PolitiFact Shows Facts On Health Care Reform, Debunking Republican Claims

PolitiFact has looked at the data available so far on the Affordable Care Act. They confirm what I’ve said in many posts on health care reform. ObamaCare is leading to more people being insured, lower costs, and a reduction in the deficit. The various Republican predictions of doom have failed to come about. The one area in which the law failed to meet expectations was the number of people covered due to Republican-controlled states which do not participate in the expanded Medicaid program. Thank-you Republicans for once again showing that you are the anti-life party.

Here is a summary of what PolitiFact has reported:

In 2010 it was projected that by 2019 32 million people would gain insurance, leaving 23 million uninsured (with the uninsured including illegal immigrants who, despite that email from your crazy Republican uncle, are not covered under ObamaCare.) It is now projected that by 2019 27 million will gain insurance, leaving 26 million uninsured. This is largely due to those not receiving access to the expanded Medicaid program in Republican-controlled states.

In 2010 it was predicted that the Affordable Care Act would decrease the deficit by $143 billion between 2010-19. In 2014 the projection was updated to reducing the deficit by $152 billion between 2015-24.

In 2010 the cost was projected to be $710 billion between 2015-19. The updated projection is $571 billion. The lower estimate is due to both reductions in health care costs and decreased spending on the expanded Medicaid program.

PolitiFact debunked that Republican claims that the Affordable Care Act is a jobs-killer.

PolitiFact debunked the Republican predictions of a death spiral in which premiums would become more expensive and younger, healthier people would not purchase insurance: “About 28 percent of customers during the 2014 enrollment period were ages 18 to 34. And there were 70 more insurance companies participating in the 2015 marketplaces than the previous year…”

PolitiFact debunked Republican predictions of increasing premiums, noting a decrease in health care spending. It is not clear to what degree this can be attributed to the Affordable Care Act versus other factors. One aspect that is not measurable is the way in which the culture in health care has changed since Obama began speaking about health care reform, leading health care professionals to utilize resources more economically.

The Affordable Care Act was introduced as incremental legislation which would both increase access to care and reduce costs. It was never expected to lead to universal coverage without further expansion of the plan. PoltiFact looked at those projected to remain uninsured:

Who makes up this group of persistently uninsured? About 30 percent are illegal immigrants, which the law specifically does not apply to. But about 40 to 45 percent are people who will choose not to purchase insurance offered to them either through the marketplaces or through an employer, in many cases because they still can’t afford it. The law exempts people from paying a penalty who have incomes so low they don’t file tax returns.

There is also a coverage gap unintended by those who wrote the law: People who live in states that didn’t accept Medicaid expansion. The law essentially required states to expand eligibility and agreed to pay 100 percent of the expansion for the first three years, declining to 90 percent in 2020 and beyond.

One goal for the future is to provide assistance for those denied care due to living in Republican-controlled states. Further review of the law is needed regarding the 40 to 45 percent who are projected to remain uninsured due to choosing not to purchase insurance offered through the exchanges or employers. Some people are not obtaining coverage due to believing false information spread by Republicans and this problem will hopefully decline as more people see the success of the law. Some were unaware of the tax penalties as they will not experience them until paying taxes due this April 15. This might provide further motivation to obtain insurance.

The biggest concern are those who remain unable to purchase insurance due to the cost. As I previously noted, eighty-three percent of enrollees qualified for subsidies in 2013. Those who qualified payed an average of $82 per month in premiums. Those obtaining Silver plans paid an average of $69 per month. Those not obtaining coverage due to the cost are probably people at the upper income range for receiving subsidies and not receiving sufficient subsidies to afford insurance, or those who just miss out on qualifying. This situation might be improved with further reductions in costs but expansion of the subsidies might be needed to get closer to universal coverage.

No, Hillary Clinton Is Not Going To Send You Off To “Camp”

Clinton Camp Speech

I have been critical of Hillary Clinton for her secrecy and poor history on government transparency, her neoconservative foreign policy views, her conservative views on social issues, her mismanagement of health  care reform, and her overall poor judgement. I am not going to defend her just because she has a D after her name, or because she is a female candidate.

There are plenty of attacks from the right which Clinton does deserve defending on, even if Clinton does often deflect from liberal criticism with all the bat-shit crazy attacks coming from the right. Conservatives have spoken of being taken off to FIMA Camps since that Muslim, Socialist, Marxist (in their view) Barack Obama took office. It didn’t come to pass, but now watch them twist a speech given by Clinton to actual camp owners into something equally menacing.

The Daily Caller wrote:

As I have gotten older, I have decided we really need camps for adults,” she said to laughter. “And we need the kind of camps you all run.”

“None of the serious stuff, not of the life-challenging stuff; more fun!” Clinton continued. “I think we have a huge fun deficit in America. And we need to figure it out how to fill that fun deficit, certainly for our kids, but also for the rest.” (RELATED: RNC Releases Satirical Emails From Hillary Clinton)

In these camps, Clinton wants Americans to really concentrate on the important things. “We need some reminder about life skills from time to time, maybe some enrichment, certainly some time outdoors.”

On an entirely unrelated note, “joycamp” was the Newspeak term for forced labor camps in George Orwell’s “1984.”

Hopefully this was written tongue in cheek, but I bet it won’t be long until your crazy Republican uncle cites this speech in their anti-Clinton email.

