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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Clintons are getting turned into Mitt Romney

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

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

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

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

Bernie Sanders facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Text of Sander’s speech here.

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The Clinton Clown Car Is Back

Clinton Blumenthal Email2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hillary Clinton vs. The Press

Hillary Clinton CSPAN Iowa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Number Of Self-Identified Social Liberals Ties Social Conservatives

Gallup Social Liberals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clinton-Takes-Questions-NBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rick Klein subsequently mocked this argument from Clinton supporters:

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

Chris Cillizza also commented:

I mean, where to start with this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Obama Acts To Limit Use Of Military Equipment By Police

Police Missouri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The American Civil Liberties Union released this comment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also continues to see problems:

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

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

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

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

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

Common Dreams has additional opinions here.

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SciFi Weekend: Arrow; Mad Men; Agent Carter; Agents of SHIELD; Person of Interest; The Blacklist; Gotham and Twin Peaks

Arrow Felicity

I was surprised to see Arrow ending its third season in a way much like one of the possible endings I see for Mad Men. Although Don Draper doesn’t currently have a comparable woman in his life, I can easily see him ending the series starting over with a new life in California. As for Oliver Queen, there is little doubt that a new threat to Starling City will bring him back. The best line of the finale was Lance not being surprise that the cite was in  grave danger because it is May, showing awareness of how each season of the show has turned out.

Mark Guggenheim appears to have given away the direction, and big bad, for next season in an interview in Variety:

What can you tease about the trajectory of season four — will HIVE still play a major role?

We’re kind of doing a lot more in terms of the big bad for next year than we have in previous season finales. We first heard about Damien Darhk in episode 321 and there’s a pivotal sequence that surrounds Damien Darhk in the season three finale, so that’s exciting. It feels like we’re pulling a “True Blood” or a “Sons of Anarchy” where the big bad for the following year is teed up in the season finale of this year, so that’s kind of exciting for me because that’s something we’ve never seen before.

A trailer for the spin-off DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has been released and Caity Lotz will play The White Canary, apparently returning to life in a changed form due to The Lazarus Pit.

Mad Men Milk And Honey Route

As for Mad Men ending with a comparable ending with Don Draper driving in California, this is one of many possibilities. He did look the about the happiest he has ever looked at the end of last night’s episode, just sitting on the bench at the bus stop, having divested himself of almost everything in his life. It would be even more plausible that Don would never return to New York if not for the events of last week, but it is also possible that he will pick up the kids after Betty dies and settle into a new life with them in California or elsewhere. There has been some talk recently that the show could end with Don jumping out of the building as in the opening titles. I see the story very likely ending figuratively along such lines–not with Don actually jumping but with him giving up everything about his life as Don Draper except possibly his kids.

There is little doubt that the finale will center around Don, but there is much more in question as to whether we will see more of other characters. Pete somehow looks like he will be the one to end up living happily ever after after last week’s episode, but it remains possible that something will still change things in the finale. After we saw Betty in a previous episode with both a happy family life and going to school, it looked like this might be the end of her story. In retrospect her lung cancer was certainly foreshadowed, between Betty smoking so frequently and all the episodes dealing with cigarettes and lung cancer. Joan could live happily ever after with her financial settlement, and possibly with her new love interest, and we may or may not see her again. I do hope we find out whether Peggy is successful in being treated as a professional, but if we don’t see her again the manner in which she walked into McCann Erickson the last time we say her would be a satisfactory ending. I’m not sure what Roger will do there, but I was also never sure of what he actually did previously.

agent-carter_promo-cast-photos-616x462

Whether or not Oliver Queen or Don Draper wind up in California, it looks like Peggy Carter will when Agent Carter returns. The synopsis to the second season:

Marvel’s Agent Carter returns for a second season of adventure and intrigue, starring Hayley Atwell in the titular role of the unstoppable secret agent for the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve). Dedicated to the fight against new atomic age threats in the wake of World War II, Peggy must now journey from New York City to Los Angeles for her most dangerous assignment yet. But even as she discovers new friends, a new home — and perhaps even a new love — she’s about to find out that the bright lights of the post-war Hollywood mask a more sinister threat to everyone she is sworn to protect.

