New Information On Trump Foundation Added To Campaigns Dominated By Scandals

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Donald Trump is once again involved in a Foundation scandal of his own. There are already serious questions regarding his contribution to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi before her office decided not to investigate Trump University in 2013. The Washington Post has looked further into his “charitable” Foundation. Among other issues, he used money from his Foundation to settle personal legal debts:

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses…

If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the New York attorney general’s office, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.

More broadly, these cases­ also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Washington Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in awhile,” Tenenbaum said.

The Post sent the Trump campaign a detailed list of questions about the four cases but received no response.

I can’t help but wonder how much more might be discovered if Trump were to release his tax returns, which before Trump had become the norm for politicians running for president.

I initially planned to end this post here, writing only about Trump. However, in looking at reactions elsewhere, I found many pro-Clinton blogs make similar arguments claiming that the only real Foundation scandal involves Trump, while totally ignoring, and denying, the more serious issues raised by the Clinton Foundation. While there is little question that Trump has acted unethically, and very likely illegally, the Clinton scandals are far more significant in terms of electoral politics as they involve the abuse of a government position.

I’ve already discussed the Clinton Foundation scandals in great detail, including here and here. Common Cause has called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation. I’ve more recently noted how both fact checkers and ethicists viewed the scandals and Clinton’s violations of the ethics agreements which she entered into before becoming Secretary of State. Between the email and Foundation scandals, Hillary Clinton has been found to have violated policy with regards to using a home server rather than a government email system, failing to turn over any email for archiving which was sent over personal email, destroying over half the email and falsely claiming it was personal, and failed to disclose all donors to the Clinton Foundation as she agreed prior to her confirmation. She unethically made rulings on multiple occasions regarding parties which contributed to the Foundation and/or made unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton.

Both Trump and Clinton have acted unethically. Neither is ethically fit for any government office. They are the same type of people, regardless of which letter is after their name. Is is a shame that partisan politics leads so many to look at the faults of one candidate while totally ignoring comparable faults from the candidate of their party. In order to clean up government, it is necessary to hold candidates of both major political parties to higher standards.

Clinton And Many Democrats Fail To Understand Importance Of Opposing Interventionism And Defending Civil Liberties

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The lack of concern for Hillary Clinton’s neocon record on foreign policy, and her far right record on First Amendment issues, by so many Democrats is really disappointing. It is as if they didn’t they learn anything from the horrors of the Bush years. Hillary Clinton appeared clueless when she campaigned for the millennial vote. As I discussed last week, and as David Weigel reported today, Clinton is losing a substantial amount of support to third party candidates.

When George Bush was president, Democrats showed concern for matters such as avoiding unnecessary wars, civil liberties, and government transparency. Now that they have nominated a candidate who is far to the right on these matters, they no longer show any concern. For example, Paul Krugman made a pitch today for millennial voters who are voting for Gary Johnson, but ignored these issues. It makes absolutely no sense to seek the support of those considering Gary Johnson without addressing the main issues which are causing Clinton to lose support to Johnson, along with Jill Stein.

Krugman also resorted to the bogus Ralph Nader argument. If the 2000 election turned out badly (as it did) because of George Bush becoming president, it makes no sense to use this to support a neoconservative such as Hillary Clinton who supports the so many of the same policies as George Bush.

Just as bad is the manner in which Kevin Drum dismissed concerns over military interventionism and civil liberties: ” Unless you’re basically a single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force, it’s hard to see why any lefty of any stripe would even think of supporting Johnson.”

Drum is right in his post in arguing that it would make more sense for Bernie Sanders supporters to support Jill Stein than Gary Johnson, but he certainly diminishes the importance of several issues with the phrase, “single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force.”

These are two of the most important matters considering both the expansion of the warfare/surveillance state since 9/11, and considering which areas fall most directly under the control of the president. Plus these encompass multiple issues.

Civil liberties mattered to Democrats eight years ago. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign.  As I’ve discussed previously, Clinton’s poor record regarding civil liberties and separation of church and state includes 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, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony. Her views mocking freedom of speech when supposedly fighting terrorism sound alarmingly similar to those expressed by Donald Trump. Issues such as the drug war and opposition to the policy of mass incarceration she supported is yet a different issue which leads many to support Johnson and Stein over Clinton.

Similarly there are multiple foreign policy issues. These include her support for intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria. In other parts of the world, there are her views on Russia, and record in Honduras. There’s also her history of joining with the Republicans in opposing a ban on cluster bombs in civilian areas. There’s her threats to obliterate Iran. Her past statements on the use of nuclear force against terrorist groups sound similar to those expressed by Donald Trump.

While Drum has consistently ignored the facts regarding the email scandals, the State Department Inspector General report verified accusations that Clinton violated the rules put into effect to promote transparency, showed that she tried to cover up her actions, and that she failed to cooperate with the investigation. This is just one aspect of the scandals involving Clinton which give millennial voters, and others, reason to distrust Clinton and vote for a third party candidate.

The numerous issues involved here contradict Drum’s mischaracterization of Clinton’s opponents as a single-issue voter. By the same logic, many of the issues which he backs Clinton for could also be lumped together as a single issue. It is no surprise that Gary Johnson is taking votes away from Clinton when he is more liberal than her on military interventionism, civil liberties, the drug war, social issues, and government transparency. There are also several problems with Johnson’s views, making Jill Stein an even better choice for those on the left.

