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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Another Deadline For Joe Biden & New Criteria For Next GOP Debate

Ridin With Biden

The Los Angeles Times reports on another deadline for Joe Biden to consider when deciding whether to announce a candidacy for the Democratic nomination. He has until November 20 to register for the New Hampshire primary.

As I recently noted, he can wait until October 13, the date of the CNN Democratic debate, to declare his candidacy and still qualify for the debate.

There is speculation that Biden might hold off on officially entering the race and wait to see if Clinton is forced from the race due to the scandals or if her campaign no longer looks viable should she lose to Bernie Sanders in Iowa and/or New Hampshire. The November 20 deadline might also not be of concern to him if he plans on going this route as he is expected to concentrate on South Carolina, as opposed to Iowa and New Hampshire, should he enter the race, which in normal years would be a risky strategy.

Turning to the Republican campaign, CNBC has changed the rules for qualifying for their October 28 debate. Instead of setting an arbitrary number (and then expanding it by one) as in the first two debates, CNBC has announced they will decide by a fixed standing in the polls. As they will round up, a candidate averaging 2.5 percent can make it into the evening debate:

National polls will be used to determine a candidate’s eligibility and placement on the stage. To be eligible to appear in either segment, a candidate must have at least 1% in any one of the methodologically sound and recognized national polls conducted by: NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN and Bloomberg, released between September 17, 2015 and October 21, 2015.

To appear in the 8pm debate a candidate must have an average of 3% among these polls. The polls will be averaged and will be rounded up to 3% for any candidate with a standing of 2.5% or higher. Candidates who average below that will be invited to the 6pm debate.

The Wall Street Journal has speculated on who will make the cut:

A Real Clear Politics average of national polling suggests that the candidates who would make the cut for primetime are Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie. Candidates who rank at 2.5% or above in the polls have their numbers rounded up to 3%. Rand Paul’s average in the polls RCP tracks is 2.3%.

Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham—all of whom took part in the undercard debate earlier this month—all rank at 0.5% or less, alternately winning 1% or 0% in the polls.

This formula might help speed up the elimination of the weaker candidates from the race. I do hope that Rand Paul manages to remain in. While I disagree with him on many other issues, I did like seeing him challenge the other candidates on military intervention and the drug war in the second Republican debate.

Update: CNN is now reporting as of October 1 that Biden is not expected to participate in the first debate and plans to delay his decision until later in the month. He might be able to delay but I suspect that the longer he does wait the harder it will be to launch a full scale campaign.

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Both Congressional Republicans And Hillary Clinton Are Untrustworthy

Hannity McCarthy Benghazi

We have known all along that the Benghazi investigations being conducted by Republicans were primarily politically motivated. We got further evidence of this from an interview of Kevin McCarthy conducted by Sean Hannity (possibly the only time something meaningful came out of a Hannity interview):

Sean Hannity was pushing hard, asking House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to name some promises his Republicans had actually delivered on. He scoffed when McCarthy said the party would start undoing the Affordable Care Act — “you have the power of the purse!” He talked over McCarthy when the leader and candidate for Speaker of the House suggested that the party did not need to cut funds for President Obama’s “amnesty,” because courts had taken care of it. Only halfway into the interview did McCarthy finally catch a break.

“Everybody though Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” McCarthy asked. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.”

The reality is both that the Republicans are playing politics with Benghazi and that Clinton cannot be trusted. The two certainly are not mutually exclusive.

Clinton apologists often claim that the current scandals are all based upon Benghazi, but while there is nothing to Benghazi, there are other real issues. Clinton apologists are now using this interview to attempt to discredit valid criticism of Clinton, but Benghazi and Clinton’s other actions are separate matters.

Regardless of what the Republicans are doing, it was Clinton’s own actions which caused the current scandals. It was Clinton, not the Republicans, who violated the rules. It was Clinton who deleted business-related email claiming to have only deleted personal email. It is Clinton who has been exposed by fact checkers of lying in virtually every statement she has made.

The approximately 36 FOIA lawsuits in progress are not all from the Republicans. (Some are from right wing sources and others are from the mainstream media.)

The Obama Justice Department which is now investigating Clinton’s private email server has nothing to do with the Republicans.

The State Department officials who have criticized her actions have nothing to do with the Republicans.

