Thursday, May 26, 2016

Why Hillary Clinton's Emails Are No Big Deal

There have been lots of denouncements this morning of Hillary Clinton's use of private email for government business when she was Secretary of State.  In response to Clinton's point that previous Secretary of State Colin Powell used private email, too, CBS Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson said on CBS This Morning that there's a big "difference between running a few red lights and running every red light from here to Chicago".

But that analogy is seriously flawed and therefore highly misleading.

Running a red light was always against the law.  Going through a red light twice rather than once, or every time versus a few times, is obviously much worse.

But using private email as Secretary of State was not only not against the law, but went against no policy when either Powell or Clinton held that office.  Powell did nothing wrong, and Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong. If person A does something that it is not against the law or any policy a few times, a person B does it every time, and that action later becomes against the law or stated policy, neither person has done anything wrong.

It's amazing that Dickerson and all the pundits in the media who are repeating his analysis are so fuzzy on this issue.  Our Constitution wisely prohibits ex post facto laws - holding someone accountable for an action which was not illegal when it happened - and Dickerson and his colleagues should know better.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

12 Monkeys 2.6: "'Tis Death Is Dead"

A more complex than usual episode of 12 Monkeys tonight - 2.6 - which is saying a lot, seeing as how 12 Monkeys has one of most complex inter<->looping narratives going on television, as befits a high-intellect, high-octane story about time travel.

Jennifer, as she often does, has the best line, when she explains why what the Witness told Cassie, that ending time is good because it ends death, is wrong.  Death is what makes us human, Jennifer says.   Of course, all living organisms die, so death is more appropriately what makes us and all living things alive.  But a big part of what does make us human is an awareness of death, a cultural taking stock of it.   Anthropologists are pretty sure that even Neanderthals had this, in contrast to our nearest living cousins, chimps and gorillas, which do not.

Monkeys certainly don't, which may provide another clue as to why this series is named 12 Monkeys - a clue, that is, other than its increasingly tenuous connection to the movie.   But that's ok, even good, because, as I've said before, there's a lot more room for a bigger story in a TV series than in a movie.

Back to the Witness, he's apparently a shape-shifter, able to assume the appearances of others, or inhabit their bodies, and it looks as if Cassie may be his host, if her jet-black all-iris eyes at the end are any indication. The question will be whether she can be freed of this, and come away with some crucial knowledge of the Witness, or - well, the possibility that she can never free herself of whatever the Witness is is too awful to contemplate (it sorta takes a doubling verb to get this point across).

Temporally local cops continue to play an enjoyable role in these stories. Tonight we meet Detective D'Amato back in the 1970s, which we're introduced to when Cole and Ramse first go back there with Foghat's  Slow Ride - nice touch, since time travel seems instant but it's the ultimate slow ride in terms of eternity not moving, and intrinsically always foggy, too.   If you want to learn more about this family of detectives, just check out The Silk Code, which also has a Neanderthal and a serial killer.

See also 12 Monkeys 2.1: Whatever Will Be, Will Be ... 12 Monkeys 2.2: The Serum ... 12 Monkeys 2.3: Primaries and Paradoxes ... 12 Monkeys 2.4: Saving Time ... 12 Monkeys 2.5: Jennifer's Story

And see also this Italian review, w/reference to Hawking and my story, "The Chronology Protection Case"

And see also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3:  Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math" ... 12 Monkeys 1.5: The Heart of the Matter ... 12 Monkeys 1.6: Can I Get a Witness? ... 12 Monkeys 1.7: Snowden, the Virus, and the Irresistible ... 12 Monkeys 1.8: Intelligent Vaccine vs. Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 1.9: Shelley, Keats, and Time Travel ... 12 Monkey 1.10: The Last Jump ... 12 Monkeys 1.11: What-Ifs ... 12 Monkeys 1.2: The Plunge ... 12 Monkeys Season 1 Finale: "Time Travel to Create Time Travel"

podcast review of Predestination and 12 Monkeys


Monday, May 23, 2016

Game of Thrones 6.5: Origin of a Name

A true beauty of an episode - 6.5 - of Game of Thrones last night, with a haunting time-loop employed to explain one of the minor mysteries of the series.

