SciFi Weekend: The Orville; Star Trek Discovery; The Magicians; Saving Dark Matter; Legends of Tomorrow; Game of Thrones; Doctor Who

I probably agree with most of the criticism of The Orville. Although flawed, as a long time Star Trek fan (as Seth MacFarlane is), I intend to give the show longer. The pilot did rely too much on jokes about the Captain and first officer’s divorce, but there were some other amusing moments. The episode introduced the major officers by having most of them being new to the Captain. Here’s one exchange as he met the second officer:

All right, uh, Lieutenant Commander Bortus, our second officer. You know, I’ve never met a single-gender species before. Your entire species is male, isn’t it?
That is correct, sir.
So, there’s probably not a lot of arguments about leaving the toilet seat up and that kind of thing, right?
No. Moclans urinate only once per year.
Really? That’s Me, I’m-I’m up two, three times a night.
That is unfortunate.
It is.

My favorite exchange was this parody of the technobabble often seen on Star Trek as the crew encounters something new. They saw a device which aged a banana a month, causing its destruction:

Janice has been experimenting with temporal fields and has made well, a breakthrough would be an understatement.
So, it’s an anti-banana ray?
It’s really interesting. We need no longer fear the banana.
Does it work on all fruit?
What about salads?

Obviously there are other uses for such a device.

Some previous Star Trek actors are interested and have agreed to cameos, including Wil Wheaton.

TrekMovie.com has interviewed Seth MacFarlane regarding his plans for the show. Information on tonight’s episode here.

Obviously there will also be some cross over between Star Trek: Discovery and previous series. Jonathan Frakes has directed an episode, and revealed that Discovery will be doing a Mirror Universe episode.

Trekmovie.com looks at the latest trailer for the show, giving some of the biggest clues as to what the series will be like one week before its September 24th premiere.

Netflix has listed the ten most rewatched episodes of Star Trek. They are not the ones I would choose, with a heavy concentration on Voyager.

Critics will not be able to review Discovery until after it airs, with no screeners being released. Some shows might suffer from reduced hype by taking such an action, but I don’t imagine this will happen as this is Star Trek. Plus it probably doesn’t matter to CBS whether people watch when first aired as with other shows. Their goal is to get people to subscribe to their streaming service, which will allow them to catch up after the original episode airs.

Netflix has listed the ten most rewatched episodes of Star Trek. While I agree with some choices, such as The Best of Both Worlds, they are not the tenI would choose, with a heavy concentration on Voyager.

Entertainment Weekly has this news on the upcoming season of The Magicians:

EW can exclusively reveal that Candis Cayne will return as the Fairy Queen in season 3 (see the exclusive photo below), which finds magic-free Fillory under full but secret occupation by the fairies. In the new state of affairs, Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Margo (Summer Bishil) are the unwilling pawns of the Fairy Queen, who has her own dark vision for Fillory’s future and whose demands on Margo tend to be particularly baffling and hilariously humiliating — which is what you’d expect from this typically whimsical, mysterious, and at times sadistic species.

I have grown to like Margo, but seeing her tormented by the Fairy Queen could be amusing.

Dark Matter fans continue to push to keep the show alive, including with Twitter storms. Several campaign links here. I wish them luck. This is a show which is well worth continuing for the entire planned story arc.  The Mary Sue gave several good reasons for saving Dark Matter.

Legends of Tomorrow went from a weak series its first season to being the best of the CW DC shows last year. This was partially due to other series weakening with time, but Legends also did become much more fun the second season. Third season premiers on October 10. Promo above.

Game of Thrones will be going to great lengths to avoid spoilers of the ending of the series, including shooting multiple endings

The BBC has released the synopsis for the Christmas episode of Doctor WhoTwice Upon A Time:

Two Doctors stranded in a forbidding snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. And a British army captain seemingly destined to die in the First World War, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story.

This is the magical last chapter in the Twelfth Doctor’s epic adventure. He must face his past to decide his future. And the Doctor will realise the resilience of humanity, discovering hope in his darkest frozen moment.

It’s the end of an era. But the Doctor’s journey is only just beginning.

Mark Gatiss will be playing the British army captain and David Bradley will play the first Doctor. This episode will also introduce Jodie Whittaker as the thirteenth Doctor.

As I led with Star Trek and related news this week, it is worth noting that it was recently revealed that Peter Capaldi had once auditioned to play Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine. It is hard to see him in the role in place of Avery Brooks. If the audition tape ever is released, it will be interesting to watch.

Pearl Mackie has been cast in her first role for after she leaves Doctor Who following the Christmas episode.  She will play Lulu in Harold Pinter’s 1957 play The Birthday Party. The link includes an interview with Mackie.

