Bernie Sanders, Guns, And A Respect For Individual Liberty

Bernie Sanders facebook

Clinton supporters have increasingly been trying to smear Bernie Sanders by claiming he is pro-guns and supports the NRA. Actually the NRA has in various years given him grades of F and D- on gun control measures which he has supported, including bans on assault weapons, restrictions on concealed weapons, ending the “gun-show loophole,” and expanded background checks, plus opposing shortening waiting periods. This is what he said when interviewed by Diane Rehm:

Well, I come from a state which has virtually no gun control. And in Vermont, guns are seen as something people use for hunting, target shooting, antique gun shows. But I realize, and Vermont has realized, that guns in Detroit and Los Angeles are used to shoot at police officers and to commit terrible crimes. So, I believe that we have to do everything we can to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them. Period.

More from that interview, where Sanders contrasted his views with those of Clinton on other issues, was previously posted here.

While there is legitimate room for disagreement on some of his votes, overall Sanders has not been against gun control as some are claiming. His concern for rights of those who desire to use guns in a legitimate manner is a plus in his favor, especially when contrasted with the nanny-state views and support for increased influence of religion in government held by Hillary Clinton.

This libertarian side of Sanders can be also be seen in his opposition to restrictions on same-sex marriage, abortion, and the drug war which was seen when he ran for Governor of Vermont back in the 1970’s. Sanders has not needed to evolve on the issues to oppose such intrusions of government on the private lives of individuals.

Obama Plans Clemency to Free Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Obama plans to free dozens of federal prisoners held on nonviolent drug offenses. The New York Times reported:

Sometime in the next few weeks, aides expect President Obama to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses. With the stroke of his pen, he will probably commute more sentences at one time than any president has in nearly half a century.

The expansive use of his clemency power is part of a broader effort by Mr. Obama to correct what he sees as the excesses of the past, when politicians eager to be tough on crime threw away the key even for minor criminals. With many Republicans and Democrats now agreeing that the nation went too far, Mr. Obama holds the power to unlock that prison door, especially for young African-American and Hispanic men disproportionately affected.

It looks like a tiny step in the right direction. We also need repeal of the drug laws which place such people in prison, and an extension of this to the states. This is a tiny percentage of those held nation-wide for drug-related crimes.

SciFi Weekend: Hannibal; Summer Television Briefs Including Extant, Under The Dome,The Last Ship, Mr. Robot, Humans

HANNIBAL -- "Contorno" Episode 305 -- Pictured: (l-r) Fortunato Cerlino as Inspector Pazzi, Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter -- (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/NBC)

This week’s episode of Hannibal, Contorno, has finally moved past set-up and it finally feels like the real action for the season has begun. Generally, when someone thinks they have the upper hand against Hannibal, in reality Hannibal is already several steps ahead of them.

Pazzi decided to seek a bounty for capturing Hannibal rather than have the authorities arrest him in a conventional manner. He wound up getting in touch with Mason Verger, who wanted a fingerprint to establish his identity. Alana predicted that Hannibal would kill Pazzi, and of course she was right.

Hannibal killed Pazzi in a gruesome manner, and let him hang out the window. By coincidence, Jack happened to come along at the same time, and for once Hannibal did not have the upper hand. He did show an amazing ability to remain alive and walk away regardless of the beating. The big question is whether next week’s episode will consist of Jack chasing after him.

In developments elsewhere, Will’s train ride with Chiyo to seek Hannibal did not turn out as Will expected. He will be delayed in joining the action, and I don’t know what Chiyo will do when she reaches Hannibal.

It remains to be seen whether Hannibal will be returning on another network now that it has been cancelled by NBC, but it was not a favorable sign that the cast has now been released from their contracts.

Hannibal is not the only genre show to make a major change this season. Extant started the second season with major changes. It remains to be seen whether an alien hunter storyline will be an improvement. I still have not had a chance to watch Under the Dome this season, but in contrast to the other shows I get the impression from what I have heard that they retconned last season’s finale and returned to a situation comparable to the previous season.

