TBR News April 27, 2016

Apr 27 2016

The Voice of the White House


Washington, D.C. April 27, 2016: “Some form of religion has always been with humans, from the beginnings when cavemen pointed in awe at a bright comet in the night sky. The original Christian religion was Roman Catholic, followed very quickly by Eastern Orthodox and these congregations remained fairly steady until Luther launched his Reformation. After this there were great flowerings, and later witherings, of a multitude of cults which reached its peak in the late nineteenth century. The more strident of the cults moved into the political sphere, seeking to gain control over it and force the general public to follow their own dictates, no matter how obnoxious or unrealistic these might appear. This grabbing for power peaked during the reign of the obnoxious and badly flawed George W. Bush and after his welcome departure from the Presidency, the surge upwards stopped and began the long slide into oblivion. Christianity is, in fact, a dying religion. And what will replace it? Perhaps a resurrection of the Egyptian cult of Aten or the Roman Mithras cult, both of whom worshipped the sun.”


And on the seventh day Americans rested – but pass on religion, poll finds

Although 63% of respondents say they use it as a day of relaxation only half of Americans say religious significance of Sabbath is personally important to them

April 27, 2016

by Harriet Sherwood

The Guardian

The proportion of Americans who say a religious day of rest is personally important to them has dropped to 50%, reflecting growing secularism over recent decades, according to a new poll.

A similar question asked in a 1978 survey showed 74% of respondents saying the Sabbath had personal religious significance.

The new poll also showed a big fall in those saying they attended weekly religious services, from 55% in 1978 to 27% now. Jews were least likely to attend services and Mormons were most likely.The survey was carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Deseret News, a “family-oriented” news site based in Salt Lake City. It questioned 1,691 Americans across religious, racial, gender and age groups.

The poll found that more than six in 10 Americans agreed that it was important for society to have a day of the week set aside for spiritual rest. YouGov adjusted the day depending on the respondent’s religious affiliation: Sunday for Christians, Saturday for Jews and Friday for Muslims.

Young Americans – the so-called millennial generation – are the least likely to consider the Sabbath to have religious or spiritual meaning: 41% of those born in the run-up to the millennium said it was personally significant, compared to 58% of those born before 1945.

Mormons, black Protestants and evangelical Protestants were most likely to agree on the importance of the Sabbath, and Jews and the religiously unaffiliated least likely. The views of Muslims, who make up about 1% of the US population, were not recorded.

Respondents who said they worked in a full- or part-time job on the Sabbath totalled 13%, although the figure rose to 18% for millennials. Almost one in five people said they went shopping, and 23% took part in sports or outdoor activities. For 63%, the Sabbath was a day of rest and relaxation.

Mormons were more likely than any other to attend religious services, with 69% saying they went to church. Just over half of people identifying as black Protestants went to church, and only 5% of Jews said they attended synagogue on the Sabbath. The national average for attending weekly religious services was 27%, according to the poll.

More than half the respondents (55%) agreed that public and private organisations should accommodate people who wish to observe the Sabbath even if it inconvenienced the organisation.

The overall picture reflects a decline in religious activity and belief among the American population. Last year, the highly respected Pew Forum published data showing that almost 23% of Americans defined themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 16.1% in 2007.

About 70% said they were Christian. But Pew also reported that only 30% of Christians have “high” involvement in their congregations, including attending religious services at least weekly.


Face-off: Scientology leader threatens to sue his father over tell-all book

April 27, 2016


An exposé about internal Scientology leadership struggles between founder L. Ron Hubbard and current leader David Miscavige is at the center of a controversy. The book alleged poor living conditions and violence at the organization’s headquarters in California.

The book, entitled ‘Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me’, was written by Ron Miscavige. Among the allegations in the book is that David “seized power” from Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Elsewhere in the purported disclosure, the author accuses his son of of “outmaneuvering rivals,” keeping “appalling conditions” at the headquarters in Hemet, California as well as detailing how church members are subjected to “deprivation and violence” while detained in a prison-like confinement center known as “the Hole,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

David Miscavige’s father also alleges that his son hired a private detective to trail him. The book is due for release in the UK on May 3.

The Church of Scientology is a body of beliefs and practices created by American science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, which now characterizes itself as a religion. However, the movement began as an alternative to psychiatry known as Dianetics, which is widely perceived as pseudoscientific. The practice argues that personality flaws and ailments were the result of repressed negative memories and could be resolved through a counseling technique called auditing.

Scientology claims to give the believer a complete and total understanding of “one’s true spiritual nature,” however, in order to access the highest levels of the church, staggering payments are required. Many of the Church’s key figures are notably rich and famous, including Tom Cruise. Members of the Church are skeptical of modern medicine and believe in cleansing one’s own spirit.

The Church of Scientology has encountered considerable opposition and controversy and has been classified as a cult by some public authorities.

Ron Miscavige’s UK publisher, Silvertail Books, has already received a letter from a law firm warning of a defamation lawsuit if the book is released, according to Tony Ortega, who is a Scientology observer.

“As you are no doubt aware, UK and Irish libel laws offer more extensive protection to individuals, and indeed religious organizations, than those in the US,” the letter from Johnsons Solicitors states. “You are now on notice of the highly defamatory content of the subject book. Accordingly, in the event that you proceed with the release of this book, in total disregard for the truth, our client will be left with no alternative but to seek the protection of UK/Irish defamation and other laws.”Miscavige’s lawyers are hoping the law will favor them. St. Martin’s Press is due to release the book in the US and has received a similar letter.

Many of the claims in the book have been alleged before in other Scientology exposés such as Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief in 2013. The book was released in the US and Europe but not in the UK because of its libel laws.

“My plans for the [Miscavige] book haven’t change at all since I received the letter. Full legal diligence has been carried out on the manuscript, and I am both confident in its integrity and very proud that Silvertail is publishing it,” Humfrey Hunter, Silvertail Books publisher told the Hollywood Reporter. “Ron’s story is an important one, and he is a brave man to be telling it.”


  1. Ron Hubbard

Clearly, no greater man has ever lived. Even beyond single-handedly inventing the scientific field known as Dianetics and founding an immensely popular religion, L. Ron Hubbard has by his own account led a most extraordinary life: conversant in seven languages, decorated war hero, scientist, inventor, philosopher, film director, musician. And his success as a writer and a messiah is undeniable.

It is common for people to assume that Hubbard was a pathological liar or some manner of megalomaniac when they learn his life story, because it certainly does sound incredible. But his followers have carefully researched their founder’s biography and secured all the documentation to prove their claims. Although this paperwork has yet to see the light of day, or is in fact contradicted by more readily-available sources, the simplest explanation is that Hubbard made some powerful enemies in the government who would stop at nothing to discredit him. Because it simply defies reason that so many people would choose to follow anyone who concocted stories as fantastic as these about himself. And anyway, truth is stranger than fiction.

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was born in Nebraska in 1911. Shortly thereafter the family moved to Helena, Montana. There he quickly blossomed into a cowboy poet. According to an official biography, Ron was “riding broncos by the age of 3, soon breaking them, and at 6, he became a blood brother of the Blackfoot Indians.” At the same time, he began reading the works by Shakespeare and Greek philosophers. If this was claimed of anyone else, you would be right to be skeptical. Especially considering that nobody’s been able to verify exactly where this ranch existed. But Montana is infamous for its poor record-keeping; everybody knows that.

He was definitely a force to be reckoned with. In kindergarten, little Ron was defending his neighbors and classmates from bullies twice his age by using a form of judo his grandfather called “lumberjack fighting.” That’s right: he was in kindergarten. None of the former kids actually remembers Ron taking care of business, but people easily forget things from their childhoods.

In 1922 the family moved to Washington state, where Ron joined Boy Scout troop 10 the following year. Sometime around Christmas, the kid evidently developed a powerful hankering for an Eagle Scout patch because he earned his remaining 18 merit badges by March 25. That works out to one badge every 4.7 days. Nowadays, Scouters tend to frown upon rushing through the advancement system, because it tends to create “paper Eagles” — kids who hold Scouting’s highest rank but can’t remember how to tie their knots. But maybe things were different back in 1924.

In 1930, Ron enrolled at George Washington University’s school of engineering. He studied for a career in civil engineering, but left after only two years. Perhaps he was bored by the pace of the coursework. Or maybe he just decided he would benefit more from an autodidactic approach. For whatever reason, his GWU transcript included six D’s and four F’s. The simplest explanation is that these were simply clerical errors which Hubbard never bothered to correct.

War hero

A year and a half before Pearl Harbor, as a civilian Ron had already begun fighting the Nazis. He was piloting a boat up the Alaskan coast when he stopped off at Ketchikan. There he met the owner/operator of KGBU radio. Evidently the area had been experiencing mysterious interference in the station’s transmissions. Ron immediately had a hunch: it was none other than the work of a German spy, out to disable America’s communication systems to prevent the prompt relaying of emergency information. Hubbard made a full report to the FBI, thus thwarting the plot. For some reason, the government still denies that this ever took place, but then they deny a lot of stuff we know to be true.

