With the Clinton Foundation and the email scandal making the news again this week, both the fact checkers and ethicists are once again weighing in. PolitiFact has debunked Clinton surrogate Jennifer Granholm’s defense of the Clinton Foundation. Granholm claimed Clinton complied with the ethics agreements she entered into when she became Secretary of State. PolitiFact disagrees:
New emails released after Granholm made her statement, detailed in an Associated Press investigation, show that Clinton took many meetings with foundation donors as secretary of state and offered assistance to several.
The ethics agreements, plural
Clinton pledged to keep her distance from foundation matters as secretary of state. “I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which The William J. Clinton Foundation (or the Clinton Global Initiative) is a party or represents a party …,” she said.
The Clinton Foundation signed its own, separate memorandum of understanding with the Obama administration, promising to disclose donors annually and report material donation increases to the State Department among other things.
“The parties also seek to ensure that the activities of the Foundation, however beneficial, do not create conflicts or the appearance of conflicts for Senator Clinton as Secretary of State,” the memorandum of understanding reads.
What’s clear is that both agreements were intended to minimize conflicts of interest.
And in that regard, experts told us Granholm’s comments amount to poorly masked spin that focus on Clinton’s personal involvement while ignoring the involvement of her top aides.
Granholm is right that neither agreement prohibits aides facilitating meetings or taking job recommendations, but that’s only technically accurate because terms of the agreement were pretty specific to begin with, said John Wonderlich, the director of the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation.
“The letter of the memorandum of understanding is not the standard by which they’re being judged,” Wonderlich said. “By trying to use that as a defense, that just highlights the deficiencies of the memorandum of understanding.”
Granholm offered a lawyerly response that reflects “a certain tone-deafness on the part of the Clintons, their staff and surrogates,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor who specializes in government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis. “It keeps you out of jail but it doesn’t really address the underlying concern.”
That concern is that donors and those with ties to the Clinton Foundation could use their connections to curry favor with the U.S. government, “not just whether Clinton is technically violating an ethics statute” narrowly tailored for legal purposes.
So while the emails contain no smoking guns that point to pay-to-play, Wonderlich said, they contribute to “a sense of commingling the personal and the official.”
Clark held up the Clinton campaign’s argument that Band sent the emails as Bill Clinton’s aide as an example of a flimsy response.
“That’s nice, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a foundation connection,” she said. “The foundation’s work is no doubt laudable, but it’s not at all clear how they are addressing a reasonable perception that giving money to the foundation may help one accomplish goals related to the U.S. government.”
Craig Holman of the government accountability think tank Public Citizen said the new emails at least show “an effort was made to secure official favors” for donors.
“The Clinton Foundation itself did not live up to the expectations of the ethics agreement,” he said.
Outside of the emails, the Clinton Foundation has actually violated its memorandum of understanding with the State Department.
As previously mentioned, the foundation agreed to disclose donors every year while its various initiatives would do the same and report material increases from existing donors to the state department.
But in 2015, numerous media outlets reported several instances of the Clinton Foundation breaking its promises. There were three major examples:
• Not disclosing over 1,000 donors who passed $2.35 million total through the Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative through a Canadian foundation (the foundation simply reported the revenue from the Canadian foundation)
To be clear, none of these disclosure failures are proof of quid pro quo. But experts told us that the Clinton camp and the public should have higher standards.
“The fact that it’s not a bribe may help keep you out of federal prison, but is that good enough?” Clark said.
Granholm said Clinton “abided by the ethics agreement” between the Clinton Foundation and the Obama administration.
That’s a misleading response that ignores what occurred at Clinton’s State Department.
Experts told us emails between Clinton aides and a foundation aide may not have been prohibited by the specific terms of the ethics pledges. But they demonstrate a blurring of the lines between official government business and Clinton’s personal connections — breaking the firewall Clinton agreed to preserve.
The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.
“Without a doubt, moving forward, having Chelsea at the foundation is really going to create problems for [Clinton],” Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn said, noting that ethics rules typically recognize the child of an official as being directly linked to their interests.
Hillary Clinton tried to turn attention back on Donald Trump in a speech today. The New York Times reports:
Hillary Clinton delivered a blistering denunciation Thursday of Donald J. Trump’s personal and political history with race, arguing in her most forceful terms yet that a nationalist conservative fringe had engulfed the Republican Party.
In a 31-minute address, building to a controlled simmer, Mrs. Clinton did everything but call Mr. Trump a racist outright — saying he had promoted “racist lie” after “racist lie,” pushed conspiracy theories with “racist undertones” and heartened racists across the country by submitting to an “emerging racist ideology known as the alt-right.”
“He is taking hate groups mainstream,” Mrs. Clinton told supporters at a community college here, “and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.”
Hillary Clinton gave this speech attacking Donald Trump as being from the “alt-right.” The battle is on, Clinton of the neocon-right versus Trump of the alt-right. May they both lose.
Regardless of what other surprises occur during this campaign, it is safe to predict that Hillary Clinton will not convince people she is not a crook, and Donald Trump will not convince people he is not xenophobic and racist. Among the worst consequences of Clinton being elected will be to see Democrats become the Republican Party of 2001. After opposing both neocon foreign policy and the “culture of corruption” under Bush, the Democratic Party now owns both with the nomination of Hillary Clinton.
It is rather disappointing to see how many Democratic bloggers who criticized corruption under Bush find ways to rationalize actions they would have never tolerated under Republicans, and attack the media as opposed to those acting unethically. No, just because you think your party represents the good guys, this does not excuse such action. Less partisan sources are more critical of the latest revelations regarding the unethical relationships between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department revealed in the latest batch of emails and the AP’s review of the number of meetings Clinton had as Secretary of State with large donors to the Foundation. For example, USA Today called for the Clinton Foundation to be mothballed:
Ending foreign and corporate contributions is a good step, but allowing them to continue at least through the first week of November looks more like an influence-peddling fire sale (Give while you still can!) than a newfound commitment to clean government.
