeth for moral.  So maybe…Griffin could find a fresh comedy market among the various jihadi fighter groups that dot the world.  Those guys could probably use a little fresh comedy, and what may seem stale in the US might be fresh as can be in the deserts of Syria.  “Look Ahmed!  The red headed, uncovered whore!  I would kill her but I am laughing so hard!” To me, this sounds like a win/win for everyone.  Griffin gets a refreshed career, and we have something to take the terrorist’s minds off of bombing something.

But Kathy, save the severed Trump head for the encore.

 

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The Establishment Party

So let me get this straight.  During the Republican primary, a Republican candidate or several Republican candidates got together to hire Fusion GPS to start gathering opposition research on Trump. After the primaries, the Clinton campaign and the DNC continued to fund the opposition research. OK, opposition research against a candidate is fairly normal.  But it didn’t end there.

Get this:

“Sometime in October 2016 — that is, at the height of the presidential campaign — Christopher Steele, the foreign agent hired by Fusion GPS to compile the Trump dossier, approached the FBI with information he had gleaned during the project. According to a February report in the Washington Post, Steele “reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work.””

So according to the Washington Post:

“After the election, the FBI agreed to pay Steele to continue gathering intelligence about Trump and Russia, but the bureau pulled out of the arrangement after Steele was publicly identified in news reports.”

So the FBI was paying a political opposition researcher after the election, to try to collect dirt on the then President Elect.  But wait, there’s more:

“FBI Director James Comey has cited the dossier in some of his briefings with lawmakers in recent weeks as one of the information sources used by his bureau to bolster its probe, U.S. officials briefed on the investigation told CNN… The secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) granted the FBI a warrant to monitor the communications of Page, a former national security adviser on Trump’s campaign.”

So to summarize, Republican Party operatives tried to dig up dirt on Trump (never mind that his dirt has been out in the public for years), and when Trump became the Republican nominee, they handed over their research account to Hillary Clinton and the DNC.  During that time, an arm of the Federal government, the FBI, made arrangements for that research with that same firm, and then used that information to get a FISA warrant against a Trump associate.

So if anyone doubts there is an establishment party, there it all is; Republicans, Democrats, and the Federal government, all working together, to go after someone not in the club.

One can also add the media attempting to distract the entire country with a phony Russia collusion story about interfering in the election.  The real collusion are the two political parties cooperating with the Federal government to interfere in the election.

This stinks to high heaven.

 

My So Called CW Life

In response to an online forum topic a few weeks ago, namely, what TV shows are you currently watching; I dutifully listed the shows that I had been following.  Much to my surprise, about 80% of my current TV show viewing was on The CW.  Considering its reputation for teen dramas, that seemed surprising.  On the other hand, with so many of those teen dramas as either science fiction or superhero genre related, it makes a kind of sense.  The CW seems to go by one rule:  Hot young people making out.  Now; with superpowers.

The New

Valor: A military drama seems an unlikely addition to a schedule of teen superhero soap operas, however the IMDB description puts everything in context.  “The boundaries between military discipline and human desire are tested on a U.S. Army base that houses an elite unit of helicopter pilots trained to perform clandestine international and domestic missions.“  Ha!  I couldn’t have written that better if I were a CW publicist!   So the hot young person making out rule is still applicable, in the unlikely scenario of special operations.  Although it’s too early yet to make a definitive ruling on the show, I’ll have to give props to the military technical advisors.  As a veteran, it’s sometimes agonizing watching most television shows depicting the military, as they manage to get it wrong on the simplest things; particularly uniform wear and military customs and courtesy. This show does a great job at working on getting that right.  Or…at least acknowledging when they are getting it wrong.

Returning Shows

Riverdale:  This show, returning for its second season, was one of my more surprising picks.  My curiosity was initially peaked by the idea of a gang of Saturday morning cartoon characters getting a live action make over.  What I didn’t expect was what the CW would actually do with the opportunity.  I’m not sure what I expected, but I don’t think it was the Twin Peaks meets Dawson’s Creek that Riverdale turned in to.  And they started the show turned up to eleven. One of a set of high school twins is murdered which started off the first season mystery.  Frankly, I didn’t care who the murderer was, and by the time I found out in the season finale, it hardly mattered.  The re-imagined characters was the thing.  Miss Grundy as young music teacher; preying on innocent Archie Andrews?  Hilarious!  Jughead as the hamburger chomping noir narrator? Inspired!  And with the spinoff of Sabrina in the works, I expect less magic teenage hijinks and more grim evil spirits (Goth style not included).

