Is It A Violation Of First Amendment Rights When Donald Trump Blocks Critics On Twitter?

Blocking people on social media is commonplace, but what  happens when the President uses Twitter to make pronouncements on public policy and blocks those opposing? Is this just engaging in normal behavior on social media, or censorship? Some of those blocked by Donald Trump on Twitter are now protesting that their First Amendment rights are being violated. Bloomberg News reports:

President Donald Trump’s Twitter account is once again the subject of debate, as the Knight First Amendment Institute urged him to unblock individuals in a letter sent to the White House on Tuesday.

The institute, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Columbia University, said it believes his account is a “designated public forum” and threatened legal action if the president didn’t comply. In a letter addressed to Trump, his counsel, press secretary and social media director, the institute wrote on behalf of Holly O’Reilly and Joseph M. Papp, both of whom criticized the president on the social media platform in recent weeks and said they were blocked.

“The blocking of users from your Twitter account suppresses speech in a number of ways,” the letter stated. “Users who have been blocked cannot follow you on Twitter, and they are limited in their ability to view  your tweets, find your tweets using Twitter’s search function, and learn which accounts follow you. They are also limited in their ability to participate in comment threads associated with your tweets.” Replying to messages posted by Trump on Twitter, often in the form of a thread, is common practice on the platform, both by fans and detractors of the Republican president.

The article goes on to note that Sean Spicer has said that Trump’s tweets should be considered official statements, which lends credence to arguments that blocking someone from Donald Trump’s account is not the same as a regular Twitter user doing so. As I noted yesterday, Trump is expected to be live tweeting his views when James Comey testifies tomorrow.

One of those blocked by Donald Trump has an op-ed in The Washington Post explaining why she believes her rights have been violated:

Press secretary Sean Spicer said just yesterday that Trump’s tweets are considered “official statements by the president of the United States.” When Trump blocks people for disagreeing with him, he isn’t just deciding not to hear our voices; he’s cutting us off from receiving these official statements. So, by blocking people on Twitter, Trump is effectively removing the radio from his version of FDR’s fireside chats, or more accurately, closing the door of a Town Hall meeting to everyone except people who agree with or say nice things about him.

In March, a Virginia federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Loudoun County for allegedly deleting a comment left by a local resident who criticized a decision not to appoint a special prosecutor. The judge ruled that the deletion was constitutional because the plaintiff had attempted to “hijack the discussion” in violation of a government social-media policy that permitted the removal of “clearly off-topic” comments. The case is on appeal.

The ACLU of Indiana last year filed lawsuits against three small cities in the state for allegedly censoring critical Facebook users. Before a judge weighed in, the cases settled with the municipalities agreeing to lift the Facebook bans on the users who went to court.

The First Amendment Institute’s letter focuses on Mr. Trump’s @realDonaldTrump account, which currently has 31.7 million followers. It makes no claims about the other main White House Twitter feeds, @WhiteHouse and @POTUS, nor does it discuss Mr. Trump’s predecessor.

The Obama administration said it never blocked people from following @POTUS. The former president’s @BarackObama account specified that it wasn’t part of the government but run by Barack Obama‘s political arm.

The article also quotes  Ken Paulson, dean of media and entertainment at Middle Tennessee State University:

It’s a novel and ambitious argument and certainly in the public interest, but also feels like a tough sell. Is the president’s Twitter account, established well before he was elected, a public forum where interactive free expression is expected or more like a newsletter, where the communication is all one way?

I do think municipalities that establish Facebook pages and invite citizen input are in fact establishing public forums, but I’m not sure that Donald Trump’s brief bursts of opinion are the same thing.

Propublica cited additional examples of pubic officials blocking critics on social media.

Clinton Continues To Blame Others And Claims To Be Part Of The Resistance

Hillary Clinton continues to blame James Comey and the Russians for her loss saying, “If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president.”

In an election this close, it is certainly possible that changing anything which hurt Clinton could have changed the outcome, but that misses the point that Clinton put herself in this situation. She made many mistakes, which Nate Silver acknowledged when he said that the Comey letter probably cost her the election. More importantly, the letter and Wikileaks only harmed Clinton because of her actions.

James Comey would not have been investigating Clinton in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding email and  hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated that she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the  law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.

The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. There has been absolutely no evidence that anything released by Wikileaks was not accurate information.

Hillary Clinton should never had been nominated by a major political party considering the scandal she was involved in, and her refusal to answer questions about it honestly. If the scandal exploded shortly before the election, which could have happened in a number of other ways if not for the Comey letter, don’t blame the messenger. The fault belongs to Hillary Clinton and those who supported her for the nomination.

David Axelrod responded to Clinton’s excuses:

“It takes a lot of work to lose to Donald Trump,” Axelrod told CNN on Wednesday. “Let me tell you, he was the least popular presidential candidate to win in the history of polling.”

…Axelrod called the 2016 race a “miserable slog” and said nobody in America wants to relive it “except the combatants who keep going back to it.”

“She has a legitimate beef because Comey’s letter was instrumental I think in her defeat, so in a narrow sense she is right about it,” Axelrod said.

“But Jim Comey didn’t tell her not to campaign in Wisconsin after the convention. Jim Comey didn’t say don’t put any resources into Michigan until the final week of the campaign,” he continued.