And the complex plan for allowing donations from U.S. citizens and permanent residents, keeping some parts of the Clinton Foundation alive, and maintaining scores of Clinton-family allies on the payroll is less an opportunity for a clean slate than a guarantee of new controversy.
Yes, the Clinton Foundation supports many good works, notably the fight against HIV/AIDS. No, it is not “the most corrupt enterprise in political history,” as Donald Trump is calling it, nor is there enough evidence of potential criminality to warrant appointment of the special prosecutor Trump is seeking.
But the only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable work to another large American charity such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t support these steps, she boosts Trump’s farcical presidential campaign and, if she’s elected, opens herself up to the same kind of pay-to-play charges that she was subject to as secretary of State…
When Clinton became secretary in 2009, new ethical quandaries arose that few people imagined at the time. She gave key State Department aides permission to work for the Clinton Foundation while they worked at State and drew paychecks from a Clinton-affiliated for-profit consulting firm. Emails from her private server reveal communications between foundation representatives and her aides about setting up meetings between America’s top diplomats and the Clinton Foundation’s top donors, including Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire.
According to an Associated Press analysis of Clinton’s State Department calendars released so far, more than half the people outside of government she met with or spoke with on the phone as secretary of State had made pledges or donations to her family charity. Those 85 people donated as much as $156 million. The tabulation published Tuesday does not include the meetings and phone calls with representatives of 16 foreign governments that contributed as much as $170 million to the foundation.
Should Clinton win, she’ll face an uphill battle to rebuild trust in government and find a way to get Washington working again. That task will be all the harder if millions of voters repulsed by Trump’s rhetoric and concerned with his volatile behavior find that his “Crooked Hillary” taunt had some substance in fact.
While Clinton, enjoying a huge and possibly insurmountable lead, prefers to try to run out the clock and continues to avoid the press as much as possible, Donald Trump is trying to convince voters that he is not racist. Aaron Blake poked holes in Trump’s statement of regret for some of the things he has said and, Jonathan Chait pointed out that the one flaw in Trump’s plan is that he really is a racist:
The main difficulty Trump faces in dispelling the impression that he is a racist is that Trump is, in fact, a gigantic racist. His first appearance in the New York Times came in the context of his being caught refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans. A former Trump employee has detailed a series of private racist statements and acts — saying “laziness is a trait in blacks,” objecting to black people working for him in accounting, his staff shooing black people off the casino floor when he arrived. Trump has replied that the comments were “probably true,” but berated the person who made them as a “loser.” He has questioned the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate, called him a “terrible student,” and implied he only made it into Harvard Law School due to affirmative action…
Trump has spent more than a year identifying himself as the candidate of white-backlash politics, using his appeal to the most racially resentful Republicans to win the nomination. And now he’s running to Clinton’s left on criminal justice! Trump adviser Roger Stone tells the Post, “an entire generation of young black men are incarcerated” because of the 1994 bill. So African-Americans should instead vote for the candidate who literally called for “retribution” and an end to civil liberties. Does Trump’s campaign really think anybody is going to believe this?
One of these dreadful candidates will win, with most voters hating the outcome regardless of how they vote. The one good news in this awful political year is that NASA announced finding a potentially habitable planet as close as Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our solar system. This might provide a potential escape route from an earth in which either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is President of the United States.
AP has analyzed Hillary Clinton’s meetings with people outside of the government when she was Secretary of State and found that half of them were donors to the Clinton Foundation:
More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money – either personally or through companies or groups – to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.
At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.
Donors who were granted time with Clinton included an internationally known economist who asked for her help as the Bangladesh government pressured him to resign from a nonprofit bank he ran; a Wall Street executive who sought Clinton’s help with a visa problem; and Estee Lauder executives who were listed as meeting with Clinton while her department worked with the firm’s corporate charity to counter gender-based violence in South Africa.
The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton. Her calendars and emails released as recently as this week describe scores of contacts she and her top aides had with foundation donors…
“There’s a lot of potential conflicts and a lot of potential problems,” said Douglas White, an expert on nonprofits who previously directed Columbia University’s graduate fundraising management program. “The point is, she can’t just walk away from these 6,000 donors.”
…Some of Clinton’s most influential visitors donated millions to the Clinton Foundation and to her and her husband’s political coffers. They are among scores of Clinton visitors and phone contacts in her official calendar turned over by the State Department to AP last year and in more-detailed planning schedules that so far have covered about half her four-year tenure. The AP sought Clinton’s calendar and schedules three years ago, but delays led the AP to sue the State Department last year in federal court for those materials and other records.
While it is not certain if this violates the letter of the ethics agreements Clinton entered into before becoming Secretary of State, Clinton is known to have violated the letter of the agreement in other areas, and this certainly violates the spirit. Politico discussed earlier revelations with ethicists:
Meredith McGehee, policy director for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said that the actual language of the pledge is “not surprisingly, very lawyerly … [and] there is an argument to be made that Clinton herself has not violated what was in the pledge.”
“Whether she or her aides have violated the spirit of the pledge … yeah, of course they have,” McGehee said. “The notion of continuing contact between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department — that was not supposed to happen.”
There have been questions regarding improper relationships between the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s political actions for quite a long time. On April 24, 2015 the nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause called for a full audit of the Foundation:
Citing concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the influence of hidden overseas donors, Common Cause called on presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Clinton Foundation today to commission an independent and thorough review of all large donations to the foundation and to release the results.
