Clinton Foundation Donors And Weapons Deals At Clinton State Department, Plus How The Clintons Channel Their Inner Mitt Romney

Clinton apologists who fool themselves, or try to fool others, that the scandals do not matter might at some point need to reconsider whether it really makes sense for a political party to nominate a candidate with so much dirty laundry. These are not simply attacks from Fox or other right wing sources. This is news from The New York Times, AP, Reuters, McClatchy, ABC News, NBC News,  and other mainstream sources, as well as from many liberal publications, and is based upon clearly established unethical behavior on the part of Hillary Clinton. These stories will continue through election day. Republicans will take advantage of them and, in contrast to the attacks of the Swift Boat Liars against Kerry, the attacks are based upon facts (although conservatives do frequently stretch the facts even further than what there is evidence of). The court order to release Clinton’s email every thirty days will further keep this all in the news.

Some new items have hit the news this week. Award winning liberal independent journalist David Sirota reported on the relationship between weapons deals and contributions to the Clinton Foundation:

Even by the standards of arms deals between the United States and Saudi Arabia, this one was enormous. A consortium of American defense contractors led by Boeing would deliver $29 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to the United States’ oil-rich ally in the Middle East.

Israeli officials were agitated, reportedly complaining to the Obama administration that this substantial enhancement to Saudi air power risked disrupting the region’s fragile balance of power. The deal appeared to collide with the State Department’s documented concerns about the repressive policies of the Saudi royal family.

But now, in late 2011, Hillary Clinton’s State Department was formally clearing the sale, asserting that it was in the national interest. At a press conference in Washington to announce the department’s approval, an assistant secretary of state, Andrew Shapiro, declared that the deal had been “a top priority” for Clinton personally. Shapiro, a longtime aide to Clinton since her Senate days, added that the “U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army have excellent relationships in Saudi Arabia.”

These were not the only relationships bridging leaders of the two nations. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation, the philanthropic enterprise she has overseen with her husband, former president Bill Clinton. Just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 — contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to a company press release.

The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire, an International Business Times investigation has found.

Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.

The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House.

American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012…

In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records. The Clinton Foundation publishes only a rough range of individual contributors’ donations, making a more precise accounting impossible.

There is far more information in the entire article which should be read. He pointed out how Clinton had signed an agreement to disclose donors to the Foundation, and how this was a major issue before she was confirmed, but Hillary Clinton then ignored the agreement. He went on to look at the ethics of Clinton accepting donations from those she was making decisions about  as Secretary of State:

“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group that seeks to tighten campaign finance disclosure rules. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to allow those with business before the State Department to finance her foundation heightens concerns about how she would manage such relationships as president, said Lawrence Lessig, the director of Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics.

“These continuing revelations raise a fundamental question of judgment,” Lessig told IBTimes. “Can it really be that the Clintons didn’t recognize the questions these transactions would raise? And if they did, what does that say about their sense of the appropriate relationship between private gain and public good?”

National security experts assert that the overlap between the list of Clinton Foundation donors and those with business before the the State Department presents a troubling conflict of interest.

I have further quoted Lawrence Lessig discussing Clinton’s unethical behavior in this post. Further in Sirota’s article (and again I recommend reading it in full):

During her Senate confirmation proceedings in 2009, Hillary Clinton declared that she and her husband were “committed to ensuring that his work does not present a conflict of interest with the duties of Secretary of State.” She pledged “to protect against even the appearance of a conflict of interest between his work and the duties of the Secretary of State” and said that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”

Even so, Bill Clinton took in speaking fees reaching $625,000 at events sponsored by entities that were dealing with Hillary Clinton’s State Department on weapons issues.

In 2011, for example, the former president was paid $175,000 by the Kuwait America Foundation to be the guest of honor and keynote speaker at its annual awards gala, which was held at the home of the Kuwaiti ambassador. Ben Affleck spoke at the event, which featured a musical performance by Grammy-award winner Michael Bolton. The gala was emceed by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. Boeing was listed as a sponsor of the event, as were the embassies of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar — the latter two of which had donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.

The speaking fee from the Kuwait America Foundation to Bill Clinton was paid in the same time frame as a series of deals Hillary Clinton’s State Department was approving between the Kuwaiti government and Boeing. Months before the gala, the Department of Defense announced that Boeing would be the prime contractor on a $693 million deal, cleared by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, to provide the Kuwaiti government with military transport aircraft. A year later, a group sponsored in part by Boeing would pay Bill Clinton another $250,000 speaking fee.

Sirota also discussed the Foundation taking money from countries with a history of human rights abuses.

AP  reported on the pass-through or shell companies used by the Clintons to hide their finances, pointing out the similarity to actions by Mitt Romney, which Democrats objected to. First Read reported:

How the Clintons are getting turned into Mitt Romney

By itself, making money shouldn’t be an issue for Bill and Hillary Clinton; after all, so many of our past presidents have been wealthy. By itself, Bill Clinton having a shell LLC wouldn’t be an issue either. But when you add the two together, you see that the Clintons have a Mitt Romney problem on their hands — wealth and “otherness” that voters might not be able to relate to, especially when the likes of Bernie Sanders are campaigning against wealth. Of course, there’s one BIG difference between Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney: Romney wanted to cut taxes for the wealthy, while Hillary likely wants to raise them and eliminate tax loopholes benefitting the well-off. As the Clintons have said before, people like them should be paying more in taxes. And you probably won’t hear that rhetoric from the eventual GOP nominee. Still, Hillary Clinton could arguably be the wealthiest (or close to it) candidate in the 2016 field. And this shell LLC story is going to sound the drumbeats for her to release her taxes.

Not only her income taxes should be established. As Common Cause and other have argued, there should be a full audit of the Clinton Foundation.

While quite trivial compared to the other revelations, the Clinton Foundation has even been dragged peripherally into the FIFA scandal. This ties back to Sirota’s article as both involve how the Clinton Foundation took money from countries with human rights abuses.

Bernie Sanders Answers Questions And NBC Advises Not To Count Him Out

Bernie Sanders facebook

Bernie Sanders will be holding a rally in Vermont to kick off his campaign tonight. Sanders answered ten questions from MSNBC–almost as many questions Hillary Clinton has answered in her entire campaign to date. Some excerpts, which show that while on the left of our political spectrum, he is still not out to destroy our market system as conservatives are bound to claim.

HARWOOD: In the latter part of the 20th century, Ronald Reagan came along and there was a big pivot in our politics. It revolves around the idea that we need less government and more market forces. Do you think that basic pivot was wrong?

SANDERS: Let me answer it this way, John. I think there is obviously an enormously important role for the free market and for entrepreneurial activity. I worry how free the free market is. In sector after sector, you have a small number of companies controlling a large part of the sector.

Certainly, in my view, the major banks should be broken up. We want entrepreneurs and private businesses to create wealth. No problem. But what we’re living in now is what I would call—what Pope Francis calls—a casino-type capitalism, which is out of control, where the people on top have lost any sense of responsibility for the rest of the society. Where it’s just “It’s all me. It’s all me. And to heck with anybody else.” I want to see the result of that wealth go to the broad middle class of this country and not just to a handful of people.

HARWOOD: If the changes that you envision in tax policy, in finance, breaking up the banks, were to result in a more equitable distribution of income, but less economic growth, is that trade-off worth making?