The Republicans are acting irresponsibly in investigating Benghazi when there is nothing there. That in no way exonerates Clinton for her behavior. In destroying email requested by Congress regarding Benghazi, Clinton has also left the Republicans with a way to keep the investigation going for many more months.

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Bernie Sanders on Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Sanders on Late Night

Bernie Sanders was on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Friday. Colbert did a great job of introducing the interview earlier in the show, which is well worth watching if you only watched the actual interview. He joked about Sanders’ surprising success in the nomination battle, declaring this the most shocking upset of Hillary Clinton since the last time it happened to her. A couple of other jokes in this segment:

Bernie Sanders popularity is surprising because he’s a self-described socialist, who would also be our oldest president ever. The man is 74-years-old. That’s five years older than Donald Trump and 50 years older than anyone Trump would marry.

Sanders had 27,500 in the sport arena in Los Angeles In August, 11,000 in Phoenix, 28,000 in Portland on a Sunday. A guy in his 70s filling stadiums? Who does he think he is, a Rolling Stone?

And the actual interview:

Bernie Sanders explained his meteoric rise in the Democratic race:

“I knew we had a message that would resonate with the American people. This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, yet almost all of the income and wealth is going to the top one percent, and people do not feel good about that,” Sanders said of his rise. “At a time where we’re seeing more millionaires and billionaires, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any other major country on Earth. We are the only major wealthy country that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people, family and medical leave, paid sick time, paid vacation time, and people are asking, ‘Why?'”

Colbert asked Sanders about being a self-proclaimed socialist and a liberal, asking him why he didn’t accept these terms as the insults they were meant to be. Sanders explained his views, and also explained why he would make a strong candidate in the general election:

“If you look at the polls at me running against the Republicans, despite the fact that 20, 30, 40 percent of the people don’t know who I am or what I am fighting for, we do almost as well and in some cases better than Hillary Clinton does today, and that will only get better in the future,” Mr. Sanders said.

He added that “Republicans win when voter turnout is low” and that, through the crowds and excitement he sees his campaign building, he has the ability to not just take back the White House but recapture the Senate as well.

Sanders was especially critical of Donald Trump’s xenophobia and racism:

I think that what Trump is doing is appealing to the baser instincts among us: xenophobia and, frankly, racism. [He’s] describing an entire group of people (in this case Mexicans) as rapists or as criminals… That’s the same old thing that’s gone on in this country for a very long time. You target some group of people, and you go after them. You take people’s anger, and you turn it against them—you win votes on it. I think that is disgraceful and not something we should be doing in 2015.

What I am talking about is a vision that goes beyond telling us we have to hate a group of people. What I am talking about is saying that, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, there are extraordinary things that we can do when people come together—black and white and gay and straight—and demand the government start working for all of us—not just a few.

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Bernie Sanders “Wins” GOP Debate & Makes Cover Of Time–Will He Get To Debate Hillary Clinton More Than Six Times?

Sanders Time Cover

Two articles at The Hill proclaim Bernie Sanders to have been the winner of Thursday night’s debate. Brent Budowsky wrote that Bernie Sanders was GOP debate’s real winner and has some other major news:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has won a doubleheader victory this week. His dramatic gains in the presidential campaign have been recognized by TIME magazine placing him on its cover, a major breakthrough in conventional media for Sanders, while his critical commentary about the debate in his Facebook post was by far the single most-read Facebook post of the evening!

The decision by TIME to make Sanders its cover story is hugely important. It is a long overdue recognition by a bastion of the old media that Sanders offers an extraordinary populist message that has ignited a powerful populist grassroots movement. Almost all of the mainstream media have been far too slow to recognize the power of the progressive populist movement that Sanders calls a political revolution. This is finally, fortunately, beginning to change and the TIME magazine cover story is exhibit A of the progress Sanders and his supporters have made.

On the second front, the ability of Sanders to win the social media front to criticize Republicans and promote his populist agenda combines the medium of the moment with the message that resonates with voters.

Several weeks ago, Jenny Q. Ta, a nationally prominent entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of the social media “net-WORTH-ing platform” told me that social media in the 2016 campaign will be as powerful as television was during the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960. How right she was!

My point today is that Sanders won the GOP debate on two levels.