SciFi Weekend: Agents of SHIELD; Star Trek Discovery Delayed; Luke Cage; Westworld; Syfy Pilots; Barrowman v. Moffat on Torchwood

MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. "The Ghost" Season 4, Episode 1 Air Date: September 20, 2016 Pictured: CHLOE BENNET as Daisy EXCLUSIVE through 9/16

Chloe Bennet sets the stage for Daisy in the upcoming season of Agents of SHIELD, which returns this week:

In light of the Sokovia Accords, S.H.I.E.L.D. has gone legit.

When Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns, there’s a new director (Jason O’Mara), who tasks Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) & Co. with tracking down enhanced individuals — and that spells trouble for Daisy (Chloe Bennet), who has gone rogue after Lincoln’s death.

“Everyone she’s gotten close to has died,” Bennet tells EW. “Her way of protecting the people that she cares about — which is Coulson and the rest of the team — is to distance herself. She’s doing anything she can to help people and try to makeup for what she feels is her fault.”

But her self-imposed exile doesn’t necessarily make her a hero. “We know from the past that your power comes with a price,” EP Jed Whedon says. “It damaged her when she first used it and you have to learn to control it. Part of her nothing-to-lose attitude has allowed her to unleash her power on a level that’s much more aggressive, but also much more dangerous.”

“She’s in a place where she’s pushing herself beyond her limitations,” EP Maurissa Tancharoen adds. “Whether or not that’s being self-destructive or just trying to be her own version of her best self, we’ll explore that question.”

Spoiler TV also reports that season 4 will include a loose cross over with the upcoming Doctor Strange movie:

“Our ties are at times very direct and at times are more thematic,” EP Jed Whedon tells EW. “The tie this year will feel more of a reflection of the movie, less an interweaving plot. As that movie hits the world, it comes at the right time in our show, and you will see some of those same ideas being explored.”

“The same questions that our team is exploring leading up to the premiere of Doctor Strange, perhaps some of those concepts will be reflected in the movie and then carried through,” EP Maurissa Tancharoen says. Adds Whedon: “Hopefully some of the questions that we’re asking will be answered by it and then pose some new themes and ideas for us to explore.”

Star Trek Discovery

Originally January was going to be significant for both the inauguration of the next president and for the start of Star Trek: Discovery. CBS has delayed the premiere from January until May, 2017. StarTrek.com reports:

Star Trek: Discovery will now launch in May, 2017, it was announced this afternoon by CBS All Access. The new premiere date is driven by the creative team’s belief that this will give the show the appropriate time for delivery of the highest-quality, premium edition of the first new Star Trek television series in more than a decade.

“Bringing Star Trek back to television carries a responsibility and mission: to connect fans and newcomers alike to the series that has fed our imaginations since childhood,” executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Bryan Fuller said in a joint statement. “We aim to dream big and deliver, and that means making sure the demands of physical and post-production for a show that takes place entirely in space, and the need to meet an air date, don’t result in compromised quality. Before heading into production, we evaluated these realities with our partners at CBS and they agreed: Star Trek deserves the very best, and these extra few months will help us achieve a vision we can all be proud of.”

Personally I’d prefer that we get Discovery in January, and postpone the inauguration of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton (indefinitely).

Luke Cage is the next installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Netflix, teaser above. Showrunner showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker discussed the series in an interview with SciFiNow (via MCUExchange):

In an interview with science fiction website SciFiNow, Coker calls Luke Cage a show that is about “a man who moves to a new section of town, which has deteriorated over time.” He goes on to say, “Instead of a saloon, we have a club named Harlem’s Paradise. And inside this ‘saloon’ there is another strong man who is controlling vice and – to some extent – has an amount of control in law enforcement [this would be Mahershala Ali’s crime lord Cornell ‘Cottonmouth’ Stokes], so he gets away with everything.”

When asked about how Luke Cage compares to the other MCU Netflix properties, Coker had this to say:

Luke Cage has a different feel to Jessica Jones and Daredevil,” explains the self-confessed comic-book fan. “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room right now; it’s a black show. However, at the same time, it’s a different genre to the other shows to some extent, because Daredevil is a crime drama with superhero elements, and Jessica Jones is a psychological thriller, even though it has some classic ‘Sam Spade’ noir moments.”

The promos for HBO’s adaptation of Westworld continue to make me far more interested in the series than I was when it was first announced. SciFi Now has a spoiler-free review of the first four episodes.

Sci-Fi Storm reports on three pilots at the Syfy channel. Here’s the one I find most interesting:

The Machine, based on the 2013 UK cult film, explores humanity through artificial intelligence when a sentient AI is created, but the military wants to use it for war. Caradog James, who directed the film, is an executive producer with Red & Black Films and John Giwa-Amu, the film’s producer.

It appears that John Barrowman has been claiming that Steven Moffat has been blocking the return of Torchwood–something which Barrowman has been tying hard to make happen. Doctor Who News reports that Moffat denies this:

You may be aware that John Barrowman has been saying, publicly, that I’ve been blocking a new series of Torchwood. To be very clear – I haven’t blocked it; I wouldn’t block it; I wouldn’t even be ABLE to block it. I didn’t even know a revival had been mooted till I read about it on the Internet. As John perfectly well knows, it’s not my show and I could no more prevent it happening that he could cancel Sherlock. I am bewildered, and a little cross, even to be included in this conversation. For the record, I really liked the show (especially the third series) and would be very happy to see more – monsters and mayhem, why not? But the fact is, it has nothing to do with me. Please pass this on to the anxious and the angry – I’ve had enough hate mail now.

