Heading Into Debates, Sanders Taking On The DNC & Hillary Clinton

CNN Democratic Debate

The decision of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to limit Democratic debates to give an advantage to Hillary Clinton continues to create controversy:

Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said she was disinvited from the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Nevada after she appeared on television and called for more face-offs.

Ms. Gabbard confirmed on Sunday that her chief of staff received a message last Tuesday from the chief of staff to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the national committee, about her attendance at the debate. A day earlier, Ms. Gabbard had appeared on MSNBC and said there should be an increase beyond the current six sanctioned debates.

The Sanders campaign responded by offering to have Gabbard come to the debates as their guest:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), the Democratic National Committee vice chair who said she was disinvited to the first Democratic debate, might wind up attending the Tuesday night event as a guest of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said Monday on CNN’s “New Day” that Gabbard could use a ticket from the Vermont senator’s campaign…

“If she needs a ticket, have her give me a call,” Weaver said, adding, “I think we have a couple; we can give her one.”

Weaver’s comments came after Gabbard said she was disinvited to the debate  in Las Vegas after calling for more Democratic debates.

“It’s very dangerous when we have people in positions of leadership who use their power to try to quiet those who disagree with them,” Gabbard told The New York Times

Sanders’s campaign has joined calls for more opportunities to debate, while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has accused party officials of limiting the schedule to help front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“We would love to have debates: The more debates, the better,” Weaver said Monday on CNN. “It’s healthy for the Democratic Party to have more debates.”

I’ve previously noted how Bernie Sanders is preparing for the debates in an unconventional manner. The Guardian predicts how Sanders will challenge Clinton in the debates:

Although they have decided against the kind of formal dress rehearsals favoured by Clinton and other presidential debate participants, Sanders aides have been working hard on how to counter Clinton’s recent shift to the left on a number of issues that would once have been easy targets.

The most dramatic of these came less than a week before the debate, when Clinton announced an about-turn on free trade and adopted much of the same opposition to Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) deal that has made Sanders popular among progressive Democrats and trade unions.

But aides insist he will not “impugn terrible motives” for such changes, preferring to welcome a convert and merely point out that the policy reversal would have been more useful while Congress was still voting on authorising the trade negotiations.

“Bernie is not going to become a hitman,” said Devine, who helped run the presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry and has been leading the Sanders debate prep alongside campaign manager Jeff Weaver.

“He is not going to go out there and start attacking. It’s against everything he believes in and stands for when it comes to campaign politics,” added Devine.

“Having said that, he will point out the differences, whether it’s past policies like the decision to invade Iraq or present differences, like their plans for college [fees].”

Sanders rehearsed a similar argument about Clinton’s late opposition to the Keystone oil pipeline extension during his latest television interviews on Sunday.

“From day one, I opposed the Keystone pipeline because I believe that if you’re serious about climate change, you don’t encourage the excavation and transportation of very dirty oil,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press.

“People will have to contrast my consistency and my willingness to stand up to Wall Street and corporations, big corporations, with the secretary,” he said.

But advisers said such unwillingness to play hardball does not mean the Vermont senator will not defend himself if he is attacked for being too extreme or leftwing, as has happened in his previous election campaigns.

Bill Curry, a  former White House counselor to President Bill Clinton, looked ahead to the debate, including Sanders’ strengths and Clinton’s weaknesses:

As Trump points out, debates are free advertising. Democrats could use some. The contrast with the Republicans might have helped. Trump’s made them so rabid Democrats could have scored points just by being polite. Debates could have helped Clinton by reminding voters there’s more to her than the email scandal. And they’d have gotten her outdoors. If she had her druthers, she’d never leave her comfort zone. It’s one reason Bernie Sanders could cut her lead from 60 to 16 points. By limiting debate Schultz is enabling Clinton, not helping her.

All of which raises the stakes Tuesday night. What Bernie Sanders has done is all the more remarkable for his having done it without benefit of a primetime debate and despite a virtual media blackout imposed by a know-it-all press. In 2008 Obama drew crowds half the size Sanders pulls and got written up like the Beatles at Shea Stadium. The press believes only in polls and money. In September 2007 Clinton led the young, charismatic Obama by 14 points after debating him every other week for six months. She still led by 8 in national polls the night he ran her over in Iowa. On the eve of their first debate she leads Sanders, a disheveled, 74-year-old socialist from Vermont, by 16 points. Last week Sanders’ finance report showed over a million small donors, better than Obama’s record 2008 pace. More impressive to the press, he pulled even with Hillary in total money raised. This week it began giving him some of the coverage he deserved all along.

In a primary, packed stadiums and an army of volunteers and small-dollar donors mean more than polls and Super PACs. Some say Sanders has hit his ceiling but he hasn’t even had a chance to reach his audience. Tuesday will be the first long look many centrist Democrats have had at him and the first time anyone has examined him side by side with Clinton. If he picks up as many points for his performance as Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio did for theirs, it will be an earthquake…

He went on to discuss Clinton’s need to be more honest and transparent, among other problems:

This is her problem; misunderstanding many of the issues she studies so hard. She can’t speak with conviction of the evils of globalization, she spent years cheering it on and doesn’t really get what’s wrong with it. She can’t get too worked up about pay to play politics; she perfected it and still deems it the best way to win elections. After four years as Secretary of State she still doesn’t see the folly of exporting democracy by force of arms, or that our safety lies in the rule of law.

Clinton has reversed herself on two huge issues: the Keystone pipeline and the Trans Pacific Partnership. She’ll get less credit than she’d like and fume about how hard it is to satisfy liberals. But in making each switch she looked and sounded as if she were moving pawns on a chess board. She announced the Keystone decision in a blog that provided almost no rationale; the line the “SNL” writers gave her was stronger than anything she said about it in real life. Her TPP interview makes clear her commitment there is provisional. (She hasn’t seen the text) She speaks of jobs and currency but not a word on the issue many progressives find most galling, the ceding to corporate interests of the prerogatives of democracy. Nothing she’s ever said in public suggests she’s given that much thought…

Hillary’s recent epiphanies attest to just how much Sanders has moved the debate. If the TPP dies he more than anyone will deserve the credit. Trump has shown that a rich celebrity can succeed in politics without buying very many TV ads. Bernie’s proving that anyone can. In 2008 Obama built the biggest grass movement in the history of politics, but once he won he took it private. Bernie’s movement is built for his supporters and built to last.