“As Mrs. Clinton herself observed earlier this week, voluntary disclosure is not enough,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport. “A report in Thursday’s New York Times indicates that the Clinton Foundation violated an agreement to identify all of its donors. The foundation’s omissions create significant gaps in the information that voters need to make informed decisions at the polls.”
To ensure that the audit is complete, Rapoport said the foundation should enter into a contractual agreement with auditors to open its books fully and to make public the complete report of their review.
And to further guard against potential conflicts of interest, the foundation should stop accepting donations from foreign governments and foreign corporations, he said.
“There already is too much ‘dark money’ in our elections, in the form of spending by supposedly independent nonprofit groups that are not required to disclose their donors and operate as sort of shadow campaigns,” Rapoport said. “The Clinton Foundation and any other foundations tied to a candidate or his or her family provide one more way for potential donors to gain access and curry favor from candidates – without the public knowing about it. That lack of transparency creates a clear risk of undue influence and conflicts of interest.”
While the Clinton Foundation has garnered headlines this week, Rapoport noted that at least one other apparent presidential hopeful, Republican Jeb Bush, has close ties to a foundation. The former Florida governor created the Foundation for Excellence in Education and last year turned over its leadership to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; it should initiate and make public the same kind of independent review Common Cause is recommending for the Clinton Foundation, Rapoport said.
Though Mrs. Clinton has severed ties with the Clinton Foundation, her husband and daughter remain active in its operations.
“Six years ago, at Mrs. Clinton’s confirmation hearing for her appointment as secretary of state, then-Sen. Dick Lugar observed that ‘that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the secretary of state.’ He was right, and his remarks remain relevant today as Mrs. Clinton seeks the presidency,” Rapoport said.
The evidence of a need for a full audit of the Clinton Foundation, if not a special prosecutor as Donald Trump has called for, are even greater today.
The appointment of Breitbart news chief Stephen Bannon to head Donald Trump’s presidential campaign this week marks the official entree of the so-called “alt-right” into the Republicans’ top campaign…
…critics say that Bannon’s hiring resonates far beyond the Trump campaign in troubling ways. It marks a worrisome marriage of the Republican Party with an Internet culture that, they say, peddles in white identity, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and Clinton conspiracies.
In short, it doubles down on a largely white voting bloc that, in the words of Brendan O’Neill, a commentator for the conservative Spectator magazine in Britain, is “convinced the world is one big lefty, feminist plot to ruin your average white dude’s life.”
“The [Mexican] rapist comments, the banning Muslims comments – the crowd roars for that,” says Marc Hetherington, who has studied voter polarization at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “Republican voters have said this is what we want, and it’s now the national party. And it’s a problem for [the party establishment] to manage.”
From a purely electoral perspective, the move risks keeping the Trump campaign’s center of gravity too far right for a general election. On Friday, Trump strategist Paul Manafort, installed to help the candidate reach out to a wider audience, resigned from the campaign. While Trump will be even more adored by those who adore him, he could become even more objectionable to all others – and there are not enough of Trump’s core voters to tilt a presidential election, argue many political scientists and pollsters.
Trump shows no sign of understanding the problem his campaign faces. He polls as low as zero to one percent of the black vote in some polls, but says with a straight face that he can not only win the election, but win 95 percent of the African-American vote when he runs for reelection. His actions lend credibility to those such as Michael Moore who have suggested that Trump never really entered the race with the intent of becoming president.
Clinton is fortunate in her opponent as she probably could not have beaten any other Republican. Even Donald Trump might have been able to win if he ran a sane campaign, running against a candidate as weak as Hillary Clinton. Imagine if he ran as a reformer from outside, against the political system and against the dishonesty and corruption of the Clintons, but kept to the facts rather than getting distracted by right wing nonsense. He could have avoided the far right, differing from the conventional Republican line in having backed universal health care and preserving Social Security in the past. A more consistent opposition to Clinton’s neocon interventionism could have been a welcome alternative if he could have remained coherent on foreign policy. He certainly does have a point about maintaining peace with Russia as opposed to rushing us into a new cold war with Russia as Clinton would, but cannot be taken seriously when he looks like Putin’s patsy. He could have even out-flanked Clinton on the left on issues including his opposition to trade deals such as the TPP and his (inconsistent) opposition to the drug war.
By failing to broaden his base and instead turning to the lunatic fringe of the far right, Trump is rapidly losing any chance he had at winning. There is certainly a lot of time between now and November, and possibly outside forces such as new leaks about Clinton might change things, but so far Trump appears to be doing everything wrong if he has any desire to win.
Considering the major ethical breaches by Hillary Clinton and her top staff members while at the State Department, it is no surprise to hear that Clinton and some of her top aides failed to undergo required ethics training. McClatchy reports:
There is no evidence that Hillary Clinton or her top aides completed ethics training when they started at the State Department as required by federal law.
State Department records show only three of nine top Clinton aides took the mandated training for new employees. Records also suggest that none of seven top aides required to take subsequent annual training completed it.
No records indicate whether Clinton herself took any training.
Many of the aides still work for Clinton on her presidential campaign or are advising her in her bid for the White House against Republican Donald Trump in November.
The documents were obtained by the Republican National Committee, which filed a lawsuit to get them after a Freedom of Information Act request did not produce them.
Clinton’s campaign did not respond to questions about whether she and her aides completed training…
Government watchdog groups say Clinton should have been more concerned about the detailed training, particularly given that she had already run for president before she became secretary of state and is married to a former president who started a foundation with ties around the globe. The failure of the Clinton State Department to keep accurate records indicates that it was not a priority, they say.
“Given the nature of the Clinton Foundation and questions raised about the donors to the foundation one would think it would be a priority at the State Department,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, a government watchdog group which has called on Clinton and the foundation to commission an independent review of large donations.