Agents of SHIELD finale

The season finale of Agents of SHIELD tied up the Inhuman plot but left them as potential future enemies. The whole question of a second SHIELD appears resolved, but we don’t know if Coulson will lead SHIELD as a one-armed man (or whether Dr. Ricard  Kimble will be chasing after him). Hopefully Simmons will be saved and Fitz will have happiness. We got some clues as to where next season could be heading. From Entertainment Weekly:

And here’s where the show sets up the now-official season three: a one-handed Coulson decides to put together a new team, centered around people with powers, led by Skye, under the promise that everyone on the team will be kept anonymous. An Inhumans team! Ah! It’s all happening!!!

But even Coulson and Skye don’t realize just how important and necessary their powered team is now, since the crate of crystals Skye sunk in the ocean breaks open, infecting all the fish, who are then caught by fishing ships and chopped up into fish oil pills sent to supermarkets and pharmacies everywhere. The world is about to become overrun with unsuspecting Inhumans! Jiaying’s plan succeeded, even if she did survive to see it happen.

More from executive producer Jeffery Bell at IGN:

IGN: Coulson wants Skye to form a new, super-powered and anonymous team. Is this heading towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe take on Secret Warriors?

Jeffrey Bell: Well, Daisy Johnson certainly has a big part in Secret Warriors and having a team like that. If you’ll notice, Coulson says right now she is the only person in what might be this new outfit. But you know, the idea of a team of powered people is something we’ve seen in the show, and I think there’s a world down the road where we do our version. We do our version of all these things so they may not be Secret Warriors but there’s a whole lot of super-powered people fighting super-powered people. That’s not really what we do or what we can even do on a weekly series. But tipping our hats to that direction I think is something we’re suggesting there in the new season.

IGN: Another new team looks like it could be forming under Ward as he moves into a leadership role in Hydra. What’s ahead for him?

Bell: Ward has been a lot of fun. He’s gone through several changes over the course of last two seasons – going from boy scout, to Hydra foot soldier who’s loyal to people above him, to someone who’s been off on his own, and coming to a place where he’s at peace with himself. But after these events at the end of these last two episodes — finally he has a personal vendetta against Coulson and his team in a way he didn’t before because he can now point to them as the reason, whether rightly or wrongly, that he killed the woman he loved. By saying he wants to get closure – and we’ve seen what that’s meant in the past — I think in many ways that means he’s going to be a much more terrifying person…

IGN: What can you tease about whatever the Kree monolith did to Jemma?

Bell: As you go down your list, you’re always looking at what would generate the most story and what would tell interesting, compelling stories. And her character has changed so much in the course of a year. With Fitz, in just in a more obvious way with the head trauma and PTSD with what happened to him, but we did see her go through a lot of changes as well. They’ve each kind of become their own — in the first season we referred to them as FitzSimmons, one word almost as if they were two halves of the same person. This season we’ve split them into two whole people. They went their separate ways, and now that just as they were coming back together, it just seemed like there was an opportunity to twist that story a little bit.

And now that she’s dead — [laughs] no, I’m just kidding — or lost somewhere. Who knows what happened to her? But it seemed like too good of an opportunity not to explore. We love Elizabeth as an actress, and we look forward to seeing what happens to her and how she deals with it.

"A House Divided" -- When an unknown entity prevents The Machine from seeing the full picture of an impending catastrophic event, it sends the team five separate numbers to help them piece together the bigger picture, on PERSON OF INTEREST, Tuesday, May 6 (10:01-11:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right:  Jim Caviezel and Amy Acker Photo: Giovanni Rufino/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. © 2014 WBEI. All rights reserved.