Bernie’s miles ahead of Hillary on the issues that count the most but there are two things he still needs to do. The first is to speak more to the problem of public corruption and inefficiency. On most issues most voters are Democrats, yet Republicans run two of the three branches of the federal government and stand a very good chance of perfecting their monopoly in 2016. Voters want to know that the party of government is ready to fix the government.

Looking briefly at the other candidates, if Martin O’Malley is to have any hope of being taken seriously as a candidate, he will need a huge from the debates. The Washington Post gives an example of how poorly his campaign is doing:

Martin O’Malley, who is hoping to jumpstart his presidential campaign with a strong debate performance here Tuesday, continues to get little love from his home state of Maryland.

The former governor is backed by just 4 percent of voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents in a potential presidential primary matchup in the state, a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds.

The Washington Post  sees Jim Webb as a possible wild card.

Lawrence Lessig, who was blocked from being in the debates by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has threated to run as a third party candidate due to the unfair treatment:

“Trump said he would stay in the party, and refuse to run as an independent, as long as the Republicans treated him fairly,” said Lessig. “I’m beginning to have a sense of what he was talking about. If the party won’t allow me to run as a Democrat, that creates a lot of pressure to think about a different way of running that would allow me to make this case to the American people. I’ve received as lot of advice and suggestions from people as to how to spread this message. When I first got into this, I frankly didn’t expect that this would be an issue, but it’s something I increasingly have to think about.”

Lessig had previously ruled out a third party run, prior to the DNC’s actions to keep him out of the debates.

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Clinton Email Shows She Sent Information Regarding Identity Of CIA Source Over Private Server

Clinton Email

Trey Gowdy has released further email from Hillary Clinton. Considering the source of the release there is always the possibility that he is being selective in what is being released, but this does look bad for Clinton regardless of how selective Gowdy was being. The email released indicates that the identity of a top CIA intelligence source was disclosed in her private email. Regardless of whether this was marked classified, this is sensitive information which should be classified and which should not have been included in email sent from her private server. Michael Isikoff, an investigative reporter previously with NBC News and Newsweek, and now at Yahoo! News reports:

Hillary Clinton used her private email account to pass along the identity of one of the CIA’s top Libyan intelligence sources, raising new questions about her handling of classified information, according to excerpts from previously undisclosed emails released Thursday by Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

On March 18, 2011, Sidney Blumenthal — Clinton’s longtime friend and political adviser — sent the then secretary of state an email to her private account that contained apparently highly sensitive information he had received from Tyler Drumheller, a former top CIA official with whom Blumenthal at the time had a business relationship.

“Tyler spoke to a colleague currently at CIA, who told him the agency had been dependent for intelligence from [redacted due to sources and methods],” the email states, according to Gowdy’s letter.

The redacted information was “the name of a human source,” Gowdy wrote to his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, and was therefore “some of the most protected information in our intelligence community.”

“Armed with that information, Secretary Clinton forwarded the email to a colleague — debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address,” wrote Gowdy in a letter to Cummings.

Clinton has repeatedly said she never sent or received classified information on her private email server “that was marked classified at the time that it was sent or received.” But the FBI, at the request of the inspectors general for the intelligence community and the State Department, is investigating the handling of classified information on the private server.

And while there is nothing that indicates that the email from Blumenthal (who was not a government employee) was marked classified at the time Clinton received it, the sensitive nature of its contents should have been a red flag and never should have been passed along, according to a former veteran CIA officer.

“She is exposing the name of a guy who has a clandestine relationship with the CIA on her private, unprotected server,” said John Maguire, who served for years as one of the CIA’s top Mideast officers.

In addition, he noted, the email should trigger a “crimes report” by the CIA to the Justice Department seeking an investigation into who within the agency revealed the information to Drumheller.

“Unless Tyler was blowing smoke, it’s an unauthorized disclosure of information,” said John Rizzo, a former CIA general counsel. “And it’s the most sensitive kind of classified information — the identity of a human source. She should have told Blumenthal, ‘delete this — and don’t send me that again.’ And then she should have reported it to State Department security.”

This is only one of a growing list of examples of classified information having been sent over Clinton’s server despite her claims that there was no classified information. Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email system is now under investigation by the FBI.

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Republicans In Political Chaos, Clinton “Covering Up Some Shaddy Shit”, And Sanders’ Unconventional Debate Preparation

McCarthy Drop Out

Both political parties are facing a fight against the party establishment in their presidential campaigns, with the Republican battle extending to Congress. Unfortunately the insurgents on the Republican side are the extremists who, while right in finding fault in the establishment, seek to paralyze the political system rather than improve it. Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race for Speaker, and at this point it is difficult to predict how the Republicans will get out of this mess. It is even possible that Boehner will be around a lot longer than he intended.

It is likley that anybody in the Republican leadership would fail to receive enough Tea Party support to become Speaker, but McCarthy sure did not do himself any favors with his comment on the Benghazi hearings in late September. His statement will probably be quoted quite frequently by Hillary Clinton, who has a strong case in criticizing that witch hunt.

Unfortunately for Clinton, she is also guilty herself of quite a bit of unethical and foolish behavior, along with violation of multiple government regulations. There is another quote mentioned in The Hill which Clinton will hope does not get repeated very often (emphasis mine):

Perhaps Clinton has learned the value of distraction from Donald Trump; fresh off her comedy skit on “Saturday Night Live” she mailed copies of her book “Hard Choices” to the entire GOP presidential field with a cheeky note about them starting a book club together. She also spoofed McCarthy’s blunder in an online video and her surrogates continue to rage about it on Twitter.

