Carly Fiorina Takes Pandering To A New Low During Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl got peripherally involved in politics for second reason, in addition to the skywriter who wrote “Trump is Disgusting” over the Rose Parade. Carly Fiorina showed that she might be the worst panderer of all among politicians. Before the Rose Bowl, in which Iowa played against Stanford, Fiorina tweeted: “Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today.”

She is saying she is rooting against her own school to pander to Iowa voters. It is one thing to live in a state and extol its virtues (even if we don’t really believe the candidate believes what they are saying), or even alter their accent depending upon where they speaking as Hillary Clinton does. It is a little more questionable ethically, but not unexpected, for a candidate to alter their positions based upon regional issues. However, to betray one’s school in such a manner will fool nobody and is far more likely to result in distrust and contempt than support.

I know several alumni of my alma mater’s rivals at Ohio State and Michigan State. I don’t expect them to do anything but support their teams and they don’t expect me to do anything but support Michigan. Needless to say, responses on Twitter were overwhelmingly negative.

And congratulations to Jim Harbaugh on his tenth win of the season, the first of many bowl victories in the Citrus Bowl, and a possible top ten finish in his first year back home in Ann Arbor.

#goblue

Greater Enthusiasm Seen For Sanders On Social Media Might Propel Him To Victory

Anyone on social media will not be surprised by this. The Washington Post displayed two word clouds from Zignal Labs showing what is being said about the candidates. The top is obviously on Hillary Clinton, and the bottom on Bernie Sanders:

Word Cloud Clinton

Word Cloud Sanders

The words used to describe Clinton are quite different than those used in relation to Sanders, with the largest words being unethical, behavior, fired, and lies for Clinton. According to the article, “It’s driven by the intense dislike for Clinton by activists on the left and the right, but mainly the right. Their constant drumbeat of criticism overwhelms any positive buzz that the Democratic frontrunner gets from her fans.”

The situation is far different for Bernie Sanders:

Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders actually garnered more attention online than Clinton during the past month. The Vermont senator was mentioned more than 2.8 million times across all forms of media, compared with 2.2 million mentions for Clinton.

And the Sanders mentions tended to be more positive.

It is not surprising that Sanders is both receiving more attention and this his favorable attention outweighs the negative.

It is also not surprising that the situation is different with regards to television coverage:

The race continues to look sharply different on television than it does on social media. While Sanders received 57 percent of the Democratic chatter on Twitter, compared with 42 percent for Clinton, the former Secretary of State received 54 percent of the month’s television mentions among the Democratic candidates, compared to Sanders’ 35 percent.

The greater quantity and more favorable view of social media comments on Sanders likely relates to the greater enthusiasm for Sanders, which could have a major impact both in the primaries, and in getting out the Democratic vote in the general election.

Bud Budowsky discussed this factor at The Hill in a post entitled Sanders can win Iowa and New Hampshire

He was not referring specifically to the above data, but his impression is the same:

…Sanders has two things that are pure gold in presidential politics. First, he has intensely devoted and idealistic supporters who are passionately committed to his cause and will turn out in droves on caucus and primary days. Second, he has powerful means of communications through social media, the Internet generally, and word of mouth among his devoted supporters that drive his message, his small-donor fundraising and his statewide organizations in ways that are not visible on political television and poorly understood by political pundits.

The truth is that, whatever her many virtues, Democratic rival Hillary Clinton does suffer from an enthusiasm gap. This is one reason she has underperformed among small donors compared to Sanders and why she should be worried about her supporters not turning out in droves on caucus and primary days.

By contrast, there is close to a 100 percent relationship between citizens who passionately support Sanders and those who will turn out to vote for him. They care, they believe and they will vote in very large numbers because they, like Sanders, are fighting for a cause they believe in and a vision of an America they dream of building together.

It is certainly too early to predict the actual outcome, but I am optimistic that the degree of enthusiasm seen for Sanders will help him outperform the polls, which are generally quite unreliable prior to primaries and caucuses. Democrats should also keep this in mind when deciding which candidate has the best chance to get people out to vote in the general election.