Several news reports also predict this will be her last paid speech, anticipating that Clinton will announce her candidacy in early April. Federal campaign finance laws to provide incentives to declare early in a quarter, to maximize reports of fund raising for each quarter. Clinton would be smart to formally get in the race and speak out on issues. Lying about her email didn’t  help her, but speaking out on issues might result in the media devoting more coverage to this and less to her scandals.

Democratic Support Falls For Hillary Clinton Even Prior To Yet Another Clinton Scandal

Hillary Clinton speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York

There is yet another scandal involving Hillary Clinton, with the latest Reuter’s poll showing a drop in Democratic support for Clinton even before today’s scandal broke. First the latest scandal, then the poll.

Barack Obama came into office promising greater transparency. This included changing email practices following the abuses under George Bush–abuses which Hillary Clinton referred to as shredding the Constitution. We now know that Clinton violated the rules. Obama also wanted greater transparency regarding contributions to eliminate concerns that members of his administration were serving interests other than the interests of the voters. Reuters found that Clinton violated promises made upon taking office regarding disclosure of contributions:

In 2008, Hillary Clinton promised Barack Obama, the president-elect, there would be no mystery about who was giving money to her family’s globe-circling charities. She made a pledge to publish all the donors on an annual basis to ease concerns that as secretary of state she could be vulnerable to accusations of foreign influence.

At the outset, the Clinton Foundation did indeed publish what they said was a complete list of the names of more than 200,000 donors and has continued to update it. But in a breach of the pledge, the charity’s flagship health program, which spends more than all of the other foundation initiatives put together, stopped making the annual disclosure in 2010, Reuters has found.

In response to questions from Reuters, officials at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and the foundation confirmed no complete list of donors to the Clintons’ charities has been published since 2010. CHAI was spun off as a separate legal entity that year, but the officials acknowledged it still remains subject to the same disclosure agreement as the foundation.

The finding could renew scrutiny of Clinton’s promises of transparency as she prepares to launch her widely expected bid for the White House in the coming weeks. Political opponents and transparency groups have criticized her in recent weeks for her decision first to use a private email address while she was secretary of state and then to delete thousands of emails she labeled private.

The two scandals very well might be connected. While there is no way to prove this after Clinton destroyed some of the email, members of the news media have suggested that if Clinton was hiding anything, it was most likley regarding contributions to the Foundation, as opposed to any smoking guns related to Benghazi. This includes liberal columnist Frank Rich, along with Ron Fournier, who wrote:

“Follow the money.” That apocryphal phrase, attributed to Watergate whistle-blower “Deep Throat,” explains why the biggest threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential dreams is not her emails. It’s her family foundation. That’s where the money is: corporate money, foreign money, gobs of money sloshing around a vanity charity that could be renamed “Clinton Conflicts of Interest Foundation.”

Despite all the evidence that Clinton broke the rules in effect when she took office, many Democrats will continue to defend her because of her name and gender. Some Democrats would continue to defend Clinton even if we had  incontrovertible evidence that she kicks puppies and bar-b-que babies. While maybe exaggerating, it seems that there is no crime which will cause some Democrats to question Hillary Clinton–even if it is something they previously attacked Republicans for. So much for consistency or adherence to principle.

Fortunately this does not apply to all Democrats. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll does show support for Clinton to be softening:

Support for Clinton’s candidacy has dropped about 15 percentage points since mid-February among Democrats, with as few as 45 percent saying they would support her in the last week, according to a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll. Support from Democrats likely to vote in the party nominating contests has dropped only slightly less, to a low in the mid-50s over the same period.

Even Democrats who said they were not personally swayed one way or another by the email flap said that Clinton could fare worse because of it, if and when she launches her presidential campaign, a separate Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.

The polling showed that nearly half of Democratic respondents – 46 percent – agreed there should be an independent review of all of Clinton’s emails to ensure she turned over everything that is work-related.

The bigger problem is that while Democrats might stick with her and give her the nomination, by November 2016 a majority of the voters will have had enough of what could be a constant stream of revelations about Clinton. Giving Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination increasingly looks like a death wish on the part of Democrats.

Great News For Late Night Comedians: Donald Trump Appears To Actually Be Running This Time

Donald Trump

Donald Trump spoke of running for president before but many did not take him seriously, seeing it as a publicity stunt or ego boost. Earlier this year he claimed he was serious but few believed him, with most assuming he would continue with The Apprentice. The New Hampshire Union Leader now reports that Trump is dropping The Apprentice and is setting up an exploratory committee:

Donald Trump will launch a presidential exploratory committee Wednesday, the eve of the business mogul’s return to New Hampshire.

A senior adviser tells the New Hampshire Union Leader that Trump will not be renewing his contract with NBC for the reality television “Apprentice” series.

Combined with staff hires, Trump’s announcement that he will form an exploratory committee for the first time is a sign the billionaire is seriously considering running for the Republican nomination.