Why does Hodor, who has been Bran's mobility lo these many seasons, keep saying his name, Hodor?   A time-travel of the mind has already been established this year, with Bran traveling back to Winterfell to when he was a boy, when his father Ned was still young, and of course Bran had not yet been thrown off the tower.   A younger but still fairly massive Hodor is there, too.

Now, the key to this connection across time is that the current Bran has some mystic connection to his earlier self and that scene, in which he can not only see what's going on but maybe influence earlier events as well.  In episode 6.5 this two-way street is opened wide.  As Meera pulls Bran to safety from the White Walkers and whites, she shouts constantly to Hodor to "hold the door" so that the pale horde can't follow and overtake Meera and Bran.  In the past, Hodor, still at this point named Wylis, hears the shouts and repeats them in his simpleton way.  I realized after a few rounds of this that Hodor was a compression of hold the door.

It's a memorable origin-of-a-name story, with the name coming from the future, and tied to the saving of Bran's life and the sacrifice of Hodor's in the narrative bargain.  All of these years we've been hearing Hodor say Hodor, and now we know why.  Of course, in our reality, there's no way that the future can influence the past, and reverse cause and effect, but this is a good reminder that Game of Thrones is not just pseudo-historical drama, but fantasy.  I find this kind of reminder in some ways more appealing than the dragons.

But speaking of which, there was also a memorable scene between  Daenerys and Jorah, in which she commands him to find a cure.   Would that beating some strange illness were so easy in the real world, but, again, this is fantasy.   I haven't read the novels beyond the very first, and I hope that Jorah, one of my favorite characters,  is able to comply with his beloved Queen's command.

This has been a thoroughly satisfying season of Game of Thrones, so far - one of the best.

See also Game of Thrones 6.1: Where Are the Dragons ... Game of Thrones 6.2: The Waking

And see also Game of Thrones 5.1: Unsetting the Table ... Game of Thrones 5.8: The Power of Frigid Death ... Game of Thrones 5.9: Dragon in Action; Sickening Scene with Stannis ... Game of Thrones Season 5 Finale: Punishment

And see also Games of Thrones Season 4 Premiere: Salient Points ... Game of Thrones 4.2: Whodunnit? ... Game of Thrones 4.3: Who Will Save Tyrion ...Game of Thrones 4.4: Glimpse of the Ultimate Battle ... Game of Thrones 4.6: Tyrion on Trial ... Game of Thrones 4.8: Beetles and Battle ...Game of Thrones 4.9: The Fight for Castle Black ... Games of Thrones Season 4 Finale: Woven Threads

And see also Game of Thrones Back in Play for Season 2 ... Game of Thrones 2.2: Cersei vs. Tyrion

And see also A Game of Thrones: My 1996 Review of the First Novel ... Game of Thrones Begins Greatly on HBO ... Game of Thrones 1.2: Prince, Wolf, Bastard, Dwarf ... Games of Thrones 1.3: Genuine Demons ... Game of Thrones 1.4: Broken Things  ... Game of Thrones 1.5: Ned Under Seige ... Game of Thrones 1.6: Molten Ever After ... Games of Thrones 1.7: Swiveling Pieces ... Game of Thrones 1.8: Star Wars of the Realms ... Game of Thrones 1.9: Is Ned Really Dead? ... Game of Thrones 1.10 Meets True Blood

And here's a Spanish article in Semana, the leading news magazine in Colombia, in which I'm quoted about explicit sex on television, including on Game of Thrones.

And see "'Game of Thrones': Why the Buzz is So Big" article in The Christian Science Monitor, 8 April 2014, with my quotes.

Also: CNN article, "How 'Game of Thrones' Is Like America," with quote from me

"I was here, in Carthage, three months from now." 


Outlander 2.7: Further into the Future

Outlander 2.7 did have a superb and somewhat shocking beginning: Claire even further into the future than we've ever seen her, in the 1950s, in America, and with a red-headed little girl who surely (though you never know) is Jamie's child.   This set up the rest of the episode, back in 1740s France, pretty nicely.