Ron volunteered for the Naval Reserves in 1941, where he distinguished himself with a brilliant military career. In August 1942, Lt. Hubbard was assigned to the YP-422, a patrol boat at the Boston Navy Yard. After a single training exercise, the Navy decided that Hubbard’s talents were being wasted on such an insignificant task. Somehow the Axis had infiltrated the Navy Yard, because the Commandant stripped Hubbard of his command after only a single training exercise. Or maybe he was simply intimidated by the young officer’s complete and utter mastery of leadership and sailing skills.

Hubbard got shuffled around to a couple of desk jobs before managing to convince the Navy of his value as a commanding officer. So in May 1943 he took charge of a submarine chaser, the PC-815. As luck would have it, on the very first day of its maiden voyage, Hubbard’s subchaser encountered sonar contacts off the Oregon coast. He spent the next several hours hunting two submarines, dropping depth charges and shooting at surface debris with deck guns. The next day, four other ships and two Navy blimps were brought in to aid in the hunt. Evidently Hubbard’s quick thinking ruled the day, because no trace of the submarines could be found. No doubt, they were both lying wrecked on the ocean floor.

It was Hubbard’s bad luck that the battle took place directly over a known magnetic deposit, which made it impossible for instruments to distinguish between the wreckage and the minerals in the seabed. Which is of course precisely what made it the ideal spot for enemy subs to hide. But the Navy brass refused to acknowledge the heroic feat. So they scapegoated Hubbard, claiming that he had simply become confused by the geological feature and wasted all his ammunition on phantoms. They were probably just worried about inciting panic among the populace.

He was admonished and then ordered to take his ship to San Diego, where it was to remain for a two-year assignment. On June 28, after a day of training exercises off the coast, Lt. Hubbard ordered his men to practice firing at a practice target floating near some uninhabited islands. They unloaded all kinds of ammo into the thing, including four 50-caliber artillery rounds. At least two of those rounds missed the target and struck the island.

After the crew returned to San Diego the next morning, they were surprised to learn a few things:

1.the island was called South Coronados

2.South Coronados island actually belonged to Mexico

3.South Coronados island was actually inhabited, by Mexicans

4.the Mexican government had, in fact, filed a formal complaint about the shelling

Evidently bowing to Mexican pressure, the Navy brass showed no mercy. They formally reprimanded Lt. Hubbard and stripped him of his command. According to the comments in his fitness report, L. Ron would never again captain a naval vessel:

Consider this officer lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership and cooperation. He acts without forethought as to probable results. He is believed to have been sincere in his efforts to make his ship efficient and ready. Not considered qualified for command or promotion at this time. Recommend duty on a large vessel where he can be properly supervised.

In November he was assigned to serve as the Navigation Officer on a freighter, the SS Algol. There he spent nine months trying not to die of boredom. Finally, he was accepted into a three-month Military Government course at the Navy Training School on the campus of Princeton University. It is really astonishing that Hubbard managed to make it through the course, because he soon wound up in a VA hospital, where he spent two years recovering from extensive war injuries. As he put it:

Blinded with injured optic nerves, and lame with physical injuries to hip and back, at the end of World War II, I faced an almost non-existent future. […]

And so there came a further blow — I was abandoned by family and friends as a supposedly hopeless cripple and a probable burden upon them for the rest of my days. Yet I worked my way back to fitness and strength in less than two years, using only what I knew about Man and his relationship to the universe. I had no one to help me; what I had to know I had to find out. And it’s quite a trick studying when you cannot see.

I became used to being told it was all impossible, that there was no way, no hope. Yet I came to see again and walk again.

As inspiring as Hubbard’s recovery was, it was even more amazing that he had made it through the entire government class at Princeton both blind and crippled. Once again, if you heard this story about anyone other than L. Ron, you would be right to question it. Especially given the fact that Lt. Hubbard’s medical records include nothing more serious than an ulcer. Which is troublesome, until you discover that Hubbard wound up making some very powerful enemies near the end of his life, who would like nothing more than to discredit him and his work.

Crusader against the Dark Arts

After his miraculous recovery and discharge from the service, L. Ron was sent on a secret mission to infiltrate a coven of warlocks in Pasadena, California. The government instructed Hubbard to destroy it from within. Unfortunately, there is no record of any government agency making such a request, but you really can’t expect the Feds to hand over sensitive paperwork like that. But there is independent documentation that L. Ron successfully insinuated himself into the group.

First he befriended Jack Parsons, the head of the Agape Lodge. In no time at all, they became best friends. Next, he seduced Jack’s girlfriend Betty. (It’s unclear whether this was an assigned objective, or just a fringe benefit.) In early 1946, Parsons wrote a letter to Aleister Crowley, who was the head of the parent organization, the Ordo Templi Orientis:

About 3 months ago I met Capt L Ron Hubbard, a writer and explorer of whom I had known for some time… He is a gentleman, red hair, green eyes, honest and intelligent and we have become great friends. He moved in with me about two months ago, and although Betty and I are still friendly, she has transferred her sexual affections to him.

Although he has no formal training in Magick he has an extraordinary amount of experience and understanding in the field. From some of his experiences I deduce he is in direct touch with some higher intelligence, possibly his Guardian Angel. He is the most Thelemic person I have ever met and is in complete accord with our own principles. He is also interested in establishing the New Aeon, but for cogent reasons I have not introduced him to the Lodge.

As illustrated in the letter, Jack had come to trust L. Ron implicitly. In fact, Hubbard had proposed a financial arrangement to speed the disintegration of the Lodge:

We are pooling our resources in a partnership which will act as a parent company to control our business ventures. I think I have made a great gain, and as Betty and I are the best of friends, there is little loss…

Parsons coughed up $20,970.80, Hubbard threw in $1,183.91, and with that $22,154.71 in seed money they formed Allied Enterprises. Then L. Ron suggested that they invest in yachts. They would buy underpriced boats in Florida and sell them in California. Since he was an accomplished sea captain, Hubbard would sail them to Los Angeles. This idea sounded good to Jack. So in May, Hubbard and Betty left for Florida on a boat-buying mission.

Evidently, part of the government plan to root out the coven involved squandering its financial resources, because as soon as Hubbard got to Florida he drained the Allied Enterprises bank account and spent it all on three yachts and a whole lot of high living.

In the end, Parsons went to court but only managed to recover about half his money. The financial trouble must have hindered the Agape Lodge, and by extension the OTO. After being apprised of the situation, Crowley dispatched a message to his subordinate expressing utter dismay:

From our brother’s account he has given away both his girl and his money — apparently it is an ordinary confidence trick.

Which was certainly true, of course. Except what Crowley didn’t know — and the feds still refuse to admit — is that Hubbard had done it all for Uncle Sam. It is quite possible that without Ron’s courageous undercover work, America would today be overrun by the forces of evil.

Self-help guru

In 1949, Hubbard began developing a theory of mind which would prove revolutionary. In his model, the human brain was a system akin to a digital computer. And just as you can improve a computer system’s performance by defragging its hard disk, L. Ron believed that you could accomplish the same optimization by clearing space in a person’s long-term memory. In doing so, the subject is capable of freeing himself of the lingering effects of negative memories — eliminating psychological and psychosomatic illnesses, vastly improving memory retention, and boosting the I.Q. score. This is accomplished by reliving the bad experiences in a trancelike state, where they are dealt with and disposed of, one at a time.

This scientific field came to be known as Dianetics. Inauspicious as it may sound, Dianetics was introduced to the world in the May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. A few weeks later, a full-length book was published entitled Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Healing. It soon became a best-seller, moving 150,000 copies in the first year alone. The system set forth in these works and other magazine articles would change the lives of millions.

By following Hubbard’s regimen they were relieved of all forms of irrational behavior, including unhealthy compulsions, repressive inhibitions, and psychosomatic illnesses. At which point, they were considered “Clear” — absolutely free of self-defeating influences. A person who was Clear had harnessed the extraordinary powers of the human intellect. In so doing, they would appear to be superhuman in the eyes of the “Pre-Clears.” Hubbard revealed that Buddha and Jesus Christ, far from being divine, were simply ordinary mortals who had progressed “a shade above Clear.”

Another startling realization Hubbard made during his years of research was that people with serious physical or mental problems were almost always the victims of dozens of abortion attempts. As he explained it later, “attempted abortion is very common.” Each such incident left a mark on the unborn fetus, along with the mother’s engagement in sexual intercourse, masturbation, douching, morning sickness, and constipation. This revelation was so unsettling that it drew fire from many critics. For instance:

Hubbard’s extensive discussion of things sexual, his concern with abortions, beatings, coitus under duress, flatulence which causes pressure on the foetus, certain cloacal references, all suggest to me a fascination which borders on the obsessive, as if he possessed a deep-seated hatred of women. All of them are being beaten, most of them prove to be unfaithful, few babies are wanted.