Trump as released this announcement:

I have a great love for our country, but it is a country that is in serious trouble. We have lost the respect of the entire world. Americans deserve better than what they get from their politicians – who are all talk and no action! I have built a great company, created thousands of jobs and built a tremendous net worth with some of the finest and most prestigious assets in the world – and very little debt! All Americans deserve the same opportunity. Our real unemployment rate is staggering while our manufacturing base is eroding on a daily basis. We must rebuild our infrastructure, control our borders, support local control of education, greatly strengthen our military, care for our veterans and put Americans back to work! We must stop other countries from totally taking advantage of our representatives who are being out-negotiated at every turn. I am the only one who can make America truly great again!

This reminds me of what Andy Borowitz once said: “If Trump can do the same magic that he did for NBC, the USA will be the #4 country in the world.”

To his credit, Trump was often critical of George Bush, but during the Obama presidency his political views aligned with the extreme right. He has provided far more material for comedians than serious political comment. He was a strong Birther, claiming Obama was not born in the United States. Jimmy Fallon was among the late night comedians who mocked Trump on this: “Hey, Congratulations to Donald Trump, who just welcomed his fourth grandchild! You could tell it was Trump?s grandchild because as soon as it came out, it demanded to see its own birth certificate.” Jimmy Kimmel quipped, “President Obama celebrated Passover with a Seder at the White House. This morning, Donald Trump demanded to see Obama’s Bar Mitzvah certificate.” Conan O’Brien added, “On Fox News, Donald Trump said Obama’s birth certificate could indicate that he’s a Muslim. Trump said he doesn’t trust anyone with a foreign-sounding name, and neither does his daughter Ivanka.”

Obama mocked him at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner:

“Donald Trump is here tonight,” the comedian in chief said, grinning. “Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but no one is prouder to put this birth certificate to rest than The Donald. Now he can get to focusing on the issues that matter. Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened at Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”

Seth Meyers also joked about Trump at the dinner, including one joke which also mocked John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as running mate. He noted that Trump owns the Miss USA Pageant, “which is great for Republicans because it will streamline the search for a vice president.”

David Letterman mocked the idea of a Republican race with both Donald Trump and Sarah Palin in it in 2010:

Sarah Palin says she’s going to run for President in 2012. 2012. Donald Trump said he’s going to run for President in 2012 against Sarah Palin. Nice to know there will somebody equally unqualified…Now that would be some presidential race. You’ve got Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and the debates. Get there early and get some seats down front for those debates. ‘You’re fired, you becha.’

Trump later canceled an appearance with David Letterman in 2011 after Letterman mocked Trump’s attacks on Obama, saying they “smack of racism.”

Trump joined the Global Warming denialists by asking, “It’s cold outside…so where’s the global warming?” He changed from pro-choice to opposing abortion. “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives,’’ according to the executive vice president of the Trump Organization.

Donald Trump will clearly  make the Republican circus more amusing.

FOIA Official Confirms Clinton Broke Rules But Two Conservative Charges Against Her Look Dubious

Clinton Email

If the old political adage is true that the cover-up is worse than the crime, there is a corollary that denying the acts are a crime can be nearly as bad. When news first broke that Hillary Clinton used a private server for her email the reaction was generally that she acted unethically, foolishly, and possibly in violation of the rules. Then Clinton gave a news conference in which she basically insulted the intelligence of the press and all thinking people watching her who retain any objectivity. She claimed that she did not violate any rules, and the fact checkers got hard to work to show that, despite her denials, Clinton clearly did violate the rules. Instead of burying the story as she hoped, her dishonesty has kept talk of the issue going.

Clinton apologists came out with several attempts to obfuscate the issue. They quoted the 2014 changes in the Federal Records Act, arguing that they were passed after Clinton left office, but ignored the 2009 changes in the rules, along with directions within the Obama administration in 2009 and 2011 to improve transparency in government. They say that Colin Powell did the same, ignoring the rules changes which didn’t come into effect until 2009. Sure other Republicans have had comparable problems with their email, but it is hardly a good defense to show that Clinton is acting like a Republican. They move the goal posts and argue that there was no law against using private email. The issue is not the use of private email but that it did violate the rules in using private email exclusively. More seriously, she violated rules requiring that when private email is used it be archived on government servers. She also violated the rules when she deleted email, and when she used her private servers to avoid Freedom of Information requests from the press.

I have previously quoted Dan Metcalfe, who ran the Freedom of Information office for the Justice Department, explaining how Clinton violated the rules. Since that interview, he has written an article explaining yet once again how Clinton violated the rules:

We now have former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton being revealed as someone who took the unprecedented step of arranging to use her personal email account for all of her official email communications. What’s more, she decided to use her own email server equipment, rather than a commercial Internet service provider, so that the records of her email account would reside solely within her personal control at home. And if that were not enough, she then proceeded blithely—though not uncharacteristically—to present herself to the public, at a press conference held on March 10, as if there were really nothing “wrong” about any of this at all.

Well, as the saying goes, “reality is not her friend.”

For anyone considering this sad tale carefully—including the media, members of Congress and the public at large, whether from “inside the Beltway” or not—some basic points of both law and reality should be borne in mind.

First, while it is accurate for Secretary Clinton to say that when she was in office there was not a flat, categorical prohibition on federal government officials ever using their personal email accounts for the conduct of official business, that’s a far different thing from saying (as she apparently would like to) that a government official could use his or her personal email account exclusively, for all official email communications, as she actually did. In fact, the Federal Records Act dictates otherwise.