First, don’t miss the story in The Hill by Neetzan Zimmerman, who is spearheading The Hill’s social media initiatives, reporting that Sanders’s critique of the debate on Facebook was far more popular than any other presidential candidate of either party. This triumph by Sanders in the new medium of social media has powerful implications for Sanders winning the battle of ideas of his message against Republicans.

Second, Sanders has the advantage of the message conveyed by the media, old and new. Sanders’s core argument is that our economy is unjust, unfair, rigged in favor of the super-wealthy and rigged against poor and middle-class Americans.

Being declared the winner of the GOP debate by pundits is hardly the same as having the opportunity to debate, and hopefully beat, Hillary Clinton before a prime time audience. Just imagine Sanders pointing out how he reviewed the same information about the Iraq war as Clinton, and he is the one who clearly got the vote right. Contrast Sanders and Clinton on virtually any other issue. More often than not, it will be Sanders who is in the Democratic mainstream, with Clinton off to the right.

The situation has changed considerably since Debbie Wasserman Schultz helped rig the debate schedule for Hillary Clinton, over the protests of Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. At the time it was expected that Clinton would be a strong front runner, and would benefit from limiting  publicity for her challengers. Since then the Republicans have received extensive coverage from two debates, while the Democrats can only claim symbolic victories from the media. Clinton has fallen behind Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, and maintains a diminishing lead in Iowa. At this point it is clearly in the interest of the Democratic Party to receive coverage from debates, and perhaps even Hillary Clinton might decide a debate is in her interest, potentially becoming the underdog in the first two contests.

Nancy Pelosi has joined those calling for more debates:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s rivals in the Democratic primary have been demanding for weeks that the party hold more presidential debates than the scant six that are planned, and on Friday they got a big boost when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said she agrees with them.

Asked in an interview with The Times whether she would like to see more debates scheduled, Pelosi responded, “I would.”

…The debate schedule has become an increasingly awkward issue for the Clinton campaign as the first scheduled event, on Oct. 13 in Nevada, approaches. Clinton’s primary challengers have suggested the schedule was designed by party insiders to favor the front-runner, who was so far ahead in the polls when it was drafted that there seemed to be little for her to gain in the race by sharing a stage with lesser-known opponents.

Clinton’s support in early voting states has slipped considerably since then, particularly in New Hampshire, where some polls show her trailing Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Now, some longtime Clinton allies are saying it may be in her interest to have more debates.

When asked about the schedule, Clinton campaign officials have repeatedly said it is not up to them, that it is controlled by the Democratic National Committee. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has repeatedly said the issue is closed.

But Pelosi’s comments put more pressure on the DNC to reopen it.

The problem with the debate schedule is not only that it limits the candidates to six debates, but that many of the debates appear to be scheduled at times to limit the potential audience. There will only be four before the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, and three of these are on weekends, including December 19, competing with holiday parties.

Incidentally, for sticklers who insist upon only considering those actually at the debate in determining the winner, the consensus in the media and the polls is that Carly Fiorina won the debate. It is the outsiders who are generating the excitement in both parties, but of these outsiders (also including Donald Trump and Ben Carson), only Sanders has the right ideas to lead the United States.

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The Second Republican Debate: Faux Controversies, Lies, And One Candidate Was Even Right Twice

CNN Republican Debate

The second Republican debate (transcript here), this time hosted by CNN, didn’t raise as much controversy as the first. Donald Trump was still a dominant force, but whenever the talk got to policy, Trump didn’t know what to say and was quieter. CNN did try to liven things up with having the candidates respond to comments about them from other candidates. This included both comments during the debates and often insults made to the media before the debates. While at times it was a good idea to have the candidates interact, often it was over matters far to trivial to really belong in the debate.

This did allow Carly Fiorina to have one of the better moments of the debate, and she was obviously ready to comment on this insult from Donald Trump:

TRAPPER: In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you. Quote, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” Mr. Trump later said he was talking about your persona, not your appearance. Please feel free to respond what you think about his persona.

FIORINA: You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.

While candidates often exceeded their time, Fiorina responded perfectly with this brief comment.