The Last Ship is more an action/adventure show despite the genre premise, but they are doing a good job if you are just looking for a summer escape show. I was glad last season when they found the cure, rather than dragging this out forever. The two-hour season premiere did a good job of resolving the cliff hanger from the first season. The next episode appears to have set up the situation for this season.

Mr. Robot got off to a terrific start in the pilot. My one concern in watching was whether the premise could be sustained for an entire series, with the show already renewed for a second season. The second episode was not as good as the pilot, but I still have hopes for the series. Some critics have praised the show for having an accurate view of hacker society (even if the story is taken to a higher level). I was also impressed by how it portrayed the dog, which looks like a cairn terrier. In most television shows, people don’t have to be bothered by mundane tasks like taking their dogs out for a walk, unless the walk is an excuse to get a character outside. This dog acted like a true cairn when its needs were not satisfied.

I have watched Humans through the third episode, and continue to recommend this show.

Lie Of The Day: Clinton Tries to Win Over Sanders Supporters By Claiming To Be A Progressive

HANOVER, NH - JULY 3: Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton participates in a grassroots organizing event in College Park at Dartmouth College July 3, 2015 in Hanover, New Hampshire. Clinton is spending two days over the fourth of July in the first in the nation primary state. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton said, “I take a backseat to no one when you look at my record in standing up and fighting for progressive values.” Quite a lie, but not surprising coming from a candidate who the majority of voters agree is dishonest in recent polls.

Clinton believes she needs to make such false claims now that Bernie Sanders is posing a serious threat in Iowa and New Hampshire, but she will hardly convince Sanders supporters that she has ever been progressive. The former Goldwater Girl has maintained conservative values throughout her career, except that Barry Goldwater was more socially liberal than Clinton.

In February Truth-Out had a post on Five Reasons No Progressive Should Support Hillary Clinton, which is worth reading–and there are several more reasons besides what is in that article.

Besides the economic differences which have dominated the campaign so far, it was Sanders who, reviewing the same intelligence as Hillary Clinton, voted against the Iraq war. Hillary Clinton not only voted for the war, she went to the right of other Democrats who voted to authorize force in falsely claiming there was a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda. She showed she did not learn from her mistake when she continued to advocate for increased military intervention as Secretary of State.

In an era when the nation is becoming more liberal on social issues, Hillary Clinton’s long-standing conservatism on social/cultural issues also make her too conservative to be the Democratic nominee. This was seen when she was in the Senate when she was a member of The Fellowship, being influenced on social issues by religious conservatives such as Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback. Clinton’s affiliation with the religious right was seen in her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, along with her promotion of restrictions on video games and her introduction of a bill making flag burning a felony. Her social conservatism is also seen in her weak record on abortion rights, such as supporting parental notification laws and stigmatizing women who have abortions with the manner in which she calls for abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.” Clinton was speaking out against same-sex as recently as 2013.

Clinton has disappointed environmentalists in supporting fracking and off-shore drilling. Her views on the Keystone XL Pipeline is just one of many controversial issues where Clinton has refused to give her opinion. The vast amounts of money she has received from backers of the pipeline lead many environmentalists to doubt that Clinton can be counted on to oppose the pipeline, or take any positions contrary to the wishes of the petroleum industry.

Bernie Sanders voted against the Patriot Act while Clinton supported it. Sanders has spoken out against the illegal NSA surveillance while Clinton has remained quite, and has an overall poor record on civil liberties. Clinton’s failures to archive her email as required when she was Secretary of State and disclose donations to the Clinton Foundation as she had agreed to are just the latest examples of her long-standing hostility towards government transparency.

Saying she is a progressive is not going to win over progressives after she has spent her career opposing liberal values.

Single Payer Coming?