That law, which applies to all federal agency employees who are not within the White House itself, requires the comprehensive documentation of the conduct of official business, and it has long done so by regulating the creation, maintenance, preservation and, ultimately, the disposition of agency records. When it comes to “modern-day” email communications, as compared to the paper memoranda of not so long ago, these communications now are themselves the very means of conducting official business, by definition.

To be sure, this cannot as a practical matter be absolute. When Obama administration officials came into office in 2009, the Federal Records Act certainly allowed room for the occasional use of a personal email account for official business where necessary—such as when a secretary of state understandably must deal with a crisis around the world in the middle of the night while an official email device might not be readily at hand. That just makes sense. But even then, in such an exceptional situation, the Federal Records Act’s documentation and preservation requirements still called upon that official (or a staff assistant) to forward any such email into the State Department’s official records system, where it would have been located otherwise.

This appears to be exactly what former Secretary of State Colin Powell did during his tenure, just as other high-level government officials may do (or are supposed to do) under such exceptional circumstances during their times in office. Notwithstanding Secretary Clinton’s sweeping claims to the contrary, there actually is no indication in any of the public discussions of this “scandal” that anyone other than she managed to do what she did (or didn’t) do as a federal official.

Second, the official availability of official email communications is not just a matter of concern for purposes of the Federal Records Act only. It also makes an enormous (and highly foreseeable) difference to the proper implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (known as the “FOIA” to its friends, a group that evidently does not include Secretary Clinton). That is because the starting point for handling a FOIA request is the search that an agency must conduct for all records responsive to that request’s particular specifications. So any FOIA request that requires an agency first to locate responsive email messages sent to or from that agency’s head, for instance, is necessarily dependent on those records being locatable in the first place. And an agency simply cannot do that properly for any emails (let alone all such emails) that have been created, and are maintained, entirely beyond the agency’s reach. Or, as it sometimes is said somewhat cynically in the FOIA community, “You can’t disclose what you can’t find.”

In this case, which is truly unprecedented, no matter what Secretary Clinton would have one believe, she managed successfully to insulate her official emails, categorically, from the FOIA, both during her tenure at State and long after her departure from it—perhaps forever. “Nice work if you can get it,” one might say, especially if your experience during your husband’s presidency gives you good reason (nay, even highly compelling motivation) to relegate unto yourself such control if at all possible.

Third, there is the compounding fact that Secretary Clinton did not merely use a personal email account; she used one that atypically operated solely through her own personal email server, which she evidently had installed in her home. This meant that, unlike the multitudes who use a Gmail account, for instance, she was able to keep her communications entirely “in house,” even more deeply within her personal control. No “cloud” for posterity, or chance of Google receiving a congressional subpoena—not for her. No potentially pesky “metadata” surrounding her communications or detailed server logs to complicate things. And absolutely no practical constraint on her ability to dispose of any official email of “hers,” for any reason, at any time, entirely on her own. Bluntly put, when this unique records regime was established, somebody was asleep at the switch, at either the State Department or the National Archives and Records Administration (which oversees compliance with the Federal Records Act)—or both.

Now, what Secretary Clinton would have one believe is that this is all just a matter of her choosing one available email option over another, that she really did nothing that her predecessors had not done before her and that she can be trusted to “have absolutely confidence” that what she did “fully complied with every rule that [she] was governed by.” In other words, the thrust of her March 10 press conference was: “Everything was fine, nothing to be seen here, so let’s all just move along.”

But having spent a quarter-century at the forefront of the government’s administration of the FOIA, including its transition to electronic records and its involvement in so many Clinton administration “scandals du jour,” I know full well that both what Secretary Clinton arranged to do and what she now has said about that are, to put it most charitably, not what either the law or anything close to candor requires. At a minimum, it was a blatant circumvention of the FOIA by someone who unquestionably knows better and an attempted verbal “cover” of the situation (if not “cover-up”) that is truly reminiscent of years past.

And I say that even as someone who, if she decides to run for president and is the Democratic nominee, will nevertheless vote for her next year.

I cannot tell you how many times, during the eight years of the Clinton administration, I heard someone say, “The cover-up is worse than the crime.” For those of us who knew what most of the alleged record “cover-ups” actually were, even if not the full extent of each “crime,” I can tell you that this sometimes was true—but not always. In fact, the exact phrasing of the public explanations given, with their sly connotations versus denotations, could make all the difference.

Let’s start with her opening sentences of the press conference: “First, when I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department….”

This statement, right off the bat, gives a false impression, through two key words that are used and one that is missing. Her use of “opted” (which, incidentally, was readily accepted by her first questioner) strongly implies that she actually had a choice under the Federal Records Act; she did not. And the word “allowed” likewise connotes that what she did was permissible as a matter of law. It was not. It obviously was “allowed by the State Department” in one sense because it did proceed to happen; no one tackled her in the hallway before she could do it. But that does not mean that it was properly allowed, which is what she repeatedly implies. The missing word, of course, is “exclusively.” Officials were not absolutely barred from ever using their personal email accounts. But again, that is a far cry from what this answer falsely implies—that the law and regulations, either back then or now, allow the use of a personal email account exclusively. She never should have been using a personal account exclusively for her email correspondence. That’s the key ingredient that made her email setup contrary to policy, practice and law.

