Conspiracy theories are fun: Daily Bullshit, February 16, 2017 (updated)

I’ve renamed this from the (Almost) Daily Bullshit to the (Supposedly) Daily Bullshit. While I spend several hours each day going through news, I’ve been finding it difficult to produce an issue here every day, and the real truth of the matter is that it seems like I’m often better off starting an issue and updating it over a period of two or three days. This way, more of each story is covered in each issue, with maybe a little better analysis.

The bad part of this is that when I update the publication date from one day to the next, the URL for the issue changes because the URL includes the date. I update the shortened URL at greybeard95a.com manually, so that gets fixed. But original URLs are subject to change (so share the shortened URL, not the original) until newer issues are published.


Updates

  1. February 16, 4:39 pm

    • A Glenn Greenwald interview on Democracy Now! on the possibility of a “deep state coup” against Donald Trump (Intelligence Community)[1]
    • Jonathan Turley on Trump’s latest claims regarding the Muslim Ban.[2]

Intelligence Community

if you look at The Wall Street Journal report, it’s pretty much exactly the same as every other significant report about Russia over the last six months, many of which have proven to be completely false. It’s based on anonymous officials making extremely vague claims. . . .

We ought to have a serious, sober, structured investigation of the claims that Russia hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s emails and that there were improper ties between Donald Trump and the Russians, and that ought to be made public so that we can see the information. But this constant media obsession of leaking whatever someone whispers to them about Donald Trump and Russia, because they know it will get their reporters huge numbers of retweets on Twitter and tons of traffic by people who are being fed what they want to hear, is really feeding into the worst kind of hysteria and even fake news that the media says they’re trying to combat. These are really serious claims that merit serious investigation, and that’s exactly what we’re not getting.[3]

In the last installment, I relied on an Observer article to call the intelligence community, with all its considerable assets, disloyal,[4] because it was withholding information from the president.[5] The Wall Street Journal has now confirmed the story. “[I]n . . . previous cases in which information was withheld, the decision wasn’t motivated by a concern about a president’s trustworthiness or discretion, the current and former officials [familiar with the decision] said.”[6] And, utterly unsurprisingly—and I think meaninglessly—the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has denied the story.[7]

Some supporters of Trump, including Breitbart News, are now accusing the intelligence agencies of attempting to wage a “deep state coup” against the president. Meanwhile, some critics of Trump are openly embracing such activity, like Bill Kristol, the prominent Republican analyst who founded The Weekly Standard. He wrote on Twitter, “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”[8]

On my other point that this “is why we must be suspicious of the scandal on the Trump administration’s alleged ties to Russia,”[9] the WSJ repeats that “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia stole and leaked emails from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign to undermine the election process and try to boost Mr. Trump’s chances of winning, an allegation denied by Russian officials.”[10] I have been skeptical of this claim, partly because the supporting evidence is classified[11] and partly because remote (psycho)analysis of Vladimir Putin’s motives seems really dubious.[12] Now let’s just ask ourselves: What if U.S. intelligence agencies had reached their conclusion about Trump even before the election, when these allegations first emerged? What if these agencies are already acting to bring Trump down?

Some supporters of Trump, including Breitbart News, are now accusing the intelligence agencies of attempting to wage a “deep state coup” against the president.[13]

For me, it’s just much too easy to wonder if perhaps the series of accusations against Russia is really a disinformation campaign in an ongoing mission to delegitimize Trump. Admittedly, this is mere and pure speculation. I have absolutely no evidence to back it up. And, worst of all, it’s what Trump wants me to believe. But what can I say? I’m wondering.

The deep state, although there’s no precise or scientific definition, generally refers to the agencies in Washington that are permanent power factions. They stay and exercise power even as presidents who are elected come and go. They typically exercise their power in secret, in the dark, and so they’re barely subject to democratic accountability, if they’re subject to it at all. It’s agencies like the CIA, the NSA and the other intelligence agencies, that are essentially designed to disseminate disinformation and deceit and propaganda, and have a long history of doing not only that, but also have a long history of the world’s worst war crimes, atrocities and death squads. This is who not just people like Bill Kristol, but lots of Democrats are placing their faith in, are trying to empower, are cheering for as they exert power separate and apart from—in fact, in opposition to—the political officials to whom they’re supposed to be subordinate.

And you go—this is not just about Russia. You go all the way back to the campaign, and what you saw was that leading members of the intelligence community, including Mike Morell, who was the acting CIA chief under President Obama, and Michael Hayden, who ran both the CIA and the NSA under George W. Bush, were very outspoken supporters of Hillary Clinton. In fact, Michael Morell went to The New York Times, and Michael Hayden went to The Washington Post, during the campaign to praise Hillary Clinton and to say that Donald Trump had become a recruit of Russia. The CIA and the intelligence community were vehemently in support of Clinton and vehemently opposed to Trump, from the beginning. And the reason was, was because they liked Hillary Clinton’s policies [particularly on Syria] better than they liked Donald Trump’s.[14]

Russia’s denial here offers absolutely no help as most countries engaged in the sorts of operations Russia is accused of will seek to keep them secret because public exposure would invite a counterproductive backlash against ‘foreign interference.’ And, possibly due to a limited imagination, I fail to discern any benefit to admitting to such interference. Russia, whether actually guilty or not, has been ‘caught.’ The country’s denials obviously seek to prevent a backlash. But with such a motivation, we should rather be surprised by a confession, especially if they admitted helping Trump, and in such a case, we could accept that the charges are confirmed. The truth of Russia’s denial lies principally in its quest to avoid negative consequences and we, the general public, continue to lack sufficient information to confirm or refute that Russia intervened in the election or had inappropriate contact with the Trump transition team or has it now with the Trump administration.

