tinfoil conspiracy theory

The Hurricane Conspiracy (Drudge Scott)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media during a visit to the Advanced Pharma, 22 February 2013, in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

This is one of those moments that presents a challenge about how, exactly, one should accommodate and assimilate deal with it; Eric Levitz explains:

Matt Drudge is concerned that this “impending hurricane” narrative is a bit too convenient: One minute, Obama says climate change is real and could increase the frequency of extreme weather events; several years and hurricanes later, another extreme weather event appears just as Hillary Clinton is campaigning to succeed him.

It shouldn’t be hard to reconcile climate-change denial and acceptance of meteorology. Even Florida’s terrible governor can do it.

“If you need to evacuate and you haven’t―evacuate!” Rick Scott said Thursday. “This storm will kill you.”

Indulge me, please, and recite the following sentence aloud: Rick Scott is a secret Clinton operative.

A’ight, then, any questions?

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Image note: Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media during a visit to the Advanced Pharma, 22 February 2013, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Levitz, Eric. “Matt Drudge Suggests Hurricane Matthew Might Be a Liberal Conspiracy”. New York. 6 October 2016.

A Note re: Kaine vs. Pence

22 FEBRUARY 2015: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on 'FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace'. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 'dark horse' for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Hoosier State's 'religious freedom' bill empowering discrimination, which Pence signed into law in late March. (Image credit: FOX News)

This is important:

In one important area, Pence has the advantage of being perceived as a mainstream pol. Politico published a piece yesterday that characterized tonight’s vice presidential debate as “Battle of the Normals,” and a “sane moment” in a campaign cycle that’s often seemed insane.

On a certain level, I can appreciate where analysis like this is coming from. As a matter of tone and temperament, Mike Pence is hardly scary: the governor is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Midwesterner. Unlike the man at the top of the GOP ticket, no one would ever expect Pence to start tweeting at 3 a.m. about his disgust for a beauty-pageant contestant and encourage Americans to seek out a “sex tape.”

But to shift one’s focus from tone to policy is to see one of the most extremist politicians to seek national office in over a generation.

Steve Benen is not wrong. This has been a factor worth considering in recent years, and even more so this cycle. What counts as centrist or mainstream is, in American politics, a roving range. The msnbc blogger and producer continues:

About four years ago, Nate Silver published an interesting analysis of Paul Ryan, who’d just been named to Mitt Romney’s ticket. Nate wrote at the time, “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. By this measure, in fact, which rates members of the House and Senate throughout different time periods on a common ideology scale, Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900.”

Nate added a chart, highlighting the fact that Ryan’s record put him slightly to the right of Dick Cheney, who was slightly to the right of Dan Quayle.

There are curious circumstances, now and again, in which the GOP hardliners leave me standing shoulder to shoulder with Republicans I generally wouldn’t get along with. George W. Bush on China, and suddenly I’m commiserating with Pat Buchanan? What was it, Jade Helm? How do Rick Perry and I land on the same side? I can tell you, though, that when Lindsey Graham is bagging points off John Kasich being described as a “moderate”, well, at least we have that much in common.

It happens.

We revisit the question for Mike Pence. Benen notes the Indiana governor also has a record in Congress:

In the 107th Congress (Pence’s first, covering 2001 and 2002), for example, out of 435 members of the U.S. House, Pence ranked #428―meaning that 427 members were to his left, putting the Hoosier on the far-right-wing fringe. The results were roughly the same in the 108th Congress and the 109th.

By the 110th Congress, Pence was at #432, putting him to the right of nearly everyone in the chamber. The results were roughly the same in the 111th Congress and the 112th.

Let’s put this another way: during his congressional career, Pence wasn’t just more conservative than Paul Ryan. His voting record also put him to the right of Michele Bachmann, Todd Akin, Steve King, and even Louie Gohmert. That’s not an exaggeration. Bachmann, Akin, King, and Gohmert all had voting records less extreme than Mike Pence.

