The Anti-Russia Hysteria Continues To Defy All Logic

Clinton apologists and other pro-war Democrats are excited today by the report from the Daily Beast that Russians used Facebook to promote pro-Trump rallies in seventeen cities. Do they really believe that these rallies tipped the election results? These were trivial compared to the crowds turning out for official pro-Trump rallies. What hurt Clinton was not these allegedly Russian-organized rallies, but the fact that so few people had any interest to turn out to see her.

It is certainly possible that Russia did violate US elections laws, but it is probably impossible in the internet age to enforce laws intended to prevent foreigners to spend money to promote a candidate in our elections. It does make sense that Russia would want to affect the election. They had a lot at stake. One candidate was a neocon who associated with people who desired regime change in Russia, and who has a long history of supporting a return to a Cold War atmosphere at least. The other candidate appeared far more willing to normalize relations between the United States and Russia. (Unfortunately, while not a neocon, Trump shows his own lack of respect for peace and international law, such as with his speech to the United Nations on North Korea, although it did include mixed messages.)

The $100,000 which Russia is believed to have spent on influencing the election is trivial, especially when compared to the amounts spent by other groups. This is also trivial compared to the actions by the United States to influence the elections in other countries.

It is rather hypocritical Hillary Clinton to deny the legitimacy of the general election, where there is far less evidence of any rigging compared to the Democratic primary system. The Democrats have used rules since 1972 to limit the possible choices in their primaries, and greatly increased their interference with the process to guarantee their desired outcome in 2016. The nomination of a candidate who required such a degree of unfair help to win the nomination is a far more important reason for Clinton’s loss than any meddling by Russia. Clinton’s attacks on the legitimacy of the election also contradicts her attacks on Donald Trump, calling any refusal on his part to accept the election results “a direct threat to our democracy.”

The concentration by Clinton apologists on Russian spending on Facebook ads and trolls also raises the question as to why they were so much more effective than the ads and trolls (both paid and volunteer) used by the Clinton campaign. Facebook tends to create a number of echo chambers, but it is questionable how much impact it has on changing people’s minds.

As Shattered revealed, Hillary Clinton latched onto the argument that others such as Russia were responsible within twenty-four hours of her loss to shift the blame elsewhere. With the claims that Russia was responsible for the DNC hack coming under increased question, they apparently see this as their strongest remaining case, regardless of how irrational this argument is. As I discussed yesterday, Peter Daou tried to lend credence to the argument with the absurd claim that, “If one mind was changed, if one voter was turned against Clinton, Russian interference altered the outcome.”

While the extent of Russian interference in the election remains under investigation, at this point there is zero evidence that Russia had any effect on the outcome. Peter Daou’s standard of one vote being affected is obviously absurd. Regardless of whether the evidence ultimately shows that Russia had an effect, there is no question that Clinton and her allies started making this claim with zero evidence in order to shift the blame for her loss. Unfortunately this has significance far beyond the fate of a failed presidential candidate. The greatest fear in seeing Clinton elected was that her election would lead to increased warfare, including a major deterioration in US-Russian relations. The Queen of Chaos threatens to bring this about even after losing.

Clinton Must Have Been A Really Weak Candidate To Be Beaten By Russian Facebook Ads

With claims that Russia hacked the election looking questionable, there has been increased concentration on the Russian propaganda argument this week, primarily based upon claims that Russia spent $100,000 on Facebook ads. Clinton must have been a really weak candidate if she lost the election due to Facebook ads bought by Russia.

Political Wire put this in perspective, showing how silly an argument this is:

The problem is that $100,000 — which bought about 3,000 ads — is inconsequential for Facebook. Just last quarter Facebook earned $9.3 billion. At that rate the company could earn $100,000 in just over a minute.

It’s not much for a presidential campaign either. According to Open Secrets, the presidential candidates spent $2.3 billion last year. Many donors to Super PACs gave millions by themselves. The $100,000 spent on Facebook disinformation from Russia is a rounding error.

The idea that $100,000 could swing a presidential election is silly.

We know for a fact that Clinton spent far more on propaganda promoting her, including a strong presence on social media. Why do some think that only the Russian propaganda influenced the election?

There are also reports claiming that Russia was secretly behind right wing demonstrations in Texas and Idaho, organized by fake Facebook groups before the election. Do people seriously think that Clinton would have won either Texas or Idaho if not for such Russian meddling?

In related debunking of excuses for Clinton losing to Donald Trump, Matt Bai dismissed the misogyny excuse:

Gender, while always an added challenge, never defined Clinton’s candidacy. And on the list of challenges that made Clinton a less than ideal candidate — her age, her perceived entitlement, her family history of scandal, her limited skill as a persuader — the fact that she was a woman probably hovered somewhere near the bottom.

