SciFi Friday: Lost Returns; Sleepers Challenge Torchwood

Lost returned to start an eight episode run, with the season cut in half due to the strike. Last season ended with a flash forward as opposed to the usual flash back. It is certainly more interesting to see what will happen in the future as opposed to reviewing what happened in the past. The flash forward doesn’t go as far forward as the third season finale. Hurley sees visions of Charlie–or is something really there visiting him in the asylum?

We now know that Jack, Hurley, and Kate are half of the Oceanic Six who eventually get off the island but are keeping some sort of secret. Hurley seems somewhat crazy and after winding up in an asylum meets Matthew Abbadon who introduces himself as an Oceanic Airlines attorney. Hurley gets quite upset when he asks, “Are they still alive?” Hurley didn’t want to tell him anything, just as he didn’t want to let Ana Lucia’s partner know that he knew her. Are the Oceanic Six keeping quiet about the other survivors to cover up what they did to leave the island, or are they protecting them because they don’t want to be found? Ana’s partner specifically asked if Hurley met her before she boarded, which suggests that nobody is aware of the fact that there were a number of survivors together on the island after the crash (but Abbadon does suspect).

Jack visits Hurley to make sure that Hurley doesn’t plan to talk. At this point Hurley is messed up and thinks they should not have left the island. Jack is still rational but does mention plans to grow a beard. We know that at some point in the future bearded Jack will get as messed up as Hurley and will also be talking about how they should have not left the island. Is this the trend with all those who left, and does it have anything to do with why one (who might not be one of the Six) is in a casket at the end of last season?


Hurley does tell Jack he is sorry for having gone with Locke. Back on the island the survivors divide into two groups, but this suggests they do get back together since Jack and Hurley were in the different groups but both leave the island. Hurley also has one of the key scenes back on the island (video above) when he sees Jacob’s house come and go. There’s somebody in a rocking chair who you cannot get a view of. The credits do list the actor who plans Christian Sheppard–Jack’s dead father. A screen capture verifies that it is Christian Sheppard’s body:

All those strange things from earlier in the series, such as Jack’s father’s body disappearing, just might eventually mean something. What is Jack’s father doing in Jacob’s house–or is he somehow also Jacob? Perhaps Jacob is just borrowing his body. In one episode we have certainly learned a lot more about the direction the story is going, and have even more questions than before.


Sleeper, the second episode Torchwood this season, premiers on BBC America Saturday night. I won’t say very much so as to avoid spoiling it for those who haven’t seen the episode yet. The story does not follow up on the new character introduced in the first episode, and is actually pretty much sex-free. If that isn’t too much of a disappointment, it is a good all around SF story. The episode both works as a stand alone story and also introduces yet another threat to the earth which could return in a future episode. As they say, the 21st century is when everything changes.

The Democratic Daily Rewrites History on Clinton’s Position on War

The Democratic Daily attempts to once again sell the fairy tale that Clinton’s views did not differ from Obama’s on the war. There are major flaws in this rewriting of history.

The author tells a half truth in saying that Obama had said he did not know how he would have voted in 2004. This leaves out the important fact that Obama only played down how he would have voted before the 2004 convention, where he was speaking, to avoid saying anything which could be taken as negative about Kerry and Edwards, who had voted yes.Obama had already made his views on Iraq clear in a speech on October 2, 2002:

I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

The Democratic Daily quotes extensively from Clinton at the time of the IWR vote. There is perhaps a valid argument that Clinton didn’t consider the vote a vote to go to war, but even if we give her the benefit of the doubt on that, this still isn’t enough to make a claim that Clinton was not a supporter of the war. The major flaw in this argument is that Clinton didn’t oppose the war until it became politically expedient.

I could possibly accept Clinton’s argument on voting yes, but to do this I would compare her actions to John Kerry’s as she is now making essentially the same argument that Kerry made during the 2004 campaign. Both Kerry and Clinton voted yes and gave similar arguments that the vote did not represent approval to go to war except under limited circumstances. Kerry made this clear in his Senate floor speech as well as in articles in The New York Times and Foreign Affairs at the time of the vote. As it became increasingly clear that Bush had not proven that we were threatened by WMD, and that he planned to go to war regardless of the facts, Kerry increasingly spoke out against going to war. Speaking at Georgetown University on January 23, 2003, Kerry urged, “Mr. President, do not rush to war.” Following the onset of the war Kerry protested by saying, “What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States.”

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton. She not only voted yes, but she remained a cheer leader for the war even after the war started. She did not speak out against the war until it was both necessary and safe politically. There is plenty of documentation of Kerry showing opposition to the war before it began, but I have seen no such arguments against the war from Clinton. After all, if the argument is that George Bush lied about plans to seek a diplomatic solution, and that Bush misused the authority granted, the logical response from someone who was so deceived would be to speak out against going to war before it began as John Kerry did.