Capitalism–Donald Trump Style

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The New York Times has an article on how Donald Trump has benefited from subsidies and tax breaks, often obtained through political connections. The article begins:

The way Donald J. Trump tells it, his first solo project as a real estate developer, the conversion of a faded railroad hotel on 42nd Street into the sleek, 30-story Grand Hyatt, was a triumph from the very beginning.

The hotel, Mr. Trump bragged in “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” his 1987 best seller, “was a hit from the first day. Gross operating profits now exceed $30 million a year.”

But that book, and numerous interviews over the years, make little mention of a crucial factor in getting the hotel built: an extraordinary 40-year tax break that has cost New York City $360 million to date in forgiven, or uncollected, taxes, with four years still to run, on a property that cost only $120 million to build in 1980.

The project set the pattern for Mr. Trump’s New York career: He used his father’s, and, later, his own, extensive political connections, and relied on a huge amount of assistance from the government and taxpayers in the form of tax breaks, grants and incentives to benefit the 15 buildings at the core of his Manhattan real estate empire.

Since then, Mr. Trump has reaped at least $885 million in tax breaks, grants and other subsidies for luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings in New York, according to city tax, housing and finance records. The subsidies helped him lower his own costs and sell apartments at higher prices because of their reduced taxes.

Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee for president, has made clear over the course of his campaign how proud he is that “as a businessman I want to pay as little tax as possible.”

While it is impossible to assess how much Mr. Trump pays in personal or corporate income taxes, because he has refused to release his tax returns, an examination of his record as a New York developer shows how aggressively he has fought to lower the taxes on his projects.

Mr. Trump successfully sued the administration of Mayor Edward I. Koch after being denied a tax break for Trump Tower, his signature building on Fifth Avenue. Two decades later, in a lawsuit that spanned the administrations of Mayors Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, he won a similar tax break for Trump World Tower, a building on First Avenue with some of the city’s highest-priced condominiums in 2001.

The tax breaks for those two projects alone totaled $157 million.

The tax break at the 44-story Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle came to $15.9 million.

No possible subsidy was left untapped. After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Mr. Trump lined up a $150,000 grant for one of his buildings near ground zero, taking advantage of a program to help small businesses in the area recover, even though he had acknowledged on the day of the attacks that his building was undamaged.

“Donald Trump is probably worse than any other developer in his relentless pursuit of every single dime of taxpayer subsidies he can get his paws on,” said Alicia Glen, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, who first battled Mr. Trump when she worked in Mr. Giuliani’s administration.

In seeking those subsidies, Mr. Trump is not that different from many other developers. But the level of subsidies he has received along with his doggedness in claiming them seem at odds with his rhetoric as an outsider candidate who boasts of his single-handed success and who has denounced what he calls the pay-to-play culture of politics and a “rigged” system of government.

There is much more detail in the full article.

Donald Trump, who does not have much use for criticism, or for the free press, is threatening to sue. From The Guardian:

Donald Trump has threatened to sue the New York Times.

In a tweet on Saturday night, the Republican nominee for president wrote: “My lawyers want to sue the failing @nytimes so badly for irresponsible intent. I said no (for now), but they are watching. Really disgusting.”

The tweet marks Trump’s latest attack on the press although litigation is unlikely to succeed. Under the precedent set by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964, any public figure suing for libel must prove a defamatory statement was made with actual malice, “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not”.

Besides thinking they are disgusting, I think it is safe to say that Donald Trump also thinks they are losers.

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Jill Stein and Gary Johnson Denied Participation In The First Presidential Debate Limiting Expression Of Alternative Opinions

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The two party system acts to restrict political discourse so only the very limited differences between the major parties are discussed during the campaign. This is particularly undesirable this year when both candidates are from the authoritarian right quadrant of the political spectrum. As I discussed yesterday, regardless of whether Clinton or Trump wins, we will see a continuation of the horrors of the Bush administration. We will see a strengthening of the warfare and surveillance state, increased restrictions on First Amendment rights, and increased government secrecy. The two candidates with alternative viewpoints, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, have now been officially declared ineligible for the first presidential debate.

Theoretically they can still qualify for subsequent debates, but it will be even harder after they are denied the free publicity provided to the major party candidates in the first debate.

The rules which determine who qualifies are arbitrary rules which were written to limit access to the debates. Doug Mataconis described how the Commission on Presidential Debates is not truly “bipartisan” but is an organization jointly run by the two major parties:

…the commission is an organization controlled equally by the Republican and Democratic parties. Its two co-Chairman are Frank Farenkopf, a top Republican who once served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, a top Democratic Party alumnus who once served as Press Secretary for former President Bill Clinton. The Board Of Directors includes top GOP officials such as former Senators John Danforth and Alan Simpson and top Democrats such as Caroline Kennedy and Kennedy ally and former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minor.

Doug also made a strong argument as to why Johnson should be included in the debates:

The Libertarian ticket has officially qualified for the ballot in all fifty states, an accomplishment that isn’t exactly easy for non-establishment political parties. The ticket is also polling better far better than any Libertarian nominee ever has, hitting an average of 9,2% according to RealClearPolitics and according to Pollster. Among younger voters, the Johnson/Weld ticket has been consistently polling competitively, with a new Quinnipiac poll showing them just two points behind Clinton/Kaine among voters aged 18 to 34. The two former Governors have also picked up endorsements from newspapers such as the traditionally Republican Richmond Times Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and, just dropping overnight, the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

While Stein has not achieved this level of success, she does present yet a different viewpoint, and is already polling better than Ralph Nader’s results in 2000. Either candidate could have even more of an impact if more people heard their views.