In fact, you could make a reasonable case that, just as race actually helped Obama by giving white voters a chance to feel they were turning the page on an ugly historical chapter, gender probably benefited Clinton to some degree, too.

A lot of women who weren’t so excited by her personally were nonetheless inspired to support her candidacy anyway, because of the change she symbolized. That passion, more than anything else, probably enabled her to hold off Bernie Sanders’s ideological insurgency in the primaries.

Actually I would say it was a combination of Democratic Party rules going back to McGovern to promote more conservative candidates like Clinton, along with unprecedented interference by the DNC in 2016, which enabled her to hold off Bernie Sanders. There were also many reasons beyond those he listed which contributed to her loss.

He is right, though, in questioning whether her gender helped her. Most of those who would never vote for a woman would also never vote for a Democrat. While it is questionable how many votes she actually lost due to misogyny, her gender did influence many Democratic voters. A male running with her record and conservative views would have been a third tier candidate with no chance of winning, but far too many people ignored the facts in order to vote for a woman candidate. Unfortunately it was the wrong woman.

(Claims of Russian interference and misogyny are two excuses often used by Hillary Clinton, including in her fictional account of the 2016 election, What Happened. I am reading What Happened so you will not have to. I have started posting excerpts on my Facebook page, and will post them on the blog in the near future.)

Hillary Clinton Smears Bernie Sanders In What Happened

More excerpts have been released from What Happened.  After Bernie Sanders spent months campaigning for Clinton, she repaid him by smearing and lying about him in her new book. While Hillary Clinton does get dirtier than most, such attacks on political opponents are expected during a political campaign. Hillary Clinton takes the political slime to new heights by continuing her dishonest attacks long after the primary is over, undermining her claims that Bernie only entered the race to disrupt the Democratic Party. If anyone is disrupting and damaging the party, it is Clinton.

CNN reported on this exchange from her book:

In her forthcoming book, Clinton noted that the Vermont independent “isn’t a Democrat.”

“That’s not a smear, that’s what he says,” she wrote. “He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.”

After outlining how she disagrees with Sanders’ view of the Democratic Party, Clinton concludes, “I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too.”

Clinton also complained that Sanders “attacks against her during the primary caused ‘lasting damage’and paved the way for ‘(Donald) Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign.'” Actually it was Hillary Clinton who paved the way for the Crooked Hillary campaign when Clinton used her political position to sell access and influence. This includes grossly violating the ethics agreement she entered into before she was confirmed as Secretary of State. What is really sad is that she does not even understand why her actions are rightfully considered crooked.

Clinton is also clueless as to the ideological differences between Sanders and his supporters and Clinton: “Because we agreed on so much, Bernie couldn’t make an argument against me in this area on policy, so he had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character.” This ignores the many areas of disagreement, including her support for neoconservative interventionism, her far right wing record on civil liberties, her right wing views on social issues, and her dishonest attacks on single payer health care.

Clinton contradicted her own argument elsewhere in the book when she criticized Sanders’ ideas. She cannot consistently both deny there were disagreements on policy on one page and attack his ideas on another.

Despite her claims of agreeing on so much, during the campaign Clinton falsely claimed to be to the left of Sanders on guns during the campaign, despite his D- lifetime rating from the NRA, when it was Clinton who had described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer” in 2008.

Clinton’s problem is that she did not stand for anything and could never answer questions as to why she was running. If she really stood for something, she might have written a book promoting what she believes in as opposed to resorting to a book of bogus excuses for why she lost.

Clinton even resorted to repeating the debunked Bernie Bros narrative, which was actually created by Clinton supporters in an attempt to discredit her opponents. While sexist attacks on her supporters as she described undoubtedly did occur, comparable attacks on Sanders supporters from Clinton supporters were probably far more common on social media, with their attacks being both racist and sexist with their repeated slurs against “white males,” often including quite a bit of profanity. I have blocked far more supporters of Hillary Clinton on Facebook than backers of any other candidate for their rude, dishonest, and harassing behavior. This included Clinton supporter Tom Watson, who released portions of the book on Twitter.

Clinton’s arguments were essentially the same type made by her most rabid supporters such as Peter Daou, who launched a new pro-Clinton propaganda site over the weekend, which I wrote about yesterday.

There is some justice in the world. Despite the attempts of Clinton and her supporters to promote her with such falsehoods, Clinton’s favorability has fallen further since the election. As The Hill points out:

According to the latest Harvard-Harris Poll survey, Sanders is the most popular active politician in the nation, at 54 percent favorable and 36 percent unfavorable. Clinton’s favorability has not improved in her time out of the spotlight. She remains underwater at 42 percent positive and 53 percent negative.

