I still love the video of the guys from Ole Miss trying to get Admiral Ackbar as a mascot.
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The news doesn't know what it's talking about. Either that, or they're sensationalizing. For the photos to constitute a federal crime they'd need to depict a lot worse than a selfie.
I agree on the Emperor thing manipulating things, but I don't view him as "controlling large portions of the Senate" or anything. Manipulating perhaps. Ability to control an individual, perhaps. Controlling who groups of people, like telepathically, to get his way? Eh, I don't agree on that. I'm with Darb on that, in that the Republic was inherently corrupt from the onset of our introduction to it in E1, on through really to the Imperial Senate of ANH which we only hear mentioned. I think like all of politics, there's a pretty corrupt nature backing it with good people too, and people who are some of both.
It seems like the circumstances regarding the Empire in EP7 are leaning towards either A) the Empire is resurgent B) never really went away and now exists in a state of Cold War with the Republic, such as it is or C) the war never really ended. I'm fine with either, but would prefer something along the lines of B. Lucas intended for the Empire to be defeated at the end of ROTJ, as he intended the film to be the last at various points. He also intended for there to be as many as 6 more films beyond Jedi at one point, so it's uncertain if the Empire had been truly defeated. As has been pointed here and elsewhere, the Empire suffers a major defeat at Endor, but not a fatal one. You can look to what's happening in the Middle East right now (to a certain extent) and elsewhere in history to see how this plays out.
The Empire, militarily and politically, remains intact post Endor. The Emperor dissolved the senate, placed command of the galaxy in the hands of regional governors, and supported them with oppressive military that is only slightly represented at Endor. The entire Rebel fleet is present at Endor and suffers more extensive losses, one assumes, than the Imperial Fleet did. That same Rebel fleet is unlikely to have completely liberated the galaxy from an Imperial war machine that is at 97% capacity. No doubt some systems reject the Empire and there is a popular uprising. No doubt the Empire responds. No doubt someone, one of those governors or as yet unknown character (Max Von Sydow?) steps into Palpatine's shoes. The Rebels and Empire settle into a decades battle of attrition that sees a fledging new repbulic constantly under assault by an Empire that is simply too large and too powerful to truly go away.
Robot Chicken settled the Empire stuff in a sketch that I can't find on YouTube right now. The remaining officers got together and declared that the Emperor was dead, so the fighting HAD to end by the laws of sci-fi. Then they all go to get massages.