It looks like we might be heading in the direction of a single payer health care system, but note in the way we wanted. Aetna is seeking to buy Humana. While this would not actually be single payer, it would further decrease competition in the insurance industry. There is also speculation that UnitedHealth is interested in purchasing Cigna and Aetna. Instead of a single=payer system modeled on Medicare, we could wind up with a more monopolistic system, which should please Republicans. These purchases would be subject to anti-trust review.

Aetna purchasing Humana would also give Aetna a much larger share in the Medicare Advantage market. So much for George Bush’s plan to supposedly increase competition and choice for Medicare patients. The plan has was more designed as a reward to the insurance industry for all the contributions they have made to the Republicans.

In related news, The New York Times repeated misleading information on health care rates which I previously discussed. Only plans desiring rates over ten percent are required to submit their requests. Insurance companies have multiple plans, and are only seeking increases on some plans, leaving less expensive choices for those who take advantage of the exchange to compare plans. Plus the requests for larger rate increases will not necessarily be granted.

However, should private insurance rates still be too high, single payer remains the most cost-effective means of providing health care coverage. This could turn into a major issue in Bernie Sanders’ favor.

Quote of the Day: Conan on Donald Trump

Conan Photo

“Macy’s has severed ties with Donald Trump and no longer will carry his men’s wear collection. From now on, men who want to look like Donald Trump will have to hunt and kill their own hair piece.”–Conan O’Brien

Jim Webb Enters Race Plus Increased Speculation That Joe Biden Will Run

Ridin With Biden

While the number of Democratic candidates remains well below the number squeezed into the Republican clown car, the number is growing to the point where very soon they will no longer all fit under Donald Trump’s hair. Jim Webb has officially announced and there is increased speculation that Joe Biden plans to run.

Most of the Democratic candidates are challenging Clinton from the left. After all, there is not much room to the right of Clinton short of being a Republican. Perhaps a former Republican such as Webb can find a niche as former Republican Lincoln Chafee is running to the left of former Republican Hillary Clinton. It actually isn’t so simple as to  say Webb is running to the right of Clinton as he, along with every other declared candidate, is attacking Clinton’s support of the Iraq war, and her continued support of increased military intervention as Secretary of State in Libya.

Let me assure you, as President I would not have urged an invasion of Iraq, nor as a Senator would I have voted to authorize it. I warned in writing five months before that invasion that we do not belong as an occupying power in that part of the world, and that this invasion would be a strategic blunder of historic proportions, empowering Iran and in the long run China, unleashing sectarian violence inside Iraq and turning our troops into terrorist targets.

I would not have been the President who used military force in Libya during the Arab Spring. I warned repeatedly that this use of our military did not meet the test of a grave national security interest, that it would have negative implications for the entire region, and that no such action should take place without the approval of the Congress.

It is still hard to see a Webb have much of an impact in this race. If he ever had a chance, he probably ended it by being the only candidate to defend the use of the Confederate flag.

Joe Biden has said he will probably announce whether he plans to run in August and there are claims that he is signaling plans to run based upon statements from a Democratic fundraiser. He also says many Obama fund raisers are excited by the prospect:

“It was almost a diametrically opposed reaction than to Hillary. With Hillary, no excitement, they couldn’t get enthusiastic about her for whatever reason,” said Mr. Cooper. “But when I mentioned that maybe Biden was going to enter the race, there was palpable excitement.

“They are champing at the bit to raise money for Biden,” he said.

Of course Clinton has been doing a fine job of raising money despite this lack of enthusiasm, but that could change if she loses her position of looking like the most likely to win the nomination. The rapid rise in support for Bernie Sanders demonstrates the desire for a more liberal alternative to Clinton, and her current scandals make it far too risky for a major political party to hand Clinton the nomination. Even if she didn’t have these major negatives, she has shown that she is not up to a political campaign.

Jennifer Rubin gave ten reasons in favor of Biden running against Clinton. I don’t think I have ever agreed with Rubin on so many points before.