Supergirl: In the realm of the CW superhero shows, they almost always include a heavy brood factor, with the fill-in-the-blank hero on the ledge of some building in the dark of night, brooding about some responsibility that’s his or hers alone.  Supergirl has always seemed the least broody of the CW Superheroes, Supergirl being played as an earnest millennial rather than tortured hero-with-a-past.  But the returning season premiere has Supergirl, brooding over the guilt that’s hers alone.  Welcome to the club Kara Danvers.  Whether she continues to try to out brood the other CW Super Friends remains to be seen, but the charm of this show was she often was just as she appeared to be, a mid-20’s go getter, single gal in the big city… who could fly.

The Flash: In the season premiere, Barry Allen returns to Central City from the Speed Force to find himself being out brooded by his girlfriend, Iris West. With the Flash being trapped in the Speed Force for 6 months, Iris picked up the brooding slack and provided the heavy brooding needed by Team Flash. I assume that with the Flash back, he will be back to full brood mode soon.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow continues to be the most off the wall of the CW superhero shows.  Their motto seems to be, “no rules.”  Even when they obey rules, it’s just barely.  A particular moment from last season is classic. When seeking the “Spear of Destiny” the gang is told that it requires the blood of Christ to activate it.  So Sara Lance is like, sure, why not?  Judea  and the Crucifixion, here we come!  Rip Hunter freaks out at the idea but it struck me that time travel shows just don’t “go there” in terms of potentially theologically sensitive moments.  Legends actually brought that up, which tells you that no moment in history is safe from their meddling.  This season, Hunter and the Legends are on opposite sides as they grow bored with their 2017 lives and decide to start time traveling again.

Supernatural, entering its 13th season, amazingly still has more stories to tell.  It’s hard to recall the last time a non-animated show went on this many seasons and still had some juice left.  Frankly, I thought that after thwarting the Apocalypse in season 4, it would be difficult to top, but in season 11 they managed save the entire universe, meet God, and get God and his sister together in a divine family reunion.  After that, dealing with Lucifer’s son and getting their mom back from an alternate universe should be child’s play.

Arrow: Oliver Queen, the King of brooding CW heroes, is back with hopefully fewer flashbacks and more Parkour, this time as a single dad. Juggling fatherhood, being mayor, and being a crime fighting vigilante will fill up a desk calendar.  Because of the over the top brooding I almost bailed out of season 6, but the dropping of the flashbacks is a good sign that has made the show more watchable, and with the upcoming crossover, Crisis on Earth-X, I cannot even think of bailing until we get through that.  This really hits home for me.  As a kid, I read the original Justice League comic which actually introduced “Earth-X,” the world in which the Nazi’s won World War II.  I would never have imagined as a kid that there would actually be a series of TV episodes that would actually adapt that very story.

In some ways, the future turned out to be better than I could have ever dreamed.

And none of this even covers the mid-season replacements!  More to come on that I suppose…

 

Useful Reading on Trump’s Executive Actions on Healthcare

Trump did more to reform healthcare last week than the GOP Congress has done all year. Given the much broader power and authority the Congress has, that’s a bittersweet reminder of wasted opportunity by Congress.  Sigh…Trump’s two healthcare related executive orders don’t invalidate Obamacare, but they do expand some loopholes outside it.

Avik Roy in Forbes gave a pretty good summary of both executive orders in: Sorry Everybody, But Trump Hasn’t Instigated the Obamacare Apocalypse.

“On Thursday, President Trump issued an executive order covering three areas: (1) allowing small businesses to pool together to purchase health insurance; (2) restoring the ability of individuals to buy short-term plans exempt from some Obamacare rules; and (3) examining ways to make employer-funded health savings accounts more flexible. On Friday, the President announced that he would no longer be disbursing the cost-sharing subsidies… until Congress appropriates the funds for them.”

