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

open-the-debates

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.

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.

Creating A State Of Perpetual Warfare

Orwell Continuous War

The Orwellian aspects of our foreign policy have been apparent to its opponents for quite a while. Former CIA officer Barry Eisler did not mention Orwell in an article on perpetual warfare at Boing Boing but either he was considering several aspects of warfare in 1984 or came to similar views as Orwell independently. Some excerpts:

If you were the government and wanted to maintain a state of perpetual war, how would you go about it?

First, you’d need an enemy, of course, but that part would be pretty straightforward. After all, if the US government could convince the citizenry that Iraq was the 9/11 enemy but that Saudi Arabia was our friend when nineteen out of the twenty 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, it’s fair to say that just about anything is possible.

But the next part would be harder. On the one hand, you’d have to claim progress in the war so that the citizenry would maintain its support for the war. On the other hand, you couldn’t actually defeat the enemy, lest the war end.

Eisler here was referring to the latest in a long string of news reports on a significant victory, such as killing a key member of ISIS, while nothing actually changes.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that according to the Pentagon, we’ve achieved yet another concrete War on Terror victory, while according to American officials and counterterrorism specialists, outright victory is still intangible and elusive. Maybe it’s a coincidence that this narrative is precisely the one a team of social scientists would devise if tasked to come up with something that would maintain indefinite support for a never-ending war.

But it would be foolish not to at least wonder. War is awful for almost everyone. But for a few narrow factions, there’s a lot of money to be made and power to be accrued. You could even go out on a limb and argue that war is a racket.

While in 1984,”We‘ve always been at war with Eastasia” the enemy does periodically change. Eisler points out that this could be happening with our perpetual war:

If you were really clever, you’d probably want a backup enemy–a Plan B in case the current enemy du jour were ever somehow actually defeated. In which regard, maybe it’s a coincidence that we are now being told we are now in a new cold war with a resurgent Russia and that Vladimir Putin is behind everything bad in the world. But once again, it would be foolish not to at least wonder.

In 2008, Barack Obama was the peace candidate, yet the war continues and the use of drones has increased. The choices in 2016 appear even worse. Hillary Clinton is probably the most hawkish war monger to run for president in recent memory. Besides pushing for the Iraq war based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, she is the architect of our disastrous policy in Libya, and wanted to repeat the same mistakes in Syria based on absurd arguments. She has also been pushing to extend the conflict to Russia, with a new Cold War, if not an outright hot war.

Her opponent, Donald Trump, has at times spoken out against Clinton’s interventionism, but has been far too incoherent on foreign policy (and everything else) to be seen as a serious alternative. While Clinton appears most likely to win, with Clinton’s favorability at records lows Trump has been cutting into Clinton’s lead, including pulling into a tie in the latest Reuter’s poll.

Third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson might provide a real difference but are marginalized by our system, not even being allowed in the presidential debates, despite widespread dislike for the major party candidates. Just today, Bernie Sanders did say that the threshold for minor parties participating in the debates should be lowered. It is unlikely we will see any real change, or an end to our perpetual war, unless other voices are heard.

Clinton Threatens War With Russia

Clinton bombs

Hillary Clinton’s speech to the American Legion this week raised eyebrows among some one the left with her jingoism and praise for American exceptionalism. One segment was particularly disturbing as she sounds like she is threatening military action against Russia:

We’ll invest in the next frontier of military engagement, protecting U.S. interests in outer space and cyberspace. You’ve seen reports. Russia’s hacked into a lot of things. China’s hacked into a lot of things. Russia even hacked into the Democratic National Committee, maybe even some state election systems. So, we’ve got to step up our game. Make sure we are well defended and able to take the fight to those who go after us.

As President, I will make it clear, that the United States will treat cyber attacks just like any other attack. We will be ready with serious political, economic and military responses. And we’re going to invest in protecting our governmental networks and our national infrastructure. I want us to lead the world in setting the rules of cyberspace.

Justin Raimondo responded at Antiwar.com:

If that isn’t a veiled threat to attack Russia in retaliation for their alleged “cyber-attacks” on the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Foundation, then what is she trying to say?

This should scare the bejesus out of “liberals” and others on the left who have been scammed into jumping on the Clinton bandwagon in the name of stopping Trump. Are we really going to start World War III in order to avenge the honor of Debbie Wasserman Schultz? Given how problematic attribution is in the case of cyber-attacks, this threat of “military action” makes Dr. Strangelove look sane.

For all the yelping and screeching in the media about how Trump is “unstable,” and even crazy, this threat shows that Hillary in quite simply unhinged. Her major theme these days resembles something out of Joe McCarthy’s playbook: her campaign has come right out and said Trump is “Putin’s puppet.” And since she so clearly believes the Russians are actively disrupting her efforts to take the White House, it’s reasonable to assume her policy toward Russia will reflect this in a vindictive campaign of revenge.