Let’s take, as another example, her claim that what she did was in compliance with law because “the federal guidelines are clear.” OK, please now tell us, Secretary Clinton, exactly which “federal guideline” (even one will do, notwithstanding your claim of plurality) makes it “clear” that you can unilaterally decide, dispositively and with such finality, which of your work-related records are “personal” and which ones are not, even with FOIA requests pending? Years ago, I worked on a case in which a presidential appointee—who shall remain nameless though not blameless—after becoming caught up in an especially controversial matter, intransigently declared that all of the records on a credenza behind his desk were “personal” and thus were beyond the reach of the FOIA (and that of the agency FOIA officer, whom he physically prevented from going back there). This official was severely castigated by a federal judge after it was found that he was, in no small part, quite mistaken about both things; the judge’s opinion was so pointed that we used the case regularly in our FOIA training programs. So yes, Secretary Clinton’s suggestion that federal officials can unilaterally determine which of their records are “personal” and which are “official,” even in the face of a FOIA request, is laughable.

It is not at all uncommon for the average federal employee on a day-to-day basis to bear the responsibility of “separating the wheat from the chaff” under the Federal Records Act, as well as when that employee departs from federal service. Even relatively high-level employees such as myself (as an ES-5 in the Senior Executive Service) often are able, as a practical matter, to determine such things, just as I did when I retired from the Justice Department eight years ago. But I certainly could not have taken with me the sole copy of any agency-generated document, nor could I have properly stymied any pending FOIA request—not even for a record in my office that I was convinced was 100 percent “personal.” In fact, at Justice we created a formal process to govern things that departing officials sought to “remove.” The first official to which the policy was applied, at her own insistence, was Attorney General Janet Reno, at the end of the Clinton administration. (This stood in stark contrast with the sad case of Attorney General Edwin Meese, who was so overreaching upon his departure that we had to scour his garage in Virginia to retrieve about a dozen boxes of records that he wrongfully took with him in violation of the Federal Records Act, among other things.) One cannot help but wonder how Secretary Clinton’s departure process was handled.

Metcalfe went on to criticize Clinton for the security risks in the manner in which she handled sensitive and possibly classified information.

While criticism of Clinton from the left has been over concerns for honesty and transparency in government, criticism from the right has often been over other matters. For example, The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece from Ronald Rotunda, a professor at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law, arguing that Clinton committed obstruction of justice in destroying some of the email:

The law says that no one has to use email, but it is a crime (18 U.S.C. section 1519) to destroy even one message to prevent it from being subpoenaed. Prosecutors charging someone with obstruction don’t even have to establish that any investigation was pending or under way when the deletion took place. As T. Markus Funk explained in a journal article for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the prosecutor “need only prove that the defendant shredded the documents, at least in part, to make life more difficult for future investigators, if and when they eventually appear.”

Legal commentators call this “anticipatory obstruction of justice,” and the law punishes it with up to 20 years imprisonment. The burden of proof is light. The Justice Department manual advises that section 1519 makes prosecution much easier because it covers “any matters” or “’in relation to or contemplation of’ any matters.” It adds, “No corrupt persuasion is required.”

An opinion from another law professor would be needed to verify this, but I would think that for this to apply there would need to be reason to believe that Clinton had committed a crime she was covering up. While destruction of the email did violate the Federal Records Act, I would doubt that it goes as far as to constitute obstruction of justice without such evidence of a crime. The preservation of email is important with regards to maintaining government transparency and preserving the historical record, but beyond that there is no evidence of any larger crimes being committed by Clinton. Of course conservatives are likely to counter by saying she would not have destroyed email if she didn’t have something to cover-up, and admittedly there is no way to prove this wrong beyond a presumption of innocence which it is not clear Clinton deserves.

Conservatives have also been obsessing over whether she signed form OF-109, in which an official leaving the government certifies that they surrendered all official records. It now appears that she did not. The whole issue of the OF-109 seems like a petty distraction. The real issue is whether she violated the rules, as she did, not how or whether she completed a form regarding compliance with some of the rules. Besides, it looks like it is quite common for public officials to fail to complete this, with no penalty for not signing. Leave it to conservatives to look beyond the real issues and concentrate on trivialities.

Al Gore As The Liberal Alternative To Hillary Clinton

Al Gore

With many liberals concerned about the prospect of Hillary Clinton walking away with the Democratic nomination there has been increased talk of other potential candidates. Joan Walsh listed several in a recent article at Salon. Although I thought it is purely coincidence, I recently noted speculation in light of Al Gore’s planned visit to Iowa this spring. Despite what many political pundits believe, some people do go to Iowa or New Hampshire for reasons other than to launch a presidential campaign. Ezra Klein is now writing that Al Gore should run for president.

He is pushing for Gore to run largely because of climate change, arguing both the importance of the issue and pointing out that this is an area where a president can take action with executive agencies even with the opposition of Congress. While I agree, I’m more interested in Gore because of the strong commitment to liberal positions and the forward looking thinking he has expressed since leaving office. As Klein wrote:

Single-issue candidacies rarely go far in American politics, but then, Gore need not be a single-issue candidate. Indeed, the rest of his positions are closer in line with Democratic Party activists than, say, Clinton’s. He opposed the Iraq War and endorsed single-payer health care, for instance. His Reinventing Government initiatives, mixed with his Silicon Valley contacts and experience, look pretty good for a post-Healthcare.gov era.