Ed Rogers discussed the advantages which Biden would have as a candidate in contrast to Clinton:

…the Hillary Clinton campaign is limping along as a synthetic, tired, manufactured exercise that appears to be — at best — winning by default.  I actually feel sorry for the Clinton surrogates I see on TV. They gamely tough it out as they recite the talking points, deny the obvious, defend the indefensible and pretend there is some energy within the campaign.”

In a lot of ways, Biden would be the true anti-Hillary. He is completely uninhibited, he is impossible to script — which makes him seem authentic — and he has a human appeal that everyone can relate to. Clinton, on the other hand, is running a surreal campaign that avoids crowds, media and spontaneity of any kind. She is protecting her lead in the most standard, unimaginative way possible. Compared with Clinton’s robotic, stiff approach, could having a reputation for occasionally saying the wrong thing and hugging too much work to Biden’s advantage in an era where voters want the real thing?

The Democrats appear to be yearning for an emotional connection with their candidate, which could explain the flurry of excitement surrounding the Bernie Sanders campaign. Sen. Sanders seems to have an outsize appeal, which could be a product of how his outside-the-box approach contrasts with the stale Clinton march. But whatever Bernie can do, can’t Biden do it better? Maybe Sanders’s candidacy has exposed the opening that exists for Biden in the Democratic primary. Maybe this is Biden’s moment.

Sanders Gaining on Clinton in Iowa As Democrats Regain Lead In Party Affiliation

Sanders Wisconsin

After one recent poll showed Sanders pulling within eight points of Clinton in New Hampshire, another poll now shows him gaining in Iowa:

Hillary Clinton enjoys a 19-point lead among likely Democratic caucus-goers in the key state of Iowa over her nearest challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but that advantage has shrunk 26 points since May, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

The former secretary of state gets the support of 52 percent of her party’s likely caucus-goers in the state, which holds the nation’s first nominating contest, while Sanders, a Senate independent and self-described socialist seeking the Democratic nomination, pulls in support from 33 percent. In May, the split was 60 percent to 15 percent.

It is the first time Clinton has received less than 60 percent support in the poll, according to assistant poll director Peter A. Brown.

While Clinton still has the lead for the nomination, there are still several months for Sanders to make up this deficit. Typically the Iowa polls remain quite volatile with many caucus voters not deciding until the last minute. National polls for the nomination are virtually meaningless at this point as candidates who do well in Iowa and New Hampshire typically show a major bounce after victories in the first two contests.

Sanders also had a good day campaigning in Wisconsin:

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) drew 10,000 supporters, the largest crowd of his campaign thus far, according to reports.
“Tonight, we have more people at any meeting for a candidate of president of the United States than any other candidate,” Sanders told his fans at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wis., according to The Associated Press.

Gallup shows that the Democrats have regained their advantage in party affiliation:

In the second quarter of 2015, Democrats regained an advantage over Republicans in terms of Americans’ party affiliation. A total of 46% of Americans identified as Democrats (30%) or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (16%), while 41% identified as Republicans (25%) or leaned Republican (16%). The two parties were generally even during the previous three quarters, including the fourth quarter of 2014, when the midterm elections took place…

Democratic gains in party affiliation may be partly linked to more positive views of President Barack Obama, whose job approval ratings were near his personal lows last fall but have recovered, perhaps related to low unemployment, lower gas prices than a year ago and an easing of some of the international challenges that faced the U.S., such as the Ukraine-Russia situation.

Second Monthly Release Of Clinton Email Primarily Deals With Mundane Matters

Clinton Email

There has been another monthly release of Clinton email which deals more with day to day matters than with controversial matters. It does demonstrate that, despite a bitter primary campaign, Obama’s staff did try to keep Clinton in the loop. There were some trivial matters which might be of interest:

They also paint the onetime first lady and New York senator as technologically maladroit – she was all thumbs with an office fax machine – and distant enough from her husband Bill that their aides kept each informed about the other’s doings.