Just last week, a new batch of emails raised additional questions about ties between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation as they indicated foundation officials tried to secure special treatment at the department for a donor and an associate. The campaign says Clinton did not take any actions as secretary of state because of donations…
The Office of Government Ethics criticized the Clinton State Department in late 2012 for a lack of compliance with annual ethics training that is supposed to outline department standards and principles, conflict of interest laws and financial disclosure forms.
The lack of documentation of undergoing ethics training does not necessarily mean that they received no training. Perhaps Clinton and her aides studied ethics at Trump University.
Stranger Things was the surprise hit of the summer. It was as close to a perfectly structured television show as I’ve ever seen, both telling a complete story in eight episodes and leaving some things open for future seasons. It has an excellent cast, a story which was compelling from the start, and a lot to bring back fond memories of both the 1980’s and previous stories in the genre. The early 1980’s was a perfect period for this story, when kids could roam freely without being immediately available by cell phone, kids would have to ask their science teacher for information rather than looking it up on line, and Cold War paranoia made the background of the story seem a bit more plausible. I briefly discussed the show last week without spoilers. In order to discuss the finale and where the second season might go, major spoilers are unavoidable.
If I had any complaints after the conclusion, it might be that questions which we might not have had time to wonder about while binging were left unanswered. I’m thinking of where the story was at even before the final few minutes when additional teasers for the future were inserted. Fortunately the producers do have an outline which presumably contains information which might answer some of my questions in future seasons.
We know something about the research being done at Hawkins Lab, and how Eleven presumably opened a portal to another dimension. There could be far more going on at the lab, and was there a one through ten?
What happened in the other dimension, which appears to be like ours with the atmosphere destroyed and people no longer alive? Some scenes which looked up to the stars led me to believe it was due to aliens, while the 1980’s time frame also makes me suspect it was the consequence of a nuclear winter. Why did we see only one Demogorgon? Perhaps such monsters, and perhaps other types, are roaming the other dimension, and only this one made it to their version of Indiana. Did such monsters destroy Earth, or were they created by radiation from a nuclear war? The kids faced a Thessalhydra while playing D&D at the end of the episode. Is this what they will encounter next? Is there a connection between their games and what is found in the Down Under? What was the egg which Hopper discovered?
What happened to Eleven and the monster? If this was a completed story we might assume she died after saying goodby to Mike. However, as we are dealing with parallel universes and the ability to travel between them, it wouldn’t be surprising if a sequel shows that they did go to another dimension. Deaths always must be questioned if there is no body–and in this show even a body did not prove death. If two dimensions were shown this season, are there other dimensions which might come into play in future seasons?
It is plausible that Will remained alive as long as he did by hiding out in alternate versions of places he knows in his universe, but how did he communicate with the lights? Even if messing with the wires in one dimension affected them in the other dimension, he showed remarkable accuracy in turning flashing specific lights by specific letters. Barb was not so fortunate, but to maintain some degree of horror I think it was necessary for her to have been killed. Most of the characters who were put in danger did survive. Will was alive in the end. His mother and Hopper were both captured but managed to be released. The kids survived the final attack of the monster in their school Someone had to actually die for the monster to be menacing in the end, and a character such as Barb who was only in a handful of scenes was the obvious “red shirt.”
The final few minutes of the series went further in providing loose ends to tie up in the future. What happened when Hopper went in that car. Why was he leaving Eggos Waffles in the box in the woods? Either he knew that Eleven was out there and was leaving her favorite food for her, or he perhaps he was leaving them to see if she returned to take them. I think the later is more plausible as if he was actually feeding her he would have presumably left more.
The biggest sign that we have not seen the last of the Upside Down was when Will coughed up the slug and briefly saw the other dimension. Was that just a mental flash back, or was there a breakdown between the dimensions in the bathroom? Is this the original Will, or yet another type of fake, this time created in the Upside Down? What about Will’s mother and Hopper? Both were in the Upside Down and had breathed in the air.
The Duffer brothers have verified in various interviews that they are hoping to produce a second season involving the same characters, with additional ones added. There will be a time jump of one year which makes matters much simpler when dealing with children actors, and allows for the story to have advanced.
Here are some excerpts of interviews with Matt and Ross Duffer:
How much do we know about Eleven’s true origins at this point, and how much did you want to keep a mystery?
Ross: We get the hint that her mom was involved in the experimentations back in the day resulting in her being born with these powers, but what we wanted to do with the show — and this season specifically — was mostly seeing the mystery and these extraordinary things through the eyes of these ordinary characters. By the end of the show they don’t know or understand everything. That is purposeful.
We do cut away to the government occasionally for these pops of mystery or horror, but what we didn’t want was to have a scene of the scientist just sitting down to explain everything. We wanted to slowly peel back layers of this mystery for audiences through the eyes of these very ordinary people. It’s not all solved by the end of the season. We wanted to resolve the main mystery of Will being gone, that was the story of this season.
Do you see the government or science conspiracy angle as a long-term mystery for the show?
Ross: There’s a lot there we don’t know or understand. Even with the Upside Down, we have a 30-page document that is pretty intricate in terms of what it all means, and where this monster actually came from, and why aren’t there more monsters — we have all this stuff that we just didn’t have time for, or we didn’t feel like we needed to get into in season one, because of the main tension of Will. We have that whole other world that we haven’t fully explored in this season, and that was very purposeful.
Matt: We wanted a simple drive and a somewhat simple mystery with bizarre pops of supernatural horror and then add a larger mythology behind this rift that we only know and refer to as the Upside Down because that’s what the boys decide to call it. Everything they’ve learned about it is kind of hypothetical. They’re theorizing based on their knowledge from fantasy gaming and their science teacher, Mr. Clarke. That’s as much as we get to understand it. I think part of it is us thinking in terms of horror, it’s scarier when you don’t fully understand what’s happening. If you were to encounter something from another world or dimension, it would be beyond comprehension. We talked a lot about Clive Barker and his stories. They’re very weird, and the weirder it is, the more inexplicable it is, the scarier it is.