It showed that somehow, Black Jack was still able to be the ancestor of Frank, unless - as I discussed last week - Jack already had impregnated Mary, or, she was impregnated by someone else, likely Jack's brother.  But the news that Jack survived the wound Jamie gave him is surprising enough - and to some extent, not completely believable, given what we saw of Black Jack at the end of the duel last week.

Claire losing Jamie's baby was also a surprising touch, as was Claire at first hating Jamie for dueling with Jack, since the net result of both would be no baby for Claire in the future, contrary to what we saw at the beginning.   This set up the reconciliation between Jamie and Claire pretty well, though we still haven't clue why Claire decided to go back to the future in the flash-forward at the beginning of this season.

Claire with the King of France was ok and interesting, though I'm getting tired of the French court, and glad that the action will be shifting back to Scotland, where it was last season.  Indeed, I'd have been happy with just half of the episodes so far this season in France, and Jamie and Claire back in Scotland already, as long as the shortened time in France had the Mother Superior and the dog.  But, hey, our heroes will now presumably be back in Scotland next week, and I'm looking forward.

See also Outlander 2.1: Split Hour ... Outlander 2.2: The King and the Forest ... Outlander 2.3: Mother and Dr. Dog ... Outlander 2.5: The Unappreciated Paradox ... Outlander 2.7: The Duel and the Offspring
And see also Outlander 1.1-3: The Hope of Time Travel ... Outlander 1.6:  Outstanding ... Outlander 1.7: Tender Intertemporal Polygamy ...Outlander 1.8: The Other Side ... Outlander 1.9: Spanking Good ... Outlander 1.10: A Glimmer of Paradox ... Outlander 1.11: Vaccination and Time Travel ... Outlander 1.12: Black Jack's Progeny ...Outlander 1.13: Mother's Day ... Outlander 1.14: All That Jazz ... Outlander Season 1 Finale: Let's Change History

Sierra Waters series, #1, time travel


All the Way on HBO and its Relevance to Hillary

I saw All the Way on HBO last night.  I thought this movie about the Texas politician and Vice President who became President on the day of what I still see as the worst public event in my lifetime - the assassination of JFK in November, 1963 - was outstanding for at least part of the way, in its portrayal of LBJ's mastery of domestic policy.  But it was frustrating for what it barely addressed - how Lyndon Baines Johnson messed up so badly in foreign policy, in Vietnam.

I came of age in the 1960s.  Not only was I devastated by the murder of JFK and his zest and idealism, but I appreciated and cheered the way Johnson came back with extraordinary Civil Rights legislation and all kinds of pathbreaking law for life in America, such as Medicare.  For a very short time, it looked as if the future could survive what happened to JFK. And then the Vietnam War, not started by LBJ but prosecuted and expanded by him, shattered all of that forever, or certainly at least until this very day.

All the Way does a great in job in showing how Johnson brought into being those domestic miracles, how he played the necessary Senators and recalcitrant parts of the country like a chess master moving pieces on a board.  Bryan Crantson gives an astonishingly  good performance, capturing every bit of Johnson's swagger, political cunning, vulgarity, wisdom, and insecurity.  Anthony Mackie and Bradley Whitford are spot-on and memorable in their portrayals of MLK, Jr. and the hapless Hubert Humphrey.   The deliveries and demeanors of the Senators and other players in this movie don't miss a beat.

Did LBJ really believe in civil rights and other domestic revolutions he championed and succeeded in putting into Federal law?  At the time, I was pretty sure he did, and All the Way - assuming that LBJ's words and expressions in the movie are based on truth - reinforces and satisfies that sense.

But what went wrong with LBJ in Vietnam?  All the Way provides little more than a shadow of that calamitous development, and thus not much help in understanding how and why it happened that the U.S. got drawn into this unconstitutional, disastrous war.   When it has happening, my best explanation was that Johnson was just over his head when it came to foreign policy, unable to navigate and parse what his generals and advisors were telling him, and above all not wanting to appear weak or indecisive. He just lacked the requisite experience.

Which brings this movie back to 2016 and its relevance to a decision facing all Americans today.   Though Hillary Clinton is not without her failings, including in foreign policy, she has far and away the most foreign policy experience of the three candidates still standing - easily more than Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump's experience in foreign policy is zero.  Hillary Clinton, as a former Secretary of State, has more experience in seeing to America's best interests in the world than anyone other than a former President or Secretary of State.

LBJ's error in Vietnam, just hinted at like a hurricane on the horizine in All the Way, changed the United States for the worse in a way that has endured to this very day.  Given the challenges that our country now faces in the world, we need someone in the White House with enough experience to avoid making an equivalent mistake in the next few years, which could have far worse consequences than what happened in the 1960s.   Thank you HBO for bringing home this point so effectively, though it was likely not your intention.   In the short and long run, All the Way may be more important for what it didn't actually show on the screen.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Banshee: Ends

Well, after I complained about last week's next-to-last episode of Banshee, Andy Page of Dark UFO told me that tonight's finale, which he had been lucky enough to see, was "very satisfying".  I'm glad to concur.   Most of it was about as good as it gets - as good as it gets for Banshee, which, being in some ways one of best shows ever to have been on television, is very good indeed.

My problem with last week's episode was the trite serial killer with horns being Rebecca's killer.  She deserved much more.   I mean, I didn't want her die, but if she had to, then I wanted the killer to be someone much more significant than an extra from Criminal Minds.

You can't get much more significant in Banshee than Burton - he was in many ways my favorite character.  His combination of cool, loyalty, calm and deadly defense of Proctor and himself make him one of the most memorable characters on television.  I can't bring myself to say villain, because even now, revealed as Rebecca's killer, I can't think all that badly of him.  And that's saying a lot, too, because Rebecca was one of my favorite characters on the show, too.   Big kudos to Matthew Rauch and Lili Simmons for indelibly beautiful performances as these two.

Proctor, perfectly performed by Ulrich Thomsen, also was a peak, unforgettable character.   I was unhappy, as I said, when Rebecca turned up dead in the first episode of this final season, but in retrospect she was the beginning of the end of all three in Proctor's household.  Her death was thus a deftly presented calling card for what was to come.

Hood, Job, and Sugar all make resonating exits, too, each in his own way.  There was a nice evocative poetry in the three of them leaving.   None of them, including Sugar, ever really belonged in Banshee - I'm talking about the town not the show, that's why it's not italicized -  so it was deeply right that all three left.  Good work by Antony Starr, Hoon Lee, and Frankie Faison in these roles.

And what about Anna/Carrie (well played by Ivana Milicevic), and her decision not to leave?  Not as clear, and though I can understand why she needed to stay in town, to provide an anchor for her kids, her not leaving with Hood is the only thing that didn't quite ring true in this finale.   But what Hood said to her - you're the only one who ever knew me (or something like that, I don't feel right now like checking the DVR) - certainly did ring true and more.

I'm more than glad to have known Banshee, and will be singing its praises for years to come.

See also Banshee Season 4 Debut: Whunnit? ... Banshee 4.2: Carrie and Rebecca ... Banshee 4.3: Serial Killers and Theories ... Banshee 4.5: Alliances ... Banshee: Penultimate

And see also Banshee 3.1: Taking Stock ... Banshee 3.2: Women in Charge ...Banshee 3.3: Burton vs. Nola ... Banshee 3.4: Burton and Rebecca ... Banshee 3.5: Almost the Alamo ...  Banshee 3.6: Perfect What-If Bookends ... Banshee 3.7: Movie with Movie ... Banshee 3.8: What Did Rebecca Find with Burton? ... Banshee 3.9: Loyalty ... Banshee Season 3 Finale: Subtractions and Additions

Like crime stories that involve the Amish? Try The Silk Code


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Americans 4.10: Outstanding!

An outstanding episode of The Americans last night - 4.10 - one of the best of this or any season, in which the Jennings family is shaken up and almost torn apart, over something which didn't actually happen.

Of course, the fact that this could befall the Jennings underscores the fragile, volatile nature of the family, ever since Elizabeth and Philip told Paige what they were up to (at least, a part of it), and, then, incredibly, Paige shared this with Pastor Tim.

And when he goes missing in a part of Africa under Soviet influence, well, it's completely understandable that the paster's wife, who in turn was told that Elizabeth and Philip are KGB, would think the worst - that is, that Tim was killed by the KGB.

Indeed, Elizabeth and Philip aren't sure what happened - and neither was I.   Their surprise seemed genuine, so it was likely that their protestation of innocence was bona fide, but even here you never know.  I recall Elizabeth and Philip occasionally not telling each other the complete truth - contrary to what she and Philip later tell Paige -  so it was possible that someone (likely, always, Elizabeth) did know what was going on, and didn't tell Philip. More likely, though, was that the "Center" took matters into its own hands, after Gabriel told them about the pastor.  Or maybe Claudia put through the order, she's certainly capable of that ...

With all of this swirling around, it was a pretty big shock when it turned out that apparently nothing untoward had happened to Tim - always a sign of good writing when a non-event has such shock value.  And that's an indication of how well this tense house of subversive cards has been constructed.

And there were other strong elements in this episode.   Gaad getting killed and the way he died, Stan meeting Martha's father, Matthew making the beginning of a move on Paige, Oleg in bed with that new Soviet woman and their conversation - all are good tinder for explosive plot developments ahead.

I'm looking forward!

ike a post Cold War digital espionage story?  Check out The Pixel Eye

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

12 Monkeys 2.5: Jennifer's Story

A not terribly significant 12 Monkeys 2.5 the other night - that is, not in terms of paradoxes in your face that threaten not only history as our characters know it but time itself - but a nonetheless satisfying episode because it finally gives us the lion's share of an hour devoted to Jennifer.

Up until the plague as the greatest threat and Cassie and Cole modifying history to make the plague at least a tad less apocalyptic, Jennifer was in many ways the most key player, because she was the one who uncorked the plague.  But Cole talked her out this, in front of a skeptical Cassie who wanted to kill Jennifer instead, and in the aftermath we've been confined to seeing Jennifer as a much older woman in the future which her not releasing the plague had brought into being.

On Monday night, we get to see Jennifer in her prime again - a primary in her prime, not to make too big a deal about this.   But not only is Jennifer in top form, she gets to partner with Cassie who's come back from the future to help her save the future.

The partnership actually helps both of them.  Cassie obviously can steer and pull Jennifer out of deadly situations.  But in their conversations, Cassie comes to appreciate Jennifer, and provide sage and comforting advise, as befits Cassie's role as a physician.   And this benefits Cassie, too, as she regains some of her humanity in a physician-heal-thyself way with Jennifer.

The future part of this episode, on the other hand, was a little lackluster, mainly because I can't really care whether Deacon lives or dies, and Cole and Ramse's plan to kill Deacon was predictably flawed. Hey, if you really want to kill someone, don't cleverly leave the job in other hands, just put a gun to his head and do it yourself.  This,  I would think, would be all too obvious to people like Ramse and Cole.

Anyway, the future beckons - as in the next episode next week - when I'll be back here with more.

See also 12 Monkeys 2.1: Whatever Will Be, Will Be ... 12 Monkeys 2.2: The Serum ... 12 Monkeys 2.3: Primaries and Paradoxes ... 12 Monkeys 2.4: Saving Time

And see also this Italian review, w/reference to Hawking and my story, "The Chronology Protection Case"

And see also 12 Monkeys series on SyFy: Paradox Prominent and Excellent ...12 Monkeys 1.2: Your Future, His Past ... 12 Monkeys 1.3:  Paradoxes, Lies, and Near Intersections ... 12 Monkeys 1.4: "Uneasy Math" ... 12 Monkeys 1.5: The Heart of the Matter ... 12 Monkeys 1.6: Can I Get a Witness? ... 12 Monkeys 1.7: Snowden, the Virus, and the Irresistible ... 12 Monkeys 1.8: Intelligent Vaccine vs. Time Travel ... 12 Monkeys 1.9: Shelley, Keats, and Time Travel ... 12 Monkey 1.10: The Last Jump ... 12 Monkeys 1.11: What-Ifs ... 12 Monkeys 1.2: The Plunge ... 12 Monkeys Season 1 Finale: "Time Travel to Create Time Travel"

podcast review of Predestination and 12 Monkeys

 three time travel novels: the Sierra Waters trilogy

 photo LateLessons1_zpsogsvk12k.jpg
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What if the Soviet Union survived into the 21st century,
and Eddie and the Cruisers were a real band?

The Chronology Protection Case movie 

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