Update:

The Hill also looked at the problems with Clinton’s lack of likability in a subsequent article:

Allies of Hillary Clinton are confident she will win the Democratic presidential nomination, but they are worried about one big thing: her likability problem in the general election.

Clinton has rebounded from a rough spring and summer with a strong fall. And while her eyes remain on the primary, she is already testing general election themes against her possible GOP opponents as they do battle in what could be a drawn-out Republican primary.

Presidential elections are often decided on personality instead of specific policies. Along those lines, people in Clinton’s orbit are worried she doesn’t pass the would-you-like-to-have-a-beer-with-her test.

This is probably one of the reasons why Clinton polls so poorly among independents and in the battle ground states, and why Bernie Sanders does as well as Clinton or better in head to head match-ups against Republicans despite lower name recognition.

Why Moderates Support Bernie Sanders

Moderates for Bernie

While the media narrative would simplify  the Democratic race to describing Bernie Sanders as a challenger from the left, he has also received a tremendous amount of support from independents, and from voters in the battleground states where Clinton is weak. The Moderates for Bernie Community is one of the largest pro-Sanders groups on Facebook with over 72,000 following them at the time this is posted. They recently posted this statement regarding why they support Sanders despite being more moderate on economic issues, reposted with their permission:

WHY WE SUPPORT BERNIE SANDERS DESPITE DISAGREEING WITH HIM

How can a moderate support a socialist? Isn’t Bernie Sanders too extreme? Won’t this commie [insert expletive here] destroy the American way of life? We’ve gotten these questions so many times that we thought it would be easier just to write this post.

Let’s start with a radical concept: we don’t have to 100% agree with a candidate to support him. Sure, Bernie and a majority of Americans agree on many, many issues. But not all. We ourselves don’t fully agree with all of Bernie’s proposals, and we suspect that many of the people reading this don’t either. In fact – surprise! – some of the other candidates have some policies we actually like better than Bernie’s. Don’t tattle on us.

Saying we only like some of Bernie’s proposals is not exactly a resounding endorsement. So why do we support him? What got us excited enough to create this Facebook page and deal with the endless barrage of Internet trolls day after day? And why should you care, especially if you disagree with Bernie even more than we do? Fortunately, there is something that 90+% of us do agree on, the one issue above all others:

Congress sucks.

Whether you believe the Democrats or the Republicans are primarily responsible for the catastrophic dysfunction currently plaguing Washington, hopefully we can agree that it has to stop. A political pragmatist like Hillary Clinton or an experienced negotiator like Donald Trump might be able to temporarily restore functionality (and sanity) during their administrations. However, a permanent solution requires permanent institutional change. The person by far most likely to make that happen is Bernie Sanders.

Here’s why:

1. CAMPAIGN FINANCE: The first step is to separate money from politics by switching to publicly financed elections. Bernie has advocated for that for years. And who do you trust more to make this happen: a populist with an average donation of ~$30 or a corporate-sponsored, Super PAC-backed politician-for-hire?

2. CHARACTER: Bernie is the “un-politician politician.” He has had more consistency over his multi-decade career than any other candidate. And he has Trump’s candor without Trump’s crassness. Frankly, it’s refreshing. But more than that, it guarantees that Bernie’s stated desire to reform Washington is a sincere goal rather than a mere ploy to acquire votes.

3. CLASS: Clinton calls Republicans her enemy. Trump has called just about everyone his enemy. Sanders has no enemies… beyond the ruling class. Instead he sees only partners and potential partners. The destructive denigration that’s all too common in politics – and that prohibits future collaboration — is beneath him. More importantly, Bernie has gone further than any other candidate to reach all Americans, not just his base. Indeed, he spat on the modern political paradigm when his spoke at an Evangelical university. Only those willing to journey into “enemy territory” have any hope of bridging our divides enough to enact real change.

4. CREDIBILITY: Some particularly entrenched or dogmatic politicians will not cooperate no matter what…unless their careers depend on it. And politicians’ job security depends on their constituents. That’s why politicians take it so seriously when they receive 100s of letters from their voters in support of an initiative. Bernie, who has had by far the largest rallies and largest social media presence, seems like the candidate most likely to leverage this potent weapon against Washington.