But a Senate investigation has now revealed a second company that backed up Clinton’s emails, and it has turned over its data to the FBI investigation into whether she mishandled classified information. Documents also show the first company is now concerned it may have deleted emails following the initial request the State Department made for her work records. One employee of Platte River Networks, which turned the server over to the FBI in August, wrote to another of concern that “this whole thing is really covering up some shaddy [sic] shit,” according to documents.

Next week’s debate has the potential to further shake up the Democratic race. The trend so far has been that the more people see of Bernie Sanders, the more they like him, and the opposite for Hillary Clinton. Politico reports on Sanders’ unorthodox debate preparation:

Hillary Clinton has had aides lined up to run her debate prep for months. A Washington super lawyer is mimicking Bernie Sanders, and her top policy staffer is acting as Martin O’Malley.

Sanders started studying for next Tuesday’s event not even a full week ago. And that’s because his two top aides sat him down in Burlington on Friday and asked whether he had a plan.

Sanders has briefing books, a couple of meetings with policy experts and an abiding aversion to the idea of acting out a debate before it happens. He knows the stakes are high, his staff says. But the candidate, whose New Hampshire polling and fundraising prowess have put a scare into Clinton, is uninterested in going through the motions of typical debate practice.

The Vermont senator’s debate preparations, in other words, don’t look a ton like debate preparations.

While CNN is billing the event as a showdown, Sanders’ team sees the first Democratic debate as a chance to introduce a fairly niche candidate to a national audience. So his team intends to let him do what he’s been doing. Far from preparing lines to deploy against Clinton — let alone O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee or Jim Webb — Sanders plans to dish policy details, learned through a handful of briefings with experts brought in by his campaign.

He won’t attack Clinton personally but will instead identify where their positions differ — on foreign policy, for example — and try to leave an impression with viewers of the substantive differences between the party’s two front-runners.

“You’re looking at a candidate who has run in many, many elections who has never run a negative political ad in my life — and hopes never to have to run one. You’re looking at a candidate who does not go about attacking personally, I just don’t do that,” Sanders said Wednesday.

He’s working to be prepared to stand his ground if Clinton — or O’Malley — comes after him. His team contends, though, that those defenses won’t come through as pre-written one-liners.

“The one thing Bernie’s not going to do is be a politician that delivers canned soundbites. That would be a disaster,” said Tad Devine, the campaign’s chief strategist, who met with Sanders and campaign manager Jeff Weaver last week to kick off the debate planning. “And one of the reasons to not do formal debate prep sessions is it gets rehearsed.”

This is quite a contrast from how Joe Biden has decided that, even should he announce that he is running, he does not plan to participate in the debate because of not having time to prepare his “canned soundbites.”

Unlike Clinton, Sanders has been saying the same things throughout his career, and perhaps this has served as sufficient debate preparation. I just hope that he is not making a mistake. I think back to occasions such as Obama’s first debate in 2008 where I suspect he felt over-confident as he knew the material, which is not the same as being prepared for a televised debate. Plus sound bites cannot be ignored, as these are what appear in subsequent newscasts where impressions of the debate by the public are often different from those who watch the entire debate. Regardless of how Sanders prepares, what I hope does come out of the debate is how he has been right, and Clinton wrong, on so many of the key issues over the past decades.

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Sanders Gets First Congressional Endorsement And Continues To Show He Makes A Strong General Election Candidate

Sanders Endorsement

When Hillary Clinton was thought to be the inevitable Democratic nominee, she received a tremendous number of endorsements from office holders. Bernie Sanders is receiving his first endorsement from a member of Congress, Raul Grijalva of Arizona.

As an outsider, Sanders is not expected to match Clinton in terms of insider endorsements, and this year his outsider status is one of the reasons for his popularity.

While I would not expect Democratic insiders to suddenly embrace Sanders, more might reconsider supporting Clinton as polls continue to come in showing that she does not do as well as Sanders in attracting independents and voters in the swing states. The most recent example I have discussed was a poll from Iowa and New Hampshire with head to head comparisons to Republican candidates.

New Quinnipiac University polls from Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania show that front runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continue to have difficulties in these swing states. Both have high unfavorability rating and Clinton continues to poll poorly against some of the Republican candidates. This and other polls show Sanders typically doing as well as Clinton or better in the battle ground states despite being far less well known. Both Biden and Sanders have been on upward trajectory while Clinton’s support has been declining. While Clinton might continue to have enough support among hard core Democratic voters to win the nomination, her limited support among others makes her a very risky general election candidate for Democrats.

Clinton’s overall support is likely to continue to drop as the scandals surrounding her progress. Today a second IT firm which had performed cloud backups of Clinton’s email has agreed to provide data to the the FBI. Even without the scandals, Clinton is a poor candidate. The trend has been clear that those who see more of Bernie Sanders tend to support him, while Clinton’s support declines as she campaigns.

It is still not known if Joe Biden will enter the race, and if he does enter whether this will result in an increase in support or if he will be seen less sympathetically when a political candidate. The Draft Joe Biden group is releasing this ad nationally, urging Biden to run:


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How Negative Will Clinton Go Against Sanders and Biden?

Sanders Raise Money Clinton Super Pac

Considering how dirty her 2008 campaign was against Obama, there has been speculation as to how negative Hillary Clinton will get against Bernie Sanders, and against Joe Biden if he decides to run. The New York Times notes that Clinton must be cautious in debating Sanders:

Over the next week, Mrs. Clinton and her aides will look for the best way to explain to viewers why she is a better choice than her nearest rival without sounding condescending to Mr. Sanders, or dismissive of his views, so she does not risk alienating his growing army of supporters.

“I’ve seen every attack people have thrown at him, and none of them have worked,” cautioned Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, who supports Mrs. Clinton.