It was overall a good night for Fiorina, who might have done more than anyone else to improve her position in the GOP race with her debate performance. Unfortunately doing well in a Republican race does not require telling the truth. She repeated previously debunked claims about her record at HP. While she sounded more forceful than Donald Trump in saying how she would deal with Russia and Syria, Ezra Klein pointed out how she got the facts wrong. Klein, along with Sarah Kliff also pointed out how she was wrong about the Planned Parenthood tapes. There was no scene such as the one she described:

FIORINA: I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.

Of course most, if not all, of the candidates were also lying about Planned Parenthood during the debate. Even if they didn’t make a claim as blatantly false as Fiorina did, they repeated the debunked claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.

The biggest whopper came from Jeb Bush when he responded to criticism of his brother from Donald Trump:

TRUMP: Your brother — and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster, those last three months, that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected.

BUSH: You know what? As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure. He kept us safe.

Both Trump and Jeb Bush were wrong about Obama and George Bush in the above exchange, but it is Jeb’s comments which were the most absurd. The most destructive terrorist attack on the United States occurred on George Bush’s watch, with Bush ignoring intelligence reports which might have enabled the United States to prevent the attack. Bush then followed up the attack by foolishly getting us into the quagmire in Iraq.

Rand Paul is one of the candidates who was nearly forgotten. Donald Trump, who insulted so many of the other candidates that I thought he was preparing to fire one, even said:

TRUMP: Well, first of all, Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s number 11, he’s got 1 percent in the polls, and how he got up here, there’s far too many people anyway.

While Paul is certainly wrong on many, many things, I noted he was right on two points during the debate.  For this group, just being right twice makes him stand out.

First he pointed out that military intervention is not always the best idea:

PAUL: I think this gets to the point of wisdom on when to intervene and when we shouldn’t. Had we bombed Assad at the time, like President Obama wanted, and like Hillary Clinton wanted and many Republicans wanted, I think ISIS would be in Damascus today. I think ISIS would be in charge of Syria had we bombed Assad.

Sometimes both sides of the civil war are evil, and sometimes intervention sometimes makes us less safe. This is real the debate we have to have in the Middle East.

Every time we have toppled a secular dictator, we have gotten chaos, the rise of radical Islam, and we’re more at risk. So, I think we need to think before we act, and know most interventions, if not a lot of them in the Middle East, have actually backfired on us.

Paul missed the point Obama successfully stepped back from the brink, but his overall point is correct about thinking before engaging in senseless military intervention.

Paul also also criticized the drug war during the debate:

TAPPER: Many people on social media wanted us to ask about marijuana legalization. Senator Paul, Governor Christie recently said, quote, “if you’re getting high in Colorado today,” where marijuana has been legalized, “enjoy it until January 2017, because I will enforce the federal laws against marijuana.” Will you?

PAUL: I think one of the great problems, and what American people don’t like about politics, is hypocrisy. People have one standard for others and not for them — for themselves.

There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to — to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.

I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual, and I think that America has to take a different attitude. I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration. I’m a fan of the drug courts which try to direct you back towards work and less time in jail.

But the bottom line is the states. We say we like the 10th Amendment, until we start talking about this. And I think the federal government has gone too far, I think that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome, and really has been something that has really damaged our inner cities.

Not only do the drugs damage them, we damage them again by incarcerating them and then preventing them from getting employment over time.

So I don’t think that the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment and I really will say that the states are left to themselves.

Paul was generally right on two points, but neither are going to help him in a Republican primary battle. It is also rather sad that the Democratic front-runner has been wrong on both issues, with Clinton supporting both greater military intervention and being a hard-liner on drug laws.

Paul was more mixed on vaccines. He didn’t go along with Donald Trump’s claims about a connection between vaccines and autism, but also wasn’t consistent with the science:

TAPPER: Mr. Trump, as president, you would be in charge of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, both of which say you are wrong. How would you handle this as president?

TRUMP: Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.

I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Because you take a baby in — and I’ve seen it — and I’ve seen it, and I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year period of time.

Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me.

Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.

Paul later responded:

One of the greatest — one of the greatest medical discoveries of all times was — were the vaccines, particularly for smallpox. And if you want to read a story, it’s called The Speckled Monster, it’s an amazing story, it was all done voluntary.

But people came in by the droves. George Washington wouldn’t let his wife visit until she got vaccinated. So I’m all for vaccines. But I’m also for freedom.