(Note: Obama had similar mass market penetration during his elections, but for some reason he somewhat disengaged from the people once elected. Bernie has vowed not to repeat that mistake.)

5. COMPETENCE: Simply put, Bernie has had more legislative success at the national level than any other candidate. In addition, his tenure as mayor of Burlington, VT places him within the top echelon of candidates in terms of executive credentials; his dramatic rejuvenation of Burlington has served as example for many once-struggling cities throughout the country.

So yes, President Bernie Sanders will destroy the American way of life—at least the part of it where politicians use dysfunction and chicanery to stay in power. Many candidates have claimed to be able to fix Washington, but Bernie is the first in a long time who might actually do it.

Let’s realize that a working government is better than a broken government, even if we don’t agree with all of its policies. Once that happens, the decision becomes clear: Bernie Sanders is the right choice, the sensible choice, the only choice.

Press & Bloggers Show Sanders Was Right In Accusing Clinton Of Practicing Revisionist History On DOMA

The Clintons have never been very supportive of social liberalism, and now that the liberal views they often showed little regard for during Bill’s presidency have become mainstream in the Democratic Party (and much of the country), Hillary is trying to rewrite history. Bernie Sanders pointed this out at the Jefferson Jackson dinner last weekend. His statement is being backed up by the press, bloggers, and people on Twitter who remember the truth.

The Washington Blade wrote:

Sen. Bernard Sanders isn’t the only one taking Hillary Clinton to task over her recent assertion that the Defense of Marriage Act was a “defensive” measure to prevent worse discrimination against LGBT people.

A number of gay rights activists took to Twitter to say Clinton engaged in historic revisionism during her appearance Friday on “The Rachel Maddow Show” when she said DOMA was a means to stop the enactment of a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage entirely. Many of those activists also tempered their objections by saying Clinton is generally doing right on LGBT rights during her campaign…

The notion DOMA was passed to stop passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment has been disputed by Hillary Clinton supporter and former Human Rights Campaign chief Elizabeth Birch, who wrote an op-ed saying “there was no real threat” of a constitutional measure in 1996.

Bloomberg Politics also sees this as revisionist history:

Bill Clinton’s aides and confidants admitted to the New York Times in 2013 that he knew DOMA was wrong and discriminatory toward gays and lesbians. His former press secretary Mike McCurry said: “His posture was quite frankly driven by the political realities of an election year in 1996.” Democratic consultant and Clinton ally Hilary Rosen added: “In my conversations with him, he was personally embarrassed and remorseful.”

Neither said it was a strategic move to prevent something worse. And indeed, that might have been difficult. The Federal Marriage Amendment wasn’t introduced until 2002. It didn’t become part of the Republican Party platform until 2004…

Prominent figures in the LGBT community, meanwhile, rejected Clinton’s recollection of history.

“Hillary’s version of DADT and DOMA is so wrong. The only ‘defensive posture’ was for their personal politics not LGBT,” activist David Mixner said on Twitter. He added: “The LGBT community should NEVER allow any politician to revise our noble and courageous history for political purposes.”

Radio host and HuffPost Gay Voices editor-at-large Michelangelo Signorile called Hillary Clinton’s version “revisionism” and said on Twitter that it was “simply not true that DOMA was signed to stop something worse.” He continued, “Hillary doesn’t need to re-write Bill history to make her better. She’s fine, has promised a lot.”

Bill Clinton even resorted to using ads opposing gay marriage when running for reelection. While Hillary’s positions do sound much better today, we cannot count on positions she has taken for political expediency to persist if the next poll or focus group suggests she should take a different position.

AmericaBlog also showed that this is not the first time the Clintons have resorted to this type of historical revisionism, along with noting that, “Sanders is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, and has opposed anti-gay discrimination laws going back to his campaigns for mayor in the 1970s.” Last month PolitiFact ruled that a statement from Chuck Todd was true that Bernie Sanders was “there” on same sex marriage twenty years ago.