“And one of the things that hindered her in the campaign was a sense that she never fully was willing to take responsibility for her mistakes, particularly that server.”

Axelrod then offered a piece of advice for Clinton.

“If I were her, if I were advising her, I would say, ‘Don’t do this. Don’t go back and appear as if you’re shifting responsibility.’ … She said the words ‘I’m responsible,’ but the — everything else suggested that she doesn’t really feel that way,” he said.

“And I don’t think that helps her in the long run, so if I were her I would move on.”

Even if Comey did cause a drop for Clinton in the polls, she is responsible for how she campaigned, including in the final days of the campaign. For example, Clinton made serious mistakes in Michigan, as I have previously discussed. Plus, in the final days, when both candidates advertised heavily, Clinton was outsmarted yet again by Trump. I saw ads from Trump with promises (regardless of how dishonest) that he could create jobs. The ads I saw from Clinton were based on personal attacks against Trump, but gave no reason to vote for her. Her negative campaign against Trump, even if generally factually true, backfired against her. Hillary Clinton very well could have blown the election in the final days without Comey’s letter or Wikileaks.

Clinton has also received a lot of criticism over this interview on social media. Williams Rivers Pitt mocked Clinton’s assertion on Facebook:

“If the election was on October 27th, I would be your president.”

— Hillary Clinton, today.

And if we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs. Apologies for the pesky constitutional Tuesday-in-November requirement, or that your own glaring weaknesses as a candidate came forcefully to bear in their most effective moment. Worked out great for all of us.

Go away.

I subsequently responded to another statement made by Clinton in the same interview:

“I am now back to being an activist citizen and part of the resistance.” –Hillary Clinton

No Hillary, 2016 was all about Americans forming a resistance to you. This includes the economic issues which dominated the campaign, and the Bush/Clinton policies which have put this country into a state of perpetual warfare and accelerated the growth of the surveillance state.

Donald Trump was elected because the two party duopoly only gave him as an alternative to you. While defeating the Bushes and Clintons was important, Trump was the wrong answer. Now we need a resistance to both Trump and Clinton.

Update: American Association for Public Opinion Research Casts Doubt On Clinton’s Claims That James Comey Cost Her The Election

All We Hear About Is Trump, But The Resistance Is Winning (So Far)

If you feel that all we hear about these days is Donald Trump, you are right. Due to a combination of factors including his breaks with conventional norms and his own use of social media, Donald Trump is dominating the news more than is usual for a newly-elected president. His impact on the media extends beyond the conventional news. Farhad Manjoo even found a way to measure this:

Consider data from mediaQuant, a firm that measures “earned media,” which is all coverage that isn’t paid advertising. To calculate a dollar value of earned media, it first counts every mention of a particular brand or personality in just about any outlet, from blogs to Twitter to the evening news to The New York Times. Then it estimates how much the mentions would cost if someone were to pay for them as advertising.

In January, Mr. Trump broke mediaQuant’s records. In a single month, he received $817 million in coverage, higher than any single person has ever received in the four years that mediaQuant has been analyzing the media, according to Paul Senatori, the company’s chief analytics officer. For much of the past four years, Mr. Obama’s monthly earned media value hovered around $200 million to $500 million. The highest that Hillary Clinton got during the presidential campaign was $430 million, in July.

It’s not just that Mr. Trump’s coverage beats anyone else’s. He is now beating pretty much everyone else put together. Mr. Senatori recently added up the coverage value of 1,000 of the world’s best known figures, excluding Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump. The list includes Mrs. Clinton, who in January got $200 million in coverage, Tom Brady ($38 million), Kim Kardashian ($36 million), and Vladimir V. Putin ($30 million), all the way down to the 1,000th most-mentioned celebrity in mediaQuant’s database, the actress Madeleine Stowe ($1,001).

The coverage those 1,000 people garnered last month totaled $721 million. In other words, Mr. Trump gets about $100 million more in coverage than the next 1,000 famous people put together. And he is on track to match or beat his January record in February, according to Mr. Senatori’s preliminary figures.

This includes Trump dominating conversation beyond the news. He is everywhere on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and Reddit. He comes up elsewhere:

It wasn’t just news. Mr. Trump’s presence looms over much more. There he is off in the wings of “The Bachelor” and even “The Big Bang Theory,” whose creator, Chuck Lorre, has taken to inserting anti-Trump messages in the closing credits. Want to watch an awards show? Say the Grammys or the Golden Globes? TrumpTrumpTrump. How about sports? Yeah, no. The president’s policies are an animating force in the N.B.A. He was the subtext of the Super Bowl: both the game and the commercials, and maybe even the halftime show.

It is impossible to ignore Trump. His impact has been seen in many areas already, but probably the most on immigration. This excites the haters on the right, and is met with appalled criticism from others. The New York Times is not exaggerating in writing, Mr. Trump’s ‘Deportation Force’ Prepares an Assault on American Values.