Karen Gillan has revealed the disguises she used, along with Matt Smith and Arthur Davill, to blend in at a convention.

Claire Foy, who stars with Matt Smith in The Crown, has been cast as Lizbeth Salander for The Girl in the Spider’s Web. It will be interesting to see her in such a completely different type of role.

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.

Donald Trump Becoming Increasingly Isolated, Reminiscent Of The Final Days Of Richard Nixon

People are becoming increasingly unwilling to associate with Donald Trump in any way in light of his refusal to take a stand against white supremacists and neo-Nazis. So far eighteen charities have pulled out of events at Mar-a-Lago this year, with the current list here. This includes five more charities which have withdrawn in the past day. The Palm Beach Post reports:

On Friday, Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest nonprofit in the fight against breast cancer, the International Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Autism Association of Palm Beach County, and Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Loxahatchee Groves announced they would not hold their events at Trump’s Palm Beach club during the winter fundraising season.

Those announcements came a day after the Cleveland Clinic, American Cancer Society and the American Friends of Magen David Adom, an organization supporting Israel disaster relief programs, said they would seek alternative venues. The Cleveland Clinic plans to hold its Feb. 23 ball at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

The International Red Cross announcement, in particular, marks the end of an era. Mar-a-Lago’s original owner, Marjorie Merriweather Post, hosted the IRC’s first ball there and Trump has been a frequent chairman of the event. And Big Dog Rescue, which counts Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump as a gala co-chair, decided Friday to move its fundraiser only a day after it reiterated its intention to stick with Mar-a-Lago.

Earlier this week Trump was forced to disband his business advisory groups as CEO’s began to withdraw. He has come under criticism from many members of his own party who fear he might have damaged the Republican party for years to come, leading to speculation that he might be only six votes away from removal from office if impeached and this goes to the Senate. One member of his Evangelical Advisory Board has stepped down over “a deepening conflict in values.”

Donald and Melania Trump also announced today that they will  not be attending this year’s Kennedy Center Honors after several of those being honored stated they would skip the event. Yesterday the members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities announced they were resigning in a letter critical of Donald Trump:

“Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions …” the letter stated. “Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.”

We have not seen a president this isolated since Richard Nixon in the final days before his resignation. This makes me wonder if we are getting close to seeing Donald Trump talking to the pictures  of former presidents on the White House walls as Richard Nixon did. Or perhaps his often irrational middle of the night Tweets are the modern day equivalent.

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.

Joe Scarborough & Mika Brzezinski Respond To Donald Trump’s Mental State

Over the last couple of days Donald Trump has both advocated repealing Obamacare without a replacement, which would lead to 26 million people losing insurance, and has insulted Mika Brzezinski. Based upon the media response, the later appears to be the more important story. Therefore, rather than another post on the Republican plans to destroy health care (such as here and here), I’ll look at the more important story of the day.

In a pair of tweets, Donald Trump claimed:

I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came……to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Subsequently Joe Scarborough accused Trump of blackmailing them, demanding an apology for their negative coverage, or else a negative story about Scarborough and Brzezinski would be published in the Enquirer. Trump mistakenly thought people would actually give a damn over what the Enquirer had to say about their relationship.

New York Magazine summaries what occurred:

According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

The Morning Joe co-hosts decided to talk about the episode a day after Trump inaccurately tweeted that Brzezinski attended a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” (A photo from that evening backs up Scarborough and Brzezinski’s denial of this.) While the Enquirer denies that Trump encouraged Pecker to investigate the MSNBC hosts, Trump himself has pushed the story publicly. Last August, he tweeted, “Some day, when things calm down, I’ll tell the real story of@JoeNBC and his very insecure long-time girlfriend, @morningmika. Two clowns!”

The most interesting thing in all of this is that the Enquirer is owned by a guy named Pecker who is a friend of Donald Trump.

While Trump’s ability to express himself is generally often limited to short forms like Twitter, Scarborough and Brzezinski are capable of more detailed expression of their views. They did this in an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, Donald Trump is not well. Here are some excerpts:

The president’s unhealthy obsession with our show has been in the public record for months, and we are seldom surprised by his posting nasty tweets about us. During the campaign, the Republican nominee called Mika “neurotic” and promised to attack us personally after the campaign ended. This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.

The president’s unhealthy obsession with “Morning Joe” does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to “Fox & Friends.”

…It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children. We were heartened to hear a number of Republican lawmakers call out Mr. Trump for his offensive words and can only hope that the women who are closest to him will follow their examples. It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of women’s empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct.