Hillary Clinton’s conservative social views, seen in her membership in religious right organization, The Fellowship (also known as The Family) while in the Senate, makes many liberals wary of trusting her on social issues (along with economic issues, civil liberties, and foreign policy). The American Humanist Association has noted how much she is like the Republicans in pandering to religion:

American Humanist Organization Religious Pandering

They also noted that Bernie Sanders has expressed views in line with theirs:

American Humanist Organization Sanders Humanism

It comes down to a difference in their philosophies which as led Sanders to take the correct fork in the road, while Clinton has so often been wrong, whenever there have been big decisions during their careers. We need a president who makes the right choices at the time, not one who will admit her mistakes and change her views years down the road.

Bernie Sanders Winning The Battle For On Line Support

Bernie2016

In another example of how much grass roots support he has, Bernie Sanders has now reached one million on line donors. The Wall Street Journal reports:

With hours to go before the third quarter campaign finance filing deadline, the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said it reached its goal of one million individual online contributions.

He is the first candidate of the 2016 campaign to announce it had reached this number – and he reached it faster than President Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012.

The Sanders campaign has touted its goal of hitting one million online donations by tonight’s deadline to spur more individuals to donate.

With hours to go before the third quarter campaign finance filing deadline, the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said it reached its goal of one million individual online contributions.

He is the first candidate of the 2016 campaign to announce it had reached this number – and he reached it faster than President Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012.

The Sanders campaign has touted its goal of hitting one million online donations by tonight’s deadline to spur more individuals to donate.

Sanders has benefited from his on line presence and social media to rapidly go from a long shot to a real contender for the Democratic nomination. Alternet reports that Sanders Has an Army of Die-Hard Facebook Fans, While Clinton’s Campaign Is Trying to Buy Popularity

Bernie Sanders might still be trailing Hillary in all the national polls, but late last month he took the lead in a more newfangled — if possibly meaningless — measure of political strength: Facebook love. According to data obtained by Quintly, a social media analytics firm, Sanders’ presidential campaign page began the day of Saturday, August 22 with 1,197,290 likes to Clinton’s 1,199,797. By the end of the day, he had 1,218,879 to her 1,205,437. His lead has only increased since then.

Sanders’ success comes despite some suggestions that the Clinton campaign has been padding its totals on Facebook with purchased likes. Back in April, Vocative, a data mining media site, reported that Clinton’s presidential campaign page was more popular among Facebook users in Baghdad than any American city. And a further side-by-side comparison of both candidates’ page data shows that, over the last month, 95% of Sanders’ growth came from within the United States, while for Clinton that number is only 74%.

Oftentimes, so-called “click farms” are based out of developing countries and employ legions of low-paid workers to create fake Facebook profiles and then like the pages of clients. Clinton has seen strong growth over the last several weeks in followers in developing countries. To cite a single example, her followers in Myanmar tripled, to 18,150. (By contrast, Sanders’ share of foreign followers is much smaller and comes mostly from Western Europe.) This doesn’t necessarily mean Clinton’s campaign was paying click-farms directly — sometimes customers buy ads from Facebook, which promises to generate a certain number of likes, and those end up coming from click farms — but that didn’t stop some Reddit users from accusing her of buying likes to stave off Sanders…

Whether or not her campaign bought followers directly, there is a precedent for an organization led by Hillary Clinton purchasing Facebook likes: the State Department spent $630,000 on them between 2011 and 2013, when she was secretary of state, according to an inspector general’s report

In deciding which post appears in a user’s news feed, Facebook relies heavily on engagement, so that even if a user liked both Clinton’s and Sanders’ pages, if a Clinton post attracted a dozen likes and comments and a Sanders post attracted hundreds, the Sanders post would appear at the top of the news feed while Clinton’s might not be seen at all…

In the meantime, Sanders’ posts are continuing to be shared by users who like his page, exposing their friends to him, who then may like his page, causing his popular posts to appear at the top of their news feeds, cementing their loyalty — and the cycle continues.