SANDERS: Yes. If 99 percent of all the new income goes to the top 1 percent, you could triple it, it wouldn’t matter much to the average middle class person. The whole size of the economy and the GDP doesn’t matter if people continue to work longer hours for low wages and you have 45 million people living in poverty. You can’t just continue growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right? You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don’t think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on. People scared to death about what happens tomorrow. Half the people in America have less than $10,000 in savings. How do you like that? That means you have an automobile accident, you have an illness, you’re broke. How do you retire if you have less than $10,000, and you don’t have much in the way of Social Security?

HARWOOD: It came out in disclosure forms the other day that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, in the last 16 months, have made $30 million. [More on their disclosure here.] .What does that kind of money do to a politician’s perspective on the struggles you were just talking about? Does it make it difficult for recipients of that kind of income to take on the system?

SANDERS: Well, theoretically, you could be a multibillionaire and, in fact, be very concerned about the issues of working people. Theoretically, that’s true.

I think sometimes what can happen is that—it’s not just the Clintons—when you hustle money like that, you don’t sit in restaurants like this. You sit in restaurants where you’re spending—I don’t know what they spend—hundreds of dollars for dinner and so forth. That’s the world that you’re accustomed to, and that’s the world view that you adopt. You’re not worrying about a kid three blocks away from here whose mom can’t afford to feed him. So yes, I think that can isolate you—that type of wealth has the potential to isolate you from the reality of the world.

HARWOOD: I read an interview that you did about the corporate media. And you said the corporate media was reluctant to call out people for lying in public debates. You’re on corporate media right now. Who’s lying in our politics?

SANDERS: I’m the ranking member of the Budget Committee, OK? Leader of the opposition. The Republican budget does the following: It throws 27 million people off of health care by ending the Affordable Care Act and cutting Medicaid by $440 billion. Have you seen that in print? Have you seen that statement? There is a reality that goes on here. And you have many people who try to be, “Oh, I’ve got to be even-handed here and even-handed there. You got the Koch Brothers there, Bernie Sanders there.” That’s nonsense. And I think a lot of right-wing people get away with murder because the media doesn’t call them out on it.

Elsewhere at NBC, Steve Kornacki advised not to count Bernie Sanders out, although he was writing more in terms of Sanders winning enough delegates to shape the platform. That is hardly a satisfactory outcome if it still means Clinton wins the nomination. It is not as if a more liberal platform has any real bearing on what she will do if elected.

First Read has a slightly different, and more desirable, take:

For political historians out there, think of Sanders as a potential Eugene McCarthy. McCarthy’s ability to gain traction against LBJ drove LBJ out in 1968 and sparked more Dems to run. If Sanders gets enough traction to actually knock off Clinton in an early state, then Katie bar the door.

The closest political analogy would be the sitting Vice President winning on to win the nomination as Hubert Humphrey did in 1968. While Joe Biden is not my first choice, he would be far preferable to Clinton. He spent four years opposing Clinton’s more interventionist views when she was Secretary of State, and it was Biden who pushed Obama into announcing support for same-sex marriage. Knocking out Clinton could also result in other more liberal Democrats entering the race. Martin O’Malley, who will be announcing his candidacy later this week, is certainly seeing such a scenario as opening the way for him to win the nomination. I also wouldn’t rule out the chances of Sanders himself winning.

Update: Text of Sander’s speech here.

The Clinton Clown Car Is Back

Clinton Blumenthal Email2

While it is easy to mock the Republican candidates with their extreme views which show them to be out of touch with reality as a clown car, Democrats have a clown car of their own. The email from Sydney Blumenthal released last week (some of which had actually leaked out in 2013), shows that the Clinton Clown Car will be returning should Hillary Clinton return to the White House. We will once again have to deal with her cronies and conflicts of interest. On Saturday I looked at the conflicts of interest raised in Clinton’s email which show how she blurred the lines between the Foundation, her old friends and their business interests, and her work as Secretary of State. Errol Lewis, political commentator has more. After discussing the background, including the contents of the email and how Sydney Blumenthal was barred by the Obama administration from working in the State Department, Lewis wrote:

The cozy arrangement raises big red flags. For starters, why was a non-government official — one apparently barred from working for the State Department — sending sensitive information to Clinton that hadn’t been vetted by government officials?

And how did Blumenthal get to be an expert on Libyan politics? That’s where the emails go from interesting to infuriating.

“From time to time, as a private citizen and friend, I provided Secretary Clinton with material on a variety of topics that I thought she might find interesting or helpful,” he recently said through an attorney, according to Politico. “The reports I sent her came from sources I considered reliable. I have informed the House Select Committee on Benghazi that I will cooperate with its inquiry and look forward to answering the Committee’s questions.”

That’s not quite accurate. In addition to being “a private citizen and friend,” Blumenthal, it turns out, was on the payroll of the Clinton Foundation, according to the New York Times, with duties including research, “message guidance” and the planning of commemorative events.

The Foundation has been vague about exactly when Blumenthal left; he has rebuffed press questions about the exact timeline. Blumenthal may also have received Libya information from Tyler Drumheller, an ex-CIA official who formerly ran the agency’s undercover operations in Europe, according to the investigative news organization Pro Publica.

It also turns out that Blumenthal was working with — and likely getting his Libya information from — a pair of companies, the Constellations Group and Osprey Global, that were trying to land contracts to do business in post-Gadhafi Libya.

The exact nature of Blumenthal’s work with the businessmen trying to get work remains unclear; he isn’t answering press inquiries about it, although it’s likely that the Congressional panel looking into the Benghazi debacle will soon call him in for a grilling.

Was Blumenthal trying to personally profit from his relationship with Clinton? We don’t know. Did the secretary of state know about his business interests, and whether or not they overlapped and/or conflicted with his work at the Clinton Foundation? Once again, more questions than answers.

Clinton hasn’t answered any of these questions, although she recently made a point of defending Blumenthal. “I have many, many old friends, and I always think that it’s important when you get into politics to have friends you had before you were in politics, and to understand what’s on their minds,” she said. “He’s been a friend of mine for a long time.”

That doesn’t sound like a candidate concerned about the obvious conflicts of interest and possible improprieties surrounding her. And Clinton’s seeming nonchalance could come back to haunt her: a recent national poll of registered voters showed that 54% don’t consider her honest and trustworthy, and that number goes up to 61% among independents not registered as Democrat or Republican.

There’s only one cure for being seen as less than honest: Clinton should come clean with the public, and inform even her most loyal political soldiers that the days of triangulation, ethical conflicts and constant spin are over. If Team Clinton wants to present its candidate as fresh and untainted, they should realize that persuading her to walk the straight and narrow — something she has resisted doing — might turn out to be the most direct path to the White House.

This is certainly not the worst news to come out about Clinton, whose unethical behavior has been summarized here, but it is still a matter which should be of concern, It is also one of many matters which Clinton should respond to media questions about but refuses to.

Clinton is often inadvertently saved by the right wing which doesn’t settle for the real faults in Clinton which have been established by facts, but feels compelled to embellish their criticism with added conspiracy theories, including most of what they say about Benghazi. From that perspective I did find this post at Power Line to be of interest, moving beyond the conspiracy theories to question her entire Libya policy and management style. The post concludes, “It is that poor judgment that disqualifies her as a candidate for the presidency.”