There is an excellent chance that Clinton’s book will backfire and her favorability will fall further. RogueDNC correctly showed what section of the book store What Happened belongs in their graphic above.

Update: The Hill reports, Sanders brushes off Clinton criticism: ‘Look forward and not backward’

Peter Daou’s Newest Pro-Clinton Propaganda Site Allegedly Shut Down By Cyber Attack

Don’t believe for a moment that just because Hillary Clinton suffered a humiliating defeat to Donald Trump that the Clintonistas are gone for good. Peter Daou, the Steve Bannon for Team Clinton, has set up yet another pro-Clinton propaganda site named Verrit. After Clinton mentioned the site on Twitter the site crashed. While the most likely explanation is that it could not handle the heavy influx of Clinton supporters who saw her Tweet, Daou insists on social media that it has been verified that this was a denial of service attack.

As is usual with the Orwellian claims from Peter Daou, the propaganda put out by Clinton supporters are facts while actual verified facts about Hillary Clinton are labeled “smears and harassment and false narratives and negative talking points.” Also typical of Daou, anyone who disagrees with the narrow viewpoints acceptable in Hillaryland is either from the radical right or the fringe left. There is no room in his mind for any rational disagreement from either conservatives or anyone more liberal than Hillary Clinton.

Recode reports on the alleged cyber attack:

The saga began Sunday night when Clinton — to the apparent surprise of her followers — took to Twitter to offer her personal endorsement of a new, relatively unknown website called Verrit.

In the words of its creator, Peter Daou, Verrit is his attempt to create an online hub for Clinton backers so that they can find easy-to-share facts, stats and other “information you can take out to social media when you’re having debates on key issues people are discussing,” he said in an interview…

Soon after Clinton’s tweet, though, Verrit stopped loading for web users — the result of a “pretty significant and sophisticated” cyber attack, Daou told Recode. He declined to share the name of his hosting company, and did not yet know who exactly was behind the incident. But he said the traffic driven by Clinton’s endorsement — which generated more than 10,000 new Twitter followers for Verrit — isn’t responsible for the outage.

Once it’s back online, Daou nonetheless has big ideas for Verrit. A former aide to Clinton’s 2008 campaign who later ran ShareBlue, a left-leaning news site that defended her candidacy, he wants Verrit to become a “platform or place in the media” for Clinton backers to “call home and feel like they’re not facing attacks and smears and harassment and false narratives and negative talking points.”

Eventually, Daou hopes the site will have a podcast, some analysis, a hub on YouTube and other elements, as he aims to help Clinton backers fight the “bullying from the radical right and fringe left. Asked about funders, Daou said he’s “just beginning the process, actually.”

More at CNET and Gizmodo.

The site was unavailable earlier on Sunday. I was able to access it earlier today, but it is no longer accessible as I am completing this post. Assuming Daou is correct about this being a denial of service attack, this is not terribly surprising. While I am opposed to the use of this tactic by any side and against any target, Daou has certainly provoked such attacks with his frequent vile and dishonest attacks against those who do not share his narrow political views and worship of Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders and his supporters, along with Republicans, are frequent targets of such attacks.

Related Post:

Matt Taibbi Stands Up To Putin-Based Smears Against Sanders Supporters And The Left

Conan On Donald Trump’s Afghanistan Policy

Before announcing his decision on Afghanistan, President Trump was said to have made a ‘rigorous’ review of the issue. Yes, Trump said, “I must have read at least four tweets about it!” –Conan O’Brien

Or as I said last week on Facebook: Donald Trump’s plans for Afghanistan were incoherent because aides talked him out of announcing first plan–appeal to Daenerys Targaryen to send dragons to help.

The Danger Of Hillary Clinton’s Theocratic Views

The Atlantic has a story about Hillary Clinton’s religious views entitled, Hillary Wants to Preach. They miss the real issue with regards to Hillary Clinton and religion as her religious views have affected her views on policy. Clinton has always been oblivious to First Amendment rights, seeing no problems when her political policies violate First Amendment related to either freedom of expression or separation of church and state.

I have always suspected that the vast ideological difference between myself and Clinton is that while I am a civil libertarian concerned with defending our rights, Hillary Clinton’s political views are based upon her strong religious views. The article notes, “Clinton might argue that her politics were the ultimate expression of her faith. Methodists helped lead the early 19th-century Social Gospel movement, a faith-based campaign for greater aid to the poor and vulnerable.” While perhaps her religious views led her to some admirable goals, her religious views probably have also been responsible for many of her conservative political positions on social and cultural issues throughout her career. Plus, like many who are deeply religious, she finds in her religion a way to justify her dishonesty and personal corruption.