As you head into future seasons, have you thought about how much of that 30-page document you want to reveal and explore?
Ross: We leave these dangling threads at the end. If people respond to this show and we get to continue this story — we had those initial discussions of where we might go with it. If there was going to be a season two, we would reveal more of that 30 page document, but we’d still want to keep it from the point of view of our original characters.
Even though you tell a complete story within the season, you end on a couple of major cliffhangers — the first being Eleven’s disappearance. Did you want to hint at where she’s been with the scene of Hopper leaving Eggos in the woods?
Matt: Obviously something happened to her when she destroyed and killed that monster and we don’t know what she went. Hopper is left with this guilt because he sold her out. We wanted to leave it sort of mysterious exactly what he knows… Have there been sightings in the woods or is he hoping she’s out there or has he already made contact with her? We don’t answer any of that, but we like the idea of potentially putting her and Hopper together.
It also seems that the Upside Down has changed Will or maybe he’s brought some of it back with him. What can you say about the flash he has in the bathroom?
Ross: We love the idea that [the Upside Down] is an environment that is not a great place for a human being to be living in. Will’s been there for an entire week, and it’s had some kind of effect on him, both emotionally and perhaps physically. The idea is he’s escaped this nightmare place, but has he really? That’s a place we wanted to go and potentially explore in season two. What effect does living in there for a week have on him? And what has been done to him? It’s not good, obviously.
They discussed more of these plot points with IGN:
IGN: What can you say about where Eleven is? That’s a very open question, of course, since there are different worlds you’re dealing with here.
Ross: It is. We wanted to leave it purposefully ambiguous. We always, from the very beginning, liked this sort of childlike idea that this escapee from this facility with these amazing powers would be able to just move into Mike’s basement and they’d have this wonderful life together and she’d go to school. It’s not that simple. The goal is to make it as complicated as possible, and without going into too much detail, to really tear them apart at the end of that season, to make things much more difficult. But we love Eleven.
Matt: But the great thing about having a portal to another dimension is that you’re not boxed in, narratively. There’s a lot we can do.
Ross: What did James Cameron say? No one’s ever dead in sci-fi.
IGN: Will clearly has been changed by this experience, it doesn’t seem in a great way. But he’s not the only one that went over there. Should we assume he might not be the only one affected?
Ross: That’s a good question. Though I will say that Will obviously was in there much longer. He had that thing hooked up to him. He went through a much more traumatic experience. A big part of Season 2 that we’ve been discussing is what is that effect? Did it affect anyone else? But specifically, is Will okay? The short answer being no.
Matt: But you’re absolutely right, three of the other characters were in there.
Ross: And they took off their helmets. And we know it’s a toxic environment. Nancy was in there too. Yeah, that’s an interesting question…
IGN: Is that the cool thing about doing a time jump? Asking what has Will been like in the year in between?
Ross: Yeah, that’s exactly it. And how have these characters moved on with their lives and not just in the plot and supernatural [aspect] but also just in terms of their characters and what have they done to fill that time?
Matt: We like that they’ve all had a very traumatic, nightmare experience together and after it’s over they kind of try to sweep it all under the rug. Season 2 would be very differently, structurally. It would be that everything seems great on the surface and then there are hints that things aren’t okay or that there are lingering effects from what happened last year. The initial instinct is to push that back and sweep that crap back under the rug but eventually it becomes impossible to ignore and so they have to confront the repercussions of everything they’ve experienced. I like to think about Stephen King’s It too. — that’s a big time jump. They jump like thirty years. But the idea that the evil is still there and comes back to haunt them and one of the characters finds out about it and kills themselves immediately. That image always stuck with me.
IGN: We see Hopper go for a little meeting at the end there. What can you say about everything he was involved in and how it might open up the world?
Ross: The intention in the scene when he gets in the car – and we want to get into this in the next season – is the clean up of what happened and the mess of all this and Will dying and coming back to life, whatever happened at the school, and the dead bodies… This is not a simple clean up job. It’s complicated. We have all these characters that know that these crazy things happen. We liked the idea that, sort of lead by Hopper, our characters are drawn closer to the government, in terms of having to make a bit of a deal with the devil. To us, that’s an exciting place to take our story.
Matt: But also the idea of going back to the laboratory and pull back the curtain a little bit. Maybe they brought someone new in. It’s not as evil and mysterious as it was in Season 1. We might start to get into what they’re doing a bit little more. Maybe they seem a little bit more friendly… as least at the beginning. A lot of the agents involved in that project are dead.
Ross: The monster and Eleven did a clean sweep of that whole operation, really.
Matt: So it would be new people which I think is cool. I think our initial instinct, when you talk about all of this stuff and “Oh god, this is all such a pain in the ass. We created such a mess.” But then we decided let’s just lean into the problems this created.
Ross: And even someone like Barb, where we left them, her poor parents think she’s just run away. There’s no closure there at this point, which I think is another reason why audiences are reacting like that. They’re like “You saved this boy, but…” What we were trying to do with that last scene in the hospital when Nancy leaves and Jonathan catches her right as she’s going is that there isn’t closure for Nancy. There isn’t closure for Barb’s parents. There is still, despite the relief that our boys are feeling, there still was tragedy here. We want to make sure that we don’t forget about that. We don’t want to forget about Barb.
Collider asked about the benefits of working with Netflix:
Eight episodes was the perfect length for the Season 1 narrative. Was that your decision, to keep it that tight?
MATT: Yes, it was.