There seems to be more actual reform in that first executive order than in any of the GOP healthcare reform plans.  Short term plan lengths have gone from being valid for 3 months to a full year, going back to rules that existed in…2016.  Yes it was an Obama executive decision to shorten the length they could be offered, no doubt to push more people on to the exchanges.

The other executive order, to suspend payments to health insurance companies to cover low income premiums and deductibles, has resulted in much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, but Trump was merely going along with a US District Court decision from last year that ruled the payments were improperly funded without appropriations from Congress.  Reason Magazine’s take, By Cutting Off Obamacare’s Insurer Subsidies, Trump Might Help More People Get Health Coverage, has a counter-intuitive view that the cutting off subsidies, contrary to Democratic spin, won’t make much difference to poor people covered under Obamacare since the coverage is mandated anyway, and any increase in premium costs are covered by the Obamacare purchase subsidy.

So I recommend both articles.  You’ll end up knowing more about these healthcare changes than any commentator on MSNBC!

Should I have an opinion on Catalan Independence?

Well

“Catalonia will move on Monday to declare independence from Spain, a regional government source said, as the European Union nation nears a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy and has unnerved financial markets.

Pro-independence parties that control the regional parliament have asked for a debate and vote on Monday on declaring independence, the source said. A declaration should follow this vote, although it is unclear when Catalan President Carles Puigdemont earlier told the BBC that his government would ask the region’s parliament to declare independence after tallying votes from last weekend’s referendum, which Madrid says was illegal.”

There is a lot to unpack there, and this all seems like surprisingly major news considering it’s barely been covered in the US media, especially considering the amount of media attention the Scottish Independence Referendum received.  In fact I doubt I would have heard anything about it if I hadn’t been following Julian Assange’s twitter feed.

The Catalonia region of Spain wanted a referendum on independence, the Spanish courts determined it wouldn’t be legal, and Catalonia went ahead and had one anyway.  Independence won and now they’re pushing to go ahead and declare independence by next week.

Wow.

In some ways, the referendum resembles Crimea’s referendum, which was illegal, since the Russians occupied Crimea and ran it, but it won anyway (or maybe because). But there is no big power to help this along in Spain; obviously the EU doesn’t count.  But the EU seems to be part of the problem.  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that one of the supreme ironies of the European Union, and its goal of creating a United States of Europe, is that it’s existence is probably encouraging European independence movements.  There are multiple European independence movements that are ongoing and the idea that all of these subsidies and trade issues that are the concern of sovereign nations will be taken care of by the EU probably strengthens them.

As a rule, the EU opposes all of these independence movements among their members.  Catalonia fully expects to waltz right into EU membership, in the same way that Scotland intended to jump from leaning on welfare from London to welfare from Brussels. But the fact that the EU is there, willing to handle all of those pesky governmental problems for its member states makes it an attractive excuse/reason on any national independence movement.

But for right now, the EU is supporting Spain, and if Spain is serious about sticking with the court’s decision that the referendum is illegal, then what?  Are we looking at Spanish Civil War II: This Time it’s Regional?  And even worse, if shooting starts, what if Spain invokes Article 5 of the NATO Charter?  Is the US really going to get involved in a military conflict there? That is a real nightmare scenario.

…although, as far as military occupation duties go, Barcelona beats virtually everywhere else our military has been for the past few decades, if you have to fight a war, at least do it in a temperate climate with beautiful local girls.

As a general rule, I think the world would be a better place if each little language group and ethnicity could have their own nation. If I could wave a magic wand and make every national group its own nation, I would do it.  But not every group is going to make it as an independent nation.  It’s possible Catalonia could, but I never thought that about Scotland, even though every fiber of my being wanted to undue the results of the Battle of Culloden, I reluctantly concluded that Scotland, with the North Sea oil drying up, just couldn’t make it on its own, other than as the Venezuela of Europe.

Apparently the Scots agreed since they voted independence down.  And I feel the same way about Catalonia now.  My heart is with the independence movement, but my head is with a unified Spain.  That’s not unconditional however.  Liberals in the US view any call to “Blood and Soil” as straight out of Nazi-ville, but that’s what’s ultimately pushing Catalan secession, and all of the other independence movements both in Europe and worldwide.  Most people in the world have a sense of both place and identity, and although the West tries to pretend it’s an atavistic impulse, as outdated as the appendix, it’s still there, either just below the surface or bursting to the top.  If separation must come, best to do it peaceably.