While Clinton has usually kept open talk about her religion out of her political speeches, this is hardly the first time it has come up. She was mocked quite a bit when she cited the Bible as the book which influenced her the most. This was generally taken as a politically calculating move, but afterwards I believed, for better or worse, that in this case she was saying what she believed.

Clinton discussed her religious views in an interview with Newsweek in 1994. (Hat tip to The Blaze for the link.) One paragraph is particularly interesting:

Despite what some critics believe, the nation’s First Lady is not markedly feminist in her religion. She thinks abortion is “”wrong,” but, like her husband, she says, “”I don’t think it should be criminalized.” She does not follow feminist theology and seems unaware of the upheaval its most radical exponents have created among Methodists in the name of greater inclusiveness.

Even without having read this interview before, I have longed warned that Hillary Clinton’s support for abortion rights has never seemed very sincere, and had predicted that if she was elected she would be far more likely than Donald Trump to actually bring about further restrictions on abortion rights while triangulating with Republicans. She has already expressed a willingness to compromise, and has supported restrictions such as parental notification laws. Her often stated view of keeping abortion safe, legal, and rare plays into Republican policies to restrict access, along with placing a stigma on women who have had abortions.

The danger of Clinton’s religious views were most apparent when she was in the Senate and worked with The Fellowship to increase the role of religion on public policy. I posted about this in 2008, quoting from an article from Mother Jones: 

These days, Clinton has graduated from the political wives’ group into what may be Coe’s most elite cell, the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast. Though weighted Republican, the breakfast—regularly attended by about 40 members—is a bipartisan opportunity for politicians to burnish their reputations, giving Clinton the chance to profess her faith with men such as Brownback as well as the twin terrors of Oklahoma, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and, until recently, former Senator George Allen (R-Va.). Democrats in the group include Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who told us that the separation of church and state has gone too far; Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is also a regular.

Unlikely partnerships have become a Clinton trademark. Some are symbolic, such as her support for a ban on flag burning with Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and funding for research on the dangers of video games with Brownback and Santorum. But Clinton has also joined the gop on legislation that redefines social justice issues in terms of conservative morality, such as an anti-human-trafficking law that withheld funding from groups working on the sex trade if they didn’t condemn prostitution in the proper terms. With Santorum, Clinton co-sponsored the Workplace Religious Freedom Act; she didn’t back off even after Republican senators such as Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter pulled their names from the bill citing concerns that the measure would protect those refusing to perform key aspects of their jobs—say, pharmacists who won’t fill birth control prescriptions, or police officers who won’t guard abortion clinics.

Clinton has championed federal funding of faith-based social services, which she embraced years before George W. Bush did; Marci Hamilton, author of God vs. the Gavel, says that the Clintons’ approach to faith-based initiatives “set the stage for Bush.” Clinton has also long supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that has become a purity test for any candidate wishing to avoid war with the Christian right.

I discussed this again during the 2016 campaign cycle, again noting that Clinton’s affiliation with the religious right was seen in her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, along with her promotion of restrictions on video games and her introduction of a bill making flag burning a felony.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, Clinton’s lack of concern for First Amendment issues includes a poor record on both separation of church and state and freedom of expression. This includes her support for making flag burning a felony as mentioned above, as well as sounding remarkably like Donald Trump in mocking freedom of speech while promoting restrictions to supposedly fight terrorism. After losing the election, Clinton called on Congress to restrict what she considered fake news. This appears to include both the many bogus attacks on Clinton, along with the many valid points made despite her repeatedly debunked denials. Regardless of the accuracy of someone’s speech, First Amendment rights do not have an exclusion for “fake news” which a political leader objects to.

Clinton’s primary problem might be that she wound up in the wrong political party. Every bone in her body is that of a conservative Republican and she has struggled to alter her public statements to fit in with Democrats. It is often pointed out that she started in politics as a Goldwater Girl, however this is an insult to Barry Goldwater. Despite other faults, Goldwater was far more socially liberal than Clinton. Goldwater abhorred the religious right and its influence on the Republican Party, and certainly would not have joined The Fellowship as Clinton did.

It is also notable that many of Clinton’s supporters have as little respect for freedom of expression as she does. Write a comment on Facebook about what you had for lunch that day, and nobody will complain. However post something critical of Clinton and her supporters will descend repeating the same lines about what a waste of time it is to still talk about her (while also Liking and Sharing posts if they are favorable to her). Of course the battle between liberals and DLC Democrats like the Clintons has gone on since the 1990’s and this battle for control of the party continues to this day. Clinton supporters have been engaging in an on-going dirty attack against the left. As I posted just earlier today, Clinton has announced two new people for her “Resistance” PAC, oblivious to how she is part of what we are resisting.