ROSS: When we first pitched it to Netflix, we said, “This is an eight-episode story,” and they were like, “Great!” That’s the amazing thing about Netflix. They do not dictate. They don’t tell anyone that it should be 10 episodes or 13 episodes. They just say, “What do you need to tell your story?,” and that’s an amazing freedom that most storytellers who are working in film or TV haven’t had. This is a very recent thing. On television, you’ve gotta have a certain number of breaks for commercials. You’re working on a very clear structure.
MATT: On Wayward Pines, we were writing to commercial breaks.
ROSS: And you know how many episodes it has to be because they’ve got so many slots. Or with a film, you know it can’t be too long ‘cause you can’t get enough showings in. You’re very locked in. So, I think it’s an exciting time. We can play around a bit with form and length, and all of that, and it really just boils down to what we need to tell the story.
MATT: But even though this show has been successful, there’s no pressure to make it 13 episodes. People say, “They need to make way more episodes,” but I like to think one of the reasons it works for people is because it’s paced and it feels like a movie, and that’s because it’s not too long. I think, if we pushed it to 13 episodes, we’d have to start coming up with all these bullshit adventures they’re going on, that aren’t directly tied to the main tension. Eight felt about right. But if we’re developing Season 2 and it feels like seven or nine or eleven, Netflix would support any of those lengths.
How long do you see this series running? Have you thought about future seasons?
ROSS: We don’t know, specifically. We’re very weary of making it go on past the point it should. You want to end on a high note. That’s the goal. We’ve had initial discussions, but we haven’t quite landed on it.
One reason “Stranger Things” is effective is because the monster is revealed slowly. At first, it’s only glimpses. That out-of-sight, fear-of-the-unknown quality feels very “Jaws.”
Ross: “Jaws” was a big one. It’s a classic. The shark not working while making that movie made it much better. Also, we looked a lot at Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” On YouTube, there’s a cut of all the instances where you see the alien in that first movie, and it’s a couple minutes long. And that’s a two-hour movie. I think the reason it’s so scary is that, when it does appear, it has a certain amount of impact. So we thought, OK, we’re going to see the shadow in Episode 1, because we knew we had eight episodes. We were trying to slowly reveal it, until you finally saw the full thing. We don’t really deal with it until Episode 8. It’s a dude in a suit, and I remember reading old interviews with Ridley Scott about “Alien.” The studio was upset with him for it because it’s an amazing alien suit and you’re not shooting it. But the reason is because so much of it will look like a guy in a suit, and so much of it is that what you don’t see is much scarier. We tried to go back to that old-school style of filmmaking…
I want to pose a logistical plot question: Why did Will survive the Upside Down but Barb didn’t?
Matt: Right, I guess we think of it as ― and this is continuing with the “Jaws” references ― it’s the other dimension, the Upside Down, where the shark lives, and every once in a while it comes out of that ocean into our world on the surface and then it grabs a victim and pulls them down to the Upside Down. You saw Barb at the top of Episode 3 in the Upside Down. Just imagine that’s a world, and Barb tried to escape and failed to escape, but Will was sneakier, so he was able to escape. He was able to hide. He goes, initially, to that cubby in Episode 3 inside the Byers’ house, which is why Joyce is able to communicate with him. We had this whole backstory for what Will is doing, but we don’t see it all.
Ross: It’s more like the monster bringing him back to the net, which is why Hopper and Joyce are able to distract Will into being held in this net like a spider caught in its web. He’s brought there by the monster for eating later. Is he there for other reasons? We don’t know. We have ideas.
The way the season ends, there are enough questions answered for it to almost stand as a complete series. But the many unresolved mysteries set up an obvious next chapter. How much of the backstory regarding Dr. Brenner’s experiments and Eleven’s history did you have in place from the get-go?
Matt: We had ideas that we were sort of feeling out. We have a lot more backstory built in for Brenner and Eleven. Every time that we were writing scenes in the Hawkins Lab, we wanted to stop writing them, just because it seemed like we wanted to experience as much of it as possible in the present day and through the eyes of our ordinary characters. We just wanted to leave that as mysterious as possible. I hope that, with the mystery, people are responding to it and it’s not frustrating. But to us, the sci-fi elements are so much more fun if we’re understanding it via our characters. I like that basically everything we understand about what is going on is pretty much through the boys. And they’re only able to understand it through Dungeons and Dragons terminology and by talking to their science teacher, Mr. Clark. It’s all sort of hypothetical. I never wanted any scenes in the laboratory where you have Brenner and the scientists sitting around discussing what’s going on. And Eleven even doesn’t fully understand how she wound up where she wound up and what their plans for her are, so there are very few scenes with Brenner without one of our other main characters. The scenes that are with Brenner and not our main characters have almost no dialogue in them.
Ross: Moving forward, we’re going to get more into detail about the monster and where it came from and what the Upside Down really is. But with this season, we talked a lot about “Poltergeist.” At the end of the day, what really matters in “Poltergeist” is that Carol Anne is missing and they have to go through a portal in the closet to get her back. That matters more than the backstory. People want explanations for all that, so while we have answers for all this, what we really wanted to get from this first season is that this gate opens to this other dimension. What it really boils down to is, Will is in there and we have to get him back. The hope was that, because we resolved that, the first season will be satisfying to people and work as a stand-alone. Hopefully we get to go back and explore more of this stuff.
While Stranger Things brought us back to the 1980’s, Mr. Robot had a surprising beginning by opening as if it was a 1990’s sit-com, including appearances from Alf. If you haven’t watched it yet, do not skip the commercials, as they play into the illusion of a 1990’s television show. Of course, like other less obvious examples on the show, we are seeing what is happening in Eliot’s head as opposed to reality. There was even a plausible explanation for this, which led to a reconciliation with the imaginary Mr. Robot portion of him, after attempts by each to destroy the other earlier in the season. While we still do not know what happened to Tyrell Wellick, he does have a symbolic appearance here also.