Hillary Clinton has a strong interest in limiting the expression of alternative viewpoints as she is already losing support to third party candidates, especially among younger voters. The Atlantic points out:

In the last day, two major polls have found that more than one-third of voters under the age of 30 plan to vote for either Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein instead of either Clinton or Trump in November.

A defection by millennials of that size could be devastating for Clinton; in 2012, President Obama won 60 percent of voters under the age of 30, and the bloc provided a crucial advantage in his four-point victory over Mitt Romney. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, Clinton earned support from just 31 percent of voters under the age of 35 in a four-way race. It’s not like millennials are suddenly flocking to Trump. They plainly loathe him. Three in five have a “strongly unfavorable” view of him, three in four say he would divide rather than unite the country, and four in five millennials say Trump is not a candidate they can relate to. So yes, younger voters clearly prefer Clinton to Trump, but what they really want is someone else. Clinton carries that bloc by more than 20 points in a head-to-head matchup, but her support peels away when younger voters are given the option of supporting Johnson or Stein.

So, Clinton is having difficulties because many young voters don’t want to vote for her and will vote for third party candidates or stay home. If only the Democrats could have nominated a candidate who excited young voters…

We know they had that option with Bernie Sanders–who also has polled better than Clinton against Donald Trump. Young voters are more willing to consider alternatives, not having a strong connection to either major party–and often seeing both as rotten. On the other hand, the Democratic Party might have gained the loyalty of younger voters for years to come if they had nominated Sanders.

The conventional wisdom was that Stein would take votes from Clinton and Johnson would take votes from Trump. This has turned out to not be the case, with Johnson running to the left of Clinton on foreign policy, social issues, civil liberties, and drug policy. As a consequence of Clinton’s conservative views in these areas, Johnson is taking votes from her along with Trump. Politico reports:

She leads by five points among likely voters in a two-way national race, 48 percent to 43 percent. But when Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included, Clinton’s lead shrinks to two: she’s at 41 points, with Trump at 39, Johnson at 13, and Stein at 4. Democrats assume that all of Stein’s support comes from the Clinton column, meaning Johnson’s is split roughly evenly between Clinton and Trump.

John Fund has also analyzed the effect of third party candidates in recent polls:

In the New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday this week, Trump and Clinton are tied at 42 percent each among likely voters. Johnson captures 8 percent of the vote and Stein 4 percent. But among voters younger than 30, Clinton has 48 percent, Trump 29 percent, and 21 percent plan to vote for Johnson or Stein or not vote at all. That level of non-support for the Democratic candidate among young people is a warning signal for Clinton. By comparison, Barack Obama won 60 percent of their votes in 2012.

Some polls show Johnson doing far better with young voters than he does in the NYT/CBS poll. A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed that among Millennials, Hillary is winning 31 percent, 29 percent favor Johnson, 26 percent pick Trump, and 15 percent choose Stein…

The strength that Johnson shows in Western states is also impressive, and it confirms that his presence in the race is more harmful to Hillary than to Trump. Earlier this month, the Washington Post conducted in-depth individual polls in all 50 states. Their polls were revealing in contested Western states. In a two-way contest, Hillary leads in Arizona by one point, in Colorado by two points, and in Nevada by five points. In a four-way race that includes Johnson and Stein, Trump leads by two points in Arizona, ties in Colorado, and is down three points in Nevada. Even New Mexico, Johnson’s home state, is much more competitive in a four-way race: Hillary leads by 14 in a two-way race and only eight in a four-way race.

When this many young voters are thinking of voting for a third party, this can no longer be called just a spoiler or protest vote. It is a vote towards attempting a long term change in the system–which is necessary when both major parties have nominated candidates which are unfit to be president.

Why Clinton Can’t Pull Away From An Opponent As Awful As Donald Trump

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Donald Trump has said one idiotic thing after another. He has been found to have bribed an attorney general to avoid prosecution for his scam university, among other scams he has been involved in. He clearly has no understanding of the issues. Yet he is now now in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, with many Democrats struggling to understand why. Will Democrats ever figure out that the nomination of someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton was one of the biggest political blunders in history (ranking with the Republicans’ blunder in nominating Trump)?

Many Democrats have resorted to responses which do not help matters. They deny that she is corrupt and dishonest, despite overwhelming evidence that she is, and ignore the seriousness of her scandals. This only turns independents more against partisan Democrats who make such claims.

Clinton doesn’t help herself when she repeats the same lies over and over, even when the fact checkers repeatedly call her out on it. She didn’t help matters when she answered Anderson Cooper in a dishonest manner this week, claiming to have been transparent about her health and her email,  when he pressed her on her lack of transparency. pointed out:

…almost everything that Clinton has disclosed in this campaign has come under duress. The reason we have thousands of her emails is because she was forced by the State Department to turn them over. The reason we know about her pneumonia is because of her stumbling incident on Sunday in New York City. Forced transparency isn’t all that honorable

The most common argument from Clinton and her supporters is to argue how terrible Donald Trump is. While they are right, that does not help Clinton when they cannot provide positive arguments to support her. Many agree about Trump, but do not think Clinton is any better.

At least one Clinton supporter,

…her 4256 favorable/unfavorable split in national polling is truly, freakishly bad. Political junkies have probably heard the factoid that Clinton is the least-popular major party nominee of all time — except for Donald Trump. But conventional dialogue still underrates exactly how weird this situation is. John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bob Dole were all viewed favorably by a majority of Americans on the eve of presidential elections that they lost, and Mitt Romney was extremely close.