Not all of them have been exactly subtle. In 2004, the Republican challenging him for his House seat sought to deride him as a political oddball. “Crazy Bernie,” an advertisement called him, “a holdover from the Woodstock days of reefer and flowers.” But Vermont voters did not seem to mind…

For Mrs. Clinton, debating Mr. Sanders poses a challenge reminiscent of the more troublesome one she faced in 2008, when Senator Barack Obama’s criticisms of her were widely characterized as fair, but Mrs. Clinton’s efforts to counter them and defend herself often were not.

Already, a “super PAC” supporting Mrs. Clinton showed the risks that can come if an unsuccessful attack on Mr. Sanders blows back. As The Huffington Post reported, the super PAC, Correct the Record, in a document that was intended to be off the record, drew a connection between Mr. Sanders and Hugo Chávez, the socialist president of Venezuela who died in 2013, because Mr. Sanders supported a deal to bring low-cost Venezuelan oil to New England. Mr. Sanders, calling it “the same-old, same-old negative politics,” seized on the report and raised more than $1 million in two days.

More on how Sanders set fund raising records in response to this attack here. Clinton’s dirty campaign in 2008 led many Democrats, such as Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy  to ultimately endorse Obama instead of her, and any dirty tricks from Clinton this campaign might have the same effect.

Clinton might try to attack Sanders’ views but this will be difficult because of how often he has been right on the issues and Clinton has been wrong. Clinton has often avoided discussing the issues in this campaign, and she did not do a good job on education. Alternet reports Hillary Clinton Delivers a Lame Attack on Bernie Sanders’ Free College Tuition Plan. Just wait until they talk about Iraq during the upcoming debate.

Clinton’s attacks on Sanders have generally come through surrogates. Politico reports on how Morning Joe is responding to the use of surrogates:

There’s a mandate on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: No candidate surrogates or spokespeople can appear on the show until the candidate agrees to be interviewed. And it all started with the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“The rule was put in place for Hillary’s campaign because while just about every other candidate came on, the Clinton team kept trying to put out surrogates and staffers,” host Joe Scarborough told POLITICO. “We finally said ‘not until the candidate comes on herself.’ And then some suggested we have Jeb [Bush’s] people on a month or so ago, but we held to the same policy.”

Bush himself went on the show last week, meaning his surrogates and spokespeople can now appear as well. But Clinton, Ben Carson, John Kasich and Marco Rubio, none of whom has appeared on the show since they announced their campaigns, will have to wait.

“It applies to everybody. It just started with Hillary because her people were aggressive with getting pollsters and spokespeople on, but it applies to everyone,” Scarborough said. “That’s the fairest way to do it.”

While I often disagree with Joe Scarborough, this policy does sound like a good idea.

New York Magazine reports that Clinton’s usual hit-man, former Republican hit-man David Brock, will be leading the attacks on Joe Biden:

If Joe Biden jumps into the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton will be ready to go on the offensive. According to a source close to the Clinton campaign, a team of opposition researchers working on behalf of Clinton is currently digging through Biden’s long record in office to develop attack lines in case the vice-president runs. The research effort started about a month ago and is being conducted by operatives at Correct the Record, the pro-Hillary superpac founded by David Brock, which is coordinating with the Clinton campaign. According to the source, the research has turned up material on Biden’s ties to Wall Street; his reluctance to support the raid that killed Osma bin Laden; and his role in the Anita Hill saga as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The oppo-research project reveals how seriously Clintonworld is taking the prospect of a Biden candidacy. So far, Clinton hasn’t taken any direct shots at Biden herself. But behind the scenes, her loyalists are making moves to blunt Biden’s campaign should he run. “Even implicitly his campaign’s argument would be ‘I have integrity and you don’t,'” a Clinton ally said. “If that’s the message, this could be messier than Obama-Clinton ’08. At least Obama had the Iraq War vote and could make a case about generational change. This guy” — Biden — “is older than she is and just as conventional.”

A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign declined to comment.

Joe Biden might respond that while they voted the same on the initial Iraq vote, their views otherwise were quite different. Biden spent the next several months looking for alternatives to war while Clinton was one of the strongest advocates of going to war, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s more hawkish views as Secretary of State. Biden was pushing for Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage while Clinton was still opposed to it. Biden did not join up with the religious right while in the Senate as Clinton did. Biden didn’t spend his time in the Senate proposing to make flag burning a felony, or waging a war against video games as Clinton did. While Biden is not my first choice, he is certainly not as conservative as Clinton on social issues and foreign policy. Both Clinton and Biden have problems with regards to their ties to Wall Street and their hard line views on the drug war.

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Bernie Sanders Doing Better Than Clinton Against Republicans In New Hampshire And Iowa

Sanders Clinton

Hillary Clinton has been doing poorly in the battle ground states and among independents, while Bernie Sanders has been doing unexpectedly well. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls of Iowa and New Hampshire show Sanders doing better than Clinton in head to head match-ups against Republican candidates:

In Iowa, Republican Jeb Bush leads Clinton by 10 points in a hypothetical general-election match up among registered voters, 50 percent to 40 percent, and Donald Trump is ahead of her by seven points, 48 percent to 41 percent – essentially unchanged from the poll’s results a month ago.

And Carly Fiorina leads Clinton in the Hawkeye State by 14 points, 52 percent to 38 percent.

But when Sanders is matched up against these same Republicans, his numbers are stronger: Sanders leads Trump by five points in Iowa (48 percent to 43 percent). And he narrowly trails Bush (46 percent to 44 percent) and Fiorina (45 percent to 42 percent).

The same dynamic plays out in New Hampshire.

Clinton leads Trump in the Granite State (48 percent to 45 percent), but she’s behind Bush (49 percent to 42 percent) and Fiorina (50 percent to 42 percent).

Yet Sanders has the advantage against both Trump (52 percent to 42 percent) and Fiorina (47 percent to 45 percent), and he’s tied against Bush in New Hampshire (46 percent to 46 percent).