I have certainly noticed how this cycle continues, with Sanders’ supporters sharing stories to both their personal pages and a huge number of pro-Sanders Facebook groups, leading to continued spread of stories. Once people start sharing a story, their friends share it to spread it further. While prior to the Sanders campaign it was rare for a blog post here to receive even one hundred Facebook likes, it has now become common to have thousands of likes. The most popular story I have noticed has been a post from late June entitled Former Clinton Adviser Predicts Bernie Sanders Will Beat Hillary Clinton. This post has now exceeded 21 thousand Facebook likes. After I noticed how this number was climbing I temporarily added a comment at the end of the post asking visitor where they found the link and readers responded with multiple different places. (The blog was not set up to share on Facebook back when I was supporting Obama over Clinton in 2008, bringing in heavier traffic from Obama supporters, so I cannot compare this to previous campaigns.)

This coverage for Sanders on social media is very likely helping to spread news of his campaign when mainstream media coverage is more limited. This type of publicity should also help Sanders compete with a campaign which has more money to pay for advertising. I also bet that many of those contributing and spreading information about Sanders on line are not people who generally turn out to vote for the Democrats. This is a resource which the party cannot afford to ignore.

Hack Attempt

There was an attempt to hack the blog earlier. In response some files with malicious code have been removed. This could impact some functions of the blog but I don’t have time to check out everything right now. If you notice anything unusual here, please let me know.

What The Democrats Were Doing While The Republicans Were Making Fools Of Themselves

Sanders Tweeting Debate

I’ve already discussed what the Republicans were doing Thursday night at the debate. We also know that since then the Republicans have been fighting about Donald Trump’s misogynistic comments about Megyn Kelly, with Trump being disinvited from the RedState Gathering. While the Republicans were debating, Bernie Sanders was tweeting in response. Sanders even had the most retweeted comment of the debate:

In contrast, Hillary Clinton was at a fund raiser, leaving staffers to tweet for her. The most talked about item from the evening was not the issues, as when Sanders tweeted, but Kim Kardasian getting this selfie with Hillary Clinton:

Kim_Kardashian_Hillary_Clinton selfie

If we are to match celebrity endorsements, I’m more impressed by the endorsement for Bernie from Sarah Silverman. She has previously tweeted, “I’m loving @SenSanders . He says what he means & he means what he says & he’s not for sale.” On the day of the debate, the Daily Caller had several pictures of Silverman in shirts promoting Bernie:

Sarah Silverman Bernie

This all raises the question as to why the Republicans are debating but the Democrats are not. The DNC did release their debate schedule late last week:

A total of six debates are scheduled, with six different sponsors: Oct. 13 in Nevada (hosted by CNN); Nov. 14 in Des Moines, Iowa (CBS/KCCI and The Des Moines Register); Dec. 19 in Manchester, New Hampshire (ABC/WMUR); Jan. 17 in Charleston, South Carolina (NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute); and two scheduled for either February or March in Miami, Florida, and Wisconsin, hosted by Univision/The Washington Post and PBS, respectively.

Limiting the debates to six, with threats to penalize candidates who participate in any other debates other than those sponsored by the DNC, is believed to have been designed to protect Hillary Clinton from opposition and has received protests from the other candidates and those who desire a more open nominating process.  Bernie Sanders has a petition on his web site calling for more debates. The O’Malley campaign has even threatened to organize debates outside of those sponsored by the DNC. Time reported:

The DNC rule “tramples over everything that is important about the democratic process,” said Jake Oeth, O’Malley’s state director in Iowa. “We welcome anyone who wants to participate and we hope to engage in open conversation with anyone.”

Oeth added that O’Malley staff are in discussions with other Democratic presidential campaigns about the possibility of expanding the number of debates. Deputy campaign manager Lis Smith on Thursday reiterated the point in a tweet.

A spokesman Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign did not immediately respond to questions about discussions with O’Malley’s campaign.

There were more than 20 debates in the Democratic primary in 2008, and 15 in 2004, including debates that were not sanctioned by the DNC…

O’Malley’s campaign is not alone in opposing the six-debate limit. Sanders, who is trailing in polls against Clinton by less than 10 points in Iowa, has started a petition to call for more debates.