Person of Interest has only been picked up for thirteen episodes, but that could be a good thing as the show has moved from a procedural to a more science fiction show about artificial intelligence and surveillance. Thirteen episodes will allow them to deal more with the mythology and less with the number of the week–especially when the machine might not even be able to shoot out more numbers. It is not know if there will be further seasons after the fifty. If they end it with a good thirteen episode arc like on Fringe that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Co–showrunner Greg Plageman has discussed plans for the fifth season:

How much do you have planned about season 5 at this point?
Greg Plageman: We’ve actually got a lot mapped out. It’s really kind of cool. We gathered our writers at the end of the year — and obviously we left on quite a cliffhanger in terms of Team Machine being engaged in a firefight. [Laughs] We really wanted to know where we were headed. What does it mean with the Machine being in an impenetrable case, and what that’s going to entail for the first couple of episodes, and what the larger arc of the season was. Some really great things emerged from that, and [PERSON OF INTEREST creator] Jonah [Nolan] and I both feel great about the blueprint going forward.

Will you be picking up next season in the immediate aftermath of that epic gunfight? Or will there be a time jump?
GP: We discussed a couple of options, and we feel the most honest and satisfactory way to go would be to pick up in real time. Clearly, Team Machine is carrying a pretty valuable football. The case seems pretty impenetrable; I certainly hope it can float.

Will they be able to return to their subway sanctuary? Or is that off-limits now?
GP: The subway is still okay, as well is, interestingly enough, the cover identities of the guys hasn’t been blown in terms of Samaritan’s point of view. The problem comes when members of Samaritan recognize our crew out in the street, and know who they are, or they engage in anomalous behavior that alerts Samaritan. We feel like some of the fun we had [with the cover identities] is an unexplored arena we’d like to get into a little bit more in the next season.

Do you anticipate going back into the numbers of it all as soon as possible next season? Or does the Machine being compressed give you an opportunity to step away from that for a bit?
GP: It’s going to take some doing [to get back to normal], obviously. We imagine if the Machine knew its demise was imminent, it may have also known of a number of premeditated murders and plotted — before it was compressed into a Kevlar case — to let our guys know that there are some people they should keep an eye on until the Machine is able to regain some of its faculties.

Blacklist Finale Lizzie

Although not science fiction, The Blacklist ended the season in a way analogous to Person of Interest.  The show started out as primarily a vehicle for James Spader and frequently concentrated on the case of the week. Lizzie Boone was often a weak character who could only succeed by getting key information from Reddington. The season finale blew that up, and should make Lizzie  more interesting as a character. I have some question about the finale as I don’t  really think Lizzie would take the step of shooting the Attorney General, ensuring that she would be a fugitive. However for the purpose of advancing the show, I will accept that in a moment of extreme stress, with everyone she knows being threatened, she might take such an extreme action.

Morena Baccarin has been promoted to a series regular for the second season of Gotham.

Orphan Black has hit a relatively slow point the last couple of weeks, with one or another clone captured, along with some DNA talk,  so I will hold off on detailed reviews. Among the more memorable scenes was Helena killing the “lab rat.” I was surprised to see her leave Sarah behind, as previously she said she did not believe the claims that Sarah had betrayed her. Helena is never predictable.

There were questions as to whether David Lynch was going to go through with the revival of Twin Peaks. It looks like it is back on again.

Saturday Night Live mocked Hillary Clinton once again. Video via Crooks & Liars:

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Clinton’s Unethical Behavior Has Already Been Well Established–And It Has Nothing To Do With The Right

Clinton Email

As I discussed once again yesterday, many Democrats are ignoring the serious ethical breaches which have been written about Hillary Clinton, both in the past couple of months and further back, from liberal as well as conservative sources. To a certain degree the right gives her cover as, in addition to the many proven accusations against her raised by the left, there are additional false accusations against her from the right, leading some to falsely conclude that all accusations against Clinton are as bogus as Benghazi. Clinton apologists are now using a rather irrelevant article  in The New York Times to justify ignoring the strong case against Clinton. The article cites actions from the past months by conservative groups, ignoring the fact that many on the left has felt that Clinton is both unethical and too conservative for many years.