Clinton leads Sanders for the Democratic nomination in Iowa in this poll (with various polls varying) but her lead has steadily been declining. She led Sanders by fourteen points in July and currently only leads by five. Sanders has been ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire since September.

For months many Clinton supporters have been arguing that Democrats should unite around Clinton as the best hope of preventing a Republican victory in 2016. With Sanders and not Clinton increasingly looking like the more electable candidate, will Clinton supporters now unite behind Sanders?

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SciFi Weekend: Continuum; Doctor Who; Agents of SHIELD; X-Files; Orphan Black; Jennifer Lawrence on Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton on SNL

Continuum s04e04

Zero Hour, the fourth episode of the final season of Continuum, was by far the most significant episode so far this season. After my teasers last week, I will go ahead with a more detailed discussion now that it has aired in the United States. The episode answered some questions going back to the first season, while suggesting where the final episodes are headed. I suspect that a lot was crammed into this episode due to the cancellation of the series and need to compress everything planned into only six episodes. Considering these limitation, they did an excellent job of providing a tremendous amount of information while keeping the story flowing well.

The Traveler was introduced last season and I suspect that little more has been done with the character due to the limited time left. The episode revealed both the role of The Traveler and how Curtis was bought back. The Traveler had apparently meddled in time, causing his future timeline to be eliminated. In some ways The Traveler is much like Kiera, trying to find a way back their own timeline.

The question of whether Kiera can go back to her timeline has not only been raised by fans over the course of the season, but even characters on the show have suggested to her that she cannot go home because her future no longer exists. Knowing about The Traveler provides contradictory arguments. On the on hand, if even the Traveler is having trouble making things right, wouldn’t this suggest that there is nothing which can be done for Kiera unless the timeline is fixed?

This matter changed entirely when The Traveler created a paradox during this episode in which both young and old Alec met together.  The original timeline with old Alec must still exist in some form in order for this meeting to occur. While the Freelancers worked to stop time travelers like Liber8 and Kiera, by arranging this meeting it appears that The Traveler was now working to ensure that they were sent back in time by old Alec. Even if he previously objected to meddling in time by others, does this now mean that the presence of the time travelers is necessary for The Traveler to fix the timeline? The contradiction might be another effect of having to speed up the ending of the show. If there was more time, it might have been possible to provide an explanation for The Traveler appearing to change his agenda.

At this meeting we learned that old Alec was considering sending the prisoners from Liber8 back in time but had not yet decided, or put any plan into effect yet. It was young Alec who actually encouraged his older self to proceed. This also excludes the possibility of a single timeline in which this always happened, and old Alec was sending people back in time with memories of having encountered Kiera and Liber8 when young (although this theory had already been contradicted by other events on the show).

Another question raised previously came up when old Alec recognized Kiera’s name in an early flash forward scene taking place before they were sent back in time. We now know that old Alec recognized her name not because sending her was part of his original plan, but because young Alec mentioned Kiera.

Continuum Zero Hour

When Alec lost Emily in season two, he wound up going back in time to try to save her, causing the destruction of an entire timeline. This time when Emily left him, his actions were not as destructive. After Alec demanded it, Jason took Alec to see his mother (and Alec’s future wife) Annie, but said she had died in Jason’s past. Alec received a different explanation from his future self, who said Annie committed suicide to get away from the monster he became. Young Alec could prevent this by staying away from Annie. I wonder if instead Alec will decide he can still meet Annie, and could change her fate by not becoming that monster. This might also be a storyline which would have a better chance of playing out if there were more episodes left.

In this episode both viewers and Kellogg learned what the Time Marines were up to, and learned he better not trust his future self. As expected, they are building a time portal which more people from the future could use to escape. This includes relatives of Brad, if we can trust Zhorin–a big if. Brad thought the relatives were already dead but Zhorin stated they were on the list to come back. Maybe Brad was mistaken about their deaths, maybe Zhorin is lying, or maybe when Brad came back in time, his actions changed the timeline which led to his relatives not being killed as he remembered. This does complicate any decisions by Brad as to which side to take.

Things are more ominous for Kellogg. Vasquez revealed that future Kellogg has renal failure, which can be cured. Presumably the cure is the transplantation of one or both of young Kellogg’s kidneys. It has already been established that time travel on Continuum is not like time travel in the movie version of 12 Monkeys. The removal of younger Kellogg’s kidneys will not cause them to disappear in old Kellogg, and the death of young Kellogg will not affect old Kellogg. Continuum has always been a show with changing alliances, and this discovery led Kellogg to reach out to Kiera to join forces.

The other question about alliances involves Dillon, who has qualms about acts he is being asked to perform as the new security chief for Piron. Will this lead to him changing sides again, and what exactly would this mean should Kellogg and Kiera wind up on the same side?

I will avoid any spoilers on episode 5, The Desperate Hour but the name does fit the episode. There are not the same sort of major revelations as in Zero Hour, but there are major advances seen in the storyline based upon what we learned the previous week, and  some of the questions I raised above are at least partially answered.

Doctor Who Under-the-Lake-1

Under The Lake is reminiscent of older Doctor Who stories featuring a monster of the week, except that it is a two-part story with a real cliffhanger. The full story, written by Being Human creator Toby Whithouse,  cannot be judged yet, but like the first two episodes of this season was enjoyable regardless of whether the full plot ultimately holds up well.

As is usual with many episodes of Doctor Who, it is all the little moments  which make the episode enjoyable. After leaving a planet which has been celebrating New Year’s for two centuries (I’m not sure if this is fun or a real horror), the TARDIS brought the Doctor and Clara to an  underwater mining facility in Scotland of 2119 where there appear to be real ghosts. The ghosts disturb the TARDIS, and the Doctor wonders why the TARDIS brought them here. This reminds us of The Doctor’s Wife by Neil Gaiman, in which the TARDIS said that while she didn’t always take the Doctor where he wanted to go, she always took him to where he needed to be.