And there’s a lot more on Gore’s mind. His most recent book, ambitiously titled The Future, runs through the six forces he believes are changing the world: a globalized network of governments and corporations he calls “Earth, Inc.”; worldwide communication technologies that are leading to the emergence of a “global mind”; massive shifts in power from West to East and from government to corporations; an economic system that too often devastates natural resources; revolutions in genomics, biotechnology, and other life sciences; and, perhaps most optimistically, the beginnings of a revolution in energy and agriculture.

The book has been blurbed by everyone from conservative economist Arthur Laffer (“transcends ideology while turning our attention to big issues, big ideas, and big solutions”) to internet hero Tim Berners-Lee (“If you are concerned about the massive changes the world is just heading into, then you should read this book. If you aren’t, then you must read it!”).

You can believe Gore a visionary or you can believe him a blowhard, but he’s offering a very different, and much more radical, vision of what politics should be about than even Elizabeth Warren, to say nothing of Hillary Clinton.

Gore also has the experience, name recognition, and the resources to launch a campaign, while other candidates would be overshadowed by Hillary Clinton. He has even won the popular vote for president once, and could have won the electoral vote if a full recount was held in Florida, or if not for the butterfly ballots.  It sounds like a great idea except for one major problem. I doubt that Gore has any interest in getting back into politics.

***

In follow-up of other recent items, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about the story in The New York Post which claims that Valerie Jarrett leaked the information regarding Clinton’s email. He called the report “utter baloney.” Of course those who believe the story will probably not believe his denial.

Dvorak, a tech blog, has discovered more information on how insecure Hillary Clinton’s private server was. He found that Clinton used an outside spam filtering service and that people working there could have reviewed any sensitive email going through her system. The author, who has supported Clinton in the past,  pointed out that “this is one of many reasons they have a rule at the State Department that you have to use their servers.” (Noncompliance with this policy was cited by the Inspector General as one of the reasons for firing an ambassador under Clinton.) The article also showed that security was relatively weak on the system. The author has a response for those who excuse Clinton’s actions because Republicans did it too: “Are you F…ing kidding me!”

SciFi Weekend: The 100 Season Finale; 12 Monkeys; Better Call Saul; Twin Peaks; Karen Gillan; Cristin Milioti; The Jinx

the-100-lexa-clarke

The 100 ended with a two part season finale which concluded the Mount Weather storyline. While overall I enjoyed the show, that story did get dragged out a bit too long. After things looked bleak last week after Lexa betrayed Clarke, it was suddenly so easy to kill all the Mountain People and escape. From the beginning the show has been about making difficult decisions to survive, and their consequences. One of the strengths of the show is also becoming a bit of a weakness. The show has deserved praise for not taking the easy way out and for showing people getting killed in multiple episodes. However that also makes the show predictable. There was never a question as to whether Clarke would kill all the people from Mount Weather when she had the chance. It doesn’t matter that there were concerns for both those who had helped them and for the innocent children.

Because of these issues, I don’t think the second season was as good as the first, but despite its faults  the show is certainly one of the best genre shows currently on television. I have mixed feelings about where the show is going from here with different people in different places, including Clarke going off on her own. At least they are showing consequences for her decision in the finale, along with her decision in a recent episode to allow people to get killed from a missile Bellamy,  so that her spy inside Mount Weather, would not be suspected. The success of the third season will depend upon where they are going with the story lines started in the finale, and a story which gets into what happened to create the nuclear holocaust could certainly be interesting.

MTV interviewed showrunner Jason Rothenberg about the finale and where the show is headed:

MTV: What went into your decision to have Clarke make so many awful decisions this year? Between Tondc, killing Dante, and all of those kids, she sure has had a rough go of it.

Jason Rothenberg: Going into this season I knew that this season was about, thematically, how far you will go to survive. I wanted to push Clarke, and really everybody, to the brink of having to do the unthinkable in order to save their people, and see who was willing to cross it, and who wasn’t. Literally from day one of this season, I knew Clarke was going to do it. She was going to get her people back, but she was going to have to do something so dark, so intense, that she would be broken by it… She was going to look at herself as a monster.

So, that was literally from day one going into this season, and that’s how it played out. Everyone involved at the leadership level in the triangle between Dante, Lexa and Clarke — forget about Cage, obviously, he was a stooge that was in over his head — but Lexa, she was faced with a really awful choice, which was save your people, but to do that, you have to give up the woman that you love… And she did it… So it comes down to Clarke, where in order to save her people she has to kill every man, woman and child in Mount Weather. I made it very clear, defining the fact that there were good people there. As intense as it is, I wanted the camera to find the kids as much as possible, because I wanted the stakes of what she did to really land.

MTV: Oh, it landed. And here I was thinking that Maya was going to be a series regular next year.

Rothenberg: I was tempted to keep her on the show. The truth is, Mount Weather is only there because of this sin that they’ve been committing for 50 years to the Grounders. Without that, they’d have been gone long ago. So none of them, even the children who had no choice in the matter — they didn’t ask to be born, and they didn’t ask to take the blood — they wouldn’t be there without that sin. To let Maya live just because we loved her felt like the wrong choice, creatively, for the show. Certainly, I don’t think it would be the way we do things if only the people in Mount Weather who were bad died, and Clarke somehow managed to save the people we like — like Maya, Maya’s father and the children.