A post at The Moderate Voice (where many of my posts are reposted) which cites this article takes on the surface might be called a moderate viewpoint but actually ignores the facts of the matter:

I will wait for the results of impartial, independent investigations on allegations such as “E-Mail Gate” and the Clinton Foundation.

And I will definitely not fall for what the extreme right, or the extreme left, allege about Hillary Clinton.

In actuality, while additional facts will likely continue to be found, all the information to prove Clinton’s ethical misconduct and violation of rules in effect when she was Secretary of State are already in. Criticism of Clinton comes from all parts of the political spectrum, not just the extreme right and left. There is no such thing as an “impartial, independent investigation” to occur on a public official out of office, especially those as powerful as the Clintons. There are no such “independent investigations” of candidates other than from the media. We must go by the well-established facts that we do have to judge whether she is fit to be president. Here is what we do know:

When Hillary Clinton was made Secretary of State there was tremendous concern, from members of both parties, about the conflicts of interest this entails. 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 recently 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.

Not only did Clinton fail to abide by the policies in effect, when this became publicly known she destroyed evidence in wiping the server.

The 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. This week we also received evidence that Hillary Clinton personally benefited financially.Ezra Klein discussed how this was both unethical and showed poor judgment. The income from

Clinton apologists have argued that there is not evidence of a quid pro quo, but to require this is a higher standard of proof which others are subjected to. Direct evidence of a Instead guilt is generally established based upon patterns of behavior, including failing to follow the rules in effect and such transfers of money to a politician from those who have received benefits. Destruction of evidence is typically interpreted to mean that the destroyed evidence is unfavorable to the accused.  Lawrence Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, recently wrote:

Even if no deals are made, the influence of special-interest super PACs is a corrupting influence on American democracy. Even without a quid pro quo, the incredible concentration of direct contributions from a tiny fraction of the wealthiest 1 percent of the population is a corrupting ­influence.

Corruption is not just a contract. Corruption is also a kind of economy — an economy of influence that leads any sane soul to the fair belief that private influence has affected public policy. It is for this reason that practically every Democrat has insisted that the court’s Citizens United decision (and its progeny) needs to be reversed. It is this idea that has motivated millions to petition Congress to propose an amendment for that reversal…

That consensus among Democrats has now been shattered by a book by conservative writer Peter Schweizer. In “Clinton Cash,” Schweizer charges Bill and Hillary Clinton with corruption. Not because there is evidence of any particular bribe. Instead, their corruption, Schweizer says, comes from a pattern of behavior: a constant (and, by the end of the book, practically grotesque) story of cash passing from people seeking the government’s favor to either Bill Clinton (and hence Hillary Clinton) or the Clinton Foundation. The rapaciousness alone is enough to give one pause: Seriously, don’t we pay former presidents enough?

Yet all this, the Clintons and their defenders insist, is not corruption because Schweizer has provided no smoking gun. He has offered “no evidence” of a quid pro quo trade.

Welcome to Wonderland: Were the alleged influencers the Koch brothers, with the same kind of pattern charged against them — their channeling support to Republican representatives, those representatives in turn acting in a way that reflected the desires of the Kochs — there would be no doubt that Democrats would rally to attack that influence as Exhibit No. 1 in the case against the corruption of Washington. But apparently now those loyal to the Democratic presidential front-runner will have to be more careful in their criticism. Apparently now the party line must be: Even if someone benefited personally, and enormously, and even if there is a repeated series of victories for those exercising their influence, there’s no corruption unless Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. would see it as corruption — meaning again, no corruption unless a quid pro quo.

Democrats need to think carefully about whether this is really a principle they want to defend — while they insist that we need to amend the Constitution to ban independent contributions and expenditures as corrupt even if no quid pro quo is shown.