The Doctor saved time by not having to earn the trust of those on the mining facility by saying he was with UNIT. He did continue to have other problems relating with humans, which have been present since his last regeneration. Clara tried to help him by writing out index cards with things for the Doctor to say in certain circumstances, but his delivery was a problem. Some examples:

“I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ll do all I can to solve the death of your friend slash family member slash pet.”

“No one is going to get eaten slash vaporized slash exterminated slash upgraded slash possessed slash  mortally wounded slash turned to jelly. We’ll all get out of this unharmed.”

Well, not everybody got out of this unharmed. It was obvious from the moment we met him that Pritchard, the  corporate lackey who was looking for ways to  profit from the situation, would be one of the first to die.

The index cards also did not prevent the Doctor from saying other things which some might be offensive, even if viewers might have sympathized with the first of these two examples:

“So who’s in charge now? I need to know who to ignore.”

“Surely just being around me makes you cleverer by osmosis”

The episode did address the question of why characters stick around when it is getting dangerous by giving reasons why they couldn’t leave. Before it turned out they could not leave, their options were considered: “You can stay and do the whole Cabin In The Woods thing…”

The episode had a couple of things in common with the initial two parter of the season, The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witches Familiar. Both raised the prospect of the death of the Doctor–in this case seen in the ghost Doctor at the end of the episode. Both also used going back in time as a plot point. It certainly makes sense for the Doctor to use the TARDIS to go back into time to change things or find out information when he is in trouble, but this very rarely occurs. I wonder if this is coincidence or a plan to make this season more timey wimey.

Use of time travel does complicate story telling as it then becomes necessary to create reasons why time travel cannot be used. Otherwise the Doctor could go back in time and rescue himself before he ever gets in trouble. There must be rules which are only understandable to Time Lords. The most notable example in recent years were the rules which prevented him from rescuing Amy and Rory after the Weeping Angels sent them back in time in The Angels Take Manhattan.

In other Doctor Who news, a young adult spin off to Doctor Who taking place in Coal Hill School, entitled Class, has been announced.

Agents of SHIELD Simmons Planet

Agents of SHIELD was off to a good start this season, turning to concentrating on the Inhumans. There were also references to other aspects of the Marvel universe. Bobbi both mentioned when”Sokavia fell out of the sky” in Age of Ultron and used her PhD which was established in the comics. Coulson mentioned Pym Technologies from Ant-Man. In a recent interview, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige did also say that events on television shows such as Daredevil  will be mentioned in the movies. This is in line with the usual Disney synergy between its various products as television shows, movies, theme parks, and merchandise all help sell each other.

The biggest surprise of the season premiere was to find that Simmons is now on another planet. Jed Whedon discussed this with Entertainment Weekly:

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wasted no time in revealing exactly where Simmons is during Tuesday’s season premiere — but that doesn’t mean she’ll be reuniting with the team anytime soon.

Missing in action for most of the premiere, Simmons was finally revealed to be in the desert … on another planet, that is, and definitely not in our solar system. “It can’t be because of the terrain and what you see,” executive producer Jed Whedon tells EW. “There’s very few planets that have that configuration that she would not be dead if she were there.”

During the season 2 finale, the recently discovered Kree monolith suddenly turned into liquid form, absorbing Simmons before reforming as if nothing ever happened — causing S.H.I.E.L.D. fans to spend the summer pondering what happened to the intrepid scientist. “It was so cool,” Elizabeth Henstridge says of her first reaction to the planet reveal. “I hadn’t thought of that. Everything that happens, I hadn’t thought of that as an option.”

Because she’s been stranded there for six months, executive producer Jeffrey Bell says this is a “profoundly different” Simmons than the one we last saw in the finale. “She’s definitely still her essence — she doesn’t just completely change,” Henstridge says. “But she’s been through so much. She’s hardened. She’s had to face things that she never would’ve imagined, also by herself without Fitz [Iain de Caestecker], so she’s definitely changed, stronger and kind of damaged.”

Finding out how Simmons landed in a galaxy far, far away won’t be revealed right away, though. “There will be some breadcrumbs, and then at some point we will fully explore what’s happened to her in a way that is maybe the craziest thing we’ve done,” Bell says. “We’ve very excited. It’s a different kind of episode for us — to give Elizabeth and Simmons the chance to really show what she went through seems really cool.”

The interview also notes that Simmons is running from something suggesting “She thinks she’s not alone.” There will be more on the planet in future episodes.

The above trailer was released last week for the six episode revival of The X-Files.

The BBC has started filming on season 4 of Orphan Black and have released this summary:

Sarah, reluctantly return home from her Icelandic hideout to track down an elusive and mysterious ally tied to the clone who started it all — Beth Childs.  Sarah will follow Beth’s footsteps into a dangerous relationship with a potent new enemy, heading in a horrifying new direction. Under constant pressure to protect the sisterhood and keep everyone safe, Sarah’s old habits begin to resurface. As the close-knit sisters are pulled in disparate directions, Sarah finds herself estranged from the loving relationships that changed her for the better.

Returning this season is Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s battle-worn foster brother Felix; Maria Doyle Kennedy as Sarah and Felix’s foster mother Mrs. S; Kristian Bruun as Donnie, Alison’s partner-in-crime and husband; Kevin Hanchard as Art, Beth’s detective partner who’s torn between his job and his loyalty to the clones; Skyler Wexler as Sarah’s long-suffering daughter Kira; Ari Millen as a mysterious new Castor clone, the likes of which we’ve never seen before; and Josh Vokey as Scott, Cosima’s lab partner. Also returning this season is James Frain as Ferdinand, an intimidating “cleaner” for shadowy organization, Topside; Allison Steadman as Kendall Malone, “the original”; and Rosemary Dunsmore as Susan Duncan, Rachel’s adoptive mother and one of the leading scientists of Project Leda. Joining the Orphan Black cast this season is Joel Thomas Hynes as Dizzy, an edgy, self-reliant hacker who doesn’t conform to group mentality. Additional casting for the series will be announced in the coming weeks.