The problem is the gap between perceptions of Mike Pence and his actual record. To use Politico’s phrasing, the Hoosier is seen as “normal” and “conventional.” But on a substantive level, we’re talking about a politician whose claim to fame is an anti-LGBT law that did real harm to his state. Pence is a climate denier. He rejects the idea that cigarettes are deadly. He doesn’t believe in evolutionary biology, but he does support “conversion therapy.”

There was an embarrassing episode having to do with alleged Iraqi WMDs; something about privatizing Social Security not being conservative enough; something about government shutdowns; oh, right, and some manner of conspiracy theory about Disney film and women in the military.

Unfortunately, that last isn’t a joke.

This is the problem: If Gov. Mike Pence is “normal”, then we might pause to consider how we define normalcy.

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Image note: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, 22 February 2015. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 GOP dark horse and the Hoosier State’s infamous “religious freedom” bill intended to empower discrimination. (Image credit: FOX News)

Benen, Steve. “Mike Pence saw secret propaganda in Disney film”. 18 July 2016.

—————. “Pence becomes the most far-right running mate in modern history”. msnbc. 15 July 2016.

—————. “To see Mike Pence as ‘normal’ is to grade on a generous curve”. msnbc. 4 October 2016.

Kaczynski, Andrew. “Mike Pence Argued In Op-Ed That Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Was Liberal Propaganda”. BuzzFeed. 17 July 2016.

Salter, Lamar. “‘My party has gone bats— crazy’: Lindsey Graham jokes about killing Ted Cruz and bashes the remaining GOP candidates”. Business Insider. 26 February 2016.

Silver, Nate. “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan”. FiveThirtyEight. 11 August 2012.

The Donald Trump Debacle (Economy Beatdown Mix)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump departs from a campaign event at Trump Doral golf course in Miami, Florida, 27 July 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

“But for those who still believe the candidates’ approach to the nation’s economy should matter, Trump’s comments were more than a little alarming. At least yesterday―who knows what his beliefs might be today―the Republican presidential candidate accused the Fed without proof of being politically manipulated by the White House, while simultaneously endorsing higher interest rates, which would slow the economy, despite having said the exact opposite four months ago.”

Steve Benen

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Two Cents on Tinfoil (Chief Injustice)

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at New York University School of Law, 20 November 2015. (Photo: Rick Kopstein/ALM)

To the one, who really likes Chief Justice John Roberts?

No, I mean, sure, you know, his wife and all, but still, is there any one of us who not only isn’t disappointed by Roberts’ general unreliability but, also―in counterpoint to the proposition that one must be doing something right if everyone is complaining―comprehends his underlying legal and juristic outlook well enough to properly endorse it?

To the other, there is this:

What explains the rise of Donald Trump? The right-wing blogosphere has a theory: Trump’s success in taking over the Republican party was caused by Chief Justice John Roberts’ contempt for the rule of law.

The argument, put forth in slightly different forms in recent days by Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett and Cato Institute scholar Ilya Shapiro, goes like this:

Roberts knew that the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was unconstitutional. He even said so in his majority opinion in NFIB v. Sebelius, the case that upheld Obamacare, with Roberts casting the decisive vote. But, after declaring that Obamacare violated the Commerce Clause, Roberts invented a different constitutional argument under the taxing power to save the law, even though he knew that argument was wrong.

He did this because Roberts doesn’t believe judges should overturn laws enacted by political majorities, even when those laws violate the Constitution. Roberts in effect told conservative voters to go elect their own Constitution-trashing strongman, instead of asking courts to restrain tyrants such as Obama and Trump.

Paul Campos apparently drew the short straw over at Salon, and had to spend enough time picking through right-wing tinfoil to figure out what the hell they were saying. And while we owe him thanks, we also might beg pardon if the striking stupidity he describes seems unbelievable, a word here intended to mean, “pretty much what we expect”.

