Friday's HOT MIC

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When Vox is an island of sanity in a sea of stupidity and misinformation:

President Donald Trump is about to resign as a result of the Russia scandal. Bernie Sanders and Sean Hannity are Russian agents. The Russians have paid off House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz to the tune of $10 million, using Trump as a go-between. Paul Ryan is a traitorfor refusing to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand was a secret Russian agent charged with discrediting the American conservative movement.

These are all claims you can find made on a new and growing sector of the internet that functions as a fake news bubble for liberals, something I’ve dubbed the Russiasphere. The mirror image of Breitbart and InfoWars on the right, it focuses nearly exclusively on real and imagined connections between Trump and Russia. The tone is breathless: full of unnamed intelligence sources, certainty that Trump will soon be imprisoned, and fever dream factual assertions that no reputable media outlet has managed to confirm.

Twitter is the Russiasphere’s native habitat. Louise Mensch, a former right-wing British parliamentarian and romance novelist, spreads the newest, punchiest, and often most unfounded Russia gossip to her 283,000 followers on Twitter. Mensch is backed up by a handful of allies, including former NSA spook John Schindler (226,000 followers) and DC-area photographer Claude Taylor (159,000 followers).

These three — Mensch, Schindler, and Taylor — form a kind of self-reinforcing information circle, retweeting and validating one another’s work on a nearly daily basis. A quick Twitter search reveals hundreds of interactions between the three on the platform in recent months, many of which reach huge audiences on Twitter (judging by the retweet and favorite counts). They’re also reliably boosted by a few allies with large followings — conservative NeverTrumper Rick Wilson, the anonymous Twitter account Counterchekist, and financial analyst Eric Garland (best known as the “time for some game theory” tweetstormer.)

Read the whole thing, especially to get the juicy background on some of the principals.


Mr. Low Energy piles on:

Former GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush suggested Friday that his predictions on the campaign trail that President Trump would bring "chaos" to the White House had been validated. "When I ran for office, I said he is a chaos candidate and would be a chaos president," Bush said at the Skybridge Alternatives (SALT) hedge fund conference in Las Vegas, according to CNN.

"Unfortunately, so far chaos organizes the presidency right now," he added. Bush, a former Florida governor, fought bitterly on the 2016 campaign trail with Trump, labeling the real estate mogul a "chaos candidate" and arguing he would make a "chaos president."

Bush, who was considered in the early days of the GOP race to be a favorite, ended his bid for the Republican nomination after a disappointing finish in the South Carolina primary in February 2016. His comments Friday come in the wake of a series of controversies for Trump over the past 10 days, beginning with his abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey last week.

With friends like this, Republicans don't need enemies. But with enemies like Jeb, even those skeptical of Donald Trump double down and hope for the best.

RE the "Clockboy" story referenced by Stephen Green, it looks like the Mohamed family's 15 minutes are finally up with a federal judge's dismissal of their lawsuit against the city of Irving, Texas, and the Irving school district.

This wasn't the first time the family had lost in court. In January, a district court judge in Texas dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by the Mohameds against Fox News, Glenn Beck, the Center for Security Policy, and the mayor of Irving, among others.

In the lawsuit that was dismissed today, the family was demanding $15 million from the city of Irving.

The judge wrote: "Plaintiff does not allege any facts from which this court can reasonably infer that any IISD employee intentionally discriminated against Ahmed Mohamed based on his race or religion."

That's great news, but I have a nit to pick with the Daily Mail.

"On September 14, 2015, 14-year-old Ahmed gained national attention when his high school teacher suspected he brought a bomb to school," the paper reported.

Wrong. The school didn't suspect that the "homemade alarm clock" Ahmed brought to school was an actual bomb. They suspected that it was a hoax bomb -- as did everyone who took an honest look at the thing. That's why "Clockboy" got in trouble.

It was not an innocent mistake -- it was an agenda-driven publicity stunt that was embraced by a lot of influential liberals -- including the president of the United States. Then-President Obama inserted himself into the controversy, calling the hoax bomb a "cool clock" on Twitter and inviting him to the White House. Rich liberals leapt onboard, showering the boy with gifts, and he went on a world tour culminating with a visit with Sudanese president and war criminal Omar al-Bashir. The judge's dismissal of the entire case will hopefully be the last thing we hear about this ridiculous family for at least a little while.

How dumb are journalists? According to this study, this dumb:

Journalists' brains show a lower-than-average level of executive functioning, according to a new study, which means they have a below-average ability to regulate their emotions, suppress biases, solve complex problems, switch between tasks, and show creative and flexible thinking.