And they tell us Trump is “scary”!

If Hillary Clinton doesn’t scare you, then you aren’t paying attention.

It is no surprise that the arms industry has been donating so much money to Hillary Clinton. There is a long history of bad blood between Clinton and  Putin, and neocons have long desired to try regime change in Russia. We saw how well that worked out in Iraq. Donald Trump’s naive man-crush on Putin in response to a compliment from Putin is also disturbing, but Clinton’s long history of belligerence towards Russia really should scare us.

The facts behind the DNC hack remain unclear, with the anti-Russia hysteria raised by the Clinton camp sounding remarkably like the both Cold War red-baiting and like the anti-Iraq hysteria during the run-up to that war (with Hillary Clinton falsely claiming that their were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda). While I would not exclude the possibility of Russian involvement, Putin has again denied responsibility.

The lack of a credible opponent this year is allowing Hillary Clinton to get a pass on her rather alarming views on foreign policy and military interventionism. Voters have forgotten that eight years ago Clinton was rejected by Democrats and found by many to be the scary one. This included alarm raised by many Democrats when Hillary Clinton criticized Barack Obama for ruling out the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists and for being willing to speak with our adversaries. From The Washington Post nine years ago:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton drew another distinction between herself and Sen. Barack Obama yesterday, refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Osama bin Laden or other terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Clinton’s comments came in response to Obama’s remarks earlier in the day that nuclear weapons are “not on the table” in dealing with ungoverned territories in the two countries, and they continued a steady tug of war among the Democratic presidential candidates over foreign policy…

“Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrents to keep the peace, and I don’t believe any president should make blanket statements with the regard to use or nonuse,” Clinton said.

At a debate last week in South Carolina, Clinton directly criticized Obama for saying he would meet with leaders traditionally hostile to the United States. Obama responded, and the sniping went on most of the week…

U.S. officials rarely rule out nuclear attacks as a matter of diplomacy, preferring to keep the threat as a deterrent. Yet several foreign policy experts said Obama was essentially right: It would be unwise to target an individual or a small group with nuclear weapons that could kill civilians and worsen the United States’ image around the world.

Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar, said Obama “clearly gave the right answer.”

This year Donald Trump has been criticized for not taking nuclear weapons off the table in fighting ISIS. While he was wrong, his position was essentially the same as the position promoted by Hillary Clinton.

The Washington Post Looks At Hillary Clinton’s History On Same-Sex Marriage

Hillary Clinton Gay Marriage 2000

Hillary Clinton is a strange choice to be the Democratic candidate, having spent her career pushing for economic conservatism, neoconservative interventionism, and social conservatism. These are among the reasons that an inexperienced politician such as Barack Obama beat her for the nomination in 2008, and a candidate as unlikely as Bernie Sanders kept it so close this year.

The Clintons have always been to the right of the Democratic Party, and often the nation, on social issues. Hillary Clinton spent her time in the Senate working with The Fellowship, and the influence of the religious right can be seen in many of her views. An article in The Washington Post has reviewed Clinton’s history on one issue where she has lagged behind the country–support for same-sex marriage:

During her first run for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton had an opportunity to become an undisputed leader in the gay rights movement.

As she prepared for a forum on the gay-oriented Logo network, she reached out to her friend Hilary Rosen, a political consultant who is a lesbian. Rosen expressed frustration that so many mainstream political figures opposed legalized same-sex marriage, and she challenged Clinton to speak out for a community that had strongly supported her.

Clinton refused.

“I’m struggling with how we can support this with a religious and family context,’’ Rosen recalled Clinton telling her. Clinton just wanted to know the best way to explain the position…

Clinton’s approach to same-sex marriage illustrates the caution that has come to define her political career. It also reflects a central challenge for the 68-year-old candidate, who along with her husband helped to shape an era of centrist politics designed to appeal to culturally conservative voters but has struggled to adapt to a generation of Democrats who have moved further to the left…

In 2004, the mayor of San Francisco started approving marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Courts in Massachusetts had endorsed marriage rights. President George W. Bush called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, energizing a conservative base that would help him secure a second term.

Clinton said she opposed amending the Constitution but said in a Senate floor speech that she took “umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman.”

Clinton’s perpetual balancing act unnerved some supporters.

Of course we know that Clinton has changed her view, with many suspecting this was primarily out of political expediency before running in the Democratic primaries this year. Regardless of her motivation, Clinton’s underlying social conservatism and religious views are bound to influence how she will govern assuming she goes on to be elected.