Jennifer Lawrence warns that if Donald Trump becomes president, “that will be the end of the world.”

It seems Jennifer Lawrence’s thoughts on Donald Trump echo Katniss Everdeen’s feelings toward President Snow. For the uninitiated, that means she’s not a fan. During a lively conversation with the three leads of the final installment of The Hunger Games franchise, Mockingjay — Part 2, the Republican presidential candidate became the topic of conversation.

“If Donald Trump becomes president, that will be the end of the world,” says Lawrence.

Her co-star Liam Hemsworth feels the same: “I’ll back you up on that,” he adds.

Josh Hutcherson, the third lead in the massive franchise, can’t quite believe Trump’s run for the presidency is legitimate. “It’s a publicity stunt,” he says. “It can’t be real.”

Lawrence doesn’t seem quite sure of his validity either. “I genuinely believe that reality television has reached the ultimate place where now even things like this might just be for entertainment,” she says. “It’s either that or it’s Hillary’s brilliant idea.”

Hillary Clinton appeared on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live opposite Kate McKinnon, doing her Clinton impersonation. The skit made fun of Clinton’s delay in supporting gay rights ( “I could’ve supported it sooner”), and Hillary did an impersonation of Donald Trump.

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Sanders Joins Obama In Opposing Clinton’s Hawkish Views On Syria


While economics have so far dominated the campaign, I feel that the number one reason to nominate Bernie Sanders and not Hillary Clinton is to prevent a return to the foreign policy of George Bush and get us involved in further foolish military intervention. Clinton has a long history of irrational hawkishness. This includes pushing for the Iraq war with false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, along with advocating increased military intervention as Secretary of State. Fortunately the Obama White House frequently opposed advice from Clinton, often with Joe Biden leading the opposition to her proposals. When the Obama administration did listen to her on intervention in Libya, it turned into a disaster.

Clinton has disagreed with Obama on Syria, favoring increased military intervention. She has attacked Obama on Syria saying, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle. ” It sound like a good principle to me, sort of the political equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath, and an idea Clinton should consider. Instead Clinton is proposing more “stupid stuff” in proposing that the United States impose a no-fly zone in Syria. Enforcement of this would not only increase the risk of us getting entangled in the conflict between the Syrian government and ISIS, but also risk direct military confrontation with Russia.

Bernie Sanders has joined Obama in opposing Clinton’s desire for this increase in military intervention. The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Saturday that he opposes a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria, offering a less hawkish stance on the war-torn region than Hillary Rodham Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, and a position more in line with President Obama.

“We must be very careful about not making a complex and dangerous situation in Syria even worse,” Sanders said in a statement to The Washington Post. “I support President Obama’s efforts to combat ISIS in Syria while at the same time supporting those in that country trying to remove the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad.”

But, Sanders added: “I oppose, at this point, a unilateral American no-fly zone in Syria, which could get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never-ending U.S. entanglement in that region.”

In a television interview broadcast Thursday, Clinton advocated additional air power to protect civilians in the multi-front war, in which Syrian rebels and international advocates have said that air patrols in Syria’s north could give civilians a refuge from Assad’s bombing raids…

Clinton’s position puts her in the same camp as some Republican contenders for the presidential nomination, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich…

Sanders, who has a pair of rallies planned in Massachusetts on Saturday, has been speaking out in his recent campaign appearances about “the cost of war,” accusing Republicans of being too eager to insert the U.S. military into conflicts that will result in casualties and a range of other problems for returning U.S. soldiers.

Saturday’s events, planned in Springfield and Boston, come amid a fresh burst of momentum for Sanders, whose campaign announced this week that it had raised $26 million in the last fundraising quarter, nearly as much as Clinton. Recent polls from New Hampshire have showed Sanders leading Clinton, and polls from Iowa have showed a close contest.

I don’t know how much of his economic agenda Bernie Sanders could pass when the Republicans can block legislation with forty Senators. The big difference between a Sanders presidency and a Clinton presidency will probably seen in the areas where the president has more direct power. If Sanders is president we are far less likely to wind up in more unnecessary wars, and far less likely to see a continuation of infringements on civil liberties with activities such as the NSA surveillance of American citizens.

Update: Sanders reportedly had more record crowds out to see him in Boston. The Boston Globe reports it was “the largest rally for a presidential primary candidate in recent Massachusetts history, topping 10,000 people drawn to Boston Common eight years ago by Barack Obama.”

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Support For Clinton Continues To Erode As Donors And Unions Watch Biden and Sanders

Clinton Biden Sanders

Following other recent bad news for Hillary Clinton and good news for Bernie Sanders, support for Hillary Clinton continues to erode. The Wall Street Journal reports on more former Clinton fund raisers who are defecting to Biden:

Some Hillary Clinton donors are defecting to Joe Biden, resisting entreaties from the Democratic front-runner’s campaign to stand by her despite slipping poll numbers.

A few of the fundraisers have gone public with their presidential preference. Others have quietly decamped and signaled their intentions to the Draft Biden 2016 super PAC that is working to prod the vice president into the race for the White House.

“Instead of being ready for Hillary, we’re waiting for Joe,” said Bill Bartmann, the founder and chief executive of CFS2 Inc., and onetime donor to Mrs. Clinton’s friendly super PAC. Mr. Bartmann’s switch in allegiance prompted one Clinton campaign official to contact him and ask: “Why are you doing this?” he said…

A decision may not be imminent, though, as Biden allies say he may wait until after the Oct. 13 Democratic debate to announce his plans. Some of his advisers have noted that launching a campaign and preparing for a debate simultaneously might not be the best strategy, said one Democrat familiar with the Biden team’s planning.

In the meantime, the Draft Biden organization is securing commitments as the vice president’s public standing is on the rise, while Mrs. Clinton appears more vulnerable. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released this week shows that Mr. Biden is running stronger than Mrs. Clinton in head-to-head match-ups against leading Republican candidates.