Bryan Fuller is slowly teasing news on Star Trek Discovery. It will take place ten years before the original show, bridging events between Enterprise and the original Star Trek. There will be seven lead characters including a gay character, and a female lead who plays a lieutenant commander, providing a different perspective than leading with the Captain as on other series.
The bathroom at The Way Station bar in Brooklyn is bigger on the inside than on the outside. The video above has a tour of the TARDIS themed bathroom.
In other Doctor Who news, the 1996 movie staring Paul McGann is being released on Blu-ray later this year.
Jenna Coleman and Karen Gillan had a joint appearance at Boston Comic Con. Hopefully someone videotaped it and will upload it soon.
Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars movies, died at age 81 during the past week.
While Donald Trump’s antics are now receiving the bulk of the media coverage, reporters are also speaking out about how Hillary Clinton is interfering with the public’s right to know. Last month Carol Lee, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, argued that both Trump and Clinton are a threat to press freedom. This week Politico pointed out how Hillary Clinton is bucking tradition in limiting press access:
Think Donald Trump is the only candidate sidelining the press? Think again.
The Republican’s media blacklist, complaints about unbalanced coverage, and accusations that veteran reporters are simply fabricators have drawn the most vocal condemnation from the Washington press corps. But his stiff-arming has given Hillary Clinton an out that the media-wary candidate and her staff are just as ready to exploit.
First the Clinton press conferences and gaggles became rare. Now, the Trump campaign’s foot-dragging in allowing a basic press pool – a group of reporters that share travel duty to cover public events and minimize the logistics burden on the campaign – has given Clinton cover to not institute a protective pool, which would cover the candidate’s every move and ride on the campaign plane in the same way the White House press pool does and which typically begins when the candidates becomes the party’s official nominee.
One reporter covering the campaign said Clinton campaign officials directly cited Trump’s lack of a formal pool operation as part of the reason they have yet to set up a protective pool. Other reporters covering the Democratic nominee describe the situation as frustrating and “unlike anything in the past.”
“It’s a false equivalency,” said the Washington Post’s Anne Gearan, who is part of a team chairing the Clinton press pool for the remainder of the election but noted she did not know why the Clinton campaign hadn’t allowed a protective pool yet. “We’re advocating for access for the Clinton press pool. Whatever Trump does is immaterial as far as we’re concerned.”
The 2016 cycle marks the longest a candidate has gone without a protective press pool for the last three elections. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama’s coverage started in June, Sen. John McCain’s in July, as the Huffington Post noted last month. In 2012, Mitt Romney received protective pool coverage in early August (that year the Republican convention was held the last week of August)…
“From the Clinton side of it, certainly we have concerns that she is starting out with print organizations at a level of remove that is concerning to us,” Gearan said. “There are certain institutional norms that are in place at the White House for the way press access is treated. Those are not by right or law, they are as a result of negotiations and custom over a considerable amount of time. We certainly hope at this point in time there’s no consideration by the Clinton campaign that if she becomes president, she’d relax or go back on any of the current set of accommodations that are provided to the press in the White House.”
This is the kind of thing I worry about. And it didn’t even come via wikileaks. It’s from the State Department.
A new batch of emails released yesterday by the Department shows sometimes overlapping interests between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Hillary served as secretary of state, raising new questions about whether the Foundation rewarded its donors with access and influence at the Department. In one such communication, a Clinton Foundation executive in 2009 sought to put a billionaire donor in touch with the United States ambassador to Lebanon because of the donor’s interests there. In another, the Foundation appeared to push aides to Mrs. Clinton to help find a job for a Foundation associate. Her aides indicated that the department was working on the request.
The State Department turned the new emails over to a conservative advocacy group, Judicial Watch, as part of a lawsuit that the group brought under the Freedom of Information Act. But why weren’t these emails released before? Why weren’t they included in the 55,000 pages of emails Hillary previously gave the State Department, that she said represented all her work-related emails?
It is a shame that more Democrats are not showing concern over the corruption seen from Hillary Clinton.
“We applaud the steps taken today by the Obama Administration to remove research barriers that have significantly limited the scientific study of marijuana,” Harris said. “Marijuana is already being used for medical purposes in states across the country, and it has the potential for even further medical use. As Hillary Clinton has said throughout this campaign, we should make it easier to study marijuana so that we can better understand its potential benefits, as well as its side effects.”
“As president, Hillary will build on the important steps announced today by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance,” she continued. “She will also ensure Colorado, and other states that have enacted marijuana laws, can continue to serve as laboratories of democracy.”
As is common with Clinton, there is some benefit to her conservative approach, while she remains behind the times on the issue. With regards to medical marijuana, reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug would be a tremendous improvement over its current status as a Schedule I drug. While physicians cannot prescribe Schedule I drugs, Schedule II drugs can be prescribed. Presumably this would put an end to the federal government interfering with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
On the other hand, Schedule II drugs are the most restricted class of drugs which are prescribed. The class includes drugs such as Morphine, OxyContin, Methadone, and Norco. Written prescriptions, or a highly secure electronic prescribing system, must be used, and refills cannot be included. One reason to support the medical use of marijuana is to reduce the use of the more addictive and dangerous medications now in use.
More importantly, while a Schedule II drug can be prescribed for medical purposes, it does not end prohibition of marijuana. Over the past several years there has been growing support for legalization, with sixty-one percent in favor as of last March. The change Clinton supports would do nothing to resolve the problem of mass incarceration and the disproportionate incarceration of minorities.
In contrast, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson both support an end to prohibition. As I also noted yesterday, the generally incoherent Republican nominee Donald Trump is for and against legalization of marijuana.