Aetna Deals Blow To Obamacare Showing Sanders Was Right On Need For Single Payer Plan

Aetna

Aetna has announced that they are going to greatly scale back the number of markets in which they will participate in on the exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. This is very bad news for Obamacare. Last year it was looking like insurance companies were doing well and wanted to increase participation. The big question is what happened.

One possibility is that Aetna is telling the truth that the plans were not profitable as sicker people than they anticipated were joining, leading to greater costs.

Another possibility is that Aetna is doing this to retaliate against the Obama administration for fighting their desire to merge with Humana.

Consumers are screwed either way. Having less competition in the exchanges due to fewer companies offering plans will likely lead to higher premiums. On the other hand. allowing further consolidation of the insurance industry will also lead to less competition and higher costs.

During the fight over the Affordable Care Act there were proposals for a public option modeled on Medicare or for an option for older individuals (who are probably the most responsible for the higher costs Aetna complains about) to buy into Medicare. Both were blocked because the two most conservative Senators voting with the Democrats, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, opposed these plans. With no Republicans voting for Obamacare, they could effectively block either idea. It is unknown if things would have been any different if the White House had pushed more forcibly for these plans.

Of course Bernie Sanders had the right idea in taking these concerns over profit out of the equation in proposing Medicare for All, which Hillary Clinton opposed during the campaign. It is also unknown if Sanders could have brought enough liberal Democrats into Congress with him over the next few elections if he was the nominee. It is probably a safe bet that a DLC based Democratic Party under Hillary Clinton will not move the country to the left in such a manner.

Clinton Precedent Cited In Sailor’s Case To Request Leniency

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The Obama administration has an overly hard line record on prosecuting minor security breaches. Hillary Clinton, who has never had a very good record with regards to either government transparency or civil liberties, might inadvertently wind up reversing this trend. While the FBI did not recommend prosecution of Hillary Clinton despite her reckless handling of classified information, people lower down have commonly been prosecuted for less. The handling of Clinton’s case is now likely to be cited in subsequent cases. Politico reported on one such case:

Citing Clinton, sailor seeks leniency in submarine photos case

A Navy sailor facing the possibility of years in prison for taking a handful of classified photos inside a nuclear submarine is making a bid for leniency by citing the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton over classified information authorities say was found in her private email account.

Petty Officer First Class Kristian Saucier, 29, is set to be sentenced Friday on a single felony charge of retaining national defense information without permission. In May, Saucier pleaded guilty in federal court in Bridgeport, Conn., admitting that while working on the U.S.S. Alexandria in 2009 he took and kept six photos showing parts of the sub’s propulsion system he knew to be classified.

The defense and prosecutors agree that sentencing guidelines in the case call for a prison term of 63 to 78 months, but defense attorney Derrick Hogan cited the treatment of Clinton as he argued in a filing last week that Saucier should get probation instead.

“Democratic Presidential Candidate and former Secretary of State Hilary [sic] Clinton…has come under scrutiny for engaging in acts similar to Mr. Saucier,” Hogan wrote. He noted that FBI Director James Comey said 110 emails in 52 email chains in Clinton’s account contained information deemed classified at the time, including eight chains with “top secret” information and 36 with “secret” information.

“In our case, Mr. Saucier possessed six (6) photographs classified as ‘confidential/restricted,’ far less than Clinton’s 110 emails,” Hogan wrote. “It will be unjust and unfair for Mr. Saucier to receive any sentence other than probation for a crime those more powerful than him will likely avoid.”

There are distinctions between the cases. Saucier admitted as part of a plea bargain that he “knew from his training and his specialized work upon the submarine” that the photos contained classified information and he wasn’t authorized to take them. He also admitted that after being confronted by law enforcement in 2012 he destroyed a laptop, camera and memory card.

Clinton has said she didn’t know any information on her server was classified, although Comey has said anyone in Clinton’s position “should have known that an unclassified system was no place” for some of the subjects being discussed. While Clinton had tens of thousands of emails erased from her system in 2014, she did so with the advice of lawyers and before the FBI investigation was underway.

Regardless of whether people such as this sailor receive more lenient handling, I also wonder if Clinton will be as hard on such matters as the Obama administration has been if elected (which looks likely based upon current polls and Donald Trump’s continuing incoherence while campaigning). While her natural conservative inclination might be to be a hard liner, she might also be dissuaded by the inevitable comparisons to her case.

In related news, two Republicans have laid out their arguments for the Justice Department to investigate Clinton for perjury in her testimony before Congress. This includes lying over whether she sent or received classified information on her private server, the claim that her lawyers had gone through each email individually before deleting them, her  claim that all work related email was turned over to the State Department, and her claim that she used only one server while Secretary of State. The FBI report contradicts each of these claims made when she testified before Congress.