I certainly agree that Clinton has shown throughout her career that she lacks the judgment to make a good president, but the same could be said of the Republican candidates which Power Line will most likely support. Besides, the problems with her views on foreign intervention, which underly her Libya policy, apply at least as much, and possibly more so, to the views of most of the Republican contenders. (The one exception might be Rand Paul, but he is flip-flopping to sound like the other Republicans on foreign policy.) At least it would be good if conservatives would drop their Benghazi conspiracy theories and discuss the real issues such as the perils of foolish foreign intervention, but I doubt that will be the case.

SciFi Weekend: Mad Men Ends In Perfect Harmony; The Flash Season Finale; Orphan Black; David Letterman’s Final Show; Gilmore Girls Reunion; Community’s Homage To The Captain America Elevator Scene; John Nash

Mad Men Don Meditating

 Mad Men really did end somewhat like I discussed last week–Don Draper on the California coast, analogous to the season finale of Arrow with Oliver and Felicity driving up the coast.  Don even traveled with a woman from Arrow–Caity Lotz, the Black Canary. In this case she played Stephanie, Anna Draper’s niece. The choice was probably because of Stephanie knowing Don as Dick Whitman. Spending the episode being called Dick culminated the trend of the last few episodes with Don symbolically as the falling man in the opening titles. By this time Don had given up virtually everything involved with this identity. During the finale he was rejected by his family, who thought that others should raise his sons after Betty dies, and hit rock bottom after talking with Peggy.

In the end Mad Men might be called an eight-year anti-smoking public service announcement and coke ad. Don was moved when he heard Leonard speak. While not as bad off, Leonard’s talk of being the person nobody wanted to take out of the refrigerator resonated with Don. In the final scene Don was meditating on a cliff and came up with the idea for the classic coke ad, which even included two girls who looked  like the receptionist at the retreat. Up until this point I had one complaint about how the series appeared to be ending. The first half of the final season was all about Don losing his position in advertising  and then moving back to the top. It seemed strange to then have Don walk out on it all, even if not comfortable with how the larger company does business, along with being wrong about the future of light beer.

Don’s return to advertising was foreshadowed, as was Betty’s development of cigarette cancer. The promos showed a previous scene of Roger shrugging off Don’s disappearance by saying simply that, “He does that.” Stan reassured Peggy by pointing out that “He always does this, and he always comes back.” Peggy told Don that he could return and that McCann Erickson would take him back. She even asked, “Don’t you want to work on Coke?”  Don was asked to fix a coke machine in another recent episode. The coke ad also was the culmination of Don’s difficulties over the years understanding hippy subculture. He may or may not really get it at the end, but he understood enough of the philosophy to develop the message of the ad. It clicked with him while meditating. While the message of a coke ad might on one level be somewhat superficial, this was a series which revolved around the advertising industry after all.

While Matthew Weiner has given support to the interpretation that the ending does mean Don returned to do the coke ad, while watching the show it does appear valid to come to other conclusions, such as that Don reached a spiritual awakening which was analogous to the message of the ad, giving him the strength to do other things, as opposed to actually writing the ad. If the show is seen as ending with an open ended question as to whether Don did create the ad, then in some ways the ending could be even more ambiguous than the ending of The Sopranos. With The Sopranos, Tony Soprano was either killed in the diner or lived to continue as he had previously lived. If Don did not create the coke ad, then things were left wide open. He could have returned to advertising, possibly return to raise his children, take a new job elsewhere, or just remain on the road for an indefinite period of time.

Mad Men ended with a happy ending for almost everybody. Pete Campbell wound up far better than expected after he realized he did not have to be a philanderer like his father, and convinced his wife to return to him. (Perhaps they have a daughter who grows up to attend Greendale Community College who looks just like her mother). Joan, who was never the type to live off someone’s money to use cocaine in the Florida Keys, returned to work. Her company may or may not succeed, but if Mad Men were to continue we know that Joan would be working somewhere regardless of how long it were to run. While providing an ending, the show also left things open for the characters to move on in other ways in the future. Joan’s business may or may not succeed, and things may or may not work out for Roger and Marie in long term.

Two characters who might have the most interesting futures should we see them on a sequel such as Better Call Sally are Sally and Peggy. Sally’s future is most in question due to her age. Short term she will help care for her younger brothers while her mother is dying, but we know she will accomplish more long term. A couple of scenarios were already outlined by others for Peggy. She might succeed in becoming Creative Director by 1980, or she might take the route suggested by the head hunter in a previous episode and move on to a great job in a few years after having McCann Erickson on her resume.

In a way even Betty wound up with a good ending for her character. After being disliked by many viewers over the years, she became far more sympathetic after we learned on Mother’s Day that she is dying of  lung cancer. She is also dying on her own terms, rejecting treatment which in 1970 was probably of little value.

The final moments of Mad Men, which includes where the key characters were at the time, can be seen in the video above, which concludes with the classic coke commercial after Don smiled and a bell went off in his head.

Matthew Weiner discussed the finale at the New York Public Library a few days after it aired. Here are some excerpts from a report on the event from The Hollywood Reporter:

Yes, Don Draper created the Coke ad. The last scenes of the series features Don hugging a stranger at a retreat and meditating with hippies before the episode cuts to the 1971 Coca-Cola “Hilltop” commercial. Viewers can infer that Don returns to McCann-Erickson and creates that ad. “I have never been clear, and I have always been able to live with ambiguities,” said Weiner. “In the abstract, I did think, why not end this show with the greatest commercial ever made? In terms of what it means to people and everything, I am not ambiguity for ambiguity’s sake. But it was nice to have your cake and eat it too, in terms of what is advertising, who is Don and what is that thing?”

That commercial shouldn’t be read cynically. “I did hear rumblings of people talking about the ad being corny. It’s a little bit disturbing to me, that cynicism. I’m not saying advertising’s not corny, but I’m saying that the people who find that ad corny, they’re probably experiencing a lot of life that way, and they’re missing out on something. Five years before that, black people and white people couldn’t even be in an ad together! And the idea that someone in an enlightened state might have created something that’s very pure — yeah, there’s soda in there with a good feeling, but that ad to me is the best ad ever made, and it comes from a very good place. … That ad in particular is so much of its time, so beautiful and, I don’t think, as — I don’t know what the word is — villainous as the snark of today.”

Leonard was “probably the most important role in the series.” The post-war period in which the beginning of the show is set, “the word ‘depressed’ was not part of the vocabulary except for doctors, and men certainly didn’t express their feelings other than in bar fights,” Weiner explained. In casting Evan Arnold, “I needed someone who’s not famous and can cry, and really do it. … We believe it right away that he’s invisible.” He played the role of the everyman, “even if they’re not veterans, the alienation that was created by success, political racial tension, the technology — which is, I think, what’s happening right now — the isolation, these guys, they’re gonna crack. … I don’t think there’s enough empathy right now in the world.”

That hug between Don and Leonard had two meanings. “I hope the audience would feel either that he was embracing a part of himself, or maybe them, and that they were heard. I don’t want to put it into words more than that. … I liked the idea where he’d come to this place, and it’d be about other people and a moment of recognition. I don’t think I can put it into words, but I knew.”

Don’s road trip was inspired by The Fugitive. “I thought, ‘I want to see Don on his own. I want to do an episode of The Fugitive where Don comes into town and can be anyone,'” Weiner said, pointing to the ’60s series. “That netherworld of being on the run — I don’t know about you, but I think everyone has dreams of committing a crime and being on the run. Am I the only one? I think it’s very common. You’re lying!” he told the audience with a smile.