Probably the most fearful narrative about Donald Trump is that he is an authoritarian, in Putin’s mold. There has been increased attention paid to George Orwell’s  1984 and other books about authoritarianism. Jonathan Chait has looked at these fears:

The prospect that President Trump will degrade or destroy American democracy is the most important question of the new political era. It has received important scholarly attention from two basic sources, which have approached it in importantly different fashions. Scholars of authoritarian regimes (principally Russia) have used their knowledge of authoritarian history to paint a road map by which Trump could Putinize this country. Timothy Snyder, Masha Gessen, and other students of Putin’s methods have essentially treated Putinization as the likely future, and worked backward to the present. A second category of knowledge has come from scholars of democracy and authoritarianism, who have compared the strengths and weaknesses of the American system of government both to countries elsewhere that have succumbed to authoritarianism and those that have not. Their approach has, more appropriately, treated Trump’s authoritarian designs as an open question. Trump might launch an assault on the foundations of the republic. On the other hand, he might not.

What are the signs of impending authoritarianism? Trump has rhetorically hyped violence, real or imaginary, committed by enemy groups, while downplaying or ignoring violence or threats from friendlier sources. He said nothing about a white-supremacist terror attack in Canada that killed six people before denouncing a knife attack a few days later by an Islamist radical in France that killed nobody. He quickly directed a government program on countering violent extremism to focus exclusively on Muslim radicalism and stop work halting white-supremacist terrorism. Just as he urged his campaign crowds to rough up protesters, he treated news that pro-Trump bikers would patrol his inauguration not as a threat to create chaos but as a welcome paramilitary force. “That’s like additional security with those guys, and they’re rough,” he gleefully told reporters. Trump’s rhetoric follows a pattern of politicizing violence, simultaneously justifying stringent government action against enemies he has designated while tacitly justifying vigilantism by extremists sympathetic to his cause.

Since his election, Trump has obsessively fabricated a narrative in which he is the incarnate of the will of the people. According to his own concocted history, he won a historically large Electoral College victory, and would have also won the popular vote if not for millions of illegal votes. He has dismissed protesters against him as paid agents, denied the legitimacy of courts to overrule his actions, and, most recently, called mainstream media “enemies of the people.” This is an especially chilling phrase to hear from an American president. Totalitarian dictators like Stalin and Mao used designation of a political figure or a social class as an “enemy of the people” as a prelude to mass murder.

Fortunately, while Trump has done many undesirable things, the talk of the loss of American democracy remains only talk. Checks and balances on the presidency still work. We are seeing the start of a strong anti-Trump protest movement. While far too many liberals were willing to ignore Hillary Clinton’s extremist positions on American interventionism, with many even defending her positions on Iraq, Libya, and Syria, and ignore her views on restricting civil liberties which are nearly as far right as those of Donald Trump, the left (and others) are already forming a resistance against Trump. Chait notes that, at least for now, the resistance has the upper hand:

It is worth noting that, so far, normal political countermobilization seems to be working quite well. “The Resistance,” as anti-Trump activists have come to be known, has already rattled the once-complacent Republican majorities in Congress, which Trump needs to quash investigations of his corruption and opaque ties to Russia. Whatever pressure Trump has tried to apply to the news media has backfired spectacularly. His sneering contempt has inspired a wave of subscriptions that have driven new revenue to national media, which have blanketed the administration with independent coverage. Popular culture outlets, rather than responding to Trump’s election by tempering their mockery, have instead stepped it up, enraging the president.

The most plausible (to me) mechanism by which Trump might ensconce himself in power was laid out by Matthew Yglesias three months ago. The scenario Yglesias described would be one in which Trump used the authority of the federal government to compel large firms to give him political support. Companies that opposed him, or who even refused to offer support, might be punished with selectively punitive regulation, while those that played ball might be rewarded with lax enforcement of labor, antitrust, or other regulation.

So far there is no evidence such a scenario is playing out. To be sure, Trump is attempting, sporadically, to bully the private sector. But the effort has backfired. Firms whose leaders make favorable statements about the president have seen their stock get hammered. A long list of prominent CEOs has openly criticized Trump. The reason for this is obvious. Trump’s supporters may have disproportionate power in the Electoral College, but his opponents have disproportionate power in the marketplace. Firms cater in their advertising to the young, who overwhelming oppose Trump, rather than to the old, who strongly support him.

If Trump has a plan to crush his adversaries, he has not yet revealed it. His authoritarian rage thus far is mostly impotent, the president as angry Fox-News-watching grandfather screaming threats at his television that he never carries out. The danger to the republic may come later, or never. In the first month of Trump’s presidency, the resistance has the upper hand.

Right Wing Media Distorts Isolated, And Inappropriate, Attack On Ivanka Trump

While Donald Trump was tweeting about expanding the nuclear arsenal yesterday, another controversy arose when Ivanka Trump was harassed by another passenger on an airplane flight. The right wing media quickly took advantage of this launch an overall attack on the left. With all the sensationalist reports in the media, fortunately there is a more reliable account from another passenger who posted about it on his Facebook page.

The passenger who confronted Ivanka Trump was removed from the flight. From the account of the witness in the Facebook post it does sound like it was a reasonable decision. The other passenger’s case is also not supported in light of this tweet prior to the episode: “Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them.”

It has become conventional to give the children of a president a certain amount of privacy. Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are in a different situation than recent presidential children such as Obama’s daughters because of their actual involvement in Donald Trump’s transition, which is expected to continue after he takes office. That still does not justify intentional harassment of them. The fact that they were traveling with their children is further reason to give them a little privacy.