Clinton’s union support is also eroding. The New York Times reports:

The International Association of Fire Fighters, one of the country’s more politically powerful unions, has abandoned its initial plans to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, according to union sources.

Harold A. Schaitberger, the union’s general president, informed Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, in a telephone call on Monday. According to a union official, Mr. Schaitberger told Mr. Mook that the executive board and rank-and-file members — the latter were recently polled — did not support a Clinton endorsement.

The early support of a cross section of unions — most prominently the American Federation of Teachers, which endorsed Mrs. Clinton in July — had been a source of strength for the Clinton campaign. But in recent weeks, as Mrs. Clinton’s numbers in some polls have sagged and she has faced an increasingly formidable challenge from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, some labor unions appear to have had second thoughts.

The impetus for Mr. Schaitberger’s call to Mr. Mook were conversations about the endorsement at the board’s meetings in mid-September, when board members expressed interest in the possibility that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. would join the Democratic field.

“Secretary Clinton doesn’t sell well here,” said Roy L. McGhee III, better known as Sandy McGhee, an I.A.F.F. board member who represents Texas and Oklahoma. “I think the Republican attack machine, the media machine, has made sure of that. The vice president will do better. He’s popular among firefighters.”

Clinton did receive the endorsement of the National Educational Association despite the preference of many members for Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden:

Clinton praised the NEA and teachers in general in a statement after the endorsement was announced. “I know from personal experience that a teacher can make a profound difference in a child’s life,” Clinton said.

But the move by the board of the nation’s largest union to give her a primary endorsement nod is sure to further aggravate many rank-and-file members who wanted more time to consider the candidates — especially as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wages an unexpectedly competitive run and Vice President Joe Biden weighs his options.

“There needs to be more input by the membership for these unions and I don’t think it’s being done,” said Lori Mueller, a third grade teacher from Eland, Wis., who is co-president of her local NEA affiliate. “The leaders of my national union are picking for me, and I don’t like that.”

Mueller — a Sanders supporter — said she’s upset by both the timing of the process and that Sanders wasn’t given more of a chance.

After NEA’s announcement, Sanders thanked members like Mueller who back him. “We are going to win this nomination and the general election because of support from grassroots Americans. We are on track to do just that,” Sanders said in a statement.

NEA’s action now positions the union as a more emboldened political player this election cycle. When the union sat out the divisive 2008 Democratic primary between Clinton and then-Sen. Barack Obama, many members felt they had lost an opportunity to influence the race and the policies of the eventual winner.

It’s the opposite approach of the Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the International Association of Fire Fighters, which have opted to delay endorsements — something labor insiders attribute to uncertainty over Biden and Sanders.

Clinton currently leads the race for union endorsements, although Bernie Sanders might receive many of the votes from their members. In August, Sanders received the endorsement of the nation’s largest nurses union.

Update: CBS News is reporting that people close to Biden are saying that he might announce his decision in the next seven to ten day and that he is leaning towards running. Even if he decides to run, he is not expected to enter the first Democratic debate on October 13. It sounds like it is too complicated, and time consuming, to both work on putting together the foundations of a campaign and to prepare for the debate.

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Lawrence Lessig Protests Acts By DNC To Keep Him Out Of Democratic Debate

Lawrence Lessig

As I noted earlier in the week, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee have all met the criteria to make the Democratic debate (an average of 1% in three polls, recognized by CNN, released between Aug. 1 and Oct. 10). Joe Biden will be allowed into the debate if he declares his candidacy by the day of the debate–but he reportedly is now putting off his decision even longer.  Lawrence Lessig so far has not qualified, primarily because of not being included in most polls. Lessig has explained how Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee are keeping him out of the debates:

I’m running for President. Or trying. After raising $1 million in less than 30 days, I entered the primary on September 9 as the Democrat’s only non-politician. My platform is simple: end the corrupting influence of money in Washington, so we might finally have, as Buddy Roemer would put it, a Congress free to lead.

But that message is being stifled with the tacit approval of the Democratic Party leadership, who are deploying the oldest method available for marginalizing campaigns they don’t like: keeping me out of the Democratic presidential debates.

Here’s how you make the debates: After one declares, a candidate is formally welcomed into the race by the Democratic National Committee. Polling firms, taking a cue from the DNC, include that candidate on their questionnaires. Candidates that poll at 1 percent nationally in at least three separate polls earn an invitation. Simple enough.

That’s how the process typically works for other candidacies—but not for mine. The DNC still has not formally welcomed me into the race—despite my raising money at a faster pace than more than half the pack, and being in the race nearly a full month. Polls, in turn, have taken the hint, only including me sporadically on questionnaires: of the last 10 major polls, only three mentioned my candidacy. One poll recently put me at 1 percent (for comparison, candidates O’Malley, Webb and Chafee, who will each get a podium at the debates, are all currently polling at 0.7 percent or less, according to Real Clear Politcs). Were I actually included on every poll, I would easily make the debates.

The Democratic Party could fix this by welcoming me into the race. Yet when I tried to talk about this with the chair of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she scheduled a call, but then cancelled it. So far she hasn’t had the time to schedule another. I’ve had similar experiences at the state level, where the same game is played: The chair of the New Hampshire Democrats invited me to speak at their convention. I was given 5 minutes. Hillary Clinton took an hour.

These signals from the party affect the media, too. While news shows have been busy limning the depths of Donald Trump’s brain, there hasn’t been time to consider a Democratic candidate saying something that no other Democrat is saying—especially if the party itself doesn’t consider the candidate a real candidate. And while the Atlantic listed me as a candidate on their website from day one, it took some lobbying to get the New York Times to do the same. Neither fish nor fowl, and not insanely rich, no one quite knows where to place a candidate like me…

Sanders and O’Malley have been protesting the plans for only four debates, while Clinton only wanted four. Most of the announced dates for the debates are on weekends when there are expected to be fewer viewers.
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