Fox cites anonymous sources to say that Scarborough’s claims are not true (which I point out only to demonstrate how low Fox can get).

Melania Trump defended her husband:

“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” her communications director Stephanie Grisham said in response to reporters’ questions.

Stephen Colbert had this rebuttal to Melania’s defense: “Yes, as the first lady says, ‘When they go low, we go 10 times lower.'”

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.

Donald Trump Planning To Live Tweet While James Comey Testifies

Twitter might turn out to be as damaging to Donald Trump as the White House tapes were to Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Washington Post reporter Robert Costa has said in an interview on MSNBC that Donald Trump will live tweet when James Comey testifies before Congress on Thursday.

“I was just talking to some White House officials this morning and their view is that the president himself wants to be the messenger, his own warrior, his own lawyer, his own spokesman,” Costa explained. “Some outside people, some surrogates will be available.”

“But the president is expected to be tweeting on Thursday in response to Comey, not to stay quiet during the testimony,” he added. “Because he himself wants to be the one driving the process.”

It will pretty much be Donald Trump mishandling his own defense. It is easy to imagine Trump sending out tweets which will undermine any defense he should launch in the future. Because of the difficulties presented by Trump’s bizarre behavior, at least four top law firms have turned down requests to represent Trump. They were afraid Trump would not follow their advice–which undoubtedly would be for him not to say or tweet anything related to Comey’s testimony without first consulting with them.

Initially there were plans to set up a “war room” to handle matters related to Comey and to the Russia investigation. Mike Allen has described the plans, and how the plans were never completed. Ultimately the problem, like most problems in the Trump White House, exists because Trump shows no ability to actually run the White House. As Ezra Klein has discussed, Trump has no idea how to lead the Executive Branch:

Trump ran for office posing as a savvy corporate executive who would manage the government like a business. But since winning the presidency, he has proven alienated and confused by the government he runs. He criticizes it in public in ways that make clear he doesn’t understand how to manage it in private. Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk saying, “The buck stops here.” Trump isn’t sure where the buck stops, or how to find it, or even whom to ask about it. He doesn’t run the government so much as fight with it.

“Trump sees ‘the Trump administration’ as himself, his Twitter account, Jared and Ivanka, and a few close staffers at the White House,” says Ron Klain, who served as chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore. “He will always think of everyone else as ‘the government’: some nameless force that does not answer to him, and that he does not manage in a conventional sense.”

This was predictable. Trump was never the omnicompetent CEO he played on television. His core business was licensing his name out to other people who actually ran businesses. He’s a genius marketer, not a genius manager. The “Trump” brand appeared on steaks, on vodka, on eyeglasses, on lamps, and on fragrances, to name just a few. But he didn’t run those companies or manage the people who did. He didn’t take responsibility for those products or those teams.

Sometimes the results were comical, as with Trump’s steak company. Sometimes the results were disastrous, as with Trump University, or those Florida condos. Sometimes he just made a quick buck, as with his line of neckwear. Trump was so successful as a marketer in part because he was unusually disinterested in the companies he endorsed…

Criticism of Trump is not limited to liberals like Klein. The normally Republican-friendly Wall Street Journal has an editorial which is highly critical of Trump. Some excepts, which deal with Trump tweets attacking London Mayor Sadiq Khan and then his travel ban:

Some people with a propensity for self-destructive behavior can’t seem to help themselves, President Trump apparently among them. Over the weekend and into Monday he indulged in another cycle of Twitter outbursts and pointless personal feuding that may damage his agenda and the powers of the Presidency…

Mr. Trump’s more consequential eruption was against Mr. Trump’s Justice Department. He was evidently responding to a segment on MSNBC’s “ Morning Joe ” about his executive order temporarily suspending immigration entry from six countries with a history of terrorism.

“People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want,” Mr. Trump wrote. “I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” Mr. Trump added that “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.”

These comments are reckless on multiple levels. The original blunderbuss order was rolled out on the Friday night of Mr. Trump’s first week as President with zero public explanation and little internal vetting. White House staffers from the Steve Bannon wing preferred the stun-grenade approach, but Mr. Trump’s legal team convinced him to sign a legally bulletproof revision in March because they preferred to win in court…

In other words, in 140-character increments, Mr. Trump diminished his own standing by causing a minor international incident, demonstrated that the loyalty he demands of the people who work for him isn’t reciprocal, set back his policy goals and wasted time that he could have devoted to health care, tax reform or “infrastructure week.” Mark it all down as further evidence that the most effective opponent of the Trump Presidency is Donald J. Trump.

Most likely, tweeting about Comey’s testimony will similarly diminish his standing and undermine his case.