I’m also a little concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all of their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread out my vaccines out a little bit at the very least.

The debate will probably not change the race very much but it is a good thing that the candidates were provided this opportunity to present their views to a national audience on a repeated basis. If only the Democratic National Committee would do the same this year and allow more than six debates total.

Update: The New York Times reviewed  Crazy Talk at the Republican Debate with Paul Krugman adding additional Fantasies and Fictions at G.O.P. Debate

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Bernie Sanders Fights Back Against Conservative Attacks From Wall Street Journal & Clinton Camp

Sanders Responds WSJ

I imagine it is a good thing that both conservatives and the Clinton campaign now see Bernie Sanders as a threat, with both attacking him from the right.

The Wall Street Journal ran a scare story earlier this week entitled, Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’s Proposals: $18 Trillion:

He proposes $1 trillion to repair roads, bridges and airports. His college-affordability program would cost $750 billion over a decade. Smaller programs would provide youth jobs and prevent cuts to private pension plans. He would raise an additional $1.2 trillion in Social Security taxes in order to increase benefits and pay those already promised for 50 years. That would bolster the program but fall short of the 75 years of solvency that is typically what policy makers aim to achieve.

Mr. Sanders says he also would propose an expansion of federal support for child care and preschool, though he hasn’t said how much those programs would cost, and they aren’t included in this total.

His most expensive proposal, by far, is his plan to extend Medicare, the federal health program for seniors, to all Americans.

Sanders has responded, pointing out how a single payer plan would be more cost effective:

“That is not the reality. We will be responding to The Wall Street Journal on that,” Sanders told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell of the overall estimate.

“I think most of the expense that they put in there, the expenditures have to do with the single-payer healthcare system,” he continued. “They significantly exaggerated the cost of that, and they forgot to tell the American people in that article that that means eliminating the costs that you incur with private health insurance.”

Paul Waldman has also defended Sanders in a post entitled, No, Bernie Sanders is not going to bankrupt America to the tune of $18 trillion:

…while Sanders does want to spend significant amounts of money, almost all of it is on things we’re already paying for; he just wants to change how we pay for them. In some ways it’s by spreading out a cost currently borne by a limited number of people to all taxpayers. His plan for free public college would do this: right now, it’s paid for by students and their families, while under Sanders’ plan we’d all pay for it in the same way we all pay for parks or the military or food safety.

But the bulk of what Sanders wants to do is in the first category: to have us pay through taxes for things we’re already paying for in other ways. Depending on your perspective on government, you may think that’s a bad idea. But we shouldn’t treat his proposals as though they’re going to cost us $18 trillion on top of what we’re already paying.

He next discussed single payer systems, leading to this key point:

There’s something else to keep in mind: every single-payer system in the world, and there are many of them of varying flavors, is cheaper than the American health care system. Every single one. So whatever you might say about Sanders’ advocacy for a single-payer system, you can’t say it represents some kind of profligate, free-spending idea that would cost us all terrible amounts of money.

He next discussed spending on infrastructure, and then how much less we would have to spend under Republican tax plans which primarily provide tax cuts to the wealthy:

The conservatives who are acting appalled at the number the Journal came up with are also the same people who never seem to care what a tax cut costs, because they think cutting taxes is a moral and practical good, in the same way that liberals think providing people with health coverage is a moral and practical good. For instance, Jeb Bush recently proposed a tax cut plan whose 10-year cost could be as high as $3.4 trillion. That’s a lot of money that the government wouldn’t be able to spend on the things it’s doing right now, although the campaign argues that we’d get much of that money back in increased revenues because of the spectacular growth the tax cuts would create. If you remember the claims that George W. Bush’s tax cuts would create stunning growth and prosperity for all, you might be just a bit skeptical of the Jeb campaign’s similar assertions. But in any case, we can’t evaluate the value of Jeb’s plan just by saying that $3.4 trillion is a big number. If you knew that the average family in the middle of the income distribution would get less than $1,000 from Jeb’s plan, while the average family in the top one percent would get a tax cut of over $80,000, then you’d have a better sense of whether it’s a good or bad idea.

Sanders not only defended himself against this attack from the right on economics. He has also defended himself against attacks from a Clinton Super PAC in a recent fund raising email.