This was one person acting badly. It hardly justifies sensationalism such as the cover of The New York Post, which declares: Heir Strike–Now Dems are attacking Trump’s kids. An opinion piece by Karol Markowicz also takes advantage of this to attack the left in general, ending with this unsupported conclusion: “The left is trying to turn the whole country into a liberal safe space — safe for them, dangerous for anyone who disagrees with them. They’ve lost their minds.”

Donald Trump’s election has raised a lot of emotions in response to the xenophobia, racism, and misogyny raised during his campaign. In this case, the reaction was excessive and inappropriate, but it hardly reflects on all liberals. Having followed many heated elections, I have found that Clinton supporters have often been the most intolerant of those holding different viewpoints that I have seen. This, of course, does not apply to all Clinton supporters, and many of us on the left saw both major party candidates as being near equally repulsive.

Despite the erroneous argument in using this incident to attack the left in general, I do agree with Markowicz on one point. Ivanka Trump is hardly the person in the incoming Trump administration for the left to concentrating our opposition on. She gave a rather liberal speech at the Republican Convention and, as I pointed out earlier in the month, has been advocating for action on climate change. It would make more sense to encourage her to try to influence her father in a more liberal and tolerant direction, as opposed to attacking her.

It is no surprise that an isolated individual acted badly, or that the right wing media would take advantage of the episode. It is also no surprise that social media provided valuable information beyond what was reported by the news media. What I did find a little surprising in all of this is that Ivanka and Jared are flying coach, which is uncomfortable even when you don’t have someone harassing you.

Insight Into Two Top Trump Advisers: Jared Kushner & Steve Bannon

jared-kushner-forbes

While we approach Donald Trump’s presidency with some dread, at least this stage is more interesting than it would be if Clinton had been elected. Rather than what would be a fairly predictable list of old Clinton cronies, Wall Street insiders, and the interventionist foreign policy establishment, we are seeing people new to politics. While Donald Trump is new to politics, he has a long public record. Perhaps the key member of the next administration that we know the least about is his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Kushner out-smarted the old Clinton political experts, and pulled off a victory in the electoral college with both less money and no political experience. Forbes has interviewed Kushner. The full article is worth reading, but here is an excerpt to show how Kushner changed how political campaigns are run to take advantage of social media and ideas from Silicon Valley:

“I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff,” Kushner says. “They gave me their subcontractors.”

At first Kushner dabbled, engaging in what amounted to a beta test using Trump merchandise. “I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner says. Synched with Trump’s blunt, simple messaging, it worked. The Trump campaign went from selling $8,000 worth of hats and other items a day to $80,000, generating revenue, expanding the number of human billboards–and proving a concept. In another test, Kushner spent $160,000 to promote a series of low-tech policy videos of Trump talking straight into the camera that collectively generated more than 74 million views.

By June the GOP nomination secured, Kushner took over all data-driven efforts. Within three weeks, in a nondescript building outside San Antonio, he had built what would become a 100-person data hub designed to unify fundraising, messaging and targeting. Run by Brad Parscale, who had previously built small websites for the Trump Organization, this secret back office would drive every strategic decision during the final months of the campaign. “Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono,” Kushner says. “People from the business world, people from nontraditional backgrounds.”

Kushner structured the operation with a focus on maximizing the return for every dollar spent. “We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote,” Kushner says. “I asked, How can we get Trump’s message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?” FEC filings through mid-October indicate the Trump campaign spent roughly half as much as the Clinton campaign did.

Just as Trump’s unorthodox style allowed him to win the Republican nomination while spending far less than his more traditional opponents, Kushner’s lack of political experience became an advantage. Unschooled in traditional campaigning, he was able to look at the business of politics the way so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have sized up other bloated industries.

I wonder who will get the movie rights to this story.

While Kushner’s political views are not clear, he does not appear to be a doctrinaire conservative. The anti-nepotism laws written after JFK made Bobby Kennedy his Attorney General might prevent Kushner from having a formal role in the Trump administration. I think we are better off with Trump continuing to listen to Kushner and hope this can be circumvented. Even if he cannot have an actual position, Trump will probably continue to receive advice from him.

During the interview Kushner defended Steve Bannon from accusations of being anti-Semitic based upon the hate speech often found at Breitbart. While this is hardly enough to make Bannon look acceptable, there was another sign today that Bannon might be more complex than he is portrayed. IndieWire reports that previously Bannon had been involved in the distribution of independent films which differ from the world view he is now involved with:

Ten years ago, Bannon oversaw the distribution of independent films released by Wellspring Media, a company that supported a wide range of international cinema as well as gay-themed and other “transgressive” titles. Movies acquired and released under his tenure include the experimental LGBT documentary “Tarnation” and “Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry,” a pro-Kerry documentary that opened during the 2004 election. According to one insider who dealt with Bannon at this time, he directly approved and often supported several of these films with great enthusiasm.

It’s a history that raises fascinating questions about the newly minted White House staffer’s motives: Did Bannon, whose alt-right allegiances have turned him into a leading proponent of nationalism, shelve his personal beliefs for the sake of perceived business opportunities? Did those beliefs — and a tolerance for the hate groups drawn to the alt-right movement — come later? Or does he, as so many have theorized about the president-elect, only believe in himself?P

Hopefully we will see a new version of Bannon in the White House, but this will not negate all of the hate speech he has spread in more recent years. The same can be said of President Trump as compared to candidate Trump.