Here’s the tricky part:

The vast majority of constitutional law scholars don’t believe Obamacare violates the Constitution, but never mind that. The far loopier claim is that John Roberts, of all people, upheld Obamacare because he doesn’t believe in striking down democratically-enacted laws. This is the same Roberts who provided the deciding vote to gut the Voting Rights Act, to overturn decades-worth of campaign finance laws, and to strike down gun control legislation, to name just a few of the many cases in which Roberts has shown no hesitation to overturn the decisions of political majorities.

Er―ah … yeah. I’ll just be over in the corner, muttering to myself. Something about matters of fact and opinion.

That, and a potsherd wrapped in tinfoil wrapped in neurotic crisis.

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Image note: U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at New York University School of Law, 20 November 2015. (Photo: Rick Kopstein/ALM))

Campos, Paul. “This is the dumbest Donald Trump theory yet: It’s all about John Roberts”. Salon. 13 May 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Pipe Bombs and Pussies)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This is an important rule:

• It is not always fair to blame a politician for the actions of supporters.

And this is the flip side:

• Sometimes it is exactly fair to blame a politician for actions of supporters.

But there is also this:

• This is the quality of mind that supports Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.

Or, as Ryan J. Reilly explained yesterday for Huffington Post:

A fanatical Donald Trump supporter, who was arrested by the FBI in Oregon this week after repeatedly threatening to kill President Barack Obama and federal agents, had multiple pipe bombs in his home, authorities alleged in court on Friday.

In one Jan. 31 Facebook post cited by the FBI, [John Martin] Roos referred to agents as “pussies” and wrote he would “snipe them with hunting rifles everywhere.” (Despite his threats to kill members of law enforcement, he also complained on Facebook earlier this month about the “liberal media … slamming police.”) In a post in November that was also cited by the FBI, Roos spoke out against accepting refugees and threatened to kill Obama.

John Martin Roos in detail of undated photo via Facebook.“Obama you goat fffing fudgepacker, the refugees are men of fighting age. Black lives matter! Sure we need someone to pick cotton and wash cars. Paris, burn diseased muslim neighborhoods to the ground and start over with human beings. Obama you are on a hit list,” he wrote in a post that appears to have been removed.

Beyond what was mentioned in the affidavit, Roos regularly posted on both Facebook and Twitter about his support for Trump and his hatred for Obama, who he called a “muslim faggot” and other derogatory terms. He indicated he wanted to kill Obama’s family and made other racist and sexist statements about Michelle Obama. He also made negative references to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, singer Beyonce, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and reporter Michelle Fields, and said he believed that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was killed by Obama. He praised Ann Coulter and Stacey Dash, and posted several links to posts on Breitbart.com.

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A Note on Politics and Accountability (NRA Responsible Rhetoric Remix)

Congressional candidate and Nevada Assemblyman John Oceguera (D-16).

One of the wilder variables in the American political discourse is figuring out just how inappropriate any given impropriety actually is, which in functional terms translates to just how wrong or outrageous the marektplace―citizens and voters―will deem any particular words or conduct. Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress offers a tale that brings this seeming bit of superficiality into some reasonable degree of focus:

Just a few hours after congressional candidate John Oceguera announced he was terminating his lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association, the angry comments began flooding his inbox and Facebook page, calling him, among other slurs, a “pussy traitor,” “kool aid-drinking zombie,” and “libtard.”

“May be [sic] he can get an endorsement from the Muslim brotherhood?” mused one commentator, while another advised, “Castrate yourself.”

Sitting in his office on the western edge of Las Vegas, the former Nevada Assembly Speaker and Democratic candidate for Congress told ThinkProgress that the “vitriolic” reaction has only strengthened his resolve.

“The NRA does a lot of good things, like with hunting safety, but they’ve just become so stringent and won’t compromise on any issue,” he said. “It’s like you can’t say anything about commonsense gun reform without people screaming, ‘You’re taking our guns!’ or ‘You’re an idiot’ or a lot worse than that. When I made this announcement, I became enemy number one. But do I really want to belong to an organization where I can’t have an opinion that’s just slightly different?”