Attacks from the right from the Clinton camp might become increasingly common. Many liberals have been certain that Clinton’s move to the left was insincere, and that she would move to the right for the general election and if elected. We never guessed she would move towards the right so soon. As I noted last week, Clinton’s support has been falling among liberals, with Clinton now returning to calling herself a centrist to contrast herself with Sanders. Jonathan Allen picked up on this shift more recently writing, While everyone else was talking about her authenticity, Hillary Clinton changed her position.

The revelation that Hillary Clinton is planning to be more spontaneous and authentic brought a booming collective laugh from Republicans, some Democrats, and opinion writers last week. The group guffaw drowned out a related shift in her positioning that is far more important: Now she wants to be known as a moderate.

“You know, I get accused of being kind of moderate and center,” Clinton said in Ohio September 10, according to CNN. “I plead guilty.”

That’s a tire-squealing turn from the first five months of her campaign, when Clinton emphasized her progressive credentials. She built a policy platform significantly to the left of where many Democrats expected her to stand — in favor of new regulations of the financial services industry, “ending the era of mass incarceration,” and reforming campaign finance laws, to name a few items on her agenda. The focus on populism was described as a newfound affinity for the left, a return to liberal roots, an effort to crowd out the competition, a general election strategy based on energizing Democrats, or some combination thereof. The truth is that Clinton’s record is pretty liberal, except when it comes to national defense and trade.

Now she’s pivoting back toward the centrist label that defined her husband’s campaigns and presidency. The obvious reason for Clinton to switch tacks now is that her initial strategy didn’t work: On the strength of backing from liberals, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has surged to leads in New Hampshire and Iowa. That’s a good reason for her to shake things up a bit, but it’s only part of a story that is more about drawing a contrast with Sanders, sending a signal to her supporters that she’s ready to really fight for the nomination, and making sure that she’s comfortable in the political skin she’s wearing for the rest of the campaign.

Allen caught the general direction of the shift, but missed how conservative her record actually is. Beyond national defense and trade which he mentioned, she has also been rather conservative on civil liberties, the environment, and social/cultural issues. While her views on economics might technically be labeled as liberal, she is far to the right of where Democrats influenced by the views of people such as Elizabeth Warren are now at.

After looking at more wonkish policy matters, Allen hit the key matter with the subtitle: The shift is partly about portraying Sanders as too extreme

By portraying herself as a moderate, Clinton is subtly saying that Sanders is too extreme — that he’s one of the people standing on the sidelines shouting rather than trying to “get something done.” The inference voters are supposed to draw is that would make it harder for Sanders to win the presidency and even harder for him to govern.

Running as a moderate (or to be honest, a conservative) might be more “authentic” for Clinton, but in joining the right wing in calling Sanders too extreme, Clinton is missing the direction much of the country is moving in. As I have pointed out many times before, Bernie Sanders Is The Future Of The Democratic Party. As I’ve also pointed out previously, Sanders’ Views Are Becoming More Mainstream Than Clinton’s Conservative Views.

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Sanders Gains on Clinton, Biden Met With Obama Bundler, and Trump Loses Job To Foreigner

Clinton declining support women

The Democratic race has become far more interesting than many expected, but we are seeing variations of the same stories the last few weeks: Clinton’s support falling, including in Iowa, New Hampshire, and among women, and along with continued questions about whether Joe Biden will run as the Democratic establishment gets more nervous about Clinton as a candidate.

Among recent polls, ABC News/The Washington Post show non-career politicians Donald Trump and Ben Carson dominating among the Republicans while support for establishment candidate Hillary Clinton is slipping among Democrats:

In the Democratic contest, Clinton’s drop is dramatic, yet not enough to threaten her clear lead. She’s supported by 42 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who are registered to vote, down from 63 percent in July, while Sanders has gained 10 points, to 24 percent, and Joe Biden’s up by 9 points, to 21 percent. If Biden doesn’t run, most of his support moves to Clinton, boosting her to 56 percent – exactly double Sanders’ support in this case.

Even if still in a strong position, Clinton’s trajectory leaves no question that she has trouble. Just 39 percent now see her as honest and trustworthy, matching her career low; that has dropped by 14 points since last summer. At 46 percent, her rating for empathy –- understanding the problems of average Americans -– is at a career low (albeit by a single point). Her support in the primary has tanked in particular among women, previously a mainstay of her candidacy, from 71 percent in July to 42 percent now.