There is a tremendous difference between someone like Kerry who spoke out against the war before it started and someone like Clinton who did not speak out against the war until much later. If Clinton had spoken out against the war before it began as Kerry had then these arguments might be plausible.

Even if someone believes the rewriting of history at The Democratic Daily we might also consider the political ramifications. Kerry had a strong defense of his argument in having spoken out against going to war before the war started. Despite this, the Republicans were successful in claiming that Kerry was criticizing them for a war he had voted for, and labeled him a flip-flopper. Kerry’s argument did not work in the 2004 election even when true. If this argument didn’t work for Kerry when it was true, it certainly won’t work for Clinton since her use of this argument is easily disputed by her failure to oppose the war before it started. Only a candidate who was consistently against the war, and is not burdened by a vote which can easily be interpreted as an act in support of the war, can successfully win the argument against the Republicans.

Update: An Addition and a Correction

There is yet another significant difference between Obama and Clinton’s views on the war. During his 2002 speech Obama said:

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

Obama correctly separated Bin Laden and 9/11 from Iraq. In contrast, Clinton actually referred to 9/11 to justify an attack on Iraq:

And finally, on another personal note, I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year’s terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.

There have been a number of bogus attacks on Obama for committing the thought crime of using “right wing frames.”  What right wing framing has done us more harm than the one Hillary Clinton used–tying in 9/11 and the Iraq war?

As for the correction, as Pamela notes in the comments, the post I am responding to is written by one of several authors at The Democratic Daily and this does not necessarily represent the views of the other authors.  Considering the history of that blog, I certainly hope that the others realize that Hillary Clinton is no John Kerry.

Obama Pulls Within Margin of Error in Gallup Poll


Barack Obama has now moved within the margin of error in today’s Gallup Tracking Poll which follows progress over the past three days. Obama has pulled within three points of Clinton. Gallup attempts to address the effect of Edwards leaving the race:

The data suggest that Obama has gained slightly more — at least initially — from John Edwards’ departure from the race. In the final tracking data including Edwards in all three days’ interviewing (Jan. 27-29 data), Clinton had 42%, Obama 36%, and Edwards 12%. Since then, Clinton’s support has increased two points and Obama’s five. Tomorrow’s release will be the first pure post-Edwards three-day rolling average.

One problem with this analysis is that Obama was moving up and Clinton moving downwards prior to Edwards leaving the race. I find it more likely that this trend would have continued, and that Obama has only moved to within three points because Clinton might have received a larger share of the Edwards voters than Obama did. I doubt things would have remained stagnant with Obama only moving up from a larger share of the Edwards vote. Unfortunately they don’t question those responding to the poll about previous support to answer this question.

Obama has received further good news today, including endorsements from MoveOn, and the California SEIU. The Transportation Workers Union is also expected to change their support from Edwards to Obama. While I expected Clinton to initially gain more than Obama from Edwards dropping out due to more similar pitches towards the same demographic groups, receiving such endorsements from union leaders could reverse this. I’m not sure if the MoveOn endorsement will mean anything, but it is a sign that on line activists overwhelmingly support Obama now that Edwards is out of the race. This is the first time there was a super majority of members supporting the same candidate, allowing for such an endorsement. I’m just glad that this was one on line poll which Ron Paul supporters didn’t manage to hack.

When following these polls a number of caveats must be kept in mind. These are a snap shot at one moment and, as we saw in New Hampshire, can shift at the last minute. Voters change their minds much more easily in a primary campaign between members of the same party than they will change from one party to the other in a general election. It is possible the undecided might split as the other respondents in the poll, or they might break more for one candidate. The polls might not accurately reflect those who actually vote in the primaries. The primaries are made up of individual state races which might differ tremendously from the national polls. Delegate counts might note even correlate with state wide support as winning more Congressional districts could result in more delegates than receiving a higher total vote count which is concentrated in smaller areas.

These polling results cannot predict with certainty what will happen on Super Tuesday, but the trend sure is encouraging for Obama.

Obama Defends Freedom of Choice in Health Care Reform

Many on the left claim there is not much difference between Obama and Clinton’s policy views, but there are differences which explain why Obama has the support of many libertarians while Clinton never will. While I think it is an exaggeration to label Obama a left-libertarian as some have, there are significant differences between Obama and Clinton with regards to their philosophy of government. Obama’s views show a considerable respect for liberty while Clinton has often shown contempt for consideration of issues of freedom in policy decisions. The most public disagreement between the two camps has been over health care mandates.

Obama has sent out a mailer stressing his opposition to the mandates which Clinton supports. This is a legitimate policy difference between the two and there is nothing wrong with sending a mailer which is based upon factual differences between the candidates. This is far different from the mailers the Clinton campaign sent out on Social Security and abortion rights which provided false information on Obama’s positions.