Note To Mark Zuckerberg On Facebook And The Treatment Of Supporters Of Bernie Sanders

zuckerberg

There has been a lot of controversy over how Facebook handled matters during the past election campaign. Mark Zuckerberg responded to some of these issues in a Facebook post here. He concentrated on how Facebook handles the posting of “fake news.” Some of us who supported Sanders used the opportunity to respond to Zuckerberg in the comments on related matters as, while possibly the actions of individual employees and not “official” Facebook policy, Facebook often intervened unfairly on the side of supporters of Hillary Clinton. I posted this comment:

Please also look at how Facebook handles intervening in political arguments and your policies on restricting access.

During the primary campaign we had a lot of problems with Clinton supporters launching personal attacks on Sanders supporters. We would respond to defend ourselves, the Clinton supporter would then file a complaint, and the Sanders supporters would be restricted from Facebook use. Attempts to contact people at Facebook and explain the situation invariably went unanswered.

With the size and influence of Facebook, you have a responsibility to ensure that these matters are handled fairly, and for there to be due process for those whose access to posting on Facebook is being restricted.

There were comparable issues with entire Sanders sites being temporarily shut down.

My comment can be found here. I’m posting this on some Sanders groups in the hopes that adding “likes” for my comment will increase the chance that it gets Zuckerberg’s attention. If  you are reading this on Facebook, click through to the blog post for the links. In scanning the comments, I have also found some other similar comments. Please “like” them as well if you come across them, and add your own.

I had a previous blog post on the shutting down of pro-Sanders Facebook pages here.

This is primarily a matter of fairness as to how Facebook users are treated but also has major implications for the country. The election of Donald Trump came about because of how the Democratic establishment pushed through the nomination of Hillary Clinton, a weak candidate who was probably the only major political figure who could not win a general election campaign against Trump. Those who pushed for the nomination of Clinton over Sanders helped make possible the eventual victory by Donald Trump.

It Is Sad To See Some Sanders Supporters Acting Like Clinton Supporters & Republicans

Sanders Clinton CNN

We are accustomed to seeing Clinton supporters spread misinformation, ignore facts, and try to prevent those they disagree with from expressing their views. It is a shame to see some Sanders supporters using the same tactics.

There are many valid sources of information about Hillary Clinton which are relevant to the campaign. There are also right wing sources which spread misinformation which Sanders supporters would be wise to stay away from. I recently found a Sanders supporter spreading bogus claims about Clinton, claiming that being on Coumadin should disqualify her from being president.

The claims were written by Jerome Corsi, one of the writers who spread the Swift Boat Lies against John Kerry. The article they linked to was one of many on the same topic posted by him at World Net Daily. The source is a second reason for Sanders supporters to be skeptical.The article uses pseudo-science to make claims which are contrary to current standards of medical care. The source of the information is a quack physician who lost his license due to holding views which could jeopardize the lives of his patients.

As both a physician and long-time Sanders supporter I attempted to correct this misinformation after it was reposted in the Progressive BERN Party Facebook group. Besides noting the medical fallacies in the argument and how untrustworthy the source was, I pointed out that if Sanders had a medical condition which required the use of such a medication we would be defending his ability to still be president.

There are enough valid arguments against Clinton being president. There is no benefit in repeating  bogus claims from the far right. This is true of this particular argument, as well as many others from right wing sources which are sometimes repeated by Sanders supporters.

The reaction at the Progressive BERN Party Facebook group was to ban me from the group after pointing out the medical facts. That is certainly an intellectually dishonest and cowardly way to respond to being corrected on the facts. We might expect such thinking from Clinton supporters, and from Republicans. Unfortunately it is also seen in some Sanders supporters. Besides, if the goal is to really promote a new political party along the lines of Sanders’ views, and in opposition to Clinton’s views, what sense does it make to ban someone who has been promoting such views for quite a long time? Sanders supporters should be seeking to broaden their groups, not play games such as this.

SciFi Weekend: The Big Reveal on Game of Thrones; Orphan Back; Person of Interest; DC & Marvel News; Star Trek; The Handmaid’s Tale

Game of Thrones Jon Snow

While technically a spoiler for those who have not seen lase week’s episode of Game of Thrones, there was little doubt that Jon Snow would return in some form. While he has returned to life, so far all we have seen is his eyes open and beyond that he might not be entirely the same. Vulture looks at some of the possibilities, including that his wounds might never heal or that he might not have his memories. They also speculate that his death might have terminated his vow to to the Night’s Watch which “shall not end until my death.” If so, this would allow him to take other roles, such as leading the North and/or returning to aide the surviving  Starks.

Regardless of what happens to him, Kit Harrington is happy that he no longer has to lie to everyone.

Orphan Black Donnie

Orphan Black started out the season with a bit of a reboot and simplification of all the various conspiracies. The show is always at its best in dealing with the characters as opposed to overly complex conspiracies. While Tatiana Maslany is generally the show, supporting characters do have a lot to add, such as seeing Donny and Felix posing as a gay couple as part of the investigation of one of those conspiracies. It got even better when Donnie called Alison to help him provide a sperm specimen with phone sex in yet another classic scene in this series.