It is totally unheard of to win a presidential election while having deeply underwater favorable ratings, and it is actually quite common to lose one despite above water favorable ratings.

Since there are only two major party nominees in the race and they are both far underwater right now, it’s pretty likely that precedent will be shattered. But we are in a bit of an undiscovered country in terms of the underlying opinion dynamics.

RealClearPolitics’ four-way polling average shows Gary Johnson at 9.2 percent and Jill Stein at 2.7 percent.

If those numbers hold up (which of course they might not), they would make Johnson the strongest third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. That’s a big deal. Stein’s strength is, however, even more unusual. She is polling ahead of where Ralph Nader did in 2000 and is the strongest fourth-party candidate we’ve seen in a 100 years, besting both the Thurmond and Wallace tickets from the infamously four-sided election of 1948.

To find a fourth-place candidate polling higher than Stein’s current results, you need to dial all the way back to the 6 percent of the vote Eugene Debs earned in the bizarre 1912 election that saw the GOP nominee (the incumbent, no less!) finish in third place behind a third-party bid spearheaded by ex-president Teddy Roosevelt.

These two unusual quirks of the 2016 race seem to be linked.

Lambasting Trump while being unpopular herself would be a clear winning strategy in a zero-sum head-to-head race. But in a four-sided race, where the two lesser candidates aren’t receiving much scrutiny from the press or the campaigns, it tends to have the side consequence of pressing a lot of people to Johnson or Stein. The fact that there are two different third-party candidates in the race — one for people who think Clinton’s too left and one for people who think she’s not left enough — makes it really difficult to avoid bleeding voters…

It’s simply going to be very hard for Clinton to open up the kind of stable lead that her supporters think Trump’s awfulness deserves while she herself is so little-liked. September of a general election year is probably not a great time to turn that around.

But the fact remains that her basic problem in this race is almost painfully simple. Over the course of her winning primary campaign she became a deeply unpopular figure. And it’s hard — indeed, unprecedented — for such an unpopular person to win the presidency.

Both major parties have nominated candidates who are unfit to be president. There is little motivation for many voters to choose the lesser evil, as opposed to voting for a minor party candidate, when even the lesser evil is so evil this year. If the major party candidates were not both so awful, Johnson and Stein would be polling as low as minor party candidates usually do.

For Clinton, it is not only her lies. It is also her record, as Common Dreams recently discussed. In past elections, the Democratic Party received the support of many independents, as well as those on the left, due to the serious problems under George Bush. Instead of nominating a reform candidate such as Bernie Sanders (who consistently polled much better against Donald Trump), they went for the candidate most likely to institutionalize the horrors of the Bush administration. We need to end the state of perpetual warfare we have been in since 9/11. While Clinton admits that her vote for the Iraq war was a mistake (like her support for mass incarceration, various trade deals, and anti-gay legislation were mistakes), as described, support for interventionism was actually part of a pattern for her:

For years, Clinton has blamed Bush for misleading her into voting for the resolution. But an examination by The Washington Post found that her decision was based as much on advice from her husband’s advisers as from Bush administration officials. There were also significant gaps in her fact-gathering, most notably her apparent failure to read a classified analysis that other senators cited in voting against the resolution…

She continued that path when she advocated intervention in Libya as secretary of state…

Besides Clinton pushing for interventionism in Libya, Clinton repeated the same mistakes in Syria, advocating war based on logic as flawed as anything we have heard from Donald Trump. Her views on Russia place us at risk of an even more dangerous situation.

Kranish stressed how Clinton failed to read classified intelligence reports which were available, leading others to oppose the war. Unlike some Democrats who did initially vote for the war, Clinton also continued to support the war:

A year after the vote, Clinton defended it on CNN, citing “grave threats to the United States.”

As The Intercept pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State. The Iraq vote was not a fluke. It is what we can expect if Clinton is elected.

Clinton desires to replicate the horrors of the Bush years in other ways. Besides perpetuating the warfare state, Clinton desires to expand the surveillance state and has a terrible record on civil liberties with views (minus the Islamophobia) which are comparable to Trump’s. As occurred under Bush, Clinton also has a long history of supporting an increased role for religion in public policy. The reality is that, no matter how much the point out Donald Trump’s flaws, Hillary Clinton already has a record of doing much of what Trump is accused of.

The Democratic Party establishment made a horrible mistake in acting to ensure that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination. While Clinton still has the edge, they might have to face the consequences of their actions if it leads to defeat and the election of Donald Trump as president.

Colin Powell Calls Trump A National Disgrace And Says Clinton Comes Across As Sleazy For Good Reason

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Colin Powell’s leaked emails include criticism of Trump, Clinton, and the right wing. In June he called Donald Trump “a national disgrace” and an “international pariah.” He has considered how Trump should be handled. He has suggested that Trump “is in the process of destroying himself, no need for Dems to attack him.” He also has warned about attacking Trump, pointing out that, “To go on and call him an idiot just emboldens him.”

Powell objected to how Clinton was handling the email scandal. The Intercept reports:  “Sad thing,” Powell wrote to one confidant, “HRC could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me to it.” He described her well in writing, ” Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.” Despite her hubris, she was also dumb:

“Dumb. She should have done a ‘Full Monty’ at the beginning,” Powell wrote. He added: “I warned her staff three times over the past two years not to try to connect it to me. I am not sure HRC even knew or understood what was going on in the basement.”