Likewise, the Republicans now railing against the Clintons need to recognize just how easy it is for them to see corruption even where no one can show a quid pro quo.

We all should agree that the economy of influence that Washington has become is corrupt, the Supreme Court notwithstanding, and all finally move on to the only important question: What can we do to fix it?

On any fair reading, the pattern of behavior that Schweizer has charged is corruption. If the Clintons are going to defend against it, they need to do more than to cite Chief Justice Roberts. And soon.

David Sirota  has also recently written in Salon about the hypocrisy of Democrats who oppose the Citizens United ruling while giving Hillary Clinton a free pass.

Common Cause has called for an independent audit of the Clinton Foundation. Charity watch dog organizations such as Charity Navigator have placed the Foundation on their watchlist.

Clinton would be receiving this criticism even if conservative groups were not further publicizing her actions. The case against the Clintons is based upon what the Clintons have done–not actions by any conservative group the last couple of months.While we have more information, this is not anything new.  The Clintons have been criticized for similar ethical problems for many years by both liberal and nonpartisan organizations concerned with ethics and transparency in government.  For example, The Sunlight Foundation has archived an article from The New York Times criticizing Hillary Clinton for similar ethical violations in 2009.

Liberals have objected to Clinton’s conservative views, along with her ethical violations, during the 2008 campaign and earlier. Hillary Clinton is essentially a Joe Lieberman Democrat on foreign policy, civil liberties, and social issues, and many liberals have felt for a long time that she should be ostracized by Democrats as Lieberman ultimately was. I discussed how her hawkish foreign policy views were unacceptable to the left in this post from August 2014, along with past posts. I pointed out her long history of poor judgment on policy issues in this post from June 2014, citing an article from The National Journal. I recently cited an article from Mother Jones written in 2007 on Clinton’s cultural conservatism, including her poor record regarding separation of church and state. Clinton has received similar criticism from liberals, and those concerned about ethics in government, going back much longer. Criticism of Clinton from the left has nothing to do with actions from conservatives.

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Further Revelations On Payments Received By Clintons Raise Questions About Both Their Ethics And Judgment

Clinton Money

About two weeks ago  Bill Clinton said he would continue to give paid speeches, regardless of the conflicts of interest this entails, because “I gotta pay our bills.” This was despite having made $105 million dollars in speaking fees between 2001 and 2013. The latest financial disclosures continue to show that Bill and Hillary should be able to pay their bills without Bill continuing to get paid for speeches. From The New York Times:

Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband made at least $30 million over the last 16 months, mainly from giving paid speeches to corporations, banks and other organizations, according to financial disclosure forms filed with federal elections officials on Friday.

The sum, which makes Mrs. Clinton among the wealthiest of the 2016 presidential candidates, could create challenges for the former secretary of state as she tries to cast herself as a champion of everyday Americans in an era of income inequality.

The $25 million in speaking fees since the beginning of last year continue a lucrative trend for the Clintons: They have now earned more than $125 million on the circuit since leaving the White House in 2001.

In addition, the report shows, Mrs. Clinton reported income exceeding $5 million from her memoir of her time as secretary of state, “Hard Choices.”

The Clintons’ riches have already become a subject of political attacks, and her campaign has been eager to showcase Mrs. Clinton as a more down-to-earth figure. Her only declared Democratic opponent at this point, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is an avowed socialist, while Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin have considerably more modest means.

A major dimension of Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy is expected to be policy proposals to narrow the gap between the rich and poor and to address stagnant wages. Yet she is far from those problems; while she said she and President Clinton were “dead broke” when they left the White House in early 2001, they are now part of the American elite.

While many conservative Democrats who support Clinton are likely to ignore this along with all the other revelations to be reported in the past couple of months, many bloggers see serious problems in nominating Hillary Clinton. John Cole says, This Just Stinks:

You knew you were running for President. You knew this would put a bullseye around you. Why, for the love of FSM, why?