MTV: What’s next for Clarke, now that she’s on her own?

Rothenberg: She’s broken. She’s devastated in many ways by what she had to do, and what she’s lost. She lost Finn, she lost Lexa, she lost Bellamy — she lost everything in order to get this accomplished, and now she needs to get away from it all. She can’t live around these people that she saved, because it will remind her of what she had to do to get them there. So she’s going on walkabout like a good Aussie, and we’ll see how long that walkabout lasts. There’s another agenda in her mind that takes center stage by the time we catch up with her in season three…

MTV: Well, I’m hoping and assuming we haven’t seen the last of the Grounders.

Rothenberg: The Grounder-Sky Person alliance is definitely broken… Lexa, when she made the deal, was assuming that the 44 would be killed and that Clarke would probably die, and she would still have Mount Weather there to keep her people united. She was probably — master strategist that she is — thinking several moves ahead. Thinking she could keep her alliance together, the 12 clans, because they would still have this evil empire out there to unite them.

Then Clarke goes ahead and single-handedly defeats that evil empire. On the one hand, it means the legend of Clarke of the Sky People grows. Everywhere she goes it’s like, ‘I heard it was 5,000 people! No, I heard it was 10,000 people!’ Everywhere she goes, she’s a legend now. That means that Lexa will probably have to deal with that legend in some way going forward. Certainly it means that her alliance now no longer has a real reason to be held together. I should probably stop in terms of what it means for season three, but I’m really excited to play out the ramifications of all of that.

MTV: And what of this so-called Promised Land? I don’t really get what that AI woman was doing, but I’m excited to find out.

Rothenberg: The idea of ending the season on them is a way to foreshadow where we’re going in season three, just like how the white room foreshadowed where we were going in season two. It was really important for me to tell the story of how the world ended. We’ve never really dealt with that before. The scene in the bunker where Murphy sees the video of someone who was in some way involved with the creation of the AI known as Ali, and he’s killing himself for the guilt of the end of the world… Ali, you can assume, had something to do with that. [This] becomes part of the focus of the story in season three.

More at Zap2It.

Richard Harmon (Murphy) has been promoted to a regular for next season. In the meantime, he will be enjoying himself in that bunker he stumbled upon. I hope that doesn’t prevent him from appearing in the final season of Continuum.

12 Monkeys Tomorrow

12 Monkeys is getting darker and the last episode also dealt with hard decisions by a leader. We now have two factions using technology–one to attempt to cure the virus and one attempting to change history and prevent the plague. Dr. Jones is willing to go to any lengths to proceed with her plan, but what are her motives? Initially it looked like she was taking this course because she did not think a cure would work due to the virus mutating. By the end of  Tomorrow it looked more like it is because she wants to reverse both the death of her daughter and the horrible decisions she has made by reseting the time line. However it does look like the cure could actually work, despite what she was telling others.

We also see events at other points in time. Initially, in 2041 when  Ramse and Cole first met Dr. Jones, Cole thought she was crazy and Ramse insisted upon working with her. In 2043, their roles become reversed. Cole also wound up in 2017 in time to see Cassie die, but it is clear that he will be seeing Cassie at other points in time beyond when she first thought she was dead. Of course Cassie cannot tell him anything out of fear of changing the time line  and interfering with what Cole will learn. He has plenty of time to learn more as the show has been renewed for a second season.

Syfy has decided against renewing Ascension. It did show promise and I wish they had at least finished the story.

Better Call Saul had an excellent episode, concentrating on Mike’s back story. If there are any Breaking Bad fans not watching Better Call Saul, this would be a good, essentially stand-alone, episode to watch.

Arrow Ra

At Paleyfest, Stephen Amell said there will be dire consequences if Oliver doesn’t accept Ra’s Al Ghul’s offer.

“It’s an offer in name only. It’s not really an offer,” Amell said. “It’s a demand. If Oliver says no, there will be incredibly dire consequences.”

In mulling the offer, Oliver will take stock in what he’s accomplished in the time he’s been back in Starling City — and he will determine that what he’s accomplished isn’t that impressive.

The CW has released the finale dates for their other shows. Arrow will end the season on May 13 and The Flash will have its season finale on May 19. Both are returning next season.

After all the hype of Twin Peaks returning, David Lynch now says it might not return due to complications with contract negotiations.

Karen Gillan is joining the cast of The Devil You Know, a show on the Salem witch trial for HBO, co-written by Orange Is The New Black creator Jenji Kohan.

Cristin Milioti of How I Met Your Mother and the short-lived A to Z has been cast for the second season of Fargo. Please don’t kill her again.

Robert Durst, subject of The Jinx on HBO, was arrested for murder. Gawker has more background for those not watching the show.

Private Email A Problem For Jeb Bush And Other Republicans, Along With Hillary Clinton

Clinton Bush

Jeb Bush has been on the campaign stump attacking Clinton regarding her use of a private email server, violating rules in effect as of 2009 regarding retention of records. While such criticism is deserved, Bush as been quiet on his own email scandal.  The Washington Post reports:

Jeb Bush used his private e-mail account as Florida governor to discuss security and military issues such as troop deployments to the Middle East and the protection of nuclear plants, according to a review of publicly released records.