[T]he CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it. And yet that’s what so many, not just neocons, but the neocons’ allies in the Democratic Party, are now urging and cheering. And it’s incredibly warped and dangerous to watch them do that.[15]

So here’s that great conspiracy theory line in which the protagonist primes her or his audience to be suspicious that her or his (mostly or entirely unfounded) allegation might be true, asks a series of questions that assume at least some truth to the allegation and build toward dastardly, deep, dark possibilities, and then declares, “I don’t know!”

I don’t know.

Democracy Now! “Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy,” February 16, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/16/greenwald_empowering_the_deep_state_to

Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee, “Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/spies-keep-intelligence-from-donald-trump-1487209351

Louis Nelson, “Office of Director of National Intelligence: We don’t withhold intel from Trump,” Politico, February 16, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/office-director-national-intelligence-trump-intel-wsj-235080


Antarctica

This is not Larsen C, which is surely coming, but a calving off the Pine Island glacier.[16] We would very much prefer that the Pine Island glacier remain intact, right where it is.[17]

Brian Kahn, “Antarctica Just Shed a Manhattan-Sized Chunk of Ice,” Climate Central, February 15, 2017, http://www.climatecentral.org/news/antarctica-iceberg-climate-21167


Muslim Ban

There appears to be a discrepancy on the question of whether the Trump administration will appeal the Ninth Circuit’s ruling. Department of Justice lawyers apparently told the court that they would not appeal, that the order would be rescinded and replaced.[18] Jonathan Turley, however, understands Trump to have said “that he would appeal the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling against his travel ban.”[19]

Brent Kendall, “Trump Administration Plans New Immigration Order Next Week, Ends Legal Push in Appeals Court,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-plans-new-immigration-order-next-week-ends-legal-push-in-appeals-court-1487275058

Jonathan Turley, “Trump Says Administration Will Issue New Immigration Order Next Week and Appeal Ninth Circuit Ruling,” February 16, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/16/trump-says-administration-will-issue-new-immigration-order-next-week-and-appeal-ninth-circuit-ruling/


  1. [1]Democracy Now! “Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy,” February 16, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/16/greenwald_empowering_the_deep_state_to
  2. [2]Jonathan Turley, “Trump Says Administration Will Issue New Immigration Order Next Week and Appeal Ninth Circuit Ruling,” February 16, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/16/trump-says-administration-will-issue-new-immigration-order-next-week-and-appeal-ninth-circuit-ruling/
  3. [3]Glenn Greenwald, quoted in Democracy Now! “Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy,” February 16, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/16/greenwald_empowering_the_deep_state_to
  4. [4]David Benfell, “The republic is in danger,” (Supposedly) Daily Bullshit, February 15, 2017, https://parts-unknown.org/reading/2017/02/15/the-republic-is-in-danger-daily-bullshit-february-13-15-2017/
  5. [5]John R. Schindler, “The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins,” Observer, February 12, 2017, http://observer.com/2017/02/donald-trump-administration-mike-flynn-russian-embassy/
  6. [6]Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee, “Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/spies-keep-intelligence-from-donald-trump-1487209351
  7. [7]Louis Nelson, “Office of Director of National Intelligence: We don’t withhold intel from Trump,” Politico, February 16, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/office-director-national-intelligence-trump-intel-wsj-235080
  8. [8]Chuck Schumer, quoted on Democracy Now! “Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy,” February 16, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/16/greenwald_empowering_the_deep_state_to
  9. [9]David Benfell, “The republic is in danger,” (Supposedly) Daily Bullshit, February 15, 2017, https://parts-unknown.org/reading/2017/02/15/the-republic-is-in-danger-daily-bullshit-february-13-15-2017/
  10. [10]Shane Harris and Carol E. Lee, “Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/spies-keep-intelligence-from-donald-trump-1487209351
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Blaming the Russians,” Not Housebroken, December 17, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9151
  12. [12]David Benfell, “Vladimir Putin’s motives,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9162
  13. [13]Democracy Now! “Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy,” February 16, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/16/greenwald_empowering_the_deep_state_to
  14. [14]Glenn Greenwald, quoted in Democracy Now! “Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy,” February 16, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/16/greenwald_empowering_the_deep_state_to
  15. [15]Glenn Greenwald, quoted in Democracy Now! “Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy,” February 16, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/16/greenwald_empowering_the_deep_state_to
  16. [16]Brian Kahn, “Antarctica Just Shed a Manhattan-Sized Chunk of Ice,” Climate Central, February 15, 2017, http://www.climatecentral.org/news/antarctica-iceberg-climate-21167
  17. [17]Fred Pearce, With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate change (Boston: Beacon, 2007).
  18. [18]Brent Kendall, “Trump Administration Plans New Immigration Order Next Week, Ends Legal Push in Appeals Court,” Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-plans-new-immigration-order-next-week-ends-legal-push-in-appeals-court-1487275058
  19. [19]Jonathan Turley, “Trump Says Administration Will Issue New Immigration Order Next Week and Appeal Ninth Circuit Ruling,” February 16, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/16/trump-says-administration-will-issue-new-immigration-order-next-week-and-appeal-ninth-circuit-ruling/

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