There are a number of superficial things we might say about candidates and causes, to the one, and the supporters thereof to another, but in this case we might ask a less common superficial question: President Obama has been expected, in some corners of the legitimate discourse, to account for all manner of idiotic notions; the New Black Panthers and the “Obamaphone” wannabe-scandals come to mind. There is this weird idea out there that any criticism of the president is denounced as racist. In various ways we often hold certain people or causes accountable for the words and actions of others, but this isn’t even a question of whether rock music turns children into mass-murdering Satanic maniacs versus the effects of normalized violent rhetoric on unstable elements within the culture.

Rather, this is like Obamaphone, or the New Black Panthers. Do those people represent the average Obama or Democratic voter?

Similarly: Does the abuse hurled toward Congressional candidate, Assemblyman, and former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D-16) represent the average responsible gun owner?

This is the point: If the answer is yes, then the United States of America are in serious trouble.

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The Ben Carson Show (Setting Star)

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson arrives to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, 3 December 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

Start with the idea of a “Thing ‘Everybody’ Does”, but what it really refers to is a bit more particular and circumstantial, such as a thing every [fill in the blank] does; to further refine that we might invoke notions of sociopolitical empowerment in order to explain that the blank should be filled by some context of something every [not of the group] does when addressing the group.

For instance, the notion of something every white person does when talking to a black people; or something every man does when talking to women. It is a different actual something depending on the people, relationships, and circumstances, but the underlying device is the same.

To cross boundaries and show solidarity by insulting people in an inherently patronizing manner.

Donald Trump comes to mind, for instance.

Or the setting star of Dr. Ben Carson.

Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum yesterday and raised a few eyebrows with his bizarre delivery, effectively reading a history of Israel for reasons no one could explain. He also kept pronouncing “Hamas” as “hummus,” making it seem as if Carson had very serious concerns about the influence of ground chickpeas in the Middle East.

But for my money, the really notable part about Carson’s strange appearance was his thoughts on, of all things, the $1 bill. ABC News reported:

Arrangement of stars on a United States one dollar bill often cited as evidence of a conspiracy theory regarding Freemasons.Addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition today, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson told a story about how the Star of David came to be on the U.S. dollar bill.

Only one problem: There’s no Star of David on the dollar bill.

Apparently, Carson believes that if you look at the back of a dollar bill―on the right, just above the eagle―you’ll see stars in a shape resembling the Star of David. The presidential hopeful told his audience yesterday about a wealthy Jewish merchant, Haym Salomon, who is believed to have helped finance George Washington’s army during the Revolutionary War.

“Salomon gave all his funds to save the U.S. Army and, some say, no one knows for sure, that’s the reason there’s a Star of David on the back of the one dollar bill,” the retired neurosurgeon argued.

(Benen)

We might add that this bit about the Star of David on the dollar bill works its way into Masonic conspiracy theories, and pretty much rely on a presumed stereotype of evil, manipulative Jews.

You know, the whole “Freemasons run the country!” thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Ben Carson Show.

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Image note: Top ― Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson arrives to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in Washington, 3 December 2015. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP) Right ― Arrangement of stars on a United States one dollar bill often cited as evidence of a conspiracy theory regarding Freemasons.

Benen, Steve. “Ben Carson adds the $1 bill to his list of off-the-wall theories”. msnbc. 4 December 2015.

The Carly Fiorina Show (Another Day, Another Lie)

Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., pauses while speaking during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The talent show that is a presidential campaign began in earnest saturday as more than 1,200 Republican activists, who probably will vote in Iowa's caucuses, packed into a historic Des Moines theater to see and hear from a parade of their party's prospective entries. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

“Just so we’re clear, Fiorina lied, then she defended the lie, then she repeated the lie, and then she grudgingly conceded that the ‘fact-checkers are correct’. But she still sees herself as a victim of a media ‘attack’.”

Steve Benen

Here’s the tricky part: “This is what the liberal media always does; it attacks the messenger trying to avoid the message.”