The e-mails include two series of exchanges involving details of Florida National Guard troop deployments after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the review by The Washington Post found.

Aides to Bush said Saturday that none of the e-mails contained sensitive or classified information, and that many of the events mentioned in them were documented in press accounts, either contemporaneously or later. But security experts say private e-mail systems such as the one used by Bush are more vulnerable to hackers, and that details such as troop movements could be exploited by enemies.

Bush is actively considering a run for president and has sharply criticized likely Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton for her use of a private e-mail account when she served as secretary of state. He called it “baffling” that Clinton didn’t consider the potential security risks of discussing diplomatic and national security issues by using an e-mail account not tied to a government server.

The New York Times points out that it took Bush seven years to release he email. I previously pointed out other questions about Bush’s email, along with problems with Scott Walker and email. Of course these abuses by Republican candidates do not excuse Hillary Clinton. My concern is the manner in which she acts like a Republican with a long history of opposition to transparency.

The Obama White House is also concerned about how this will affect Obama’s legacy. They have been lukewarm in any defense of Clinton after she violated the rules established during the Obama administration to increase transparency following the email scandals of the Bush years. While the source is quite questionable, The New York Post takes this further with an unsubstantiated claim that Valerie Jarrett leaked the information regarding Clinton’s email out of concern that Clinton would undo Obama’s legacy. The article claims that she promised Elizabeth Warren and Martin O’Malley “the full support of the White House if they will challenge Hillary for the presidential nomination.” Interesting theory, but I wonder why Joe Biden was left out of this offer and how you offer full support to two different people. Plus we sure have not seen any signs of the White House backing O’Malley over Clinton so far. The article makes additional claims as to what will occur and we can watch to see how many (or few) come about.

Barack Obama Reads Mean Tweets

See President Obama read mean tweets about him on Jimmy Kimmel Live in the video above.

Calls For War With Iran From The Right

Washington Post War with Iran

There is no question that the letter to Iran signed by 47 Republican Senators was irresponsible. I will leave it to others to argue whether it breaks the law or constitutes treason, but it definitely ignores how foreign policy is conducted in the United States. At very least this was a curious move from the party which claims to be such strict backers of a Constitution which in reality they cite only when convenient. My initial reaction was more basic–why would anyone, regardless of party, want to derail an effort to negotiate a peaceful solution to having nuclear weapons in Iran? Yes, there is another election in two years and the United States could change course, but don’t undermine the ability of the current, and every future, president to negotiate on behalf of the United States by suggesting that agreements with the President of the United States are meaningless.

There are many possible explanations, ranging from incompetence (the signers didn’t read the letter) to the theory of many on the left, including Bernie Sanders, that Republicans want to go to war. I certainly would not accuse all Republicans of desiring war. They might even have legitimate concerns, even if this was the wrong way to express them. Fred Hiatt has added considerable credence to the belief that the right desires to go to war in publishing an op-ed from Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Muravchik argues that War with Iran is probably our best option:

What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons? That, in fact, is probably the reality. Ideology is the raison d’etre of Iran’s regime, legitimating its rule and inspiring its leaders and their supporters. In this sense, it is akin to communist, fascist and Nazi regimes that set out to transform the world. Iran aims to carry its Islamic revolution across the Middle East and beyond. A nuclear arsenal, even if it is only brandished, would vastly enhance Iran’s power to achieve that goal…

Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary.

James Fallows responded:

Right, repeated bombing raids “as necessary.” What could possibly go wrong with that approach? Yes, “surely the United States could best Iran.” Surely we could polish off those backward Viet Cong. Surely invading Iraq would work out great. (I haven’t taken the time to see if the author was a fan of invading Iraq, but I have a guess.) Surely the operational details of these engagements are a concern only for the small-minded among us.

How would we think about a “scholar” in some other major-power capital who cavalierly recommended war? How would we think about some other capital-city newspaper that decided to publish it? The Post’s owners (like those of the NYT and other majors papers) have traditionally had a free hand in choosing the paper’s editorial-page policy and leaders, while maintaining some distance from too-direct involvement in news coverage. Jeff Bezos, behold your newspaper.

While not all have explicitly called for war as Muravchik has, opposition to a negotiated settlement is becoming a wide-spread view among Republicans. This includes Mitt Romney:

I say courage because signing an agreement — any agreement — would undoubtedly be a political home run. The news media would repeatedly feature the signing ceremony. The coverage would rehearse the long and tortured history between our two countries and exalt at the dawn of a new era. The Iranian pooh-bahs would appear tame and responsible. The president would look, well, presidential.An agreement would also boost the prospects for Hillary Clinton: achievement by association.

Walking away from all that would be courageous. It would also be right.

As I noted yesterday, this is starting to become an issue going into the 2016 elections. This country rushed into a disastrous war with Iraq based upon the emotions following the 9/11 attack and lies from the Bush administration. During the 2016 election we need to carefully examine the views of the candidates regarding war and peace. This is not limited to the Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s views also need to be reviewed. While she has correctly criticized the Republicans for this letter, her views regarding use of military force must be questioned. Not only was she often among the most hawkish voices in the Obama administration, she was in the Joe Lieberman wing of the Democratic Party in urging war with Iraq based upon non-existent ties between Saddam and al Qaeda.