The Washington Post has more about Powell on Clinton’s email along with some fact-checking of Clinton’s claims:

“I have told Hilleary’s [sic] minions repeatedly that they are making a mistake trying to drag me in, yet they still try,” he wrote in May to Democratic consultant Vernon Jordan. “The media isn’t fooled and she is getting crucified. The differences are profound and they know it.”

The two situations aren’t completely analogous, as The Post’s Fact Checker has written, but Clinton has used Powell to suggest that her private email server was not totally novel.

Powell was reluctant to endorse Clinton: “Hillary has not been covering here [sic] self with glory,” Powell writes. “For good reason she comes across as sleazy.” He also wrote:

“I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect,” Powell writes to Democratic megadonor Jeffrey Leeds. “A 70-year-old person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational, with a husband still dicking bimbos at home (according to the NYP).

Emails from Democratic donor Jeffrey Leads  showed how little Obama and Clinton each actually thought of the other. One email said that Clinton hated Obama. Obama might not be as oblivious to Clinton’s faults as it appears when he campaigns for her:

In one Leeds/Powell email conversation going back to March 6, 2016 over a Politico article about Clinton’s primary loss in Maine, Leeds tells Powell that “no one like her and the criminal thing ain’t over. I don’t think the president would week if she found herself in real legal trouble. She’ll pummel his legacy if she gets a chance and he knows it.”

Powell also questioned Clinton’s health before Sunday’s events. In 2015 he wrote, “I think there is something to it. On HD tv she doesn’t look good. She is working herself to death.” Of course there is a big difference between overworking herself, along with her current pneumonia, and many of the unsubstantiated theories floating around on the internet about her health.

In other comments, Powell is right about the Birther movement: “Yup, the whole birther movement was racist.” Powell called Benghazi a “stupid witch hunt.”

One area in which Powell has sympathy for Clinton is on Benghazi, the GOP reaction to which he labeled a “stupid witch hunt,” as BuzzFeed first reported. And fellow former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice appeared to agree.

“Benghazi is a stupid witch hunt. Basic fault falls on a courageous ambassador who thoughts [sic] Libyans now love me and I am ok in this very vulnerable place,” Powell wrote to Rice in December 2015, referring to former ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack.

Powell added, though, that Clinton bore some blame: “But blame also rests on his leaders and supports back here. Pat Kennedy, Intel community, [State Department] and yes HRC,” referring to Clinton.

“Completely agree,” Rice responded.

In a year in which both major political parties nominated candidates who are unfit to be president, Powell gets it right in his criticism of both Trump and Clinton. With so many people falling into the partisan trap of backing one candidate and overlooking their faults, Powell deserves credit for seeing the faults in both.

Edward Snowden Calls On Obama To Pardon Him; Jill Stein Supports Request

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Edward Snowden expressed hope that Obama would pardon him before leaving office in an interview with The Guardian:

Speaking on Monday via a video link from Moscow, where he is in exile, Snowden said any evaluation of the consequences of his leak of tens of thousands of National Security Agency and GCHQ documents in 2013 would show clearly that people had benefited.

“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists – for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things,” he said.

“I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [US] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.”

Although US presidents have granted some surprising pardons when leaving office, the chances of Obama doing so seem remote, even though before he entered the White House he was a constitutional lawyer who often made the case for privacy and had warned about the dangers of mass surveillance.

Obama’s former attorney general Eric Holder, however, gave an unexpected boost to the campaign for a pardon in May when he said Snowden had performed a public service.

The campaign could receive a further lift from Oliver Stone’s film, Snowden, scheduled for release in the US on Friday. Over the weekend the director said he hoped the film would help shift opinion behind the whistleblower, and added his voice to the plea for a pardon.

His chances are  not very good, with the Obama administration having a very strict policy towards prosecution in whistle blowing cases. This includes using the Espionage Act more than all previous administrations combined to prosecute those who have leaked information to the press.

Of course the Obama administration’s zeal with regards to protecting classified information did not apply to Hillary Clinton being “extremely careless” with classified information as Secretary of State.

While it is not very likely that Obame will pardon Snowden, his chances are dramatically lower once the next president takes office. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are extremely conservative on civil liberties and are not likely to pardon him. John Cassidy of The New Yorker pointed out that, “From a civil-liberties perspective—and a factual perspective—Clinton’s answers were disturbing” when she was asked about Snowden in a Democratic debate last October. PoltiFact also called her statements about Snowden Mostly False.  Donald Trump has referred to Snowden as a traitor.

Snowden’s chances would be much better if one of the third party candidates had a chance to win. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson was equivocal on applying libertarianism here, having said he would consider pardoning him. Green Party Jill Stein has been calling for a pardon for Snowden for quite a while, and has an op-ed in The Guardian repeating this view. She concluded:

Federal judges ruled that such massive collection of citizens’ metadata without any connection to a particular investigation was patently illegal, essentially vindicating Snowden. His goal was to tell the truth about the government spying on all of us, and to create public and judicial pressure on the government to create real changes in the way things are done and to stop the trajectory towards a surveillance state.

Snowden’s whistleblowing was among the most important in US history. It showed us that the relationship between the people of the United States and the government has gone off track and needs a major course correction.

The fourth amendment of the constitution provides that a court must find probable cause that an individual has committed a crime before issuing a warrant, and forbids systematic spying on the American people. The requirement of individualized suspicion should prohibit this type of dragnet surveillance. Spying on whole populations is not necessary, and is actually counterproductive.

If elected president I will immediately pardon Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou for their important work in exposing the massive, systematic violation of our constitutional rights. I would invite them to the White House to publicly acknowledge their heroism, and create a role for them in the Stein-Baraka Green party administration to help us create a modern framework that protects personal privacy while still conducting effective investigations where warranted.