This can be taken two ways:

“It attacks the messenger [who is] trying to avoid the message” ― While it would, in fact, be the more accurate interpretation according to the facts, we can rest assured this is not Ms. Fiorina’s meaning, lest she be complaining that messengers seeking to avoid the message might be subject to scrutiny for the attempt.

“It attacks the messenger [while] trying to avoid the message” ― This is more likely what Ms. Fiorina meant, except it’s dysfunctional. To wit: The media “attacks” [calls out] the “messenger” [bearing false witness] while trying to avoid [propagating] the [false] message.

In other words, it seems Ms. Fiorina thinks she’s only being treated fairly if the news media carries water for her presidential campaign.

Then again, what is a serial liar supposed to say?

Carly Fiorina’s alleged presidential merit is her business acumen. Her demonstrable political demeanor, however, is straightforward dishonesty.

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Image note: Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., pauses while speaking during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. (Detail of photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “Fiorina finally admits she flubbed her facts”. msnbc. 2 November 2015.

A Challenging Existence

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh talks with guests in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 13 January 2009. (Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP)“OK so there’s flowing water on Mars. Yip yip yip yahoo. You know me, I’m science 101, big time guy, tech advance it, you know it, I’m all in. But, NASA has been corrupted by the current regime. I want to find out what they’re going to tell us. OK, flowing water on Mars. If we’re even to believe that, what are they going to tell us that means? That’s what I’m going to wait for. Because I guarantee, let’s just wait and see, this is September 28, let’s just wait and see. Don’t know how long it’s going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda. I don’t know what it is, I would assume it would be something to do with global warming and you can―maybe there was once an advanced civilization. If they say they found flowing water, next they’re going to find a graveyard.”

Rush Limbaugh

What stands out is this is not, really, so unexpected. Neither is the part where the man who mouths a golden mike described the “challenging existence” of always being right.

Every once in a while, these inflammatory media stars not so much let down their guard but find themselves actually hiding behind their falsehoods. One or another of the FOX News hosts once admitted he knew he wasn’t describing real facts; Rush Limbaugh once tried to duck controversy by posturing himself as a comedian, even comparing himself to Bill Maher, who rightly and roundly rejected the sleight. Still, though, the point persists, as does the concomitant question: Mr. Limbaugh and his fellows are entertainers. Why do their audiences receive them as purveyors of fact?

The thing is that we probably would not look at any one NASA event and predict Mr. Limbaugh would respond as he has, but now that he’s gone and said it, well, you know, is anybody really surprised?

Just keep this one in mind; you will hear it in the murmur and buzz around you. You know, the dude at the pub; that one guy at work; your proverbial crazy uncle.

And when you do encounter this bit of tinfoil, remember that even Mr. Limbaugh knows he’s full of shit. And ask yourself why these people you encounter might believe it. Or, hell, ask them; that ought to be interesting; you know, proverbially.

Because if Mr. Limbaugh is a comedian, how is the joke not on the Dittoheads?

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Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh talks with guests in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 13 January 2009. (Photo: Ron Edmonds/AP)

Media Matters Staff. “After NASA Announces It Found Water On Mars, Rush Limbaugh Says It’s Part Of A Climate Change Conspiracy”. Media Matters for America. 28 September 2015.

The Donald Trump Show (Plants and Potsherds)

Donald Trump.

“If the DNC had scripted the last month or so, the party probably would have come up with a scenario that looks quite a bit like the one we’ve seen.”

Steve Benen

This is one of those occasions upon which I must disagree with Mr. Benen:

A Republican carnival barker would use racially charged, xenophobic rhetoric, which would propel him into the GOP’s top tier, pushing minority communities even further from the Republican Party. All the while, the GOP would find itself on the defensive, and more serious candidates would struggle to gain traction.

That is to say, no proper screenwriter would script such an episode except as naked farce. There is a reason truth insists on being stranger than fiction.

Benen also notes that some have made what seems the obvious point, that Trump, who has formerly identified with both parties, is a secret Democratic plant trying to wreck the Republican Party.

And also that for some, such as Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL26), the conspiracy theory is the best they’ve got: (more…)