In the history of television, Mad Men is the real thing.

The_Flash_S01_finale_TVGM-1431462169

The season finale of The Flash left many things open due to the effects of time travel. Barry went back in time with the intent to save his mother but was quickly waived off by his future self, and he decided not to change the events which led to him becoming the Flash. I was disappointed by this aspect of the episode as presumably Barry gave a lot of thought to this decision. Considering the risks which he had accepted, I would think it would have taken more to convince him to change his mind. Regardless, he decided against changing history at this time, but after he returned history was changed by another event. Eddy shot himself, making his descendant, appear to cease to exist. (It is a shame that Eddy hadn’t previously thought to get a vasectomy instead.)

As far as we could see, after Eddy shot himself and Thawne faded away everything seemed the same, other than for the time travel having caused the development of  a singularity which threatens to destroy the planet. The annual threats to Starling City which culminate every season of Arrow now seem so trivial. Theoretically once Thawne disappeared everything should have been different and the group wouldn’t have been together at Star Labs, but this timey whimy stuff can be unpredictable. We did see a brief image of an alternate Earth Flash helmet from the DC comics and Kaitlin as Killer Frost. Both or neither might ever be seen in the timeline of the television show. There was also an homage to Douglas Adams with Cisco saying, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” Plus his memories of the alternate timeline were explained as being a power he gained when the particle accelerator exploded, possibly foreshadowing him turning into the Vibe as in the comics.

One consequence of this could be that the real Harrison Wells is still alive, never having been killed and having his body snatched by Thawne. Plus should the Reverse Flash return (and does anyone really doubt this will happen) instead of Wells under the mask it might be the face we say before he disappeared.

The Flash Jay Helmet

Andrew Kreisberg discussed the season finale with The Hollywood Reporter:

When did you know Eddie would make this sacrifice?

When we decided to name him Thawne, we hoped the audience would suspect Eddie was the Reverse-Flash because of his last name. We always knew Eddie would be his ancestor, but we weren’t quite sure how we would end the season. The way things were moving forward, it felt like it was the best thing to do for his character. Like with Colin Donnell [whose character Tommy died in Arrow‘s season one finale], it was literally the worst thing we could do to ourselves as writers, producers and friends, because we all love Rick so much both personally and professionally, and we think he’s crushed it as Eddie all season. We’ve all become very close. It’s one of those terrible things. The story sort of tells you what it wants to be and as much as it broke our hearts, we knew this was the way the season needed to end…

Will Eddie be back?

The great thing with our show — you saw it with Colin Donnell and with Caity Lotz [whose deceased Sara is returning for spinoff Legends of Tomorrow] — is just because you are dead doesn’t mean you’re not coming back. Especially in the world of The Flash, which involves time travel and real hardcore science fiction, there’s always a way for Eddie to return, and we hope Rick will.

How does Eddie’s sacrifice work? Eobard disappears — but everything he did up until the finale still happened?

Our time travel hopefully holds together as much as it can. It doesn’t completely obliterate all of their memories of Eddie and everything, but it has the desired effect of “harm to Eddie means harm to Tom Cavanagh’s character.”

How did you lay the groundwork for Eddie to make this choice?

Eddie has been struggling these last few weeks, hearing about the future and about how there is no place for him in the future. He wasn’t going to believe in Wells’ interpretation of the future. He was going to make his own decision and he basically decided to recommit to Iris, which only makes his sacrifice that much more heartbreaking. He didn’t do it because he didn’t have anything to live for. He did it because he had everything to live for.

What does this mean for Tom Cavanagh’s future on the show?

Tom Cavanagh will be back. That is not in question. Tom Cavanagh will continue to be a regular…

You’ve said season two will introduce more Speedsters. Is that going to be a major theme akin to the Rogues in this season?

Yeah. We are going to introduce a few more speedsters next year and a bunch more villains. How they and those villains come about is part of the surprise of season two. We’re really excited. [Executive producer] Greg [Berlanti] and myself and [executive producer] Geoff Johns and the writers, the cast, the crew, the directors — we are so proud of this season of television. It really is a high mark for all of us, and we feel a great deal of pressure and anxiety to live up to it because it’s been so well received. As proud as excited as we are about everything we’ve done this year, we really are just as proud and excited for all the things we are planning coming up. Hopefully people will continue to take this ride with us.

Alison (TATIANA MASLANY) and Donnie (KRISTIAN BRUUN)

This week’s episode of Orphan Black, Certain Agony Of The Battlefield, gave viewers the pay off for the set up of the previous couple of episodes which had many slow moments. This included two deaths, Paul and Pupok the Scorpion. Paul’s death was foreshadowed in television logic by the manner in which the episode returned to his role in the first season, along with the dream sequence which brought Sarah face to face with Beth. After having ambiguous motives for much of the series, Paul was shown as the good guy. If that wasn’t enough to foreshadow his death, the clincher was his admission to Sarah that, “It was never Beth I loved.”

In other key developments, Helena returned to help Sarah, after eating the scorpion. Rachel has the key to decoding Duncan’s code in the margins of The Island of Dr. Moreau (poroviding references to H.G. Wells in two of the shows I am reviewing this week). Allison and Donnie have gone Breaking Bad-lite, with their daughter walking in on their bedroom celebration in a scene reminiscent of Paige walking in on Elizabeth and Phillip in the 69 position on The Americans (picture here). There will be a longer version of the sequence on the DVD.

John Fawcett discussed the episode with The Hollywood Reporter:

  1. The loss of Paul is one of the more significant character deaths the show has done. What made the timing right now, and is there anything you’d like to tell fans about making that decision?That’s what drama’s about — having characters that can sacrifice themselves, and open new doors, and throw themselves on bombs, and reveal themselves emotionally, and elicit big reactions from people. That’s what makes great storytelling, and what Graeme and I have strived to do. Also, [to] keep people off-guard, and never certain. I don’t like people getting too comfortable. We like that people tune in to our show, and they don’t know what they’re going to get. They don’t know where we’re going to take them. That’s part of the fun of the show, and something we can continue to do. Because I really do think people get all tense and excited about watching the show, and what’s going to happen. This is an element of the way we tell stories on Orphan Black. … Was it necessary we kill a character? I don’t know. But what it does is it’s such a big emotional explosion for Sarah, and it sends her on a different course. This teamed with the fact that she’s had this strange vision of Beth, this is pushing her towards the end of the season. It means big things to help push her towards the drama of the finale.Up until now, viewers were left to draw their own conclusions about Paul’s feelings for Beth and Sarah. What discussions were there about him saying, pre-death, so concretely that he didn’t love Beth, but he did love Sarah?We talked about so many different aspects of that. I was always a little worried about introducing a dream sequence into the show. But it kind of worked so well with Paul, and Paul’s departure from the show, and [resolving] the thread we left kind of hanging a little bit. Does Paul actually have feelings for Sarah? Does Sarah actually have feelings for Paul? It was nice to hear him voice it. It was just one of those big epic lines, where you get some clarity before he dies.Paul sacrificed himself with the intention of taking down as much of Castor as possible. How successful was he in destroying the samples, etc.?

    The point of it was to corral all of the Castor [operatives], all of the DNA, all of their research into one room and blow the f—ing shit out of it. So that was his point. Beyond that, you have to see the remainder of the season.