Establishment Democrats Relying On New McCarthyism To Attack The Left As They Move To The Right

With the Democratic Party moving right, becoming increasingly like the Republican Party of circa 2002, while current Republicans have become even further detached from reality, they have also increasingly been attacking the left. We already have gone through the last election watching Hillary Clinton campaign against Medicare for All, promoting restrictions on civil liberties, and defending her failed history of neocon interventionism, while her supporters attributed criticism from the left to sexism, and have moved closer towards embracing neoconservativism. This may have just foreshadowed what to expect in the future.

Ryan Cooper recently discussed how the left questions establishment Democrats such as  Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick over their records. He predicted in The Week how the Democratic establishment will respond by continuing to play dirty against the left:

..if they just want to have a retread of the 2015-16 primary, the center could just try to win dirty. The left, they might say (working hand-in-glove with sympathetic columnists), just doesn’t like minority or female candidates because they are racist and sexist.

I would bet quite a lot of money the centrist Democratic establishment will opt for the latter strategy. Indeed, some are already doing so — like Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, elite Democrats’ in-house think tank.

That would be pretty rich coming from the crowd that shamelessly leveraged Islamophobia to keep Keith Ellison — probably the left’s second-most trusted politician, after Bernie Sanders — out of the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Of course that is what we are already seeing. Just today Shareblue has a defense of Kamala Harris which resorts to such dirty attacks, claiming that the objection to Harris from the left is that she “shares a gender with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Such attacks on the left based upon false claims of misogyny are especially absurd considering that many people who ultimately backed Sanders had previously supported Elizabeth Warren before she declined to run. Some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Many are now backing Tulsi Gabbard for the 2020 nomination. (Many of us are also excited about Jodie Whittaker breaking the glass ceiling in the TARDIS.)

Many of the most vile attacks on Bernie Sanders and the left have come from former Clinton staffer Peter Daou, who runs Shareblue. The Washington Free Beacon showed a recent tirade from Daou on Twitter within the past week. Conservative Democrats (often labeled centrists in light of how far right the middle has moved in American politics) have become the major opponents of liberal and progressive ideas, while turning to the tactics of the far right.

George Zornick responded to MyCarthy style attacks on Bernie Sanders from Peter Daou and Melissa McEwan in an article at The Nation entitled, Bernie Sanders Is a Russian Agent, and Other Things I Learned This Week: A case study in how fake news is attracting liberals. He pointed out how Peter Daou has started a string of accusations that Sanders is practically a Russian agent based upon false claims:

The jumping-off point seems to have been when Peter Daou, an avowed Hillary Clinton fan and major Twitter personality, quoted-tweeted my original post. Daou spends almost as much time energetically trashing Sanders as he does attacking Trump, and many of the respondents were followers of his. He certainly did not imply Sanders was a secret KGB asset, though, writing only: “Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the ONLY TWO VOTES **AGAINST** the Russia sanctions bill. Bernie was out of sync with every Dem senator.” (It was a Russia/Iran sanctions bill, and Sanders made it clear he objected only to the Iran part, but never mind.)

Sanders made his position quite clear, including on his web site, but such facts are irrelevant to anti-liberal hatchet men like Daou who are more interested in Swift Boating Sanders (even if Sanders’ concerns were also expressed by John Kerry). If anything, I think that Sanders has been too accepting of the Democratic party line on Russia, which goes far beyond the facts which have been established. Despite this, while Daou’s followers on social media have found it a sign of extremism that Sanders and Paul voted together, I see a view shared by two Senators who frequently differ from their party’s orthodoxy to be worthy of consideration.

Zornick went on:

So how did people jump to this conclusion that Bernie Sanders, by opposing Democrats, must ipso facto be working at the behest of Russia? It wasn’t entirely organic. And it points to how fake news can infect some of our brethren on the left.

Blame starts with the people with megaphones that peddle this nonsense. Eric Garland, who became a Twitter celebrity with his bizarre “game theory” thread, has explicitly tied Sanders to Russia in his threads. So has Melissa McEwan on her Shakesville blog. “Bernie Sanders, who has visited Russia, has not been, to my knowledge, suspected of being vulnerable by Russian kompromat cultivated on his visits, unlike Donald Trump. But, as I said above, if I intend to say something, I will state it plainly, and here I am plainly stating that I do believe these connections warrant more scrutiny,” she wrote. The Palmer Report, which churns out Russia-related fake news by the pixel load, wrote a post in April: “Bernie Sanders must disclose what he knows about his campaign adviser Tad Devine and Russia.” And of course, uber-grifter Louise Mensch has joined the conspiracy theorists.

We have a long way to go until the 2020 primary battles and can expect to see far more of such dirty tactics from conservative Democrats who place victory for someone with a D after their name over principle, failing to understand that their abandonment of principle is a major reason why Democrats have been on such a losing streak and could not even beat Donald Trump.