Strident opposition to Hubbard’s insights extended into the federal government as well. As part of an orchestrated effort to discredit him and drive him out business, the FBI opened a file on Hubbard and began tracking his activities. But even as the enemies were closing in, Ron did not cease his research, which led him to discoveries even more earth-shattering.

Savior of all humanity

In late 1953, L. Ron Hubbard announced to the world that the Dianetics system was more than just a self-improvement mechanism — it was also the key to understanding the source of mankind’s spirituality. In other words, Dianetics was now a religion. Hubbard termed his new faith Scientology.

Ron had made this unparalleled discovery through a technique established in Dianetics — reliving past experiences to root out traumatic memories. Hubbard proposed that the earlier the memory, the more impact it has on the grown subject. Many adherents of Dianetics wind up re-experiencing life events all the way back to the gamete stage, remembering the consciousness they had when they were just a sperm cell. In fact, Hubbard realized that he could use this method to remember past lives, all the way backward through one’s evolutionary ancestors, thus proving once and for all both evolution and reincarnation.

He also empirically calculated the age of the immortal soul (or more accurately, the thetan), which he determined to be trillions or quadrillions of years. (This figure is significantly older than the planet Earth.) LRH revealed that our material bodies contain a collection of these thetans, one of which is dominant and the rest fight for control. Which brings us to the centerpiece of L. Ron Hubbard’s mind-blowing theology. It turns out that our spirits were actually transported to this planet 75 million years ago — back when its proper name was “Teegeeack” — by an impossibly cruel dictator known as Xenu.

Xenu was the head of the Galactic Federation, a group of civilizations on 76 planets in our general neighborhood of the cosmos. As a result of incredible overcrowding problems, Xenu ordered that millions or billions of political dissidents from the various planets be brought to Teegeeack, where they were brainwashed and their souls implanted into the local fauna. Many dozens of these thetans were crammed into each animal. Then the creatures were dropped into volcanoes and vaporized with hydrogen bombs. Through Scientology, LRH provided the means by which a person can exorcise his unwanted thetans and undo Xenu’s brainwashing.

This process is extremely dangerous if done improperly. So naturally, the Church of Scientology is very careful about who receives the full briefing. It’s the kind of thing that could permanently damage the psyche of an unprepared mind. Which is why none of this information is provided to Scientologists until after years of mental preparation and training.


Almost overnight, Scientology opened centers across America and England. What had been only a self-help discipline a few years before had suddenly grown into the single most important institution in the history of humankind. Ron alternated between continuing his groundbreaking research into the mind and giving lectures on the subject of Scientology.

It was soon thereafter that elements of the government began to focus on undermining the Church of Scientology and its founder. Hubbard wrote a letter to the FBI in July 1955 informing them of an IRS plot intended to destroy him. The FBI ignored his plea for help, proving their complicity in the effort. The intimidation and harassment worsened over the next decade, eventually driving LRH to escape the jurisdiction of the United States. And Britain. As well as every other nation on Earth.

At L. Ron’s direction, the Church of Scientology began assembling a fleet of ships in the late 1960s. Hubbard transferred the church’s files and principal staff members onto the Royal Scotman (later rechristened the Apollo). Then the church’s mobile headquarters put to sea, with its founder at the helm.

LRH remained at sea for the next few years, thus evading the clutches of the corrupt governments of the world. This is the period Scientology’s enemies like to claim that Hubbard turned into some kind of paranoid Howard Hughes-like recluse. That he was terrified of dentists and doctors and refused to be treated by either. That he became addicted to prescription drugs. That he became capricious and cruel with his crew. That his mind and body both deteriorated to an appalling state. All of which is utter nonsense.

If Hubbard’s primary concern was in dodging law enforcement, creditors, and process servers, it was simply needless to live at sea for several years. He could have accomplished the same thing by secretly purchasing a huge large tract of land in an out-of-the-way location, and establishing a fortress there under a cover story intended to deflect suspicion. That would have been simpler than spending years on an ocean liner.

Eventually, LRH returned to the U.S. and ordered the church to quietly procure a sprawling land parcel near Hemet, California. There they established a defensible compound disguised as a small-scale film studio and duplication house for corporate training videos so they could avoid attracting unwanted attention. Hubbard lived there for a few years, before retiring to a similar low-profile facility constructed near the small town of Creston, California.

Moving on

Three days after the founder’s death, the news was broken to the church membership at the Palladium theater in Los Angeles. Hubbard’s successor, David Miscavige, delivered the eulogy. Miscavige stressed the fact that Ron had not actually died, but rather progressed to a level above human (much like what Marshall Applewhite would attempt to do a decade later):

“Thus, at 2000 hours, Friday 24 January 1986, L. Ron Hubbard discarded the body he had used in this lifetime for seventy-four years, ten months and eleven days. The body he had used to facilitate his existence in this universe had ceased to be useful and in fact had become an impediment to the work he now must do outside its confines. The being we knew as L. Ron Hubbard still exists. Although you may feel grief, understand that he did not, and does not now. He has simply moved on to his next step. LRH in fact used this lifetime and body we knew to accomplish what no man has ever accomplished — he unlocked the mysteries of life and gave us the tools so we could free ourselves and our fellow men…”

And so ends the story of the greatest man who ever lived.



13 Mar 1911 Lafayette Ronald Hubbard born to Harry Ross Hubbard and Ledora May Hubbard, Tilden NE.

1 Apr 1924 13-year-old Boy Scout L. Ron Hubbard receives the rank of Eagle Scout in Washington, D.C. Hubbard later claims that he was the nation’s youngest Eagle Scout, despite the fact that the national office has never recorded that factoid.

1928 During a trip to China, a teenaged L. Ron Hubbard records the following observations in his diary: “They smell of all the baths they didn’t take. The trouble with China is, there are too many chinks here.”

1 May 1930 LaFayette Ronald Hubbard joins a Marine Corps Reserve training unit. He is placed on inactive status the same day, and spends only five weeks of his 18-month stint actually doing anything.

Sep 1930 LaFayette Ronald Hubbard enrolls in the civil engineering program at George Washington University. He spends two years in the program, ultimately earning six D’s (General Chemistry, Differential Calculus, Integral Calculus, Plane Analytic Geometry, Electricity and Magnetism) and four F’s (First Year German, Differential Calculus, Molecular and Atomic Physics).

13 Jul 1931 L. Ronald Hubbard earns Commercial Glider Pilot Licence #385 after 116 flights.

23 Jun 1932 The Doris Hamlin sets sail for the Caribbean from Baltimore.

13 Apr 1933 Hubbard marries Polly (aka Margaret Louise) Grubb in Elkton, Maryland.

25 Jun 1941 L. Ron Hubbard receives his commission in the Naval Reserves, as a Lieutenant junior grade.

4 Feb 1942 The US Naval Attaché in Melbourne reports: “By assuming unauthorized authority and attempting to perform duties for which he has no qualifications, he became the source of much trouble. […] This officer is not satisfactory for independent duty assignment. He is garrulous and tries to give impressions of his importance. He also seems to think he has unusual ability in most lines. These characteristics indicate that he will require close supervision for satisfactory performance of any intelligence duty.”

25 Sep 1942  The Commandant of Boston Navy Yard notifies Washington that L. Ron Hubbard is ill-suited to run a ship: “Lt. L.R. Hubbard is in command of YP 422 completing conversion and fitting out at Boston, in the opinion of the Commandant he is not temperamentally fitted for independent command. It is therefore urgently requested that he be detached and that order for relief be expedited in view of the expected early departure of the vessel. Believe Hubbard capable of useful service if ordered to other duty under immediate supervision of a more senior officer.”

1 Oct 1942 Hubbard summarily relieved of his command. He had been assigned to the USS YP-422.

18 May 1943  On the very first day of its maiden voyage, the USS PC-815 encounters one or two enemy submarines off the coast of Oregon. Its commanding officer reports to CINCPAC that he expended all depth charges on the suspicious sonar contact and also fired many rounds of ammunition at what might have a piece of driftwood. The next day, the chase is joined by four other ships and two blimps. No sign of any submarine is ever found.

28 Jun 1943   In an attempt to get in some impromptu target practice, the crew of the U.S.S. PC 815 fires four 50-caliber artillery rounds at a floating object. Unfortunately, this object is right in front of the inhabited island of South Coronados, and at least two shells strike land.

7 Jul 1943 “Consider this officer lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership and cooperation. He acts without forethought as to probable results. He is believed to have been sincere in his efforts to make his ship efficient and ready. Not considered qualified for command or promotion at this time. Recommend duty on a large vessel where he can be properly supervised.”

15 Jul 1943    Lieutenant Lafayette Ron Hubbard is relieved of his command for conducting an unauthorized gunnery practice and violating the territorial waters of the nation of Mexico.

27 Sep 1944  Navigation Officer Lt. Hubbard just so happens to be inspecting a load of cargo being brought aboard the SS Algol when he notices a molotov cocktail made out of a Coke bottle. Hubbard is detached from the ship a few hours later.

Aug 1945 Hubbard is introduced to the Agape Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis in Pasadena.

5 Sep 1945    Hubbard is admitted at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California for “epigastric distress.”

10 Aug 1946  Without bothering to get a divorce from Polly, Hubbard marries Sara Elizabeth Northrup in Chestertown, Maryland. Sara is the former girlfriend of Jack Parsons who went by the name of Betty.

24 Dec 1947  L. Ron Hubbard divorces his first wife, 16 months after marrying his second.

17 Aug 1948  L. Ron Hubbard is arrested for bad checks in San Luis Obispo, California. In court a fortnight later, Hubbard pays the $25 fine.

Spring 1949   Addressing a sci-fi group in Newark, New Jersey: “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be to start his own religion.”

9 May 1950    Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health is published.

23 Feb 1951  “I was in my apartment on February 23rd, about two or three o’clock in the morning when the apartment was entered, I was knocked out, had a needle thrust into my heart to give it a jet of air to produce ‘coronary thrombosis’ and was given an electric shock with a 110 volt current. This is all very blurred to me. I had no witnesses. But only one person had another key to that apartment and that was Sara.”

17 Apr 1951  FBI headquarters receives a communique regarding self-help author L. Ron Hubbard:


12 Jun 1951   Hubbard granted a divorce from Sara, on the basis of her “gross neglect of duty and extreme cruelty.”

1952 Hubbard marries Mary Sue Whipp.

10 Apr 1953   L. Ron Hubbard writes a letter to Helen O’Brien, revealing his newest idea for revitalizing his Dianetics business. He proposes that they apply for a church charter in Pennsylvania or New Jersey and convert their existing storefronts into “Spiritual Guidance Centers” — although he asks her for help in thinking up a better name for the ersatz chapels. In closing, Hubbard asks for O’Brien’s input on the idea, saying “I await your reaction on the religion angle.” And thus, Scientology is conceived.

18 Apr 1973   L. Ron Hubbard orders the Church of Scientology to launch Operation Snow White.

28 May 1974  L. Ron Hubbard writes to the Navy asking for the 17 medals he often claimed to have won in World War II. Three weeks later, the Navy sends back the four medals he actually won, and none of the 13 imaginary ones.


8 Jul 1977 FBI agents raid the offices of the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. In addition to burglar tools and surveillance equipment, agents seize approximately 90,000 pages of documents and files, the contents of which blow the lid off Operation Snow White.

17 Mar 1978  L. Ron Hubbard is convicted in absentia of fraud by a French court. He is sentenced to four years in prison and a $7,000 fine.

15 Aug 1978  A federal grand jury indicts nine Scientologists, including L. Ron Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue, for criminal acts in furtherance of Operation Snow White. The charges include burglarizing government offices and stealing official documents, perjury, conspiracy, and obstructing justice.

Mar 1979 L. Ron Hubbard secretly moves to Hemet, California.

Feb 1980 L. Ron Hubbard secretly moves to Creston, California.

Jun 1983 “I believed in Satanism. There was no other religion in the house! Scientology and black magic. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Scientology is black magic that is just spread out over a long time period. To perform black magic generally takes a few hours or, at most, a few weeks. But in Scientology it’s stretched out over a lifetime, and so you don’t see it. Black magic is the inner core of Scientology — and it is probably the only part of Scientology that really works.” Penthouse interview.

20 Jun 1984   The court issues its ruling in Scientology v. Armstrong: The organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and the bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder LRH. The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background, and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile. At the same time it appears that he is charismatic and highly capable of motivating, organizing, controlling, manipulating, and inspiring his adherents. He has been referred to during this trial as a “genius,” a “revered person,” a man who was “viewed by his followers with awe.

23 Jan 1986   L. Ron Hubbard drafts and signs his Last Will and Testament.

24 Jan 1986   L. Ron Hubbard dies in a motorhome near Creston, California, a few miles north of San Luis Obispo. He is cremated and his ashes dumped into the Pacific Ocean. The news is revealed three days later.

25 Jan 1986   The coroner’s post mortem describes L. Ron Hubbard as having “long, unkempt” fingernails and toenails, and “10 recent needle marks” on the right buttock beneath a band-aid. The church did not permit an autopsy.


Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.           After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversations with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt:


Conversation No. 117

Date: Tuesday, December 16, 1997

Commenced:  1:17 PM CST

Concluded: 1:50 PM CST

RTC:  It really is amazing, Gregory, the number of my old friends, and I put quotes around that phrase, who somehow forget to call me or stop by.

GD: But you aren’t in power any more, Robert, are you? The moment you left the CIA, they forgot about you and rushed to embrace your successor. It’s always been that way. Some person asked me recently how they could be more popular and have more friends.

RTC: And you told them…?

GD: Why, I said to tell everyone their uncle Waldo had died and the lawyers said they inherited all of his estate. I said that this ought to be a hundred thousand dollars or more. Then, I said, they would flock to your door, waving their hands and reminding you they had shared a sandwich with you in Kindergarten. Oh yes, armies of the eager, the worshipful, seeking the warmth of your presence and hopeful of your generosity. There is the matter of little Timmy and his earwax problem. The doctors said that after the delicate operation, Timmy could hear again. Of course all it would really take to clean out the wax and the spiderwebs would be a five dollar little bulb with a bit of liquid, available from any drug store for less than ten dollars, but no, according to your new friends, a delicate operation. Possibly at the Mayo Clinic. Modestly turned down eyes and a brief, tragic, snort into a handkerchief while thinking of poor, deaf, Timmy once again able to hear the morning song of the birdies or his Grandma’s cries of pain as she sits down on Timmy’s toy fire engine on the couch. And just think, Robert, you could prevent all of that and bring joy into their home once again!

RTC: Joy who, Gregory?

GD: Joy Pavelic, the social worker, Robert. The one who comes by to make sure they are feeding little Timmy. Social workers do not approve of feeding deaf little angels on a diet of moldy cat food. And as others join in the chorus of supplications, and as your bank account shrinks accordingly, so also does your popularity. And when the account is empty, your front porch is also empty again and the horde of leeches is seen scampering down the street to the home of the next inheritor.

RTC: Are people really that obvious? Yes, they are. Greedy and stupid.

GD: Don’t forget vicious while you’re at it.

RTC: If Hitler had done away with idiots, eastern Europe would be a desert. My God, as a Chicago boy, I learned to love the Polacks, believe me.

GD: You heard about the Russian woman who recently gave birth to a wooden baby?

RTC: No, actually I didn’t. Won’t you tell me?

GD: Certainly. She had been raped by a Pole.

RTC: (laughter) Point well taken.

GD: And Hitler never did away with people.

RTC: The Jews certainly want you to believe he did.

GD: Do you know how Hitler actually died? No? He had a heart attack when he got the gas bill.

RTC: (laughter) Well, after all, didn’t they gas a hundred million Jews?

GD: Of course they did. And they also got the cats and the parrots at the same time.

RTC: Parrots? Are you serious? What about all the art works the Hitler people stole? Your friend Müller was selling this for us. A lot of it was in bad taste.

GD: Out in LA, in a really expensive art gallery in Beverly Hills, I can just her some old cow braying to her husband, ‘Myron, let’s buy the Picasso. It matches the drapes.’

RTC: The art market is pretty much filled with phonies.

GD: Oh my God, it is. Jackson Pollack used to get up on a ladder with cans of paint, toss the contents all over a big canvas he spread out on the floor of his garage and then the paint dribblings dried, cut up the canvas and made many pictures out of it. Jesus, the idiot people actually pay money for them. Their taste is obviously up their ass along with a dead baby, a beach sandal and two cans of sauerkraut.

RTC: But the art dealers must be happy.

GD: Yes, and rich.

RTC: Gregory, when you are in Washington, be careful with anti-Jewish remarks. The city is packed with Hebrews.

GD: So is Beverly Hills.

RTC: No, they have power there so watch what you say. It never used to be that way but ever since Roosevelt’s long reign, the Hebrews have made a home inside the Beltway. And don’t forget that Roosevelt himself was Jewish. His biographers, most of whom are also Hebrews, speak of an aristocratic Dutch background but Franklin’s forebears came from Holland second. In Germany, where they had been living in the Rhineland, they were the Rosenfeld family and then when they ran to Holland with the local police after them, they changed the name to ‘Roosevelt.’ That name is not Dutch and when one of them came to New Amsterdam, he married a Samuels whose papa was in the fur trade. Why when old Franklin croaked in ’45, he had s cousin who was an Orthodox rabbi. And the Delano family were Italian Jews. And Franklin’s material grandfather was an opium smuggler.

GD: But Eleanor was of the same family.

RTC: Oh Jesus, don’t bring up that ugly old dyke. Crazy as a bedbug and had a face that would curdle milk.