Person of Interest returned for its final season on CBS. A sneak peak from Comic-Con is above. The AV Club spoke with executive produces Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman. Here is a portion:

The A.V. Club:Since the beginning, this show that’s ostensibly been about artificial intelligence is really about human connection. What’s it like to thread that needle and how has it evolved over time?

Jonathan Nolan: It’s a great question. And it’s a big challenge. I remember Greg and I talking from the beginning about the collision between the more esoteric ideas in the pilot and how we were going to draw emotions and humanism and a recurring interest from the audience out of all those ideas. There are a lot of ideas in the show, and it’s something I’m very proud of. It’s funny, it’s not a normal show for CBS, but people kind of found it, which is exciting.

That link between the big ideas of the show and the characters—we’ve concentrated on it so hard from the beginning, because we wanted to explore all these crazy ideas about the surveillance state, big data, and AI—and the collision of all of that on a personal level. And from the beginning, I’ve felt like there was a great connection there between big data and the kind of “normal” violent crimes that you find in a major city like New York. I’m just kind of fascinated by the idea of the collision of all of those things. But the thing that people keep tuning in for is the characters. Week in, week out, you’re looking not for ideas, necessarily, although it’s great when your shows have ideas in them, but for the characters to become extended family. Especially in broadcast TV, that’s what happens on that level: When you’re on weekly, your characters come back and you connect with them every week. So, as you said, threading that needle becomes the challenge throughout all five seasons.

AVC:One of the great things is how you were able to connect to The Machine, even on a very personal level. The Machine was gendered female, whereas Samaritan has stayed relatively genderless. Can you expand on that?

JN: I think the gender question, you know, they’re obviously connected. If you want to understand the impact that any SI, or super intelligence, will have—and it’s pat, but it’s accurate—but it’s as if there were no gods and we made them, right? God has often been gendered in the West in a masculine light, which is absurd, but it evolved sort of organically, talking about The Machine as a person. Finch always referred to The Machine as “it” or a thing, but for Root there’s always been more of a personal connection there, a belief in The Machine as a being. So her personification of it—sadly, in the West, we have to gender things to personify them—it seemed most apt that she would think of it in those terms. There’s also something else we’re doing with that: If you’ve paid close attention to the show and where we’re going, there’s a little bit of foreshadowing there as well.

AVC:It seems as though The Machine went through a rebellion phase when it really started to only speak through Root. Will this season be about The Machine becoming more mature in that sense and answering to everybody?

JN: I’m picturing a hormonal artificial super intelligence.

Greg, what are you thinking?

Greg Plageman: I think the interesting relationship for me is Harold Finch and his creation. And there’s always been a troubling conundrum for Finch, building this thing that’s so powerful yet that could overtake us. He’s never been quite comfortable with the idea of an ASI—building something that’s more intelligent than us and us expecting that we could still actually control it. So he’s always had that dilemma that he’s been grappling with, and that caused him to put a limiter on The Machine. What Root has always implored Harold Finch to do is take the gloves off the thing because we’re losing—we’re losing to a much more diabolical creation.

So I think the evolution of that relationship of Harold Finch and his machine this season, in terms of reconstituting it, and how it’s going to be different this time, it’s almost like, what’s the point? What’s the point, Harold, if you’re going to put a limiter on this thing all over again, as Root has always told him in terms of her wanting to let this thing go and to see what it can do. It becomes an exploration of Harold Finch’s character that I think the audience is going to find very fascinating.

AVC:Do you think that if we had been watching the team behind Samaritan from the beginning, rather than the team behind The Machine, that we would be pro-Samaritan?

JN: I think that’s one of the delicious things about what we’ve been doing with this storyline and where we’ve gone with it in this last season. I’m always most excited about and drawn to villains who have a point of view and have a plan. One of the most exciting things about The Joker in The Dark Knight is, he may be a villain in your eyes, but he’s the only person who hasn’t broken his own rules. Everyone else has, everyone else has corrupted themselves, but he’s in many ways one of the most ethical people in the film in terms of their own ideas. He had an idea, and it drives the story forward. We applied a similar approach here, but even more rationally. A lot of things that Samaritan espouses are believed by the people who work for Samaritan, the same way that I’m sure people who work for Facebook don’t believe that they’re working for the company that will destroy the world. But, you know, they are. And everyone gets through the day rationalizing their own existence.

GP: It’s sort of fascinating right now what’s happening in Russia with Putin’s control of the media and the way the everyday Russian views the West now or the United States. It just depends on who’s telling the story. There was a moment where Root met Greer and he sort of said these things to her: “You and I are not all that unalike.”

Supergirl

CBS has not decided yet about renewing Supergirl, with cost being an issue. Ideas being considered include moving the show to Vancouver and airing fewer episodes. It might also move to CW with the other Berlantiverse shows. (If necessary to make room for all the superhero shows, I’d suggest cancelling Legends of Tomorrow and airing Supergirl instead).