The American people have a right to privacy. My hope is that Obama uses his power to pardon Snowden now. The debate he began must be continued so we find a resolution that protects the freedom of press, association, religion and speech as well as the privacy of people in the United States and around the world.

Democratic Party Rules Should Clinton Leave The Race

David Shuster Tweets about Hillary Clinton following her collapse.

Hillary Clinton’s health scare yesterday has led to talk, probably premature, about what would happen if  a candidate was forced to leave the presidential race. It is quite likely that Clinton really does have pneumonia, and that she will soon recover. The manner in which the story was handled has led to continued speculation, such as by David Shuster on Twitter and  Cokie Roberts on Morning Edition, that the Democrats might be looking for a replacement candidate. Former DNC Chair Dan Fowler has also called for a contingency plan. While unlikely to happen, it is an intriguing question, and with the ages of both nominees it is not inconceivable that a candidate could be forced to leave the race. Politico did provide some information as to what would occur, with Fowler suggesting a more detailed process:

If Clinton could not physically continue her candidacy, she would have to voluntarily cede her nomination, creating a vacancy at the top of the national ticket. If she did, party procedures give the chair of the DNC authority to call a “special meeting” to vote on a replacement nominee. In this case, because chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in July, her successor, Brazile, has that authority.

“The locus of activity for all of those political questions would then move to the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee,” said Elaine Kamarck, a two-decade veteran of the DNC Rules Committee. “And it’s wide open, and all of the political concern would work out in the context of discussions among the members of the DNC.”

Fowler argued that the party would be wise to immediately set up an even more detailed process for those who might seek to be Clinton’s successor — from a signature-gathering requirement to a process for receiving nominations during the DNC meeting. All of which, he said, would help ensure confidence in the process and lead toward a broad coalescing around a successor candidate.

There is more on the topic here, here, here, and here. The key facts are that Clinton would have to agree to give up the nomination. The Democratic National Committee would then chose her replacement. The later it occurs, the more chaotic matters would be because of missing deadlines to change the candidate in various states. This may or may not matter in different states as it is possible that in many states Clinton’s name would still remain on the ballot, but electors would then vote for the new Democratic nominee in the electoral college.

The DNC could conceivably choose Bernie Sanders as the second place candidate after the primaries, but I have my doubts that the Democratic establishment would do that. After all, if not for the  Democratic establishment tilting the race towards Clinton in the first place, it is very likely that Sanders would have won the nomination. Joe Biden is the most likely replacement due to his name recognition and popularity. Other plausible choices include John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren.

If Clinton were to leave the race, the timing could also make a huge difference in what occurs. At this point I doubt Tim Kaine would be the choice as so far the vice presidential candidates have not had that much exposure. However, if Clinton should leave the race after the Vice Presidential debates, and should Kaine have an outstanding performance, he might also be considered.

The timing could also have a tremendous impact on the election results. Under normal circumstances a party losing its nominee would be placed at a disadvantage. In this case, running against a Republican candidate as awful as Donald Trump, a late entry could still have an excellent chance.  A different candidate might actually do better than Clinton considering how unpopular she is.  The timing could also be important here. A different candidate would have a better chance if entering the race soon, when there is still time to campaign. Whether it occurs after the debates could also be crucial. Should Trump manage to appear credible in a debate against Clinton, it would be harder for someone entering the race late to compete.

Again, this is all pure speculation. It is unlikely that Clinton will leave the race, but the unprecedented situation of a late change in candidates does make for an interesting story.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek; The Growing Berlantiverse; SHIELD; Doctor Who; Catwoman; Genre Shows Win Creative Arts Emmys; The Nix

George Takei discussed Star Trek with Stephen Colbert. Video above. Nerdist reports:

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the debut of the original Star Trek (well, in America at least: sorry to Canada that we didn’t do this two days earlier), so fittingly the tributes and odes were pouring in from fans around the globe. However, it was George Takei who best summed up what the franchise is really all about, and in doing so explained why it is so beloved and has endured for so long.

The O.G. Sulu was a guest of super nerd and Trekkie Stephen Colbert on The Late Show last night, and Takei shared his memories of the “very special” first time he went to work on the series, where franchise creator Gene Roddenberry described to him and the rest of the cast at their first table read what story the space adventure show was really telling.

“Gene explained to us what Star Trek was all about,” said Takei, “He said that the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth, and the strength of this starship lay in its diversity coming together.” Roddenbery then explained that the possibilities of “infinity diversity in infinite combinations” (IDIC) would force the crew, representing the many people of the planet, to combine their abilities to solve problems as one.

More detail on the interview at The Mary Sue.

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Majel Barrett has had both on-screen roles and has been on multiple versions of Star Trek as the voice of the ship’s computer. Her voice was recorded phonetically before she died and there is talk of using her voice on Star Trek: Discovery, along with using it Siri-like virtual assistants. I want my Amazon Echo to use her voice!

Bryan Fuller continues to slowly provide hints about other aspects of Star Trek: Discovery. He tweeted than an episode from The Original Series, Balance of Terror, is a “touchstone” for Discovery’s story arc. The episode introduced the Romulans, and TrekMovie.com speculates on what this might mean.

USA Today has an article on Rod Roddenberry.

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Greg Berlanti is working on yet another superhero show, now Black Lightning for Fox.