GD: My, the Jews must have had a field day then.

RTC: Oh, they did indeed. Franklin’s top people were either rabid Jews or Communist spies. Or both. Why Harry Hopkins and Wallace were both taking money from Joe Stalin. And Morgenthau and Harry White were out to kill all the Germans and turn the country over to Stalin.

GD: Quite a few Jewish spies, weren’t there?

RTC: Many.

GD: Would you consider them traitors, Robert?

RTC: They should have hung the lot of them from trees in Rock Creek Park when Franklin hit the floor.


(Concluded at 1:50 PM CST)





The US Should Quit Coddling Badly-Behaving Saudi Arabia

April 26, 2016

by Ivan Eland,


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has convincingly advocated a reassessment of U.S. alliances around the world. President Obama’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia should prompt such a reevaluation of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The United States no longer needs to coddle the despotic monarchy and should end this alliance of convenience.

The informal U.S.-Saudi alliance began during World War II, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt realizing that the likely substantial oil deposits under the sands of the Saudi kingdom could satisfy the increasing American need to import foreign oil. He and the founder of the Saudi dynasty in Arabia, King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, agreed that the United States would provide security for the monarchy in exchange for oil.

Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia was designed to smooth Saudi ruffled feathers over the U.S.-led agreement among the great powers and Iran, the Saudi’s regional archrival, which froze Iran’s nuclear program for ten to fifteen years. The United States, however, should not be sheepish about an agreement that at least delays Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state. In fact, Iran’s neighboring enemies – Israel and Arab Persian Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, are the biggest beneficiaries of the Iranian nuclear program’s freeze.

However, Israel and Saudi Arabia, nations with huge influence in Washington, wanted more: the United States to bomb, and thus weaken, the Iranian potential regional titan. Instead, the United States needs to improve relations with Iran – with its huge population and economic potential – to keep it out of the orbit of China, which is thirsty for Iran’s oil.

To further assuage Saudi Arabia over the nuclear agreement with Iran, Obama also has unnecessarily provided the new reckless Saudi leadership with military assistance, as the monarchy has militarily intervened in nearby Yemen’s civil war – all the while bombing civilians indiscriminately.

Such disregard for human rights has a long history in Saudi Arabia, which has one of the worst human rights records on the planet, especially in the treatment of women and with its continuation of barbaric medieval punishments. In addition, the kingdom has been the biggest exporter of Islamist radicalism on the planet, with longtime credible suspicions that parts of the Saudi government even have been benefactors of terrorism.

Yet the United States mutes its criticism of such practices because of the pervasive myth among US policymakers that the Saudis can manipulate world oil prices and that the American economy will crash if the Saudis wink and create a world price spike. Neither is true.

Contrary to popular belief, Saudi Arabia provides only 11 percent of US oil imports. More importantly, although Saudi Arabia is the undisputed leader of the OPEC oil cartel, even before the US fracking boom – which has again restored the United States to being the world’s top oil producer – most economists believed that resource cartels, including OPEC, had little long-term success in raising commodity prices beyond the levels of the world market. That’s because when any cartel tries to artificially raise the price, its members have an incentive to secretly cheat and sell more than their cartel quotas allow – thus bringing the price back down.

So Saudi control over the world’s oil market is a myth. Second, industrial economies, such as that of the United States, have historically proven fairly resilient to oil price spikes.

Thus, Saudi Arabia has proven to be a bad ally, and the U.S.-Saudi alliance – originally based on false premises and now out of date with the US fracking boom – should be ended. There is no need to further indulge a medieval despotic abuser of human rights and exporter of worldwide radical Islamism with political backing, destabilizing arms sales, and military assistance for its reckless war. As I note in my book, No War for Oil: US Dependence and the Middle East, simply paying the world market price has always been the best way to ensure that the United States gets all the imported oil it needs as cheaply as possible.


Why Cover for Saudi Arabia?

April 22, 2016

by Christopher A. Preble

National Interest

President Obama reportedly “cleared the air” with Saudi officials during his visit to the Kingdom earlier this week. We should all ask when he’ll do the same with the American people.

I’m speaking, of course, about the Obama administration’s refusal to declassify the infamous twenty-eight pages from a 2002 joint congressional inquiry into intelligence failures surrounding the September 11 attacks. The Bush administration redacted the pages before release—allegedly “for reasons of national security”—and its successor has so far concurred with this decision. Many of those who have seen the concealed passages have called for them to be released to the public, including the two cochairs of the joint congressional inquiry, former Florida Senator Bob Graham and former Congressman Porter Goss.

Goss—who served as CIA director after his tenure in Congress, and who worked in the Agency’s Directorate of Operations, the clandestine service, for over ten years—understands the importance of keeping secrets. We can therefore speculate that the blacked-out pages are not concealing sensitive sources and methods, otherwise Goss wouldn’t favor their release. Rather, the twenty-eight pages seem emblematic of a broader problem in U.S. foreign policy: namely, the inability and/or unwillingness of U.S. government officials to speak honestly with the American people about the nature of the governments and individuals with whom they choose to cooperate.

There is a rather long-running tradition of U.S. presidents engaging in subterfuge, misdirection and/or outright deception about such matters. And some of these associations with undemocratic, shady and/or brutal leaders might have been justifiable under the circumstances. During World War II, for example, President Roosevelt referred to Joseph Stalin as gentle “Uncle Joe” to polish the Soviet leader’s public persona in the United States.

More often, though, U.S. partnerships with questionable characters harm America’s moral standing while doing little (if anything) to improve U.S. security. The United States’ decade-long support for the brutal Shah directly contributed to the rise of the anti-American regime that continues to rule Iran. Others in the perilous partners’ hit parade include Ferdinand Marcos, Hosni Mubarak, and Chiang Kai-Shek. Ted Galen Carpenter and Malou Innocent tell the story in considerable detail, and with characteristic flair.

To be sure, the U.S.-Saudi relationship (it is not a formal alliance) is more complicated than most. But it is not an accident that Carpenter and Innocent focused particular attention on the twenty-eight pages in their book.

The renewed scrutiny of the censored passages now comes at a particularly delicate time for U.S.-Saudi relations. Legislation wending its way through Congress with bipartisan support could expose Saudi officials to legal jeopardy if they were found to be implicated in the 9/11 attacks. The Saudis, in turn, have threatened to sell off an estimated $750 billion in assets to protect them in the event that the legislation became law. So far, the Obama administration has followed its predecessor’s lead, stressing the importance of sovereign immunity and threatening to veto the legislation if it passes.

As my Cato colleague Emma Ashford points out, the twenty-eight blacked-out pages are unlikely to include a smoking gun that would prove the government of Saudi Arabia’s complicity in a court of law. Meanwhile, portions of the story are already known, with CBS’s 60 Minutes being merely the latest to tell the tale. Two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, arrived in Los Angeles in January of 2000 “after attending an al Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.” The two Saudi nationals met up with “Fahad al-Thumairy, a diplomat at the Saudi consulate known to hold extremist views.” 9/11 investigators would later interview Thumairy, and he was denied reentry to the United States in 2003 for his “suspected ties to terrorist activity.” Another person of interest is Omar al-Bayoumi, who met with the future hijackers in February 2000 and later helped them secure a place to live in San Diego by paying their security deposit and co-signing their lease. Bayoumi, according to the 60 Minutes story, “was a ghost employee with a no-show job at a Saudi aviation contractor outside Los Angeles while drawing a paycheck from the Saudi government.” In an interview with 60 Minutes’ Steve Croft, Sen. Graham stated emphatically that he believed Bayoumi was a Saudi agent. 9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer appeared to concur.

60 Minutes noted “There’s no evidence that Bayoumi or Thumairy knew what the future hijackers were up to, and it is possible that they were just trying to help fellow Muslims.” The 9/11 Commission concluded, more broadly, “We have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” But we can’t know for sure so long as crucial details remain locked behind closed doors.

The case for concealing the nature of the U.S.-Saudi relationship was never very strong. Nor is the case for blacking out those twenty-eight pages. Some secrets need protecting, but this is one story that needs to be told.


Saudi Arabia’s post-oil reform vision looks blurry

April 25, 2016

by Andy Critchlow


Saudi Arabia’s efforts to fashion a post-oil strategy require more openness than its new economic reform plan encompasses. Vision 2030, the strategy unveiled by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on April 25, features reasonable reforms. But they barely scratch the surface of what is needed.

The economic measures had already been well-trailed. The existing state-controlled Public Investment Fund will be transformed into a giant sovereign wealth fund to manage the kingdom’s petrodollars. Instead of direct subsidies, Saudis will receive payments as a form of benefit, while the government will attempt to cut unemployment to 7 percent from 11.6 percent by an unspecified date. Saudi will also list less than 5 percent of Saudi Aramco via an initial public offering, valuing the state oil company at $2 trillion.