The study, led by Tara Swart, a neuroscientist and leadership coach, analysed 40 journalists from newspapers, magazines, broadcast, and online platforms over seven months. The participants took part in tests related to their lifestyle, health, and behaviour. It was launched in association with the London Press Club, and the objective was to determine how journalists can thrive under stress.

Each subject completed a blood test, wore a heart-rate monitor for three days, kept a food and drink diary for a week, and completed a brain profile questionnaire.

The results showed that journalists' brains were operating at a lower level than the average population, particularly because of dehydration and the tendency of journalists to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine, and high-sugar foods.

Remember this the next time you're reading one of the late-night, caffeine-and-sugar-fueled fantasies by one of these poor creatures: always on the outside looking in, but oh-so-angry they're not where the action is.

Coming soon - Trump in Israel. The JPost has a terrific write-up of plans for Trump's arrival in Israel that looked at only slightly from afar reads like the treatment for a great film comedy. The Israelis seem to be laying out the red carpet in spades (how's that for two cliches and a mixed metaphor at once?). Donald will be staying, of course, at the King David (yes, I've stayed there, lucky me) with its fantastic view of the Old  City. Trump, not surprisingly, is taking over the entire place. The Israelis at first thought they would have to prepare food for our president, but apparently he is bringing it all on Air Force One. But fear not, it will be kosher, because of Jared and Ivanka. Trump will be making the first visit to the kotel (aka the Western Wall) by a sitting president. Some people are wondering if Netanyahu will accompany him, making some kind of political statement out of that. Seems overblown to me. As is the question of when the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem, evidently an extremely expensive endeavor. We would want our best facilities there for obvious reasons. What's on everybody's mind now, as it should  be, is Iran. America is switching sides to the Sunnis from the Shiites. Israelis couldn't be happier. Bye-bye, Barack. (Not Ehud Barak)


How bad are things likely to get in Venezuela? The Venezuelan military is beginning to recruit snipers to fire into crowds and break up demonstrations.

The tactic didn't work for Qadaffi and it's not likely to work for President Maduro.

“Begin to make preparations with those individuals that can serve as snipers, beginning with psychological and aptitude tests” to make sure the unit commanders are in control of them, Torrealba instructed the military gathering. Torrealba is head of the Lara-state based Integral Defense Operational Zone (ZODI), one of several regional military operational zones.

The generals at the meeting included representatives of the army, air force and national guard, according to the Washington source.

“There will come a time when we will have to employ them [the snipers] and I want us to be ready for the moment that we have to employ them because the president will not remain at a green [preparation] phase, gentlemen,” Torrealba said, a likely reference to Maduro’s activation of the Zamora Plan, a war plan to be activated in the midst of imminent foreign invasion. “He [Maduro] has already signed a range of operations and as I said here [previously] … we could be at the beginning of a subversive urban war.”

The recording of Torrealba’s voice matches the one appearing in videos of his public speeches available on YouTube. His voice also was identified by the Washington source that supplied the tape to el Nuevo Herald.

So much for a military coup against the government in Venezuela. Not when the generals are willing to wade through rivers of blood to keep Maduro in power.

This is the most human reaction I've ever seen from Hillary Clinton, as she tries to dodge a hug from her Trump stand-in during a practice debate.

Huma Abedin wrote down the names of all those who laughed, who later received the customary 30 lashes.

Move over "Lyin' Ted," "Little Marco," and "Crooked Hillary" and make room for "Nutjob Comey."

Dilbert creator Scott Adams can't stop laughing at the former FBI director's new "forever nickname."

He says all that most people will remember in a month from this latest White House leak is Comey's new nickname -- nutjob.

Today, class, a "compare and contrast" exercise:

Two notorious sexual abuse court cases ended today with two very different outcomes.

Anthony Weiner pleaded guilty to sexting a 15-year-old girl, weeping openly as he admitted to the judge: "I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse."

And today Swedish prosecutors unexpectedly dropped their investigation into an allegation of rape against Julian Assange. The allegation stemmed from a 2010 visit he made to Stockholm where he was accused of sexual assault. He categorically denied all of the claims.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London where he had sought asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Today, Assange declared that “the proper war is just commencing.”

After raising a clenched fist in salute, however, he vowed that “threats” made by US officials that he could be arrested on espionage charges “will not be tolerated” and said his organisation was escalating its leaks of documents about the CIA.

Images of Weiner crying in the courtroom and Assange, triumphant on the Ecuadoran balcony, are a lesson in contrasts: