Welcome to the last week of the Obama presidency. It’s Inauguration Week, a time turn the page and leave behind the mistakes of the past… and to look ahead with new confidence to the mistakes of the future.
No Filibuster For Any Judicial Nominees?
Back in 2005, then-senators Barack Obama and Harry Reid voted to filibuster the confirmation vote on Supreme Court justice nominee Samuel Alito. They didn’t have the votes. This year, White House press secretary Josh Earnest declared that Obama regretted his actions then.
Then in 2013, Reid and the rest of the Senate Democrats ended the right to filibuster any nominee to federal appeals and district courts, as well as any cabinet appointments, but kept it in place for Supreme Court nominations.
Then in October of 2016, Harry Reid, predicting a Hillary Clinton presidency, said he would invoke the nuclear option and eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations as well.
“It’s clear to me that if the Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I’ve told ‘em how and I’ve done it, not just talking about it. I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It’ll have to be done again,” Reid told the liberal blog Talking Points Memo. “They mess with the Supreme Court, it’ll be changed just like that in my opinion.”
And now, today…surprise, surprise, the shoe is on the other foot, and Senate Republicans may nuke the filibuster for Trump’s nominee.
Democrats have not firmly said if they will filibuster a nominee — and Republicans have not flatly said they would break that filibuster through a rules change known as the “nuclear option” — but those cards are effectively on the table, weeks before Trump submits a nominee.
But the Trump team is still plotting for a possible climb that includes picking off at least eight Democrats, a tall order by any measure, much less a vacant seat on the Supreme Court.
Pence went to work on a group of six senators at the Capitol Wednesday and
Trump aides have been working behind the scenes at the Capitol.
“Today was really about talking about our legislative agenda, but also meeting with members of the Senate to get their input on the president’s decision about filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court,” Pence told reporters last week.
Pence said he “hopes” moderate Democrats will come on board with his pick.
“The President-elect made very clear today we do expect — he’s not yet made a decision — but we’re in the process of winnowing that list now,” Pence said.
The 60-vote bar has been somewhat informally set by Schumer himself, who told MSNBC last week that he would “absolutely” do all he could to keep the Supreme Court seat open.
And the threat of a filibuster was clearly on the minds of lawmakers as Pence tested their feelings on the Supreme Court nomination.
Once you’ve nuked the filibuster for all nominations… how long does the Senate majority keep it around for legislation?
The Circus Is No Longer Coming to Town
In an era of ever-larger raging public furies aiming to get more clicks and attention, take a moment to read and salute Jazz Shaw’s nuanced assessment of the news that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down.
In later years I came to dislike the circus animal acts… a subject which can’t be separated from the topic of Ringling Brothers closing, but also doesn’t account for the entire story. Much like zoos and SeaWorld style marine parks, I didn’t care to see the large, intelligent mammals like the elephants and big cats put on display and made to perform unnatural tasks while living in cramped quarters and being trucked around the continent. It wasn’t some sort of torture, however. The circus beat back the animal rights groups accusing them of cruelty a few years ago and even obtained a $25M judgment against them, but a significant portion of public sentiment had clearly shifted. Personally, looking at the animals just made me sad.
Is there something in between animal cruelty and treating an animal the way it should be treated? Life on the road is rough enough for human beings, I can only imagine what it’s like from the perspective of an animal. I suspect Jazz and most people don’t feel the same way about zoos that give the animals sufficient space to run and move around and live a life that somewhat resembles their life in the wild. He continues:
If the government had swooped in and shut down the show in some misguided mission of social justice it would have been an outrage (absent any proof of criminal behavior). But that’s not what happened. Ringling Brothers is going down because consumers voted with their wallets. Part of it centered on the animal shows to be sure. The owners admitted that some people stopped coming because of the elephants, but another large group stopped attending after the elephants were retired a few years ago.
…Ringling Brothers is going out of business because they failed to deliver a product which a sufficient number of consumers desire. In the end, that’s all there was to it.
Unmentioned in the coverage: Kristen Michelle Wilson just debuted as the first female ringmaster in the company’s 146-year history, a promotion she described as “living her dream.”
It is indeed the end of an era. Big Apple Circus declared bankruptcy back in November.
Then again, Cirque de Soleil has never been bigger: “The company has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from close to 50 different countries. Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to more than 155 million spectators in more than 300 cities in over forty countries on six continents.”
The Twin Peaks Preparation Guide
Last week, Showtime announced that Twin Peaks will return to television after a twenty-six year absence on May 21. This weekend, the network ran a marathon of the first season’s episodes and released a brief teaser commercial that appeared after the premiere of Homeland.
I know, half of you are skipping ahead, and that’s fine. But if you are curious about this show that I and most of your weird friends keep ranting and raving about, here’s the proper viewing and reading order to get completely caught up:
Pilot: Two just-bout perfect hours, setting up the premise, the characters, the setting, the mood, and the mystery. The old VHS tapes didn’t include this because of a complicated fight over who owned the copyright. It was sold separately with a tacked-on ending that was stylistically intriguing but made even less narrative sense than usual. You can find that alternate ending on the DVD set.
Rest of season one, episodes 2 through 8: Really, really, really good.
Before moving on to Season Two, I would urge fans to watch… Kyle MacLachlan’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, to get a sense of the hype that built up during that first season, and a couple jokes that illustrate the mood of the audience. First, in the opening monologue, MacLachlan blurts out the identity of the murderer – albeit one that doesn’t make much sense – and gets a furious phone call from David Lynch, akin to announcing the nuclear launch codes on national television. Then the sketch parodying the series, where Agent Cooper ignores glaring evidence pointing to an obvious killer because he likes the town so much and doesn’t want to leave. The SNL writers predicted the complication in the show: a terrific mystery has to have a resolution – and once you solve the mystery… what happens to the show?
The beginning of Season Two, episode nine: The slow-as-molasses opening scene to Season Two is perhaps where the show started to go wrong. The first half of the second season didn’t lose quality, but it did lose the audience’s patience. ABC went to co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost and basically demanded they reveal the killer. The killer is revealed in Episode 15, and it’s about as terrifying an hour of television as you’re ever going to see. Two episodes later, justice is done. And then…
Episode 18 is where the show starts to go terribly awry, as the town seems to nonchalantly shrug off the events of the previous days. They’re holding an almost jovial wake at the site of one of the murders. (A spectacular takedown of the complete breakdown in narrative logic found this episode can be found here.)
Most fans will admit that the episodes from 19 to 26 range from mediocre to almost unwatchably bad, as the creative team, the cast, and way too many guest stars flailed around for a new main plot to drive the narrative. But by episode 27, an antagonist who’s been lurking in the background steps forward and becomes truly menacing, and the final three episodes regain the first season’s momentum. And then the show ends on the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers.
The Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk With Me, is a prequel, which is one of the many reasons fans are fiercely divided on the movie. On the one hand, it’s an emotionally intense look at a self-destructive young woman and her last attempts to claim some semblance of control over her destiny. On the other hand, it’s the fever-dream vision of David Lynch without the calming, logical perspective of co-creator Mark Frost.
Lynch filmed a ton of scenes for Fire Walk With Me that he didn’t use, and those scenes were released on the Blu-Ray collection, entitled “The Missing Pieces.” A lot of fans found these scenes intriguing, and a few of them particularly illuminating.
Fans who want answers to the cliffhanger may find something a bit more satisfying in the spin-off books. The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper fills in the appropriate backstory of the main character, and suggests that otherworldly forces of good and evil have been at work in his life from his earliest years. Twin Peaks: An Access Guide to the Town is a light, fluffy, funny tourist guide to the fictional town, but doesn’t shed much light on the show’s stories. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, written by David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer Lynch, is not for the faint of heart. It came out before the killer was revealed, but gives a really chilling sense of what it’s like to live in fear. It’s one of those books that is well done but you never feel the urge to pick it up again.
Then there’s the newest offering from Mark Frost, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, which I reviewed here. It’s best seen as a series of vignettes about mysterious and odd events in American history, a lot of nonfiction with a bit of fiction sprinkled in to tie the events to the town of Twin Peaks or its unique depiction of supernatural phenomena.
ADDENDA: The new season of Homeland that debuted last night features a woman president-elect who was a junior New York senator, is rather brusque with underlings, and is regarded warily by members of the national-security community. Boy, the writers and producers thought that concept would be a lot more resonant right now, huh? (For what it’s worth, the producers describe the character as having parts of Trump, Clinton, and Sanders.)