Cutting state subsidies on electricity and creating a SWF to manage global investments are good ideas. They will help cushion the kingdom’s finances against future oil price slumps. But oil still accounted for 78 percent of Saudi exports last year, according to IMF projections. To replace it as the lifeblood for the Saudi economy, Mohammed bin Salman needs to target more radical reforms to the conservative kingdom.

This is not easy to do, but there are precedents. Tiny Gulf neighbor Dubai faced the same problem in the early 1980s, when oil accounted for 50 percent of its economy. Policies aimed at attracting high net-worth foreign workers, tourism and trade have reduced that to less than 2 percent.

To do something similar, Saudi needs to think about the link between openness and investment. It probably needs to address criticism over its record on human rights and social equality. The introduction of a “green card” visa to encourage Arab and Muslim expatriates to stay longer in Saudi is unlikely to have the same affect.

So far, Prince Mohammed’s grand vision to execute a similar rebalancing is blurry. Unless it can be brought into focus, a more sustainable Saudi economy will remain a mirage.


Brexit row sparks fears of Tory civil war

April 25, 2016

Daily Times of Pakistan

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the EU referendum to try to heal Conservative party divisions on Europe, but the bitterness of the campaign has sparked fears for its future — and his.

Senior Tories on rival sides of the debate have been attacking each other with increasing ferocity, with those backing a so-called Brexit even turning their fire on government policy to make their point.

The extent of the internal conflict has raised questions about how long Cameron, who was re-elected last year with a slim parliamentary majority, can survive regardless of the result on June 23. Opinion polls point to a tight race, although the Cameron-backed campaign to “Remain” has a slight lead.

“The referendum may well break the Tories,” wrote Philip Stephens, the chief political commentator for the Financial Times.

While he said it had been a “delusion” to think the referendum would end decades of divisions on Europe, “the ferocity of the campaign has surprised even the realists”.

Philip Johnston of the Daily Telegraph added: “This civil war could destroy one of the most successful and enduring political parties the world has seen.”

Their comments echo those of veteran lawmaker Ken Clarke, a pro-European who served under Cameron and prime ministers John Major and Margaret Thatcher.

He warned the Tories were “dangerously close” to the splits over Europe that helped bring down Thatcher and dominated Major’s time in office, which ended with the party being cast into opposition for 13 years. Cameron wants to stay in the EU but has allowed members of his party a free vote, with the result that five senior ministers and 128 of the Tories’ 330 MPs are campaigning against him in favour of a Brexit.

A sixth eurosceptic minister, Iain Duncan Smith, resigned last month. He said it was a protest at welfare cuts but was accused of acting to boost the “Leave” campaign.

His subsequent attacks on the government opened the door for increasingly pointed arguments between other ministers, which stepped up with the start of the official referendum campaign this month. Justice Secretary Michael Gove, who backs Brexit, accused Cameron’s side of peddling a “depressing and pessimistic vision” of a Britain that cannot survive on its own.

Finance minister George Osborne, a “Remain” supporter, accused those wanting to leave of being “economically illiterate”.

The intervention of US President Barack Obama on Cameron’s side with a threat that Britain would be at the “back of the queue” in US trade ties if it left the European Union did little to calm the situation.

Cameron’s decision to publish a document setting out the benefits of the EU using £9.3 million ($13.4 million, 11.9 million euros) of taxpayers’ money has also caused outrage among Conservative backbenchers.

Lawmaker after lawmaker stood up in the House of Commons to condemn the decision as an “abuse of public money” and a “crass move” that “will leave a lasting taste of bitterness and unfairness”.

Cameron says he will stay on whatever the result, no doubt to avoid turning the referendum into a vote on his personal record. He has already said he will not fight the next general election in 2020.

But veteran lawmaker Clarke said he “wouldn’t last 30 seconds” if Britain voted to leave the EU, and many commentators agree. Philip Cowley, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said the question of how long Cameron could stay after a “Remain” vote depended on the tone of the campaign and the margin of victory.

“The Conservative party will survive, but it could easily hasten David Cameron’s exit from Number 10,” he told AFP. He said tensions were high now because the polls were so close. If those backing Brexit feel they may lose, they may be more conciliatory. “If it ended up being a 20-point margin of victory, then David Cameron would sail on quite happily,” Cowley said. “If it is neck and neck all the way through, and it gets very heated, then even if we stay in he could be gone within a year.” There is speculation that Cameron might reshuffle his cabinet after the referendum to bring in senior figures from both sides. “To stay in No. 10, Cameron must reunite the Tory party after the referendum,” commented James Forsyth, political editor of the Spectator magazine.

“At the moment, he is not making that easy for himself.”


How Wartime Washington Lives in Luxury

Meet the new class profiting from the growth of the national-security state.

April 26, 2016

by Kelly Vlahos

The American Conservative

In no place in America are the abrupt changes in the nation’s security posture so keenly reflected in real estate and lifestyle than the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. In the decade after 9/11, it has grown into a sprawling, pretentious representation of the federal government’s growth, vices and prosperity, encompassing the wealthiest counties, the best schools, and some of the highest rates of income inequality in the country.

“People hate Washington but they don’t really know why,” says Mike Lofgren, a longtime Beltway inhabitant and arch critic of its culture. But show them what is underneath the dignified facades—particularly the greed and excess financed by the overgrown military-industrial complex—and the populist resentment recently harnessed by insurgent candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders just might have a concrete grievance that can drive real change.

For Lofgren, “Beltwayland” is perhaps best described as analogous to the Victorian novel the Picture of Dorian Gray—a rich, shimmering ecosystem in which all of the ugly, twisted aberrations are hidden away in an attic somewhere, or rather sadly, in the poverty-blighted wards and low income zip codes of “the DMV” (The District, Maryland, and Virginia).

Oscar Wilde might have seen a bit of his Victorian England in Washington’s self-indulgent elite, but unlike the gentry of Dorian Gray, men and women here see not leisure, but amassing personal wealth through workaholism, as a virtue of the ruling class. For them, a two-front war and Washington’s newly enlarged national-security state, much of which is hidden in plain sight, have ushered in a 21st-century gilded age only replicated in America’s few, most privileged enclaves. As Lofgren explains:

It is common knowledge that Wall Street and its inflated compensation packages have remade Manhattan into an exclusive playground for the rich, just as tech moguls have made San Francisco unaffordable for the middle class. It is less well known that the estimated $4 trillion spent since 9/11 on the war on terrorism and billions spent on political campaigns ($6 billion on the 2012 elections alone) have trickled down so extravagantly to the New Class settled around Washington’s Beltway that they have remade the landscape of our capital.

The perfect storm—hundreds of billions in federal procurement dollars flooding into the area after 9/11, along with the easing of corporate campaign fundraising thanks to the now infamous Citizens United decision—has deepened the trough for lawyers, lobbyists, consultants, developers and contractors.

“The federal government is a $3.6 trillion beast in the district’s backyard that keeps the lights burning and the paychecks printing from government office buildings on Capitol Hill down along the Dulles Toll Road to the tech consulting firms in Virginia,” wrote Derek Thompson in The Atlantic in 2011, when the area was growing at three times the rate of the rest of the country in its post-recession years.

“Uncle Sam directly employs one-sixth of the district’s workforce and indirectly pays for much more.” It is the “much more” that Lofgren likes to focus on, pointing out that government workers, who might enjoy more job security and pensions, actually have a cap on annual salaries and benefits. It’s the private class that has remade the landscape, the worst characterized by “the K Street lawyers, political consultants, Beltway fixers and war on terrorism profiteers who run a permanent shadow government in the nation’s capital,” he writes.

So where do they live? D.C. proper has transmogrified into an almost unrecognizable state with former badlands like the Navy Yard, U Street, Downtown, and Capitol Hill, joining the vanguards of wealth in old Georgetown, Northwest D.C. Just over the state line in Chevy Chase and Bethesda, Maryland, real estate and especially rents have skyrocketed as baby boomers with fat retirements have joined the yuppie migration to luxury living in urban centers.

Travel out of what Lofgren calls the Imperial City, over the Potomac River on I-395 into Virginia and there you will see the first of many rings of the military-industrial complex, with major defense contractors cheek by jowl with government satellite offices in Crystal City. Just beyond is what remains of the more modest post-WWII boom neighborhoods (which include, believe it or not, remnants of a once agrarian culture) in Arlington, Virginia.

These neighborhoods, especially those north of Route 50, are cluttered now with condos, single family ramblers, bungalows, Cape Cods, and brick box homes selling for $900,000 or more depending on the upgrades inside and out. Interspersed, like golden cohorts in a mouthful of well-maintained but otherwise white teeth, are blown-out, mostly neo-craftsman style rehabs, and completely new McMansions sometimes three times the size, looming often awkwardly, and squeezed into fenced-off, quarter-acre lots.

These formerly modest zip codes are inhabited by a boom of singles and families with enough money to finance home improvements in a building market that’s jacked up its prices to accommodate demand. This is not the sport for the faint of heart, but of a proto-elite with expanding incomes and guilt-free debt.