Sarah (TATIANA MASLANY) and Paul (DYLAN BRUCE)

More in that interview, as well as in an interview at TV Line:

TVLINE | Is Paul definitely dead?
I don’t know, man… [Laughs] He blew himself up. I think that’s cool. I like the fact that Paul is a character that we have not really been able to trust. We never knew where we stood with him. Was he a good guy? Was he a bad guy? Why is he doing the things he’s doing? And we’ve come through the last bunch of episodes to realize why he’s making the decisions he’s making. And, at the end of the day, he makes the right choice and heroically throws himself on the bomb. Literally. It was the way we wanted to see that character depart.

TVLINE | This is the first series regular character to be killed off. What was it like deciding to say goodbye to Paul and Dylan?
[This] was our plan from the beginning [of] plotting out Season 3. We knew. Dylan knew. It was a bit sad on set, though, I have to say. It was a little sad to see him go. [There were] a lot of feels on set, if you know what I mean.

TVLINE | Should we be questioning whether Dr. Cody and Rudy were actually taken out by that grenade? ‘Cause we didn’t see any bodies…
[Laughs] Yeah, you should question everything, of course.

TVLINE | Now more than ever, Sarah has so much information about herself and her sisters. What does that mean for her going forward? I felt like Beth, in a way, was telling her to step back. But does knowing all this just make her want to look for answers even more?
Absolutely. It’s more important than ever that Sarah gets to the bottom of this — and not just for herself and for the safety of her immediate family. The driving force with Sarah is that she’s really had to step up and become the leader. She’s gone from being a teenage-runaway-reluctant mother, to having to be not just a responsible mother, but a leader. The one who is keeping the sisters together, and the driving force behind trying to find a cure for Cosima.

TVLINE | There was another death in this episode. Have we seen the last of Pupok the Scorpion?
I can’t say that. Listen, Pupok’s not really real. Pupok’s a spirit animal. Can you really kill a spirit animal? I don’t know.

This has been a big year for saying good-by. Not only was it the end for the world of Mad Men, it was the end for Pawnee, the Bravermans, and last week was the final show of Late Night With David Letterman. I’m not giving up hope of seeing Dave on television again–I remain hopeful that he will still get The Tonight Show.  He probably will not be hosting the Oscars, but now he does have more free time to hang out with Oprah, and maybe Uma. So far since the finale I have been watching some of the great interviews and Top Ten lists he did in his last month on You Tube. Terry Gross had an excellent interview with his producer Rob Burnett on Fresh Air. You can read highlights or listen to the interview here. I heard it on a downloaded podcast which had an extra not present on the show–an interview with David Letterman from 1981. Among the highlights was Letterman talking about the great comedians of the time as well as new comedians who showed promise, including Jay Leno. David Letterman’s last sign off is in the video above, followed by highlights of the show which were aired as the Foo Fighters performed Everlong after David Letterman said good night for the last time on a television program.

While we will not see Pawnee, the Barvermans, the various manifestations of Sterling Cooper, or David Letterman, Scott Patterson has hinted that we might be able to return to another place which is missed–Stars Hollow. A Girlmore Girl reunion remains possible.

Community featured an homage to the elevator scene from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Both scenes above.

A Beautiful Mind

There was one unexpected additional farewell this week. John Nash, whose life inspired the movie, A Beautiful Mind, along with his wife were killed in a traffic accident. The New York Times reports:

John F. Nash Jr., a mathematician who shared a Nobel Prize in 1994 for work that greatly extended the reach and power of modern economic theory and whose decades-long descent into severe mental illness and eventual recovery were the subject of a book and a 2001 film, both titled “A Beautiful Mind,” was killed, along with his wife, in a car crash on Saturday in New Jersey. He was 86.

Dr. Nash and his wife, Alicia, 82, were in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike in Monroe Township around 4:30 p.m. when the driver lost control while trying to pass another car and hit a guard rail and another vehicle, said Sgt. Gregory Williams of the New Jersey State Police.

Jennifer Connelly as Alicia Nash and Russell Crowe as John Nash are in the picture above from the movie.

Hillary Clinton vs. The Press

Hillary Clinton CSPAN Iowa

With Clinton only taking rare questions from reporters, and generally only providing evasive answers, an increasing amount of the campaign coverage has turned to Hillary Clinton avoiding the press. McClatchy, one of the country’s better news services, has joined in:

Here’s how Hillary Clinton campaigned for president this week: She took a private 15-minute tour of a bike shop that had closed for her visit. She spoke to four small business owners chosen by her staff in front of an audience of 20, also chosen by her staff. She answered a few questions from the media following weeks of silence.

And after a little more than an hour, Clinton was off, whisked away by aides and Secret Service agents, into a minivan and on to the next event.

Members of the public who wanted to go inside the building to support her, oppose her or merely ask a question of her were left outside on an unseasonably cool Iowa day. Most didn’t bother showing up.

“I am troubled that so far in this caucus cycle she hasn’t had any public town halls,” said Chris Schwartz, a liberal activist from Waterloo, as he stood outside the bike store hoping to talk to Clinton about trade. “If she had a public town hall then we wouldn’t be out here. We would much rather be in there engaging with her.”

Welcome to Hillary Clinton 2.0. Mindful of her defeat by Barack Obama in 2008, Clinton has embraced a new strategy – one that so far does not include town-hall meetings and campaign rallies, media interviews, even public events.

Instead, she holds small controlled events with a handful of potential voters in homes, businesses and schools. She repeats many of the same lines (“I want to be your champion” is a favorite), participants are handpicked by her staff or the event host, and topics are dictated by her campaign.

Clinton might be able to get away with this politically but the question is not whether Clinton campaign needs the press but whether the country needs coverage from good campaign reporters. Sure the media posts a lot of garbage, but there is also valuable reporting which tells the country more about a candidate than we will ever get from their staged events and web sites. For example, when Clinton talked about immigration, I wish that somebody could have asked her the question suggested by Amy Chozick of The New York Times:

“President Obama said his executive action on immigration went as far as the law will allow. You say you would go beyond what he did. How could you stretch the law further than the president of your own party and his Justice Department says it can go?”

Without such questions, candidate claims of what they support mean very little. When Clinton excused her vote for the Iraq War, and subsequent actions to push to go to war when even some Democrats who also voted yes were opposing such action, by saying she was fooled by Dick Cheney that Saddam had WMD, there are so many obvious follow up questions. Did she review the intelligence herself? Why is someone who was so easily fooled when many of us following the news realized at the time it was a lie qualified to be president? Even if she was fooled by Cheney, why did she go beyond what most who voted for the war were saying in also falsely claiming there was a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda?