 

Streaming Star Trek Discovery

A new Star Trek TV show is an exciting event that only comes around every few years, and you never know when it will be the final Star Trek series.  People will get tired of this, yes?  Enterprise ended after only four seasons, and that seemed to be the death kneel for any future Star Trek show.  But then came the rebooted movies and now, yet another attempt at bringing Star Trek to television.

Sort of.           

Although Star Trek Discovery had its premiere on CBS, the series is being shown exclusively (at least in the US) on the CBS All Access streaming service. As a long time Star Trek fan, I figured the show would have to be an incredible crap fest for me not to sign up for the service.  Although all networks stream their show content online, CBS seems to be unique in thinking it can compete with Hulu and Netflix by creating original content for their service.  It’s already given that a test run with the show, The Good Fight, a spinoff of their long time popular show The Good Wife.

As a strategy, it may not be a bad one.  CBS owns a lot of valuable properties and paying to produce original content, such as a spinoff of a popular network show, or a show with a dedicated fan base, might be a winning option.  Unlike network shows, streaming services have exact data on sign ups and who’s watching, so if a strategy is working, they will know immediately, and in that vein, CBS News reported that it broke the one day record for new sign ups after the Discovery premiere.

So yes, I signed right up.

Let me say this about the CBS All Access streaming service; I find it incredible that a streaming service that intends to complete with Hulu and Netflix does not have an app for Smart TV’s.  That is serious malpractice right there.  Yes, it does have apps for Windows and Apple products, as well as Roku and Xbox, but no Smart TV app?  So a show with a multimillion dollar per episode budget with movie quality special effects can’t be shown on your average Smart TV?

Come on!

That inconvenience aside, another issue with the CBS Streaming Access is that there just isn’t much else there I would want to watch.  I mean, it’s all CBS re-runs other than The Good Fight and Discovery of course.  However CBS did seem to recognize that and added a post-show gabfest for Discovery called After Trek. A post episode discussion show isn’t a bad idea if done right.  AMC’s companion show to the Walking Dead, Talking Dead, is a perfect example of how to do it right.  In the small universe of after show fan service, Talking Dead’s Chris Hardwick is the perfect post show host.  He knows how to keep the conversation flowing, and is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the source material.  Most importantly, he knows how to guide his show guests into talking about their characters, rather than themselves.  Not an easy job for Hollywood actors.  On the other end of the spectrum, HBO’s After the Thrones was a train wreck.  Apparently hosting skills for these particular types of shows are not common.

Watching the first episode of After Trek, I would definitely give it high marks in comparison to the previously mentioned After the Thrones. The show is not in Talking Dead territory, but host Matt Mira is surprisingly good.   He has some work ahead of him though in order to pull some character backstory from the actors.  When asking actor James Frain, who plays Sarek, about some of Sarek’s motivations, Frain replied that he just says the lines.  I can’t decide if that’s a terrible answer or a great one, but I’m leaning towards great.

As for the show itself (and warning, there be spoilers), there is no doubt the title should have been Star Trek Woke: The Current Year.  Prior to the premiere, there were reports that the producers were recasting the Klingons as MAGA supporters, Make Q’onoS* Great Again and all that.  Well I can report that is the case. Much of the first two episodes have a great deal of Klingon scenes (in Klingon of course) in which the political situation in the empire is one of disarray, and much is made of the mongrelization of the Federation, with all the different Federation races blending in multicultural diversity; something that’s anathema to these red State Klingons.  Luckily, the Discovery cast is there to take a knee to racist Klingons.

Of course this is hardly the first TV show that the Trump election has caused breakdowns in the writer’s rooms.  Homeland, the Showtime spy series had such a breakdown in which they threw out the outline for their last season half way through and it ended in an incoherent mess.  CBS summer replacement show Salvation had a coup d’etat against a female President requiring a counter coup to get rid of that man and put a woman back in charge, all which had nothing to do with a show about an asteroid coming to destroy earth.

As for the plot of the pilot, as one online commenter put it, “Sassy black girl teaches the Federation how to deal with warlike Klingons, gets sent to prison.”