Further out, there are the rooted, old-money neighborhoods of North Arlington, McLean, and Potomac in Maryland, where the Washington establishment began migrating in the 1970s, and now overloaded with “the better heeled sort”—government executives, surgeons, politicians, venture capitalists, think tankers, lobbyists, and fundraisers who have made it. Just outside the Beltway are places like Great Falls, where the median home price is $1.3 million. In 2011, according to a Washington Post feature about the rewards of the contracting boom, 16 percent of Great Falls households were earning $500,000 or more a year and at least more than half made $250,000.

In his latest book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, Lofgren ponders this explosion of wealth, but goes well beyond the Beltway border into the exploding developments along the Dulles technology corridor, Tysons Corner, the newer “Mosaic District” supplanting a once desolate strip mall existence in Fairfax County, all the way out in the more rural, former Virginia Hunt country of Loudoun County. Here new “structures resemble the architecture of Loire Valley, Elizabethan England, or Renaissance Tuscany as imagined by Walt Disney, or Liberace.” He says even more than the strivers of Arlington, and the settled elite of the inner burbs, this metamorphosizing sprawl represents everything that is perverse about the last 15 years—the war machine, the big money politics, the hubris of the one-percent, and the brutality of losing, as professions that did not so easily escape the recession, left people unemployed, foreclosed, and priced out of an area they once called “home.”

“Loudoun is per capita the richest county in the country as well as one of the most Republican and is something of a world headquarters of the McMansion as a lifestyle statement,” Lofgren writes. Living in these totems of new wealth, he says are “executives of Beltway Bandit firms, totally dependent on the federal government for their livelihoods,” pretending “to lead the life of a free Jeffersonian squirearchy.”

Consider this: From 2009 to 2015, Virginia received $295 billion in federal contracting dollars. That’s more than the annual budgets of entire countries, including Saudi Arabia, Belgium, and Sweden. This has resulted in not only an exploding real estate market, but the wealthiest counties in the country, year over year. Meanwhile, the spirit of competition has created a lifestyle of high-end consumption, helicopter parenting, over-achieving and stressed out kids, and a pampered millennial class pushing the poor out of entire neighborhoods in the DMV.

Lofgren takes particular aim at “The McMansion as symbol of the Deep State,” which he describes in his book as the Washington’s power elite, “the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism and the militarization of foreign policy, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of the a plutocratic social structure that has given us the most unequal society in almost a century and the political dysfunction that has paralyzed day-to-day governance.”

If Lofgren sounds ticked off, it’s because he is. Living in the Fort Hunt area of Alexandria (close to the Potomac, near Mount Vernon and the Army’s Fort Belvoir) for more than three decades, he sees firsthand the razing of modest abodes once “good enough” for Washington’s commuter class. He worked on Capitol Hill before and after 9/11, and knows how the business of government changed along with national security and political trends. He has charted the disconnect with the rest of the country and the Republic as envisioned by the country’s founders, and senses that this Deep State is not working for us—but to sustain the power, privilege and lifestyle he sees right outside his window.

Sure, Washington is rich and greedy. It’s disdainful of “flyover country,” and is filled with the ugly people depicted in Mark Leibovich’s This Town in 2013. His Deep State, Lofgren explains, “is like that [book], but it’s more than that.”

“It’s not all about money—though the money comes to them,” he says. It’s about ideology. Liebovich “failed to improve our understanding of what is the ideological, the underlying structures that emanate from Washington and into the country. He depicts people leaving Capitol Hill and going into lobbying for corporations. But he leaves off what it means for the Average Joe. It means there is this seamless web of connections between the government and Wall Street that dictates the laws we live under.”

In Lofgren’s view, there appears to be no end to the madness, especially with the amount of money fueling the presidential election, the end of federal budget sequestration, and a renewed interest in building up U.S. defense interests overseas. And wealth inequality rates continue to be the starkest here than anywhere else, showing that the prosperity doesn’t trickle down to everyone.

“There is a lot more money and perverse incentives” to push for more war, more tax and economic policies that benefit this upper strata, sustaining the status quo culture in Washington, he says.

“The incentives are positive for those engineering it all because they will get the promotions, the jobs, the contracts,” Lofgren adds, “even though it might be hurting the broad mass of people everywhere else.”


The Real Meaning of Donald Trump

He’s a Sign of American Decline (Just Not in the Way You Think)

by Tom Engelhardt


“Low-energy Jeb.” “Little Marco.” “Lyin’ Ted.” “Crooked Hillary.” Give Donald Trump credit. He has a memorable way with insults. His have a way of etching themselves on the brain. And they’ve garnered media coverage, analysis, and commentary almost beyond imagining.  Memorable as they might be, however, they won’t be what last of Trump’s 2016 election run.  That’s surely reserved for a single slogan that will sum up his candidacy when it’s all over (no matter how it ends). He arrived with it on that Trump Tower escalator in the first moments of his campaign and it now headlines his website, where it’s also emblazoned on an array of products from hats to t-shirts.

You already know which line I mean: “Make America Great Again!” With that exclamation point ensuring that you won’t miss the hyperbolic, Trumpian nature of its promise to return the country to its former glory days. In it lies the essence of his campaign, of what he’s promising his followers and Americans generally — and yet, strangely enough, of all his lines, it’s the one most taken for granted, the one that’s been given the least thought and analysis. And that’s a shame, because it represents something new in our American age. The problem, I suspect, is that what first catches the eye is the phrase “Make America Great” and then, of course, the exclamation point, while the single most important word in the slogan, historically speaking, is barely noted: “again.”

With that “again,” Donald Trump crossed a line in American politics that, until his escalator moment, represented a kind of psychological taboo for politicians of any stripe, of either party, including presidents and potential candidates for that position. He is the first American leader or potential leader of recent times not to feel the need or obligation to insist that the United States, the “sole” superpower of Planet Earth, is an “exceptional” nation, an “indispensable” country, or even in an unqualified sense a “great” one. His claim is the opposite. That, at present, America is anything but exceptional, indispensable, or great, though he alone could make it “great again.” In that claim lies a curiosity that, in a court of law, might be considered an admission of guilt.  Yes, it says, if one man is allowed to enter the White House in January 2017, this could be a different country, but — and in this lies the originality of the slogan — it is not great now, and in that admission-that-hasn’t-been-seen-as-an-admission lies something new on the American landscape.

Donald Trump, in other words, is the first person to run openly and without apology on a platform of American decline. Think about that for a moment. “Make America Great Again!” is indeed an admission in the form of a boast. As he tells his audiences repeatedly, America, the formerly great, is today a punching bag for China, Mexico… well, you know the pitch. You don’t have to agree with him on the specifics. What’s interesting is the overall vision of a country lacking in its former greatness.

Perhaps a little history of American greatness and presidents (as well as presidential candidates) is in order here.

“City Upon a Hill”

Once upon a time, in a distant America, the words “greatest,” “exceptional,” and “indispensable” weren’t even part of the political vocabulary.  American presidents didn’t bother to claim any of them for this country, largely because American wealth and global preeminence were so indisputable.  We’re talking about the 1950s and early 1960s, the post-World War II and pre-Vietnam “golden” years of American power.  Despite a certain hysteria about the supposed dangers of domestic communists, few Americans then doubted the singularly unchallengeable power and greatness of the country.  It was such a given, in fact, that it was simply too self-evident for presidents to cite, hail, or praise.

So if you look, for instance, at the speeches of John F. Kennedy, you won’t find them littered with exceptionals, indispensables, or their equivalents.  In a pre-inaugural speech he gave in January 1961 on the kind of government he planned to bring to Washington, for instance, he did cite the birth of a “great republic,” the United States, and quoted Puritan John Winthrop on the desirability of creating a country that would be “a city upon a hill” to the rest of the world, with all of humanity’s eyes upon us.  In his inaugural address (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”), he invoked a kind of unspoken greatness, saying, “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”  It was then common to speak of the U.S. with pride as a “free nation” (as opposed to the “enslaved” ones of the communist bloc) rather than an exceptional one.  His only use of “great” was to invoke the U.S.-led and Soviet Union-led blocs as “two great and powerful groups of nations.”

Kennedy could even fall back on a certain modesty in describing the U.S. role in the world (that, in those years, from Guatemala to Iran to Cuba, all too often did not carry over into actual policy), saying in one speech, “we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient — that we are only six percent of the world’s population — that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind — that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity — and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.”  In that same speech, he typically spoke of America as “a great power” — but not “the greatest power.”

If you didn’t grow up in that era, you may not grasp that none of this in any way implied a lack of national self-esteem.  Quite the opposite, it implied a deep and abiding confidence in the overwhelming power and presence of this country, a confidence so unshakeable that there was no need to speak of it.