John Cassidy points out  further questions raised by Clinton’s (along with Jeb Bush’s) answer on Iraq in The New Yorker, starting out with a listing of all her various answers to date:

Clinton’s public statements, like Bush’s, have gone through several iterations. In September, 2007, she argued that she hadn’t, in fact, voted for a preëmptive war, and said, “Obviously, if I had known then what I know now about what the President would do with the authority that was given him, I would not have voted the way that I did.” Since many people regarded the resolution, at the time it passed, in October, 2002, as a blank check (twenty-one Democratic senators voted against it), this explanation didn’t do Clinton much good, but she stuck with it throughout her 2008 Presidential campaign, refusing to describe her vote as a mistake. In her 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices,” Clinton changed tack, fessing up and saying that she had relied heavily on prewar intelligence about Saddam’s programs to build weapons of mass destruction. “I should have stated my regret sooner and in the plainest, most direct language possible,” she wrote. She went on, “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

…Clinton, for her part, still has work to do to explain what she learned from the Iraq disaster. Clearly, it didn’t turn her against the concept of overseas military intervention. In 2011, as Secretary of State, she helped orchestrate air attacks on Libya that aided in bringing down Muammar Qaddafi, unleashing a civil war that is still raging. In 2013, after she left office, she supported U.S. military action against the Syrian regime, a course that President Obama eventually backed away from. In “Hard Choices,” however, she struck a cautious note. “As much as I have wanted to, I could never change my vote on Iraq,” she wrote. “But I could try to help us learn the right lessons from that war … I was determined to do exactly that when facing future hard choices, with more experience, wisdom, skepticism, and humility.”

As the 2016 campaign unfolds, Clinton might want to say more about how her views have changed, and how, as President, she would reconcile her urge to exercise American power—both to protect U.S. interests and to do some good in the world—with the harsh realities of experience. Such a discussion would help shift attention away from her 2002 vote and allow her to draw a contrast with the Republicans’ empty rhetoric. More importantly, it would focus the campaign debate on the question that, ever since March, 2003, has been hovering over practically everything: Whither America after Iraq?

The problem is that Clinton cannot easily face the press, and allow follow-up questions, for multiple reasons. She has told far too many lies about her unethical behavior in personally profiting from money from companies and countries which had business in front of her when she was Secretary of State. She even managed to botch what should have been an easy book tour, well before the current scandals were dominating the news. Clinton  has difficulties talking about her policy views when they are driven by polls and political expediency as opposed to conviction, as was made clear in her interview last year with Terry Gross. If a Democrat cannot handle an interview with Terry Gross on NPR, they are in serious trouble. Clinton could not answer questions about her views on same-sex marriage, which have varied so many times over the years, as these changes were most likely based upon political calculations rather than conviction. Now she has moved from believing that the question should be left to the states last year to supporting same-sex marriage as that is the expected viewpoint in the Democratic race.

There are many other questions which she should be asked about her views on same-sex marriage and other social issues, especially in light of how much conservative religious views have influenced her policy decisions. So far this campaign cycle I’m only aware of a single article at Salon which got into her ties with the religious right. I discussed this far more in a post last month which included selections from a must-read article from Mother Jones from 2007.

When Clinton won’t talk about policy, except for canned statements which leave many questions which she will not answer, the email scandal will continue to dominate the news. The first of many releases to come came on Friday. As expected, they do nothing to support the conservative conspiracy theories on Benghazi. It does reinforce what we already know about the blurring of the lines between the Foundation, Clinton’s old friends, and her work as Secretary of State. Karen Tumulty wrote:

For those who have worried that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign would be a repeat of the chaotic operation she ran eight years ago, her advisers have often pointed to her time in between at the State Department — which by comparison was an archetype of crisp managerial efficiency.

But a trove of newly released e-mails suggests that one of Clinton’s tendencies persisted during her time as secretary of state — an inability to separate her longtime loyalties from the business at hand.

The e-mails from her private account reveal that she passed along no fewer than 25 memos about Libya from friend and political ally Sidney Blumenthal. Blumenthal had business interests in Libya but no diplomatic expertise there.

Moreover, she did so after the White House had blocked her from hiring Blumenthal at the State Department. The president’s team considered him untrustworthy and prone to starting rumors…

In the memos, Blumenthal — who was identified to lower-level State Department officials only as “HRC friend” — said the information was “intel,” gathered from sources he described in such breathless terms as “an extremely sensitive source” or “an extremely well-placed individual.”

In many cases, it was met with skepticism by government officials who were experts in the region.

One official who received some of the missives said “the secret source” was known to be close to the secretary and “seemed to have some knowledge” of North Africa “but not much.”

Yet one more topic for reporters to question Hillary Clinton about if she ever gives them a chance, as opposed to her vague and empty answer on this subject.

Number Of Self-Identified Social Liberals Ties Social Conservatives

Gallup Social Liberals

I tend to minimize the importance of Gallup polls on self-identification by label as they are largely influenced by the effects of the right to demonize the word liberal. Polls based on specific political positions have typically showed more people taking liberal positions than calling themselves liberal. It is of interest that a new Gallup poll shows that the number of those who call themselves liberal on social issues matches those who call themselves socially conservative, both tied at 31 percent. The trend can be seen in the graph above.

Gallup has this observation, which reinforces my greatest fears about the Democratic Party:

The newfound parity on social ideology is a result of changes in the way both Democrats and Republicans describe their social views. The May 6-10 Gallup poll finds a new high of 53% of Democrats, including Democratic-leaning independents, describing their views on social issues as liberal.

That might partially explain how someone as socially conservative as Hillary Clinton can have such a strong lead in the Democratic race. Of course it is likely that many Democrats are not even aware of what Salon recently called her bizarre alliance with the Christian right.

The Gallup poll continues to show more people identifying as conservative on economic issues although polls on specific economic issues tend to show Americans as more liberal despite how they self-identify themselves.

The results showing an increase in social liberals is consistent with another recent poll on same-sex marriage, which actually shows a far more liberal result. Gallup found that a record high of 60 percent support same-sex marriage. This leaves the Republican candidates out of the mainstream, but as Republicans tend to be less likely to support same-sex marriage this might remain the more politically expedient position for those seeking the GOP nomination. Hillary Clinton appears to have read the polls correctly as she dropped her position of last year favoring leaving the matter to the states.

The trend towards greater support of same-sex marriage is also present in much of the world with Ireland, one of the more socially conservative countries in Europe voting on the issue today. If the referendum passes, Ireland would be the first country in the western world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.

One liberal is doing better in the polls. Barack Obama’s favorability rating is up to the highest level since September 2013, increasing four points to 53 percent compared to last month.

Update: Both sides are now saying that the referendum to legalize same-sex marriage has passed in Ireland.

Quote of the Day: Jimmy Fallon on Tom Brady

Jimmy Fallon

“Starbucks announced that it’s now selling a mini version of its Frappuccino, which holds two ounces less than its small size. Tom Brady tried one and swears nothing is different. You can’t even notice it.”–Jimmy Fallon

Conan & Dave Hate Jay

Conan O’Brien visited David Letterman on May 17. Neither like Jay Leno. Letterman’s final show airs tonight.

Hillary Clinton Finally Goaded Into Taking A Handful Of Questions From The Press

Clinton-Takes-Questions-NBC

One joke going around the blogosphere this morning was that John Kerry was planning on running for the presidential nomination and was responsible for the State Department’s announcement that Hillary Clinton’s email would be released in January–just prior to the Iowa caucus. Subsequently a district judge ruled that the State Department must submit a new schedule with periodic release of the email in order to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests. In other words, the email will drip out, keeping the story alive for months.

After failing to comply with regulations to archive her email on government servers, Clinton now says she wants them released more rapidly. I would think at this point she would prefer to have them released ASAP. It is better politically for her to have this all come out now, at this early stage in the campaign, as opposed to either just before the Iowa caucuses (as initially planned by the State Department) or periodically over months as now planned. She probably would have been been better off sending them to the State Department in electronic format, as opposed to printing them forcing the State Department to scan them, slowing down the process.