Update: 

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

Federal Court Rules Against Politicians Blocking Critics On Social Media With Similar Suit Pending Against Donald Trump

In June I looked at complaints against Donald Trump for blocking people from his Twitter account. With social media becoming the major arena for the discussion of public issues, those blocked on Facebook or Twitter have decreased opportunity to both follow public debate and to respond. This becomes more significant as public officials use social media for matters of public policy. A federal court has ruled against a public official who has blocked users in response to criticism. Slate reports:

Does the First Amendment bar public officials from blocking people on social media because of their viewpoint?

That question has hung over the White House ever since Donald Trump assumed the presidency and continued to block users on Twitter. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has sued the president on behalf of blocked users, spurring a lively academic debate on the topic. But Trump isn’t the only politician who has blocked people on social media. This week, a federal court weighed in on the question in a case with obvious parallels to Trump’s. It determined that the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause does indeed prohibit officeholders from blocking social media users on the basis of their views.

Davison v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors involved the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Phyllis J. Randall. In her capacity as a government official, Randall runs a Facebook page to keep in touch with her constituents. In one post to the page, Randall wrote, “I really want to hear from ANY Loudoun citizen on ANY issues, request, criticism, compliment, or just your thoughts.” She explicitly encouraged Loudoun residents to reach out to her through her “county Facebook page.”

Brian C. Davidson criticized Loudoun County’s School Board and then sued after being temporarily blocked.  U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris wrote in his decision:

Defendant’s offense at Plaintiff’s views was therefore an illegitimate basis for her actions—particularly given that Plaintiff earned Defendant’s ire by criticizing the County government. Indeed, the suppression of critical commentary regarding elected officials is the quintessential form of viewpoint discrimination against which the First Amendment guards. By prohibiting Plaintiff from participating in her online forum because she took offense at his claim that her colleagues in the County government had acted unethically, Defendant committed a cardinal sin under the First Amendment.

This would seem to be relevant to Donald Trump’s actions in blocking people who disagree with him. The Wall Street Journal noted the ramifications of this decision for a similar case against Donald Trump:

The lawsuit against Mr. Trump in federal court in Manhattan was brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of seven users whom Mr. Trump blocked.

“We hope the courts look to this opinion as a road map in holding that it is unconstitutional for President Trump to block his critics on Twitter,” said Alex Abdo, senior staff attorney at the institute.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

There is one potential difference as technically Trump is using his personal account, although he is using it to issue pronouncements related to government policy. Sean Spicer previously said that Trump’s tweets should be considered official statements.  Slate addressed this point:

There’s just one lingering issue with this comparison: It isn’t clear whether Trump intends his personal Twitter page to function as a public forum the way Randall did. (Trump has a presidential account, @POTUS, from which he does not block users—but he doesn’t use it for interesting communications.) Public officials have more latitude to censor expression in personal, private forums than they do in forums that they use to speak in their official capacity. Trump’s lawyers will almost certainly argue that his personal Twitter feed is a private forum, not a government project.

But that argument will likely fail. As Trump’s recent tweets banning transgender military service demonstrate, the president uses Twitter not just to convey official policy but also for lawmaking. This habit would seem to turn his feed into a quintessential public forum. And so, under the First Amendment, he lacks the power to block those users who tweet their discontent at @realDonaldTrump.

Investigations Of Trump Expand Along With Speculation That He Will Repeat Saturday Night Massacre

News reports discussed two avenues of investigation being pursued regarding Donald Trump. One of them, his business ties, appears to be of value. The other is of more questionable value–fake news on Facebook.

Bloomberg is reporting that Robert Mueller is expanding the investigation into Trump’s business ties:

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The Wall Street Journal has further information related to the investigation of Paul Manafort:

Mr. Manafort, a Republican political consultant, spent years working for a pro-Russia party in Ukraine. He served as Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign manager for roughly three months in 2016 before resigning.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. also are investigating Mr. Manafort’s real-estate transactions, The Wall Street Journal has reported, with both offices examining his dealings for possible money-laundering and fraud. Messrs. Schneiderman and Vance are Democrats.

Mr. Manafort has spent and borrowed tens of millions of dollars in connection with properties in the U.S. over the past decade, including a Brooklyn, N.Y., townhouse and California properties being developed by his son-in-law, the Journal has reported.

The nature of the investigation, along with the contempt for law enforcement expressed by Donald Trump in an interview with The New York Times, has many predicting that Trump will wind up firing Paul Manafort in a scenario reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Periodically I receive comments that such criticism of Trump comes from out of touch left wingers, so I will note that the conservative National Review also predicts, Yeah, Trump Is Probably Going to Fire Robert Mueller.