There has been considerable outrage from portions of the left who support mandates to Obama’s mailer as they one again repeat their empty cries of using conservative frames. Naturally Paul Krugman has jumped all over Obama once again. The worst came from the Clinton campaign which raised Nazi comparisons to this mailer during a conference call.

“It is as outrageous as having Nazis march through Skokie, Ill.,” Nichols said. “I just find it disgusting that this kind of imagery is being used to attack the only way to get to universal coverage.”

A Clinton aide did later disavow the Nazi comparison, but this episode does demonstrate the philosophical differences between many Obama and Clinton supporters, and the lack of understanding of liberty by the Clinton camp. The Nazi comparison is more than extreme hyperbole. The comparison is one hundred eighty degrees wrong. In contrast to the views of Nazis, Obama’s proposal respects individual freedom and choice while Clinton’s views do not. Clinton certainly is not a Nazi (or Socialist) for advocating mandates, but it is Obama’s views which are even further away from such authoritarian philosophies. Mandates are not needed, unnecessarily restrict choice, and would result in unnecessary new government enforcement apparatus which would be contrary to the cost-saving goals of health care reform.

The manner in which Obama’s views transcends the simplistic left to right linear spectrum can be seen in comparing the bogus attacks on Obama for using conservative frames on health care (as if any conservatives support a plan such as his) with his endorsements. Today Obama received the endorsement of MoveOn. Steve Benen listed the various endorsements Obama has received, which include people and organizations on the left as well as more conservative elements of the Democratic Party. He writes:

But I heard a pitch from an Obama supporter a while back that stuck with me: He unites the left and divides the right, while Clinton divides the left and unites the right.

In light of the MoveOn endorsement, we can probably expect to hear this line quite a bit more. After all, I never quite expected to see a candidate successfully outflank Clinton from the left and the right.

If you try to fit Obama along a linear left to right continuum you will wind up with the apparent paradox of Obama outflanking Clinton from the left and the right. One reason that many independents support Obama is that independents are often independent because their views also do not fit on the left/right spectrum. Obama does outflank Clinton on the left on issues such as civil liberties and foreign policy but his economic views are far too complex compared to Clinton’s simplistic big government views to label them as being either to the left or right of Clinton. Obama’s economic goals are progressive, but he also takes free market principles into consideration to develop the most effective means of achieving progressive goals.

Obama Wins Debate But No Knock Out Blow

The debate was much more cordial than many of the recent exchanges between Obama and Clinton. Hillary Clinton has learned her lesson that dishonest attacks are counterproductive. It was significant that we saw Chelsea but there was no sign of Bill. The two candidates got along so well that at times I felt like I was watching a debate between the tag team of Obama and Clinton vs. conservative talking head Wolf Blitzer and company. Obama and Clinton definitely won that debate as they debunked conservative talking points on items such as taxes.

As for the bigger battle for the Democratic nomination, there was no knock out punch but Obama did more to further his campaign. Simply having a debate where the two were on a similar level in terms of knowledge weakens Clinton’s claim that she is more experienced. As Josh Marshall wrote, “I think this helped Obama because it put the two of them on the same level, the same stature level.”

Their major disagreement, which will probably be the topic of clips on post-debate news coverage, which really determines who wins in the minds of the average voter, was over Iraq. Obama totally blew Clinton out on Iraq with Clinton not having a good argument to use against Obama. Obama opposed the war from the start–was right on day one. It is notable that Clinton gave up on her tactic of trying to falsely claim that their views were really the same. Nobody other than her dedicated supporters ever bought this one.

Clinton is in a no win position on Iraq. No matter how she tries to wiggle out of it, she was wrong. She is trying to copy John Kerry’s position that the vote was not the same as supporting going to war. Unfortunately this argument didn’t work politically for Kerry and it will be even harder for Clinton to use it. Kerry opposed the war before it started, giving some credibility to his argument, but Clinton did not. If Kerry could not get away from his IWR vote, Clinton has much less of a chance. Clinton also copied Kerry’s language in discussing going to war as a last resort.

Obama also outsmarted Clinton on immigration. Obama used a question to sound more attractive to Latino voters, where he has been weaker than Clinton, and refrained from blaming immigrants for the economic problems of blacks. Clinton fell into the trap of framing immigration as a black vs. Latino conflict and took the black side. This won’t be enough to get the black vote to move from Obama to Clinton, but this exchange could pick up some Latino votes for Obama.

With momentum already moving in Obama’s direction, and Obama cutting the gap between the two to only four points, Clinton needed a clear victory to return to her previous position as overwhelming front runner. Obama might not have done enough to jump significantly, but following the debate we will probably continue to see movement towards Obama.