Of course this would not have been an issue if she had archived them with the government at the time as required.

It is hard to believe there is anything damaging to her in what will be released. She already went through and destroyed anything she didn’t want released and the State Department also went through the email. It is especially doubtful there ever was anything incriminating on Benghazi. I bet that at worst her email would show the normal fog of war when people legitimately were not certain what happened and different views were honestly expressed, with no evidence of the conservative conspiracy theories. Anything really interesting related to the recent scandals has probably already been deleted.

Clinton gave in and answered some questions from the media , for the first time in about a month, after receiving increased criticism from both Republicans and the media for failing to do so. This morning The Note from ABC News posted Clinton’s excuse for not taking questions:

 Clinton opened her remarks in Iowa yesterday by explaining why she is doing these small, intimate gatherings. She didn’t mention the press specifically, but it almost seemed like her way of telling people to stop nagging: “Somebody asked me the other day, ‘well you’re going to these events where you’re taking time to actually talk and listen to people, is that really what you’re going to do?’ And I said, ‘well yes it is.’ Not only do I learn a lot but I also feel like it’s the best way to make those connections that will not only give me a firm foundation here in Iowa or primary in New Hampshire. It really is about people to people connections.”

Rick Klein subsequently mocked this argument from Clinton supporters:

The latest piece of spin from Hillary Clinton’s backers on why she doesn’t need to answer reporters’ questions is that she’s doing a great job doing the asking, not the answering. An email to reporters from the pro-Clinton super PAC “Correct the Record” claims that she is “putting the voters first” by asking “the questions that really matter.” Among the more than 100 questions Correct the Record has counted of her asking real people things a “true leader” would ask are such probing queries as, “What are your hours of operation?”; “So how did you end up here? Did you hear about it?”; “And you’ve got two little girls?”; “So we’re in your classroom?”; and, “So, starting early?” (Again, this was compiled by the main super PAC SUPPORTING the Clinton candidacy.) According to Correct the Record’s email, “While other candidates are using the media to further their own agendas and attack each other, Hillary Clinton is displaying the qualities of a true leader by meeting with the people she hopes to champion as the next President of the United States.” OK, then. The best that might be said of this attempt to explain her lack of press access is that it sounds better than the truth: That she doesn’t care to answer questions from reporters because, at the moment, her campaign sees more downside than upside in doing so. To quote the candidate who’s making a claim to being the best asker of the election cycle, if not the best answerer, “Give me a sense of your experience with that.”

Chris Cillizza also commented:

I mean, where to start with this?

1.  The vast majority of the people who have asked Clinton questions in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada were part of a pre-selected group who sat with her around a roundtable. That’s not exactly like hosting a town hall event in which none of the questions are pre-screened. And if you look at the questions “regular” people are asking Clinton, they are not exactly the most probing of queries. A sampling: “I’m just wondering, what can you do to bring that heart back to education in the United States?” (Iowa), “What are your plans to help my community and help us not live in fear anymore?” (Nevada) and “I would like you to elaborate on what you think you might do for childcare in the future if you’re elected?” (New Hampshire) None of those questions are bad, per se, but they also aren’t pushing Clinton in any way, shape or form on any issue.

2. It makes zero difference how many questions Clinton has asked average Americans. Like, none. If those people were running for president, then I would be super-interested to know how they responded to some (or maybe all) of Clinton’s 117 questions. But, they aren’t. She is. Citing the number of questions Clinton has asked of people to rebut the idea that she isn’t taking enough (or any) questions from reporters is sort of like saying you aced a job interview because you answered every question asked of you with another question. That wouldn’t make sense, would it?

3. At issue here is that Clinton is avoiding taking questions from reporters. And nowhere in the Correct The Record memo does it have anything to dispute that fact. In total as a candidate, Clinton has answered 13 total questions from reporters. It’s been 39,000 minutes since she last answered a reporter’s question. And, while I think it is absolutely of value for Clinton to hear from regular folks about their concerns and hopes, it’s hard to argue from the list put together by Correct The Record that the questions those people have asked Clinton are the same as the one reporters would have if given the chance.

No, they’re better, you say! They’re about policy and not dumb reporters’ obsessions, you say!

To all of which, I respond: Do you not think it is of value to know how Hillary Clinton spent her time since leaving the State Department? And how the Clinton Foundation handled its business with various donors who would, undoubtedly, still be in the picture if she was elected president? Or what she thinks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the fight currently happening in Congress? Or Iran? Or the Middle East?

You get the idea.  The role of the media in this process is to show voters who these people are, really, and to explain how these people would govern the country if elected. Like the media or not, that’s a very important role — and one that is essential to a functioning democracy.

So, no matter how many Iowans’ questions Hillary answers or how many questions she asks them, it doesn’t justify her current unwillingness to stand before reporters (or even a single reporter) and take their questions. Not even a little.

Clinton finally did take six questions today, but did provide much substance–and did not come off as very credible when talking about her email. She also answered a question regarding the story in The New York Times regarding the blurred line between her business interests, the Foundation, and her role as Secretary of State:

But an examination by The Times suggests that Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement was more wide-ranging and more complicated than previously known, embodying the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.

While advising Mrs. Clinton on Libya, Mr. Blumenthal, who had been barred from a State Department job by aides to President Obama, was also employed by her family’s philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation, to help with research, “message guidance” and the planning of commemorative events, according to foundation officials. During the same period, he also worked on and off as a paid consultant to Media Matters and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign…

Note the connection between Media Matters and the Clinton campaign. Media Matters has been responsible for much of the rapid fire, and incorrect, statements to defend Clinton since the story first broke. They also fabricated an attack on Peter Schweizer after came out about the release of Clinton Cash, such as making an unsubstantiated claim that he was not currently working on a similar book about Jeb Bush.

Chris Cillizia also debunked Clinton’s answer today about Blumenthal:

That answer reminds of a similar answer that Georgetown hoops great Allen Iverson used to give to reporters when they asked him why he refused to break ties with some of his longtime friends who, in the minds of some, brought an unsavory element to the NBA and clouded Iverson’s ability to focus on being the best basketball player he could be. Iverson’s response was, and I am paraphrasing here: These people were my friends before I got famous, and they’ll be my friends after I stop playing basketball. They are my true friends. I don’t care what any of you think about me or them.

Okay. I wasn’t sure — and still am not sure — that that was the right answer for Iverson. But I am absolutely certain it’s not the right answer for Clinton.

Iverson didn’t need anyone to elect him to anything to be successful in his chosen profession. So, the opinions of others could cost him money, potentially, but couldn’t fundamentally impact his playing career. That’s the exact opposite of the situation Clinton finds herself in. How she — and the people she surrounds herself with — are perceived matters in a very real way to her future career prospects.

So, jettisoning “old friends” who keep getting the Clintons into hairy territory perception-wise would seems to make all the sense in the world. And yet her response, when questioned about Blumenthal’s role as a sort of ad hoc adviser on Libya, is basically: Hey I’ve known this guy for a long time, so I’m not going to say anything bad about him…

When Bill got elected president in 1992, there were a number of people in the Clintons’ Arkansas orbit who national Democrats assumed would be jettisoned when the duo came to Washington. Except they weren’t.  Perhaps the best known of this group is Webb Hubbell, a law partner of Hillary’s and close confidante of the Clintons who was named associate attorney general by Bill Clinton.  Less than two years later, Hubbell pled guilty to overbilling clients at the law firm ands spent several years in prison. And now, according to this Daily Beast story from 2014, Webb Hubbell is back in the Clinton orbit, although, admittedly, far from its center.