While I hope to see Manafort pursue investigations into the business dealings of Donald Trump and his associates, I question whether Congressional investigators will really find out much of value in an investigation of fake news and Facebook. CNN reports:

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, met with Facebook officials in California more than a month ago as part of his committee’s investigation into potential collusion or election interference, and he’s convinced the company can explain whether anyone from the Trump campaign helped Russians boost fake news articles targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Warner is testing the theory popular among Democratic operatives that Russia was behind spikes in fake news that were anti-Clinton and that Russia had help targeting those articles from US political operatives…

At the core of Warner’s questioning is a theory among Democratic operatives and former top-level Clinton campaign staff that Russia had help from domestic political operatives to micro-target fake news articles. No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.

Last month, Senate intelligence staff interviewed Brett Horvath, a social media technology expert who argues it’s possible that Russian operatives got political data that could then be used for successfully micro-targeting swing voters on Facebook.

“Facebook has all the data that could prove this is happening or not happening, that’s the starting point,” Horvath, a veteran Democratic political operative, told CNN.

The key line above is, “No evidence has been uncovered to prove that theory.”

There certainly was fake news spread during the campaign, as there also was against Barack Obama and John Kerry in their presidential campaigns. Only the Clinton campaign has gone so far as to blame Russia for this, with reporters covering the campaign to write the book Shattered reporting that Clinton developed the strategy of blaming Russia and others for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing, failing to take responsibility for her own mistakes. Whether or not the fake stories being spread came from Russia, they did far less harm to Clinton than the damage caused by her violation of State Department rules (as verified by the State Department Inspector General), and then repeatedly being caught lying about the matter. The truth was far more damaging than fiction.

The questionable business ties involving Donald Trump and others in his family and campaign appears to be worth investigating, but I bet it will be a mistake to divert resources from the more important issues to pursue partisan fantasies. If Democrats rely upon such weak attacks they risk allowing the Republicans to survive the actual Trump scandals.

Vox, A Voice Of The Democratic Establishment, Now Realizes That Bernie Sanders Is The Democrats’ Real 2020 Frontrunner

During the 2016 campaign, Matthew Yglesias and Vox were often seen as a voice for Hillary Clinton and “Neoliberal Corporatism.” It is with this background that I find it significant that Yglesias now proclaims that Bernie Sanders is the Democrats’ real 2020 frontrunner. While many establishment Democrats continue to resist Sanders and his supporters to various degrees, there are signs such as this that others are acknowledging this reality.

The post by Yglesias makes some points which I have made in the past, leaves out some things of significance, and does have some interesting material which Sanders supporters might not be aware of.

Yglesias does repeat a point I have made previously, both in the context of one reason why Sanders lost, along with an explanation for why Sanders went on to back Clinton and try to work with the establishment. It is important to understand how things looked before Sanders entered the race. Clinton’s nomination appeared inevitable and nobody (including Sanders) thought he had a chance. Sanders two main goals were to force Democrats to consider his economic views, and to strengthen his position in the party in order to push his priorities in the future. As Vox put it:

By the time it was clear the Sanders 2016 campaign had legs, it was already fatally hobbled. Almost no one believed in the summer and fall of 2015 that he stood any chance of beating Hillary Clinton — and that included Sanders himself. As Patrick Healy and Yamiche Alcindor reported last April, he “was originally skeptical that he could beat Mrs. Clinton, and his mission in 2015 was to spread his political message about a rigged America rather than do whatever it took to win the nomination” and only began to really focus on trying to win when his poll numbers unexpectedly soared in early 2016.

Consequently, labor leaders who sympathized with Sanders’s critique of Clinton didn’t give any serious thought to actually endorsing him. Instead, they used his presence in the race as leverage to extract concessions on issues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Cadillac tax on high-value health insurance plans from Clinton.

And since Sanders was running to raise the profile of his issues rather than to win, he didn’t bother to develop much in the way of answers to foreign policy questions, even though Clinton’s record of support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and her hawkish instincts were some of her biggest vulnerabilities with the Democratic Party base.

Elected officials were almost uniformly afraid to endorse him, even if their policy views were closer to his than to Clinton’s, and left-of-center think tanks — including ones that are deliberately positioned to the left of mainstream Democrats ideologically — shied away from working with Sanders on policy development, for fear that Clinton’s wrath would destroy them if they did.

I would also add that the view that he could not win also affected Sanders’ early strategy. He continued to work in the Senate and initially only campaigned part time. If he realized how close the campaign would be he might have campaigned more in 2015, including going to the Super Tuesday states and work earlier to increase minority support. He might also have protested more about the lack of early debates, and made an issue out of Clinton’s scandals.