“At a time when many Americans are demoralized about politics and have given up on the political process, I think it’s imperative that we have as many debates as possible—certainly more than six,” Sanders said in a statement Thursday. “I look forward to working with the DNC to see if we can significantly expand the proposed debate schedule.”

The DNC, which is staffed by a number of Clinton loyalists, has defended the debate schedule, saying it will allow for a robust discussion over the party’s platform. “These debates will highlight the Democratic Party’s policies, which will continue to strengthen the middle class, and we hope Americans across the political spectrum will tune in,” said party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

The threshold to qualify for the Democratic debate is to get 1% in three national polls, conducted by credible news organizations and polling organizations, in the six weeks prior to the debate. This would certainly let Sanders and O’Malley in, along with Biden if he decides to run. Jim Webb would also make it in at present–he is actually polling better than O’Malley nationally. Chaffee is at 0.9 in the RealClearPolitics average so there is a good chance he has at least 1% in three of the polls. It is necessary to have some qualifying threshold as there are actually far more candidates than you might realize, and presumably many more would enter the race if they had a chance at getting into the debates.

Sanders Draws Record Crowds, O’Malley Addresses Issues and Engages The Press, and Hillary Clinton Answers Questions on Facebook

Bernie Sanders Phoenix

Bernie Sanders continued to draw big crowds over the weekend. In Phoenix Sanders was once again forced to move to a larger venue, drawing twice the number originally anticipated:

Bernie Sanders drew more than 11,000 people to a rally Saturday night in downtown Phoenix — the largest crowd to date for a presidential candidate whose audiences have been swelling in recent months.

The Vermont senator, who has emerged as the leading alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, got a rock-star-like reception from supporters who streamed into a cavernous lower-level room of the city’s convention center.

Aides to the self-described democratic socialist had originally booked a Phoenix theater that could accommodate fewer than half the number of people who turned out. The crowd estimate of more than 11,000 people was provided by staff at the convention center, where Sanders also appeared Saturday at a convention of progressive activists.

“Somebody told me people are giving up on the political process,” Sanders said as he greeted the crowd Saturday night. “Not what I see here tonight.”

This exceeds his previous record in Wisconsin. The appearance in Phoenix was followed by thousands coming to see him in Texas.

While Sanders has so far received the bulk of the excitement, and media coverage, from liberal opposition to Hillary Clinton, BuzzFeed seems impressed with Martin O’Malley, calling him “the candidate who simply won’t go away: who will work harder and mingle longer, who will shake more hands, answer more questions, propose more policy, be the most progressive and most aggressive — the candidate who will always engage.”

While Clinton draws headlines about her “strained relations” with the press, O’Malley’s staff rarely turns a reporter away. (On Friday night, his super PAC invited members of the media to an afterparty with the sign-carrying field organizers. “It’s open-press and we promise no rope-lines,” an official said in an email, adding a smiling emoticon. The Clinton cheer-squad, meanwhile, said they weren’t allowed to talk to reporters.)

And while other Democrats in the race, including Sanders, don’t often go after Clinton, O’Malley makes a habit of it — indirectly, at least. (In his Iowa speech, he stressed his support for a $15 minimum wage, days after Clinton declined to endorse it, and suggested she was slow to oppose “bad trade deals” like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.)

With months to go until the Iowa caucus, this aggressive campaigning might pay off, and both O’Malley and Sanders might continue to reduce Clinton’s lead.

Hillary Clinton continues to limit access to the press but did answer some questions on Facebook. After Clinton previously received criticism for saying “All Lives Matter,” and Martin O’Malley failed to learn from this mistake, himself being attacked for saying, “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter,” Clinton finally got it right on Facebook.

Justice Department Subpoenas Blog To Identify Anonymous Commenters

The Justice Department has issued a subpoena against Reason demanding information on the identities of anonymous commentaters. BuzzFeed reports:

The Justice Department has issued a federal grand jury subpoena to Reason, a prominent libertarian publication, to unmask the identity of commenters who made alleged threats against a federal judge.

In the June 2 subpoena, first published by the blog Popehat on Monday, the Justice Department orders Reason to provide a federal grand jury with “any and all identifying information” on the identities of commenters who mused about shooting federal judges and/or feeding them through a wood chipper.