The e-mail imbroglio is part of it. Fifty-five percent of Americans in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, disapprove of Clinton’s handling of questions about the matter, 54 percent think she’s tried to cover it up and 51 percent think she broke government regulations by using a private server for work-related e-mail during her time as secretary of state…

In the Democratic contest, Clinton and Sanders run essentially evenly among whites, 31 vs. 33 percent; Clinton’s lead relies on nonwhites, among whom she has 57 percent support, to Sanders’ 13 percent. It’s the only major demographic group in which Clinton still maintains a clear majority.

Clinton’s support from nonwhites has dropped, by 14 points, from 71 percent in July. But her support from whites has fallen farther, by 25 points, in the same time.

As noted, too, Clinton’s support among women has cratered by 29 points since July. Among men she’s lost 9 points in the same period, from 52 to 43 percent. Her gender gap has evaporated.

While Clinton still maintains an overall lead nationally for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders continues to show increased support in Iowa and New Hampshire, with victories there likely to impact the polls nationally should he hold onto these leads. The YouGov/CBS News Battleground Tracker showed a continuation of the trend seen in other recent polls:

The new poll finds Sen. Sanders with 52% support among Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, while former Secretary of State Clinton, long considered the front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, receives 30%. Recent polls have shown Sanders’ lead growing in the Granite State, but this would be the first to show the Vermont Senator over 50%.

Possibly more worrying for the Clinton campaign is her performance in Iowa, where Sanders now leads by 10 points, with 43% to Clinton’s 33%.

The entry of Joe Biden into the Democratic race would have a major impact, with Biden dividing the establishment vote, possibly creating a better chance for Bernie Sanders to win the nomination, or in any event decreasing the chance of Clinton winning. At this time Biden has given out mixed signals, I suspect largely because he has not decided what he is going to do. Bloomberg provides further evidence that he is seriously considering the possibility of running:

The 28 hours Joe Biden spent in New York City at the end of last week were a whirlwind of activity—much of it feeding the mounting speculation that he is inching ever closer to launching a late-starting presidential campaign. Biden stood alongside Attorney General Loretta Lynch and announced an $80 million plan to clear the backlog of rape kits in police departments around the country. He appeared with Governor Andrew Cuomo at a rally with some of the city’s most powerful unions to support Cuomo’s push to hike the minimum wage. He made his now-famous appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He took part in an evening roundtable for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. And, the next day, he delivered remarks at a 9/11 memorial aboard the Intrepid Museum, at which firefighters, cops, and other first responders chanted, “Run, Joe, run!”

Each of these events was freighted with political meaning. For some, the turn on Colbert, with Biden expressing his enduring anguish about the loss of his son Beau and his heartfelt doubts about his ability to rise emotionally to the rigors of a campaign, was the most telling, signaling what many in the political establishment have believed for weeks: that for all of Biden’s dalliances with a bid, he would in the end find himself unable to get to yes.

And that may still prove true. But fewer than 12 hours after the Colbert interview aired, Biden partook in a meeting that signaled something entirely different. The meeting appeared nowhere on his public schedule. It was held in secret at his hotel in Midtown Manhattan and lasted for more than 90 minutes: a private, one-on-one session with one of the most prominent and powerful fundraising stars in the Democratic firmament—a mega-bundler who happens to be, at least for now, publicly committed to Hillary Clinton.

The bundler in question was Robert Wolf: the former chairman and CEO of UBS Americas, a prodigious buck-raker on behalf of Barack Obama in two successive campaigns, a four-time appointee to economic panels in the Obama administration, and perhaps the only person in the American business community—and certainly the sole Wall Street potentate—with whom Obama during his time in office has developed a deep and genuine friendship…

There is also some news of interest which is somewhat related to the Republican race. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been named the new host of Celebrity Apprentice, replacing Donald Trump. Trump is being replaced due to running for president, along with alienating NBC and many potential viewers with his xenophobic talk. Schwarzenegger very well might have been a contender for the Republican nomination (either now or in the past) if not disqualified due to not being a natural born American citizen. Plus, ironically in light of the xenophobia he is spreading, Donald Trump is losing his job to a foreigner.