At ABC, it has not been decided whether to return Agent Carter or go ahead with Marvel’s Most Wanted. If they don’t air the second, I wonder if they would write Adrianne Palicki and Nick Blood back into Agents of SHIELD. With the way they were written out, it wouldn’t be hard for Coulson to decide he doesn’t care what the Russians think and bring them back–especially as they are operating secretly. We should have news on May 17 from ABC.

Needless to say, there has been a lot out in the past week on the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the release of Captain America: Civil War. To avoid spoilers I will postpone discussing this until a later date. Here is one link of interest–the backstory from the comics of the history of fights between Captain American and Iron-Man.

CBS All Access remains on track to begin the new Star Trek series in January, 2017. They will be releasing one episode per week.

Hulu will be showing a ten-episode miniseries based upon Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale  in 2017. It will star Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) had will be written by Bruce Miller of The 100. Miller will c0-executive produce the series along with Daniel Wilson (who worked on the movie version of the book), Fran Sears (The Sophisticated Gents) and Warren Littlefield (Fargo). I suspect they will also be releasing an episode a week as they did with the adaptation of 11.22.63.

Speaking of Mad Men, here’s a chance to explore Don Draper’s apartment in 3-D. It would be even more fun to have an apartment like this to spend some time at in Manhattan.

SciFi Weekend: The Marvel Television & Movie Universe; The Night Manager; Mads Mikkelsen On The Possible Return of Hannibal; Wet Hot American Summer; Hugo Nominees; Top Jokes From White House Correspondence Dinner

Agents-of-SHIELD-Cover-04272016

Not long after Supergirl used a classic comic book cover to promote the Supergirl/Flash cross over, Agents of SHIELD is also using a classic comic cover to promote an upcoming episode.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is sliding into its last few episodes for the season three finale, and they’re going for the hype by promising someone is going to die in promo art. The illustration is an homage to the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #121; that’s the one hinting at the death of you-know-who. Uh-oh. The art by Greg Land will actually be available as a variant cover in comic book shops, too. It will be a rare catch for Civil War II #0.

The official synopsis for the penultimate episode of the season ties into Captain America: Civil war, as the first season tied into Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

With only two episodes left before S.H.I.E.L.D. loses one of their own, Daisy’s prophecy ticks closer towards a major loss, as the aftermath of the events of “Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War” force S.H.I.E.L.D. to register the Inhumans, on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” TUESDAY, MAY 10 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on the ABC Television Network.

Joe and Anthony Russo have also discussed how Captain America will lead into the Infinity War storyline.

Besides appearing in the Captain America and Avengers movies. Robert Downey, Jr. will be appearing in Spider-Man Homecoming. He is now teasing the possibility of a fourth Iron Man movie.

Marvel is now developing a series for Netflix about The Punisher, presumably in response to the response to his charter in Daredevil season 2.

John le Carré discussed how his con-man father inspired Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) in The Night Manager in the video above.

Mads Mikkelsen gave an interview to the Sunday Express which sounds encouraging for the return of Hannibal:

Fans of the television adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novels about psychopathic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter were left outraged last year when broadcaster NBC unceremoniously axed the show after just three seasons.

Nonetheless, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Mikkelsen has revealed that the story is far from over – and that there is hope for a reboot yet. When asked whether the series still has the potential to be picked up by another network, the actor revealed that the ball is firmly in show creator Bryan Fuller’s court.

“It all depends on Bryan. He is the key, the base, the heart,” Mikkelsen said. “We will wait and see what happens next in his career. But we all know that we can easily pick this up in two or three years, there are breaks in the stories. We could pick it up, say, four years later. If Bryan is up for it, we will all go for it.”

But will Fuller be up for it?

“He loved it. It was his baby. Let’s wait and see,” the 50-year-old actor teased, a knowing glint in his eye.

whas

After a successful prequel, Netflix is returning to Wet Hot American Summer once again with  Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. This time the cast will look more like the ages they are playing, but it was amusing during First Day of Camp to see the adult actors playing themselves as teenagers in the original. That’s except for Paul Rudd, who seemed to have barely aged, possibly due to a painting in the attic.

The Hugo Award nominees are out. Here are the nominees for television shows and movies:

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (LONG FORM)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron written and directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
  • Ex Machina written and directed by Alex Garland (Film4; DNA Films; Universal Pictures)written and directed by Alex Garland (Film4; DNA Films; Universal Pictures)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris, directed by George Miller (Village Roadshow Pictures; Kennedy Miller Mitchell; RatPac-Dune Entertainment; Warner Bros. Pictures)
  • The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, directed by J.J. Abrams (Lucasfilm Ltd.; Bad Robot Productions; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION (SHORT FORM)
  • Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Television)
  • Grimm: “Headache” written by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, directed by Jim Kouf (Universal Television; GK Productions; Hazy Mills Productions; Open 4 Business Productions; NBCUniversal Television Distribution)
  • Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Productions; Netflix)
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1 and 2 written by Scott Sonneborn, M.A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy, directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller (DHX Media/Vancouver; Hasbro Studios)
  • Supernatural: “Just My Imagination” written by Jenny Klein, directed by Richard Speight Jr. (Kripke Enterprises; Wonderland Sound and Vision; Warner Bros. Television)


Barack Obama had his final appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (full video above).  He said that “if this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year,” mocking Clinton’s paid speeches. He also made fun of her attempts to appeal to young voters:  “Look, I’ve said how much I admire Hillary’s toughness, her smarts, her policy chops, her experience. You’ve got admit it though, Hillary trying appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook. Dear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.’”