Democratic Convention Night Three: Identifying The Worst Person In America

Trump Clinton Celebrity Death Match

The highlight of the third night of the Democratic Convention was Barack Obama speaking. It has become a rarity in modern times for an incumbent, or even recent president, to be seen as helpful to the nominee. Obama, like Bill Clinton the night before, provided a selective history. There was no discussion of Clinton’s Libya policy as Secretary of State, which Obama in recent interviews has said did not work, has turned Libya into a “shit show,” and was the worst mistake of his presidency. Nor did he discuss why he rejected Clinton’s advice to intervene in Syria.

Tim Kaine spoke earlier in the evening. Other than for his impression of Donald Trump, the line which comes to mind was “I trust Hillary Clinton with our son’s life.” Do we really want someone this foolish a heartbeat away from the presidency? Kaine’s opponent for the vice presidency, Mike Pence was not far from me this afternoon. Just as Mike Pence began a town hall nearby in Michigan, the sky became dark and rain came down from the heavens. Was it the wrath of an omnipotent invisible being in the sky, or just coincidence? We report, you decide.

The goal of the various speakers was to paint Donald Trump as being such as awful person that nobody would consider voting for him. That was not hard to do. After all, he once spoke of obliterating Iran. What type of monster speaks of obliterating another country. Oh, wait, that was Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump fought against a ban on the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. Oops, again that was Hillary Clinton joining with the Republicans. If Trump is elected, we will see mass incarceration, deportations, and cuts in welfare for women and children. Again, Clintons, been there, done that. Donald Trump would ignore the Bill of Rights, for example by proposing to imprison people for burning the flag in protest. Yet again, it was Hillary Clinton who introduced such legislation. Donald Trump has mocked freedom of speech if it comes in the way of fighting terrorism. That one is true about Trump–but Hillary Clinton has taken the same position.

The nominating process really has been successful in finding the worst two people in America. Now they can fight it out to see which one really is the worst.

That is why there were protests, and chants of “Hell No DNC, We Won’t Vote For Hillary.” We need someone creative out there to be ready with an updated version of “Hey There LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”

Stephen Colbert also gave a rundown of last night’s events:

Plus he mocked the attempts by Viacom to retain the rights to the Stephen Colbert character from his Comedy Central show, and used an entirely new segment, Werd, to look at voting for the lesser evil:

Trump Ghost Writer Exposes Him As An Ignorant, Dishonest Sociopath Who Threatens To Cause The End Of Civilization

Art of the Deal

After months debates and primaries, America is about to make official its choice of the two worst people in the country. This week Donald Trump will officially become the Republican nominee. Tony Schwartz has unusual insight into Donald Trump, being the ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal. He spoke about Trump with The New Yorker:

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

So we are risking the end of civilization with Donald Trump. The alternative is neocon war monger Hillary Clinton, who supported going to war in Iraq based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, is responsible for the Libya policy which Obama has called a failure and the worst mistake of his administration, who made an argument for war in Syria which is as irrational as anything we hear from Trump, who threatened to obliterate Iran, and threatens to get us involved in another cold war (if not hot war) with Russia. What a choice. A sociopath who hypothetically might cause the end of civilization, versus one of the most reckless advocates of military interventionism in recent history.

Other comments from Schwartz reinforced what we have grown to believe about Trump, such as his ignorance of the facts, exacerbated by his short attention span and dislike of reading:

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

Other journalists have noticed Trump’s apparent lack of interest in reading. In May, Megyn Kelly, of Fox News, asked him to name his favorite book, other than the Bible or “The Art of the Deal.” Trump picked the 1929 novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Evidently suspecting that many years had elapsed since he’d read it, Kelly asked Trump to talk about the most recent book he’d read. “I read passages, I read areas, I’ll read chapters—I don’t have the time,” Trump said. As The New Republic noted recently, this attitude is not shared by most U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama, a habitual consumer of current books, and George W. Bush, who reportedly engaged in a fiercely competitive book-reading contest with his political adviser Karl Rove.

Not good when you come out looking dumber than George W. Bush.

Plus Schwartz questioned Trumps actual business ability, and described how dishonest he is:

Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

When challenged about the facts, Schwartz says, Trump would often double down, repeat himself, and grow belligerent. This quality was recently on display after Trump posted on Twitter a derogatory image of Hillary Clinton that contained a six-pointed star lifted from a white-supremacist Web site. Campaign staffers took the image down, but two days later Trump angrily defended it, insisting that there was no anti-Semitic implication. Whenever “the thin veneer of Trump’s vanity is challenged,” Schwartz says, he overreacts—not an ideal quality in a head of state.

Of course dishonesty is a trait also shared by Hillary Clinton, even if the two tend to tell a different type of lie as discussed back in November. The nomination process has succeeded in finding the two worst people in America, with the final event to occur in November. If only this was just a reality show.