Hubbell’s story may be the best known but it is far from the only example of the Clintons’ willingness to overlook mistakes in service of the all-important trait of loyalty. If you stand by the Clintons no matter what, they will almost never abandon you. (The converse is that if you are perceived as having betrayed them, they will never forgive you.)  Again, admirable, perhaps, in a friend. But far less admirable — or wise — when running for office…

If you got tired of all these people, and all the scandals during the first Clinton administration, it will all be coming back, in what I fear will seem more like the third term of Richard Nixon.

Obama Acts To Limit Use Of Military Equipment By Police

Police Missouri

The events in Ferguson are primarily remembered for raising national awareness as to the frequency of unarmed black men being killed by police, and how we have two systems of justice. Ferguson also led to people on both the left and right joining together to oppose the militarization of police. President Obama has responded to this concern:

President Obama on Monday banned the federal provision of some types of military-style equipment to local police departments and sharply restricted the availability of others.

The ban is part of Mr. Obama’s push to ease tensions between law enforcement and minority communities in reaction to the crises in Baltimore; Ferguson, Mo.; and other cities.

He took the action after a task force he created in January decided that police departments should be barred from using federal funds to acquire items that include tracked armored vehicles, the highest-caliber firearms and ammunition, and camouflage uniforms. The ban is part of a series of steps the president has made to try to build trust between law enforcement organizations and the citizens they are charged with protecting…

The report from the task force on military equipment cited the police response to the Ferguson unrest as an example of how the “militarization” of police departments can lead to fear and mistrust. In addition to prohibiting some equipment outright, officials said, Mr. Obama accepted the group’s recommendation to impose new restrictions on other military-style items, such as wheeled armored vehicles, pyrotechnics, battering rams and riot gear, and more stringent requirements for training and information collection for departments that acquire them.

“The idea is to make sure that we strike a balance in providing the equipment, which is appropriate and useful and important for local law enforcement agencies to keep the community safe, while at the same time putting standards in place,” said Cecilia Muñoz, the director of Mr. Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.

The report represents a two-pronged response to a problem that has emerged as a central predicament for Mr. Obama in recent months. He has struggled to acknowledge the sense of fear, grievance and victimization by the police that dominates many minority communities without seeming to forgive violence or condemn law enforcement with a broad brush.

In doing so, he is grappling with the limits of his power to force changes in police departments around the country, where practices and procedures are varied and the federal government’s ability to influence change can be minimal. The equipment task force stems from an executive order, and its conclusions affect only the material supplied by the federal government, while the policing recommendations are merely a blueprint for what Mr. Obama would like to see happen in jurisdictions throughout the country.

Mr. Obama announced $163 million in grants to encourage police departments to adopt the suggestions. The administration also will launch a “tool kit” for the use of body-worn cameras; the Justice Department created a grant program for law enforcement agencies to purchase them.

The American Civil Liberties Union released this comment:

President Barack Obama announced a ban, effective immediately, on the federal government’s transfer of certain military vehicles and weaponry to local and state police departments in the U.S.

Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel at the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this comment:

“Through this ban, the president has taken a critical step towards rebuilding trust between police and the people they have pledged to serve. Now, the federal government will no longer be permitted to supply police departments with military weapons and vehicles designed for the battlefield. Grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons, armored vehicles – this equipment never belonged in our neighborhoods. In our report War Comes Home, we detailed the devastating impact of militarized policing, with communities of color hit especially hard by the weapons and tactics of war.

“We hope that Congress will protect today’s reforms by making them law.”

While a good start, more work is needed to resolve this problem. Radley Balko has some positive comments on Obama’s announcement (emphasis mine):

This announcement is significant. There are types of objections to how the 1033 Program affects police militarization in America. The first is a practical objection — this equipment was designed for use on the battlefield. There’s just no appropriate domestic application for a tracked tank or for guns that shoot .50-caliber ammunition.

The second objection is more about mindset, symbolism and the kind of society in which we want to live. There are plenty of scenarios under which a police department would legitimately need a bulletproof truck. But there’s really no reason why that truck needs to be an MRAP, or painted camouflage or military green, or designed to look as imposing and intimidating as possible. Imagery is important. It’s an indication of how the police see themselves, how they see the community they serve and how the perceive their relationship with that community. And all of that in turn affects how the community views the police. It isn’t difficult to understand how a cop who is dressed in camouflage who rides around the neighborhood in an MRAP is likely to approach to his job with a different mindset than a cop in traditional police blues who conducts daily foot patrols in the same neighborhood.

From what has been reported, this new initiative addresses these concerns as well and seems to indicate that the Obama administration understands and appreciates that the symbolic component of police militarization is just as important as the practical component. I’m uncomfortable with any military vehicles going to local police. Free societies tend to draw a clear line between cops and soldiers. Blurring that line indicates a failure to appreciate its importance. But this initiative is moving toward reestablishing that line, not moving it or further blurring it. Federal programs are pretty difficult to disband, so a blanket ban was probably never in the cards. Conditioning the acceptance of this gear on increased transparency, accountability and a move toward community policing seems like a good compromise. We’ll either get less use of this military-issued equipment, or we’ll get more and better information about how it’s used. Either outcome is progress.

He also continues to see problems:

There’s no understating the role the 1033 Program played in militarizing U.S. police forces. Though it was codified in the 1990s, the transfer policy existed informally dating back to the early 1980s. So reining it in is important. It sends a clear message that the administration really gets this issue.

That said, most of the militarization today happens outside the 1033 Program. As the Heritage Foundation reported last year, few of the weapons we saw in those iconic images coming out of Ferguson were obtained through 1033. That program created the thirst for militarization, but police agencies can now quench that thirst elsewhere. Since 2003, for example, the Department of Homeland Security has been giving grants to police departments around the country to purchase new military-grade gear. That program now dwarfs the 1033 Program. It has also given rise to a cottage industry of companies that build gear in exchange for those DHS checks. Those companies now have a significant lobbying presence in Washington. I suspect that presence will now only grow stronger. So if the Obama administration really wants to roll back police militarization, this program needs reform, too.

Police agencies also sometimes buy the gear directly from manufacturers. Some purchase gear through donations. In some cases, even individual officers buy their own stuff. There really isn’t much the Obama administration can do about these sources of militarized weapons.

Ultimately, I think going after the symbolism component to militarization is more important than attacking the the practical component. Most police departments are always going to have a SWAT team. Larger departments will have several. So the option to use militarized force will always be available. The key is to get them to opt for it only when it’s appropriate. (A good start would be to remove the incentives to use such force when it isn’t.) Or better yet, to instill a healthy reluctance to use such force at all — to make deescalating conflicts the priority instead of overwhelming them.

The good news is that this new policy suggests that the Obama administration understands this. But the push will have to come from the bottom up, too. The federal government can stop contributing to the problem, but it will be up to local activists, voters and elected officials to actually change it. There will be resistance, from unions, from police advocates and probably from politicians. But police agencies are ultimately answerable to the communities they serve. If a city’s police leadership has adopted use of force policies that don’t conform with a community’s values, the community should demand new leadership. If the city’s politicians don’t comply, then the community should demand new politicians.

Common Dreams has additional opinions here.