She used her email to let aides know she was thirsy. ‘Pls call Sarah and ask her if she can get me some iced tea,’ one message read.

The email also showed an expansive role for Sidney Blumenthal, who was banned from working at the State Department by the Obama administration. Instead Blumenthal was a paid employee at the Clinton Foundation, along with having financial interests in Libya, and sent questionable intelligence to Clinton. Clinton has claimed that the reports from Blumenthal were unsolicited, but this is contradicted in email previously discovered.

Some Clinton supporters have rejoiced in the lack of a smoking gun but no smoking gun was ever expected. The issue has nothing to do with finding a smoking gun.

The issue was that Clinton violated rules in existence when she was Secretary of State, she lied about what she did at her news conference per media fact checkers and FOIA officials, she improperly destroyed email, and the email ultimately turned over to the State Department did not include email involving Libya and terrorism (and therefore was not all personal email as she claimed). Regardless of what potentially incriminating email might have originally been present, it is unlikely that anything incriminating is still present after Clinton improperly deleted thousands of email and edited others. The email which Clinton turned over to the State Department after leaving office, and after deleting thousands of email messages, is now being released monthly under a court order following the previous failure of Clinton to respond to FOIA requests.

CNN adds that Obama aides knew of the private address. This is also not anything we didn’t know before. The issue never was solely that she had a private email address. The violation of rules was in exclusively using a private server and failing to turn over the email using the personal email address for archiving while in office as required by law. Plus knowing she had a personal email address is not the same as knowing she was using a private server. Email on a normal personal email address is still legally accessible. Email stored on her private server is not.

To briefly summarize the email scandal to date:

When Hillary Clinton was made Secretary of State there was tremendous concern, from members of both parties, about the conflicts of interest this entails due to the Clinton’s financial interests. Two rules were established to attempt to prevent conflicts of interest. The first applied to all cabinet officials after the email scandals of the Bush years (which Clinton included in her attacks on the Bush administration for shredding the Constitution). To increase transparency, rules were established by the Obama administration in 2009 for all email to be archived on government servers. Clinton violated this, and used the private server  to keep information both from Congress and the media. The top Freedom of Information Act official at the Justice Department has stated that Clinton was in violation of the rules and the State Department’s top Freedom of Information Act officer has called her use of a private server unacceptable. An ambassador under Clinton was even fired with failure to abide by rules related to not using private email being cited as a reason by the Inspector General (pdf of report here). Buzzfeed has obtained email showing that the top lawyer for the National Archives also expressed concern over Clinton’s use of a private server.

After Clinton’s press conference about the email scandal, news media fact checkers showed ares in which she was lying, especially with her claim of not breaking the rules. AP subsequently also found that her claim about not wanting to use two devices out of convenience did not hold up as she was actually using two devices for email when Secretary of State. It has more recently been found that Clinton’s claim of only destroying personal email appears to be false.

A second rule which applied exclusively to Hillary Clinton’s situation was that the contributions to the Clinton Foundation be disclosed. Hillary Clinton agreed to this, but failed to abide by the agreement and did not disclose over a thousand donors. The Foundation also failed to disclose many of these on their tax forms and was  caught lying about this issue.

We also know that Bill Clinton saw an unprecedented increase in payments for giving speeches when Hillary became Secretary of State from organizations and countries which subsequently received favorable intervention from Clinton. His speaking fees jumped from 150,000 to typically 500,000, and as high as 750,000. Contributions to the Clinton Foundation raise similar ethical concerns.

Elizabeth Warren Loves Bernie–Will She Campaign For Him?

