Category Archives: Conspiracy Theory

Trump’s ‘House of Cards’ about to be reshuffled?

It looks as if we have a House of Cards power struggle going on inside Trumpland between Crown Prince Jared Kushner and Trump’s “America First” white nationalist bomb thrower, Stephen Bannon.

Guess who is going to win this fight.

The New York Times reports today, In Battle for Trump’s Heart and Mind, It’s Bannon vs. Kushner (snippet):

The schism within Mr. Trump’s perpetually fractious White House has grown in recent weeks, fueled by personality, ideology and ambition. At its core are Mr. Bannon, the edgy, nationalist bomb-thrower suddenly in the seat of power, and Mr. Kushner, the polished, boyish-looking scion of New Jersey and New York real estate. Even as Mr. Kushner’s portfolio of responsibilities has been expanding, Mr. Bannon’s in recent days has shrunk with the loss of a national security post.

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The conservative media entertainment complex is an ancillary to Russian ‘active measures’ propaganda

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post reports on how the conservative media entertainment complex and the Trump administration are amplifying “active measures” (propaganda) practiced by the Russians, as we learned from expert testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week. Anatomy of a fake scandal, ginned up by right-wing media and Trump:

President Trump started off his morning as he often does, by settling in to watch the festival of nincompoopery that is “Fox & Friends.” On the show, he saw something that he believes vindicates the bizarre and false charge he made that Barack Obama was tapping his phones during the presidential campaign.

I’ll try to sort through the substance of all this. But I also want to make a broader argument about how Trump’s support system — inside his government but especially in the conservative media and on Fox, which is where he apparently gets most of his intelligence information — is playing to his worst instincts, harming him politically, and making his presidency even more dangerous.

Today’s antics all started with a report on “Fox & Friends” in which correspondent Adam Housley reported that a high-ranking Obama administration official had requested the “unmasking” of the names of Trump officials who were caught up in surveillance of foreign targets. Ordinarily, when a U.S. person shows up in such surveillance — say, talking to a Russian ambassador whose communications are being monitored — that person’s identity is blacked out in reports on the surveillance. While Housley did not identify the Obama administration official, he did say that Trump associates were being picked up by this surveillance for a year before Trump took office.

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Donald Trump commits the U.S. to his anti-science climate change denial (Updated)

Last week the New York Times reported, Arctic’s Winter Sea Ice Drops to Its Lowest Recorded Level:

After a season that saw temperatures soar at the North Pole, the Arctic has less sea ice at winter’s end than ever before in nearly four decades of satellite measurements.

The extent of ice cover — a record low for the third straight year — is another indicator of the effects of global warming on the Arctic, a region that is among the hardest hit by climate change, scientists said.

“This is just another exclamation point on the overall loss of Arctic sea ice coverage that we’ve been seeing,” said Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a government-backed research agency in Boulder, Colo. “We’re heading for summers with no sea ice coverage at all.”

Dr. Serreze said that such a situation, which would leave nothing but open ocean in summer until fall freeze-up begins, could occur by 2030, although many scientists say it may not happen for a decade or two after that.

Less ice coverage also means that there is more dark ocean to absorb more of the sun’s energy, which leads to more warming and melting in a feedback loop called Arctic amplification.

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Trump’s Twitter rant of Obama ‘wire tapping’ is falling apart (updated)

The House Intelligence Committee had given the Justice Department until Monday to turn over any wiretapping applications, orders or warrants related to President Trump and his associates in their investigation of Trump’s Twitter rant that his campaign was “wire tapped” by President Obama.

The Justice Department, now run by Trump campaign booster Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, instead requested a delay in its response. Justice Dept. seeks more time after Congress requests proof of Trump wiretap:

The Justice Department on Monday asked for more time to respond to a request from the House Intelligence Committee to turn over any wiretapping applications, orders or warrants related to President Trump and his associates.

In a one-paragraph statement, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said the Justice Department had called the top Democrats and Republicans on the committee “to ask for additional time to review the request in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what if any responsive documents may exist.” The committee had set a deadline of Monday to turn over the information.

President Trump earlier this month asserted that President Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” just before Trump’s victory in the presidential election. He has not provided any evidence to support his claim. Obama and former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. have denied that such wiretapping took place, and U.S. officials told The Washington Post that FBI Director James B. Comey asked the Justice Department to issue a statement refuting it.

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The GOP’s post-truth politics: the ‘conspiracy-theory feedback loop’

I covered an aspect of this in yesterday’s post about the GOP’s post-truth politics.

Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist, has an update on what I call Epistemic closure and the ‘conservative misinformation feedback loop’ media bubble with a new monicker, the “conspiracy-theory feedback loop.” Pro-Trump media sets the agenda with lies. Here’s how traditional media can take it back.

To save Tinkerbell, all you had to do was clap your hands and really, really believe in fairies.

To send a conspiracy theory on its vicious way around the world, you need to do more than just believe. You need help.

Luckily for those who wanted to elect Donald Trump, that help was available during the presidential campaign, and still is. It comes from a collection of new right-wing hyperpartisan media outlets that are having a huge effect on politics.

Consider, for example, one outlandish idea from just last week: that the CIA hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails, gave them to WikiLeaks and then framed Russia.

Business Insider traced it: from replies to the WikiLeaks Twitter account, through conservative radio and then Breitbart News, and out into the semi-mainstream — Sean Hannity on Fox News — all within 48 hours.

Similarly, the right-wing radio host Mark Levin may have started the evidence-free idea that President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of now-President Trump. It made its way quickly through the media ecosystem, after Trump saw it, apparently on Breitbart News.

Once the president tweets it, it’s undeniably news, picked up everywhere and re-amplified — especially by right-wing sites.

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Follow the money: Coincidence or conspiracy? The Carter Page connection

Back in January, “Baghdad Sean” Spicer claimed that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Cater Page “is an individual whom the President-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign.”

Per usual, this was false. “In an interview with The Washington Post editorial board in March, Trump named “Carter Page, Ph.D.,” as one of the people he was considering for his foreign policy team.” Trump news conference: CNN’s Reality Check team vets the claims:

Carter Page founded an investment company, Global Energy Capital, and has worked as an investment banker in London and Moscow.

Page has denied the allegations that he met with sanctioned Russian officials, telling The Washington Post, “All of these accusations are just complete garbage.”

That was, until last week in an interview with MSNBC host Chris Hayes. Carter Page: ‘I don’t deny’ meeting with Russian ambassador.

And now this complete reversal from “Baghdad Sean” Spicer’s false denial in January: Trump campaign approved adviser’s trip to Moscow:

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski approved foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s now-infamous trip to Moscow last summer on the condition that he would not be an official representative of the campaign, according to a former campaign adviser.

A few weeks before he traveled to Moscow to give a July 7 speech, Page asked J.D. Gordon, his supervisor on the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, for permission to make the trip, and Gordon strongly advised against it, Gordon, a retired naval officer, told POLITICO.

Page then emailed Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks asking for formal approval, and was told by Lewandowski that he could make the trip, but not as an official representative of the campaign, the former campaign adviser said. The adviser spoke on the condition of anonymity because he has not been authorized to discuss internal campaign matters.

The trip is now a focus of congressional and FBI investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

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