That’s basically it for the two part show opener.  For that, just a few observations:

There is a lot of go grrrl nonsense in this show. In one scene the Captain and First Officer, both female, beam onto a Klingon ship and win a hand to hand tussle (at least initially) with a couple of Klingons. I know this is science fiction but come on!  Of course after several decades of watching 90 pound waifs’ karate chop 250 pound trained male fighters on television, the scene doesn’t look quite as ridiculous as it actually was.  I guess we’re all conditioned to accept that tiny women not only can defeat large men in hand to hand combat, but in almost all circumstances they most certainly will.

In the build up to the show the look of the Klingons is so different from any earlier look of that species that the producers had to explain that Klingons were a very diverse race and there were many types of Klingons depending on which “house” the Klingon belonged to. So in a scene that showed the heads of all the Klingon houses, they all looked the same, the new version. Why not just do a different alien species if you want a new look? Not sure I get that. It definitely breaks canon though.

As far as the characters go, the only really likeable one seems to be Lt. Commander Saru, a weird looking alien ( he’s a “Kelpien”) who manages to do more to inject a little humanity into the show than any of the other characters, including titular star of the show Commander Michael Burnham, played by Walking Dead alum Sonequa Martin-Green. That being said, the unique backstory of the character; orphaned human girl raised by Sarek on Vulcan and graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy, lends itself to being played as a little less human.  In that regard, Martin-Green does have the acting chops to carry the lead for a show like this.  A flashback to the first time she meets her captain on the USS Shenzhou, introduced by Sarek, gives every appearance of a human trying hard to be Vulcan, contrasted to present day when she has a much more relaxed and “human” demeanor, but still with traces of a Vulcan upbringing. So if anything, the show does have a strong lead.

But that’s just my impressions from the first two hours of the show which really isn’t even a proper pilot; it’s more like a prequel to the set up.  The ship Discovery doesn’t even make an appearance.  So the third episode is more the actual pilot, and from viewing that, my impressions are that the episode ought to have been called, “Starfleet is the New Black.”  Prisoner Burnham is the most famous mutineer in Starfleet and responsible for starting the current Klingon war. When her prison shuttle is accidently waylaid to the USS Discovery, she’s drafted into the crew. Or was it an accident?  This was an episode that I actually got into and enjoyed both as a bit of escapist adventure TV and a bit of horror TV as well.

So we’ll see how it goes. As a long time Star Trek fan, I want to see what they do with this and having seen the third episode, feel a bit more hopeful this show will actually be entertaining. Knowing that Discovery will have a Harry Mudd episode and a Mirror Universe episode, the show has the potential to either knock it out of the park or flop. I guess I’ll know by the time we get to the Mirror Universe episode. If they screw that up…

 

*The Klingon home world for all you non nerds

McCain’s ‘No’ Not the Worst Thing in the World

Shocker!  Like every other Obamacare repeal bill before it, McCain is against it!

Senator John McCain of Arizona announced on Friday that he would oppose the latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving Republican leaders with little hope of succeeding in their last-ditch attempt to dismantle the health law and fulfill their longstanding promise to conservative voters.

Who could have seen this coming?       

Right leaning reaction to this has been pretty scathing, just like it was last July when McCain did exactly the same thing.  My view on this is that although McCain’s no vote has zero to do with healthcare and 100% about giving Trump a big FU before he dies, in a backhanded way he’s doing the GOP a favor. The real villains in this story are the GOP leadership, McConnell and Ryan. They know what a real Obamacare repeal should be because the House came up with one in 2013, the Options Act. It was vetted by conservative think tanks and Tea Party groups. If they really wanted to “repeal and replace,” they could have used that as a starting point. Instead, they didn’t care about Obamacare repeal at all; they wanted to cut Medicaid to get funds to finance tax cuts without it effecting long term deficit projections. Reforming Medicaid is not a bad thing, but it has nothing to do with repealing and replacing Obamacare; Medicaid was around long before Obamacare. All of the GOP bills were terrible and none of them repealed and replaced Obamacare.

In terms of fixing healthcare, it seems the GOP is a lost cause.  The only avenue I see is Trump taking it out of Congress’s hands and creating a Presidential commission to come up with a repeal and replacement plan.  Of course I nominate my plan as a template for America’s new healthcare model.