May 16, 2015 - Anaheim, CA, USA - Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a speech during the general session of the California Democratic Party's annual convention at the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday...///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: demsconvention.0517 – 5/16/15 – BILL ALKOFER, - ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - ..Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a speech during the general session of the California Democratic Party's annual convention at the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday..During the speech a group of more than 200 gathered outside the convention center and protested proposed legislation that would require mandatory vaccinations. (Credit Image: © Bill Alkofer/The Orange County Register/ZUMA Wire)

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton sound like Elizabeth Warren at times, but only one sounds convincing. After all, Bernie Sanders supported liberal positions before they were popular. Hillary Clinton switched to (selective) liberal positions long after they became the popular, and politically expedient, choice. Sanders is receiving much of the same support which Warren had before it was clear that she is not going to run. It is about Sanders that Warren says, “I love what Bernie is talking about.”

“Bernie’s out talking about the issues that the American people want to hear about,” Warren, who hasn’t endorsed anyone in the Democratic primary yet, told the Herald yesterday.

Asked if she would campaign with Sanders at some point, she didn’t dismiss the idea.

“Too early to say,” she said.

Later in the article:

“These are people who care about these issues, and that’s who Bernie’s reaching,” she said. “I love what Bernie is talking about. I think all the presidential candidates should be out talking about the big issues.”

Polls have been showing Sanders closing the gap with Clinton to less than 10 points in New Hampshire, where the populist progressive drew large crowds over the weekend, even as the “Draft Warren” crowd looks for a new champion for 2016.

“I’m a big Elizabeth Warren fan, and in lieu of her not running I’m totally going for Bernie Sanders,” said Breeze Grigas, a game designer from Oxford, who met Warren yesterday. “His and her policies are basically almost copied and pasted. … I’d vote for him 30 times if I could. I don’t trust Hillary, honestly. I think a lot of Hillary’s platform is, ‘It’s my turn.’”

Mother Jones adds:

Warren has been cagey about her feelings on Hillary Clinton since the former secretary of state announced her presidential campaign in April. In 2013, Warren signed a letter written by the Democratic women in the Senate encouraging Clinton to enter the race, and last year Warren called Clinton “terrific” and said she hoped Clinton would run for president.

The two met last December, with Warren working to sway Clinton on her pet issues while withholding an endorsement. Warren’s advisers have spent the spring figuring out ways to maximize the attention on Warren to pressure Clinton on policy. So far, in the early days of her campaign, Clinton has been eager to associate herself with Warren’s image, but when pressed on the policy specifics Clinton has so far remained vague about where she stands.

I can’t blame Warren for wanting to watch longer to see if Sanders really has a chance of beating Clinton. Warren could also help make it more possible. Obama received a real boost when Ted Kennedy endorsed him over Hillary Clinton in January, 2008. Warren could provide a similar boot for Sanders. Many of his arguments for supporting Obama over Clinton also apply to Sanders, such as:

We know the true record of Barack Obama. There is the courage he showed when so many others were silent or simply went along. From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq.

And let no one deny that truth.

Kennedy also responded to the rather dirty campaign which Clinton was waging at the time by saying, “With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion.”

Regardless of wins the Democratic nomination, they will benefit from polls showing a tremendous boost in Obama’s approval, assuming the trend continues.

After months of stagnant approval ratings, a new CNN/ORC poll finds that for the first time in more than two years, 50% of Americans approve of the way Obama is handling the presidency. And his overall ratings are bolstered by increasingly positive reviews of his treatment of race relations and the economy.

The new poll follows a week in which two Supreme Court cases boosted the president’s legacy by upholding the government subsidies at the heart of Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act, and affirming same-sex couples’ right to marry. All this while Obama took several opportunities to directly address the nation’s racial tensions, closing out the week by singing “Amazing Grace” on national television.

The new poll shows Obama’s approval rating up five points since a May survey, when just 45% approved of the job he was doing as president and 52% disapproved. The poll marks the first time his approval rating has been at 50% or higher since May, 2013, and only the second time in that stretch that his disapproval rating has fallen below 50%. It currently stands at 47%