Let’s earn 25 mill real quick then pivot to speaking for the common man. No one will notice, amirite?

Ezra Klein explains why this is significant for the ethically-challenged Democrats who are still willing to support Clinton (emphasis mine):

Almost a decade ago, as Hillary Clinton ran for re-election to the Senate on her way to seeking the presidency for the first time, the New York Times reported on her unusually close relationship with Corning, Inc., an upstate glass titan. Clinton advanced the company’s interests, racking up a big assist by getting China to ease a trade barrier. And the firm’s mostly Republican executives opened up their wallets for her campaign.

During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, Corning lobbied the department on a variety of trade issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The company has donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to her family’s foundation. And, last July, when it was clear that Clinton would again seek the presidency in 2016, Corning coughed up a $225,500 honorarium for Clinton to speak.

In the laundry-whirl of stories about Clinton buck-raking, it might be easy for that last part to get lost in the wash. But it’s the part that matters most. The $225,500 speaking fee didn’t go to help disease-stricken kids in an impoverished village on some long-forgotten patch of the planet. Nor did it go to a campaign account. It went to Hillary Clinton. Personally.

The latest episode in the Clinton money saga is different than the others because it involves the clear, direct personal enrichment of Hillary Clinton, presidential candidate, by people who have a lot of money at stake in the outcome of government decisions. Her federally required financial disclosure was released to media late Friday, a time government officials and political candidates have long reserved for dumping news they hope will have a short shelf life.

Together, Hillary and Bill Clinton cleared $25 million on the lecture circuit over the last 16 months, according to a Hillary Clinton’s personal financial disclosure required of presidential candidates. A lot of the focus will naturally go toward the political argument that Clinton’s wealth makes her out of touch. The US has had plenty of good rich presidents and bad rich presidents. What’s more important is whether they are able to listen to all of the various interests without being unduly influenced by any of them.

There’s a reason government officials can’t accept gifts: They tend to have a corrupting effect. True, Hillary Clinton wasn’t a government official at the time the money was given. But it is very, very, very hard to see six-figure speaking fees paid by longtime political boosters with interests before the government — to a woman who has been running for president since the last time she lost — as anything but a gift.

After further details he continued with a word for Democrats who are probably ignoring this, questioning not only Hillary Clinton’s ethics but her judgment:

By this point, most Clinton allies wish they had a button so they didn’t have to go to the trouble of rolling their eyes at each new Clinton money story. The knee-jerk eye-roll response to the latest disclosure will be that there’s nothing new to see here. But there’s something very important to see that is different than the past stories. This time, it’s about Hillary Clinton having her pockets lined by the very people who seek to influence her. Not in some metaphorical sense. She’s literally being paid by them.

That storyline should be no less shocking for the fact that it is no longer surprising. The skimpy fig leaf of timing, that the speeches were paid for when she was between government gigs, would leave Adam blushing. And while most Democrats will shrug it off — or at least pretend to — it’s the kind of behavior voters should take into account when considering whether they want to give a candidate the unparalleled power of the presidency. It goes to the most important, hardest-to-predict characteristic in a president: judgment.

Hopefully Democrats will wake up and choose a more ethical nominee, or we face the danger that scandals such as this will return a Republican to the White House in the general election. Besides, it hardly makes sense to compromise principles  and nominate Clinton when she has spent her career pursuing a socially conservative agenda along with her quasi-neoconservative foreign policy views. As Lawyers, Guns, & Money said earlier when these scandals were being revealed:

For progressives, all this is, to put it mildly, depressing. Working to get someone with Hillary Clinton’s political views elected would require a certain amount of nose-holding even if she and her husband were above reproach, ethically speaking.

Under the circumstances, a race between Clinton and, say, Scott Walker is going to be akin to trying to acquire a sprained ankle instead of a major heart attack.

Update: Clinton’s Unethical Behavior Has Already Been Well Established–And It Has Nothing To Do With The Right

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