IndieWire has interviewed Gregg Berlanti about his multiple superhero shows. He has news on several of them, including the cross-over episodes:

As “Supergirl” leaps to The CW, how has the network move – and the relocation to Vancouver – been going?

I just saw the director’s cut of the first episode, and I’m in as much love with the show as ever. It’s been challenging to figure out all the moving parts, moving the show across cities and across networks. But the reality is, I think the show is as strong as ever and it feels really seamless. People will not be able to tell that it’s not L.A. It feels like National City still. There are some new enhancements to the set that we were going to do anyway. Obviously some new characters are coming to the show that we would have brought in anyway to the second season. And so I’m really pleased. CBS in their own wisdom recognized it, there’s no part of the show that’s fighting itself anymore. It has a youthfulness and appeal because of the age of the leading lady, and it gets to embrace that a touch more.

What more can you tell us how often we’ll see Calista Flockhart’s character, Cat Grant?

She’s recurring. We’re trying to get her for at least six episodes this year, and she’s in the first two episodes. We’re just trying to see when she can come back now.

And will we see her interact with Superman?

I don’t want to give it away, but she has a special kind of dynamic with Clark Kent.

How far along is the “Supergirl”/”The Flash” musical crossover?

We just finished writing the fall crossovers. And now we’re trying to figure out how to produce them. That’s probably the most challenging thing we do all year. And now we’re doing it across three shows! But next week we’ll have to start talking about clearing music. I have a few ideas for tone and style in my head but we’re just starting to talk about what that can be. I do want to try and get an original piece of music written. As we make a deal on that we’ll probably make some announcements on the original songs.

Perhaps written by, I don’t know, Lin-Manuel Miranda?

[laughs] I would say, pretty close. I can’t say yet because we don’t have a deal yet, but I did speak to someone we’re really excited about. There are some writers I’m incredibly excited to work with.

Back to the big CW series crossover, how difficult is that to pull off across so many series?

You really are trying to run a single production across three different productions. But they’re run as three separate entities. We have to figure out when we’re borrowing one actor from where. We’re telling one cohesive story; “Supergirl” will participate, but the storyline doesn’t actively begin there. There are some characters who show up in her episode, but the story begins with “The Flash” episode and goes to “Arrow” and “Legends of Tomorrow.” We’re just getting into designing the bad guy for it, and we start now but it doesn’t air until the end of November. We will put a lot of time between now and then figuring out visual effects sequences. Just today I was holding the three scripts back-to-back – that’s 180 pages of material. It’s a three-hour story, almost a miniseries.

And when you place all three scripts together, it unlocks some sort of fortune.

[laughs] It’s very daunting when you hold them all together like that. Each one of these pages is 10 hours of shooting and a visual effects extravaganza. But hopefully it feels like a great kind of crossover comic book sell.

The Spoiler Room at Entertainment Weekly has news on several genre shows, including this about Felicity on Arrow:

Emily Bett Rickards has been training a lot lately. Does it mean Felicity will be involved in more action scenes in Arrow season 5? — Itakha
At first, Felicity will be dealing with the fallout of Havenrock’s destruction. “In the first five episodes, we face head-on the decision that Felicity made,” EP Marc Guggenheim says. “We are most definitely not ignoring it.” Following that, though, Guggenheim cryptically teases what could be Felicity jumping in on the action. “We’re positioning her to do something in the second half of the year that is really, really key, and that isn’t about her relationship with Oliver or even necessarily her father or her mother. It’s really new territory for her, and we’ve very excited about it. Some big things are going to happen with Felicity.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see Emily Bett Richards while watching Brooklyn last weekend. (Sorry, it was not a major role, and the movie, while excellent, is totally non-genre).

Agents of SHIELD has a promo for Ghost Rider. More at Screen Rant.

Hulu has picked up a sci-fi comedy entitled Future Man from Seth Rogen.

Vince Gilligan is producing a limited series for HBO on Jim Jones for HBO entitled Raven. My bet is that he will do a good job of showing Jones’ life, but after Breaking Bad I would prefer to see him invent more flawed characters of his own.

Netflix has renewed Narcos for season 3 and 4.

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It appears that the next season of Doctor Who will start in April based upon reports in Radio Times and a comment from Peter Capaldi. Before that, there will also be the Christmas episode. Plus in November there will be an animated version of a lost story:

It’s one of the Doctor’s most celebrated adventures and yet no complete film recordings of The Power of the Daleks are known to have survived. The master negatives were destroyed in an archive purge in 1974.

BBC Worldwide has announced that a brand new black and white animation based on audio recordings of the programme using the original cast, surviving photographs and film clips will be released 50 years to the minute after its only UK broadcast on BBC One.

The six half hour episodes feature the regeneration, or as it was then called ‘renewal’, of First Doctor William Hartnell into Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, as the Time Lord and his companions Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze) do battle with the Daleks on the planet Vulcan.

Anne Hathaway told Variety she would live to play Catwoman again. That might be difficult as the Christopher Nolan Batman stories, where she appeared, have concluded, but that doesn’t entirely rule out her reprising the role in a future movie.

A few genre shows have already won awards last night at the Creative Arts Emmys. Winners included Jessica Jones (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music), Mr. Robot (Outstanding Music Composition For A Series), and Man In The High Castle (Outstanding Main Title Design and Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series). Hopefully some of these series will  also win some of the more major Emmy awards.

J.J. Abrams is working on a television adaptation of The Nix, staring Meryl Streep.

Headline of the day coming over my news aggregators which sounds more like cheap fiction than news: Sick African dictator ‘eats his enemies’ testicles and brains to boost his sexual prowess’