A May 31 article on Reason’s blog about the prosecution of Silk Road founder Ross “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbricht spurred the anonymous commenters’ vitriol. Ulbricht pleaded for leniency, but a federal judge sentenced Ulbricht to life in prison without parole for setting up the illicit online drug market.

“It’s judges like these that should be taken out back and shot,” one Reason commenter wrote…

The subpoena raises several First Amendment issues, such as whether the comments rise to the level of a “true threat” or are protected free speech. The Supreme Court recently ruled that “true threats” must be made with some knowledge or intent that the threat will be taken seriously.

Kimberly Chow, an attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the comments on Reason clearly fall within the internet’s regular, if outrageous and often vile, discourse.

“In terms of the comments, everybody knows the internet is a forum where exaggeration and hyperbole take place,” Chow told BuzzFeed News. “These comments are in that category. Nobody believes that these people are going to go and put this judge in a wood chipper.”

Free speech advocates also worry that such subpoenas burden websites with significant legal costs and could have a chilling effect on speech. The subpoena also has specific implications for anonymous speech.

Kyu Youm, a professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and First Amendment scholar, called the Justice Department subpoena “a misplacement of priorities” in an interview with BuzzFeed News.

“Generally speaking, anonymity is still a part of freedom of expression, and just because the government wants to unmask the commenters does not mean it has a strong case,” Youm said. “At least, if there is doubt as to the validity of the subpoena, anonymity should be given the benefit of the doubt.”

Popehat further criticized the subpoena:

The subpoena raises a few questions:

First, are Those Comments True Threats?

Second, if they are not true threats on their face, does the U.S. Attorney’s Office still have the power to use a grand jury subpoena to identify the commenters?

Third, even if the U.S. Attorney’s Office has the power, should it have that power?

Are the Reason.com Comments “True Threats?” No. NO. AND HELL NO!

True Threats” are those threats that are outside the protection of the First Amendment; they are not mere political hyperbole or bluster. For instance, in 1967, when Mr. Watts said that if he were drafted the first man he’d want in his rifle sights was President Lyndon B. Johnson, that wasn’t a true threat: it was conditional political hyperbole. In other words, it was mere angry bluster of the sort no reasonable person would take to be a serious threat.3

What of these comments on Reason.com, then? I submit that they are very clearly not true threats — that this is not even a close call.

True threat analysis always examines context. Here, the context strongly weighs in favor of hyperbole. The comments are on the Internet,  a wretched hive of scum, villainy, and gaseous smack talk.4 The are on a political blog, about a judicial-political story; such stories are widely known to draw such bluster. They are specifically at Reason.com, a site with excellent content but cursed with a group of commenters who think such trash talk is amusing.

The “threats” do not specify who is going to use violence, or when. They do not offer a plan, other than juvenile mouth-breathing about “wood chippers” and revolutionary firing squads. They do not contain any indication that any of the mouthy commenters has the ability to carry out a threat. Nobody in the thread reacts to them as if they are serious. They are not directed to the judge by email or on a forum she is known to frequent.

Virginia Postrel, a former editor of Reason, in an op-ed at Bloomberg News stressed the civil liberties aspects of the case:

The real threats aren’t coming from the likes of Agammamon and croaker. They’re coming from civil servants in suits. Subpoenaing Reason’s website records, wasting its staff’s time and forcing it to pay legal fees in hopes of imposing even larger legal costs and possibly even a plea bargain (or two on the average Joes who dared to voice their dissident views in angry tones ) sends an intimidating message: It’s dangerous not just to create something like Silk Road. It’s dangerous to defend it, and even more dangerous to attack those who would punish its creator. You may think you have free speech, but we’ll find a way to make you pay.

Yes, this is about civil liberties and our First Amendment rights, not whether you agree with Ulbricht or how you feel about the specific comments. I, along with other bloggers who have commented on the case, would have probably deleted some of the more vile comments which have been cited from our blogs. However that is the decision of the owner of the blog, not something the government should be involved in.

Barack Obama Reads Mean Tweets

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