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Clinton Sees Decrease in Lead Over Sanders & Now Trails Ben Carson

Clinton Biden Sanders

Hillary Clinton continues to show a downward trajectory in the polls, no longer having a significant lead for the Democratic nomination. The CNN/ORC poll shows:

Hillary Clinton’s lead in the race for the Democratic nomination has fallen to just 10 points, and at the same time, her advantage in hypothetical general election matchups against the top Republican contenders has vanished, a new CNN/ORC poll has found.

The new poll finds Clinton with 37% support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, down 10 points since August, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 27% and Vice President Joe Biden at 20%.

Considering the historic volatility in polls prior to primary election , this remaining lead in the national polls could be erased quite quickly. If Sanders should win in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he currently leads, there is an excellent chance that he could increase his support nationally by well over ten percent.

Many Democrats were already nervous about Clinton’s candidacy, and might become more alarmed by how her support continues to fall compared to Republican opponents. After one recent poll showed her trailing Donald Trump nationally, the CNN poll shows her trailing Ben Carson and losing her lead over other candidates:

In the general election matchups, Clinton trails former neurosurgeon Ben Carson by a significant margin (51% Carson to 46% Clinton among registered voters) while running about evenly with both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (49% Bush to 47% Clinton) and businessman Donald Trump (48% back each).

Joe Biden is doing better against Republicans than Clinton, which might influence his decision as to whether he will run. While he currently sounds quite undecided about running, there is activity in progress which looks like the organization of a presidential campaign.

Clinton is showing a decrease in support among groups including women and liberals:

The shift away from the former secretary of state stems from shrinking support among women. Clinton’s advantage among women has disappeared in matchups against Bush and Carson. Facing Trump, Clinton still carries women by a large, though tighter, margin. In August, 60% of women favored Clinton to 37% for Trump, but that’s narrowed slightly to 55% Clinton, 41% Trump now. Clinton’s advantage among women against Trump is fueled by independent women, despite that group shifting away from Clinton in the head-to-head against Bush…

Clinton’s fade in the Democratic race comes as an ideological divide within the party grows into a chasm. In August, Clinton held support from 43% of moderates and 46% of liberals. In the new poll, her support among moderates holds at 47%, while among liberals, it has plummeted to just 23%. Sanders has increased his share of the liberal vote (from 42% to 49%), while falling 9 points among moderates (from 24% to 15%). Meanwhile, Biden has gained ground in both groups.

And enthusiasm for Clinton among liberals has fallen nearly 40 points. Just 29% of liberal Democrats say they would be enthusiastic if she were the party’s nominee, down from 68% in an April poll.

Clinton’s decrease in support among liberals comes as she is finally admitting to being a centrist, as opposed to putting on an unconvincing act of being a progressive earlier in her campaign. This might be to appear more electable than Bernie Sanders, but ignores the problem of Democratic-leaning voters being less motivated to get out to vote when Democrats run as Republican-lite.

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Trump Now Beating Clinton In Head To Head Poll–Sanders & Biden More Competitive

Donald Trump

When Donald Trump first started moving to the top of the Republican race it looked like the GOP had a serious problem because it appeared that Trump could not win in the general election. Once again it is necessary to throw out the conventional wisdom in dealing with Donald Trump. A Survey USA poll now shows Trump leading Clinton by a margin of 45 to 40 percent A poll taken today has virtually no predictive value as to what will happen in the general election, but seeing Trump take a lead does eliminate the argument that he cannot win.

More on the results:

The poll by SurveyUSA finds that matched up directly, Trump garners 45 percent to Clinton’s 40 percent.

In other head-to-head matchups, Trump beats out Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by 44 percent to 40 percent; Vice President Joe Biden by 44 percent to 42 percent; and former Vice President Al Gore by 44 percent to 41 percent.

The poll also found that 30 percent of respondents believe Trump will eventually be the Republican nominee, leading the field.

It is also interesting that Sanders and Biden come closer. At this time it is not known whether Biden will enter the race, and his support could go in either direction if he is seen as a candidate. Sanders has been on an upward trajectory as Clinton’s  support has been falling, especially in the battle ground states, and Sanders now looks like the most electable of the candidates who is currently in the race. While Clinton’s support is more limited to strong Democratic voters, Sanders is showing greater ability to reach out to independents.

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