Obama also mocked Donald Trump: “There’s one area where Donald’s experience could be invaluable, and that’s closing Guantanamo. Because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground.” Plus he praised his foreign policy experience: “They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president, but in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world — Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.”

Some of Obama’s top jokes can be read here and here.

Bored with the current set of presidential candidates? Take a look at Andrew Basiago, who claims to have traveled back in time and to have teleported to Mars in the 1980’s  with a young Barack Obama. It is surprising that Obama has never mentioned this.

Update: Larry Wilmore At The White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Mainstream Media Reporting On Monday Night Attacks On Pro-Sanders Facebook Pages

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On Monday night those of us going pro-Sanders Facebook pages found that some were not available, seeing the message above. Word quickly spread that people believed to be Clinton supporters were posting porn on the pages and then, in a coordinated attack, multiple people would file complaints with Facebook, leading to the sites pages being taken down.

The sites did return later on Monday. Since then, many have changed from public to private groups, and some have restricted posting to prevent unknown members from repeating this tactic.

The attacks are believed to be from Clinton supporters considering that posts from Clinton supporters were found bragging about the attack. In addition, similar tactics had already been used on Facebook on a smaller scale. Clinton supporters would harass Sanders supporters in attempts to receive hostile responses, and then report responses from Sanders supporters in attempts to have their Facebook accounts restricted or terminated.  This also follows reports of the the pro-Clinton Super PAC Correct the Record, which has been coordinating with the campaign, paying people to “push back” against progressives opposing Clinton on social media.

Heavy.com reported:

Supporters were concerned about potential Clinton PAC involvement because, according to the Daily Beast, a pro-Clinton Super PAC is spending $1 million to counter people on sites like Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter. The group is Correct the Record’s “Barrier Breakers.” According to the PAC’s press release, the digital task force will share positive content and “push back” against online progressive communities to counter “false narratives” and negative attacks. The Super PAC openly coordinates with Clinton’s campaign, Daily Beast reported.

However, there’s no proof of any connection between that PAC and this attack, and definitely no proof of any connection between the PACs and the pornography posts, which were likely from unrelated trolls and spammers.

They also included screen grabs which do suggest that Clinton supporter were behind this action.

The story was picked up by the mainstream media. The Hill reports:

Multiple Facebook pages supporting Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders were abruptly removed from the social media network late last night following a cyberattack.

The pro-Sanders pages — which include Bernie or Bust, Bernie Believers and Bernie Sanders is my HERO — were collectively followed by over a quarter-million supporters of the Vermont senator, and many had been operating continuously since Sanders launched his campaign last year.

The attack began around 9 p.m. EDT and lasted until just after midnight, when most of the pages recovered their accounts…

According to eyewitness reports, the pages were flooded with pornographic images in what appeared to be coordinated fashion and then flagged for obscene content, prompting Facebook to remove them.

“We had what looked like a kiddie porn posted in one of our groups today,” said Sanders supporter Erica Libenow, according to Heavy.com. “I reported that one. Seriously made me want to vomit.”

A Facebook spokesman confirmed to The Hill that a number of pro-Sanders groups as well as other pages “were inaccessible for a brief period” due to the company’s automated policies being “applied incorrectly.”

“We corrected the problem within hours and are working to improve our tools,” the spokesman said.

At least one Facebook user linked to the pro-Hillary Clinton group Bros 4 Hillary was reported to have participated in the attacks.

The Bros 4 Hillary team disavowed the user in a statement posted Tuesday morning, which condemned any “harmful or offensive rhetoric or harassing behavior targeting supporters of any other candidate in the race.”

Several websites and online forums and website attempted to draw a connection between the attacks and Clinton ally David Brock’s social media initiative, Barrier Breakers 2016, after noting that the former Bros 4 Hillary member had recently “liked” the initiative on Facebook.

In a statement to The Hill, Correct the Record denied any involvement in the attacks.

“Correct the Record’s Barrier Breakers 2016 had nothing to do with this,” said Elizabeth Shappell, the group’s communications director. “Currently, Barrier Breakers is exclusively engaged in positive messaging supporting Hillary Clinton.”

Former right-wing hit-man turned Clinton hit-man David Brock is one of the slimiest people in politics, but the desire to prevent opposing viewpoints from being discussed has been a hallmark of many Clinton supporters during this campaign. I doubt that the campaign itself was directly involved, and there is no way to know whether David Brock and his group were involved, or if this was organized by other Clinton supporters. Regardless of who was involved, the prospect of seeing so many Democrats turning into thought police to defend Clinton’s conservative views is one reason why many on the left think that electing Clinton would be even more dangerous to liberal and progressive principles than a Republican president.

There is more at AOL News and New York Magazine. The later shows a tie to the Bros4Hillary group, but also presents an alternative conspiracy theory blaming Donald Trump. While not impossible that the Trump campaign did this to further divide Democrats, I have seen a lot of cases of Clinton supporters trying to suppress discourse from Clinton’s opponents, while I have not encountered any similar on-line premise from Trump supporters. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have expressed a similar disregard for freedom of speech in the recent past.