The lack of early debates also brings up another point which Yglesias ignored–the degree to which the nomination was rigged for Clinton from the start. There was undoubtedly pressure to clear the field for her, and Wikileaks made it clear that the DNC was not following their own rules about neutrality. This has further been confirmed in the class action lawsuit against the DNC.

Rules since McGovern, including Super Delegates and front loading the process with southern states, were specifically written to get a more conservative nominee. The irony is that they failed to change with the times, and these rules gave the Democrats a nominee who could not even beat Donald Trump, while harming a strong general election candidate such as Sanders when he did arise.

Rather than reverse the outdated rules, the Democrats instead altered the rules even further in 2016 to help Clinton. This included limiting debates, changing fund raising rules, and refraining from announcing the popular vote in Iowa, which Sanders probably won, as was done in 2008. Harry Reid’s actions in Nevada, at a time when he claimed to be neutral, also helped tilt the race towards Clinton. Despite the primary process, Hillary Clinton was chosen in back rooms by the Democratic establishment in 2016 in a manner which was little different than how parties picked their nominees in the proverbial smoke filled rooms in the past, ultimately costing the Democrats the election.

Things will be different in 2020. Yglesias also points to how Sanders is building a team to expand upon the issues he raised in 2008. As I noted again yesterday, among the major reasons I supported Sanders were his opposition to the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, as opposed to the major issues he campaigned on. A future campaign will hopefully include these issues. Yglesias wrote:

Earlier this year, Sanders — who doesn’t sit on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, or Intelligence Committees — quietly added to his team Matt Duss, a veteran Middle East analyst known for looking askance at America’s tendency toward uncritical alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel. It’s a clear sign that Sanders, who had a keen interest in left-wing foreign policy as mayor of Burlington but hasn’t had much of a profile on the issue in Congress, is serious about being able to play competently on the full spectrum of issues.

Sanders also picked up Ari Rabin-Havt, best known in recent years for his Sirius XM radio show but previously an adviser for Harry Reid in his early years as Democrats’ Senate leader.

While Sanders is deepening his team in Washington, his national political organization Our Revolution is diligently working to get Sanders supporters elected to state and local offices. Critically, the list of Our Revolution winners — a group that includes House members, state legislators, state party chairs, and even city council members — is quite ethnically diverse. His camp is aware that 2016’s African-American outreach strategy was flawed in both concept and execution, and he’s setting himself up to be able to count on black and Latino elected officials from all regions of the country as surrogates while also courting national leaders like the NAACP’s William Barber.

Yglesias also says that Sanders is moderating his views, but if true he does remain well to the left of Hillary Clinton. While Clinton campaigned against single payer health care, Sanders continues to push for Medicare-for-all. I cannot disagree with Yglesias when he points out that Sanders’ age could be a problem in 2020. We will have to wait and see if he is still up to running. The post did look at other possible candidates should Sanders not run, concluding by saying that “Among the Bernie faithful the most frequently named fallback candidate isn’t the well-known Warren or labor-liberal warhorse Sherrod Brown. It’s Nina Turner…”

Yglesias ended with a strong argument that “It’s time to take Bernie Sanders seriously”

The Democratic Party establishment is, in many respects, in worse shape than it realizes.

Sanders’s insurgent campaign revealed a Democratic Party electorate that is fairly eager to embrace an ideological champion as a progressive counterpoint to the decidedly conservative GOP. The notion of pragmatism continues to carry weight, but having lost control of all three branches of the federal government and blundered to a point where Democrats don’t control the state Senate in New York or the governor’s mansion in Illinois, party leaders’ credentials as strategic masterminds are in question.

Last but by no means least, relying on African-American voters as a bulwark against left-wingery, as Clinton did, is tenuous as black views on economic policy are generally quite left-wing. Democrats now rely heavily for votes on the large — and very Democratic-leaning — millennial generation that lacks clear political memories of the Cold War or the booming neoliberal economy of the 1990s, so “socialism” isn’t a scare word for them, even as it remains unpopular nationally.

Sanders became their champion over the course of 2016 and continues to hold that status now. But while in 2016 he faced a unified — and intimidating — opponent and launched with a ramshackle campaign, today he has a strong national political organization, a proven fundraising track record, and is moving decisively to address his weak points on international affairs, policy development, and minority outreach. Everyone agrees that in a perfect world he’d also wave a magic wand and scrape 10 or 15 years off his age, but that’s not possible. The movement he’s created lacks an obviously more compelling successor, and he continues to be broadly popular with the public.

Predicting the future is a mug’s game. But if Bernie Sanders runs again, he’ll be hard to beat. And as far as one can tell, he’s doing everything you would do to set yourself up to run again.

While I often disagreed with Yglesias during the 2016 campaign, this is a far more realistic viewpoint than he expressed previously, and far more realistic than the delusional account of the race which Peter Daou posted on Facebook today.