The DEA has rejected a request to reclassify marijuana and it will remain a Schedule 1 drug. NPR reported on the decision, and the questionable rational:
The Obama administration has denied a bid by two Democratic governors to reconsider how it treats marijuana under federal drug control laws, keeping the drug for now, at least, in the most restrictive category for U.S. law enforcement purposes.
Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg says the decision is rooted in science. Rosenberg gave “enormous weight” to conclusions by the Food and Drug Administration that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and by some measures, it remains highly vulnerable to abuse as the most commonly used illicit drug across the nation.
“This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine,” he said, “and it’s not.”
Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, alongside heroin and LSD, while other, highly addictive substances including oxycodone and methamphetamine are regulated differently under Schedule II of the law. But marijuana’s designation has nothing to do with danger, Rosenberg said.
DEA announced a policy change designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA- registered marijuana manufacturers. This change should provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana. At present, there is only one entity authorized to produce marijuana to supply researchers in the United States: the University of Mississippi, operating under a contract with NIDA. Consistent with the CSA and U.S. treaty obligations, DEA’s new policy will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research purposes.
Of the presidential candidates this year, Hillary Clinton has been the most conservative on marijuana and drug policy, while Jill Stein and Gary Johnson support legalization. Donald Trump has spoken of legalization in the past, but is hardly consistent on this, or virtually anything else.
With his act which was so successful in Republican primaries failing miserably in the general election campaign, Hillary Clinton is expected to easily beat Donald Trump as things stand now. Of course there is still a long way to the election and things could possibly change. Just yesterday more email came out which Clinton failed to release demonstrating corruption involving the Clinton Foundation, and further violations of the ethics agreements Clinton made prior to confirmation as Secretary of State. In a normal year, or if the Democratic Party stood for anything other than getting elected, this would preclude Clinton from being considered for any elected office. Maybe Donald Trump will get his act together and even manage to look like a credible alternative in the debates, similar to how Ronald Reagan established himself as a legitimate candidate. More likely, Trump will continue to alienate more voters and possibly see states which have not voted blue in decades go to Clinton.
If we assume that current predictions of a humiliating loss do come true, this leads to the question of what happens to the rest of the Republican Party. There is increasing speculation that a Clinton landslide could lead to Democrats taking control of one, and possibly both, Houses of Congress. Some Republicans have gotten desperate enough to promote an independent candidate. Republicans also hope that more voters will split their tickets and vote for Clinton for president but still vote for Republicans down ticket. The Washington Post discussed this today, noting that Rob Portman is trying to align himself with the Clinton campaign in Ohio.
Portman is betting that a significant number of Ohioans in this turbulent election season might do something voters have not done in a long time: divide their preferences between the two parties as they work their way down the ballot. Breaking that pattern may be key to the survival of some endangered Republicans and possibly to the GOP’s hopes of holding onto its control of the Senate. It’s a clear acknowledgment of the fear that Donald Trump is pushing some voters away — and of the threat he poses to the rest of his party…
Split-ticket voting, once commonplace, has in recent elections grown rare in this polarized country. In 2012, for instance, only 6 percent of congressional districts — just 26 out of 435 — went for one party in the presidential race and another in picking a House member.
It was the lowest rate in 92 years — and a far cry from the zenith of split-ticket voting, which happened in Richard M. Nixon’s landslide of 1972, when 44 percent of the districts in the country voted one way for president and the other for the House.
Ohio is a good example of the trend. It has not split its preferences for the White House and the Senate since 1988, when it voted for both George H.W. Bush and to reelect then-Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D).
There are some signs that Portman may be succeeding. The latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll, for instance, shows the senator holding a five-point lead over the Democratic nominee, former governor Ted Strickland, despite how Clinton has pulled ahead in Ohio by a similar margin…
That both parties have nominated relatively unpopular candidates for president is the main force that could disrupt what has become the typical straight-ticket dynamic.
Trump has higher negative ratings than any standard-bearer in history; were he not in the race, that dubious distinction would go to Clinton. Also scrambling the equation is how more and more leading Republicans are turning their backs on Trump.
While the article stresses the unpopularity of the two major party nominees, it failed to discuss two important points. The first is that Clinton is distrusted by a significant majority of voters. Just as people voted for Nixon in 1972 but also voted for Democrats in Congressional races, there might be many voters who vote for Republicans down ticket to put a check on a president they justifiably distrust. While Clinton might have difficulty getting other Democrats elected on her coattails, a Democrat with a higher approval rating such as Bernie Sanders might have brought a strong liberal majority into Congress.
Secondly, it should be a lot easier for voters to cross party lines this year. While Donald Trump does not follow conservative orthodoxy, an old DLC Democrat such as Clinton, who also embraces neoconservative foreign policy, and is generally conservative on social issues, provides a good match for Republican voters. Neoconservatives have been moving towards Clinton over the last few months, preferring her to a more isolationist Donald Trump who has criticized their ideas for interventionism in countries such as Iraq, Libya, and Russia. Wall Street is also happy to have Clinton in office. Clinton’s biggest problem will probably be with small businessmen and those hurt by trade agreements she has supported, but Trump’s erratic behavior could limit the loss of potential Democratic votes which Clinton might otherwise experience.
Another option which was ignored is the possibility of voting for third party candidates such as Jill Stein or Gary Johnson for president, and then possibly voting for major party candidates down ticket.
While most talk is naturally about the current election, Republicans can also look ahead to a potential rebound in 2018 and 2020. Clinton has benefited this year from a primary system which was heavily tilted in her behalf, and an exceptionally weak general election candidate. If she continues her current practices of dishonesty and attempting to avoid accountability for her actions, Democrats could find that a victory under the conditions of this election is not to their long term benefit.