If you want a pop cultural equivalent for this, consider America’s movie heroes of that time, actors like John Wayne and Gary Cooper, whose Westerns and in the case of Wayne, war movies, were iconic.  What’s striking when you look back at them from the present moment is this: while neither of those actors was anything but an imposing figure, they were also remarkably ordinary looking.  They were in no way over-muscled nor in their films were they over-armed in the modern fashion.  It was only in the years after the Vietnam War, when the country had absorbed what felt like a grim defeat, been wracked by oppositional movements, riots, and assassinations, when a general sense of loss had swept over the polity, that the over-muscled hero, the exceptional killing machine, made the scene.  (Think: Rambo.)

Consider this, then, if you want a definition of decline: when you have to state openly (and repeatedly) what previously had been too obvious to say, you’re heading, as the opinion polls always like to phrase it, in the wrong direction; in other words, once you have to say it, especially in an overemphatic way, you no longer have it.

The Reagan Reboot

That note of defensiveness first crept into the American political lexicon with the unlikeliest of politicians: Ronald Reagan, the man who seemed like the least defensive, most genial guy on the planet.  On this subject at least, think of him as Trumpian before the advent of The Donald, or at least as the man who (thanks to his ad writers) invented the political use of the word “again.”  It was, after all, employed in 1984 in the seminal ad of his political run for a second term in office.  While that bucolic-looking TV commercial was entitled “Prouder, Stronger, Better,” its first line ever so memorably went, “It’s morning again in America.” (“Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”)

Think of this as part of a post-Vietnam Reagan reboot, a time when the U.S. in Rambo-esque fashion was quite literally muscling up and over-arming in a major way.  Reagan presided over “the biggest peacetime defense build-up in history” against what, referencing Star Wars, he called an “evil empire” — the Soviet Union.  In those years, he also worked to rid the country of what was then termed “the Vietnam Syndrome” in part by rebranding that war a “noble cause.”  In a time when loss and decline were much on the American brain, he dismissed them both, even as he set the country on a path toward the present moment of 1% dysfunction in a country that no longer invests fully in its own infrastructure, whose wages are stagnant, whose poor are a growth industry, whose wealth now flows eternally upward in a political environment awash in the money of the ultra-wealthy, and whose over-armed military continues to pursue a path of endless failure in the Greater Middle East.

Reagan, who spoke directly about American declinist thinking in his time — “Let’s reject the nonsense that America is doomed to decline” — was hardly shy about his superlatives when it came to this country.  He didn’t hesitate to re-channel classic American rhetoric ranging from Winthop’s “shining city upon a hill” (perhaps cribbed from Kennedy) in his farewell address to Lincoln-esque (“the last best hope of man on Earth”) invocations like “here in the heartland of America lives the hope of the world” or “in a world wracked by hatred, economic crisis, and political tension, America remains mankind’s best hope.”

And yet, in the 1980s, there were still limits to what needed to be said about America.  Surveying the planet, you didn’t yet have to refer to us as the “greatest” country of all or as the planet’s sole truly “exceptional” country.  Think of such repeated superlatives of our own moment as defensive markers on the declinist slope.  The now commonplace adjective “indispensable” as a stand-in for American greatness globally, for instance, didn’t even arrive until Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright began using it in 1996.  It only became an indispensable part of the rhetorical arsenal of American politicians, from President Obama on down, a decade-plus into the twenty-first century when the country’s eerie dispensability (unless you were a junkie for failed states and regional chaos) became ever more apparent.

As for the U.S. being the planet’s “exceptional” nation, a phrase that now seems indelibly in the American grain and that no president or presidential candidate has avoided, it’s surprising how late that entered the presidential lexicon.  As John Gans Jr. wrote in the Atlantic in 2011, “Obama has talked more about American exceptionalism than Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush combined: a search on UC Santa Barbara’s exhaustive presidential records library finds that no president from 1981 to today uttered the phrase ‘American exceptionalism’ except Obama. As U.S. News’ Robert Schlesinger wrote, ‘American exceptionalism’ is not a traditional part of presidential vocabulary. According to Schlesinger’s search of public records, Obama is the only president in 82 years to use the term.”

And yet in recent years it has become a commonplace of Republicans and Democrats alike.  In other words, as the country has become politically shakier, the rhetoric about its greatness has only escalated in an American version of “the lady doth protest too much.”  Such descriptors have become the political equivalent of litmus tests: you couldn’t be president or much of anything else without eternally testifying to your unwavering belief in American greatness.

This, of course, is the line that Trump crossed in a curiously unnoticed fashion in this election campaign.  He did so by initially upping the rhetorical ante, adding that exclamation point (which even Reagan avoided). Yet in the process of being more patriotically correct than thou, he somehow also waded straight into American decline so bluntly that his own audience could hardly miss it (even if his critics did).

Think of it as an irony, if you wish, but the ultimate American narcissist, in promoting his own rise, has also openly promoted a version of decline and fall to striking numbers of Americans.  For his followers, a major political figure has quit with the defensive BS and started saying it the way it is.

Of course, don’t furl the flag or shut down those offshore accounts or start writing the complete history of American decline quite yet.  After all, the United States still looms “lone” on an ever more chaotic planet.  Its wealth remains stunning, its economic clout something to behold, its tycoons the envy of the Earth, and its military beyond compare when it comes to how much and how destructively, even if not how successfully.  Still, make no mistake about it, Donald Trump is a harbinger, however bizarre, of a new American century in which this country will indeed no longer be (with a bow to Muhammad Ali) “the Greatest” or, for all but a shrinking crew, exceptional.

So mark your calendars: 2016 is the official year the U.S. first went public as a declinist power and for that you can thank Donald — or rather Donald! — Trump.


Swiss city of Geneva refuses to bow to Turkish pressure over Erdogan photo

The City of Geneva will not close an exhibition that features a photo linking Turkish President Erdogan to the death of a protester. How Turkey will respond is now anyone’s guess.

April 26, 2016


The exhibition is being staged by Geneva-based photographer of Kurdish and Armenian origin Demir Sonmez in the Place des Nations, a prominent square in front of the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva.

“Geneva and Switzerland stand for freedom of expression,” head of the Urban Environment and Security Department, Guillaume Barazzone, told public broadcaster SRF Tuesday.

Turkey’s embassy in Bern said in a written statement Tuesday that there had been an attempt to “establish verbal contact with the Geneva city authorities” to inform them that the photo had raised “reactions” by some Geneva-based Turkish non-governmental groups.

The offending piece

One of Sonmez’s large photographs is of a protest banner with the portrait of a teenager who died after a 2013 anti-government protest in Istanbul. The photo is one of 58 large format photographs on display in the Place des Nations until May 1.

“My name is Berkin Elvan. Police killed me on orders of the Turkish prime minister,” the text on the banner reads.

Berkin Elvan

Berkin Elvan was a 15-year-old Turkish boy who was hit on the head by a tear-gas canister fired by a police officer in Istanbul while out to buy bread for his family during the June 2013 Taksim anti-government protests in Turkey. He died on March 11, 2014, following a 269-day coma.

Widespread demonstrations erupted following his death. Erdogan, who was then prime minister, said the young man had been a member of a terrorist organization.

Turkish president under fire

The Turkish government is attacking critics and political rivals at home and abroad. These include German comedian Jan Böhmermann, who faces criminal proceedings in his home country after insulting Erdogan in a televised skit.

There are 1,845 people facing prosecution in Turkey for insulting the president.


With Facebook No Longer a Secret Weapon, Egypt’s Protesters Turn to Signal

April 26, 2016

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

Although the police in Cairo sealed off parts of the Egyptian capital where protests scheduled on Facebook were to have taken place on Monday, opposition activists managed to stage brief rallies that resembled flash mobs, calling for an end to military rule and the cancellation of a deal to surrender two islands to Saudi Arabia.

The fact that Facebook is now so closely monitored by the security forces prompted one leading activist to offer an online tutorial in how to use a new tool, the encrypted messaging app Signal, to help protesters find each other on the city’s streets, and stay one step ahead of the authorities.

The heavy police presence wherever protests were planned seemed to indicate that the authorities can no longer be caught off guard by events organized on public social networks, as they were in 2011 when Facebook-driven protests led to the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak.

Concrete proof of the new dynamic could be seen outside the Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo, where thousands of protesters had gathered ten days ago and a Facebook group called Egypt Is Not For Sale had called for fresh demonstrations against the transfer of the uninhabited Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, to Saudi control.

Not only was the area off-limits to protesters on Monday, it was used to stage a pro-government dance party for a handful of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s biggest fans, joined by flag-waving police officers.

Across the Nile, however, protesters unable to access the main rallying points suddenly appeared in Mesaha Square, a temporarily unsecured area of the Dokki neighborhood, and launched into chants against military rule and the transfer of the islands.

“They can lock down all the squares, but we will still find some street, some alleyway,” one young protester there told Kareem Fahim of the New York Times. “It is endless cat and mouse.”

Although the protesters did manage to evade detection long enough to assemble and make their voices heard, the police arrived within minutes to disperse the crowd, firing tear gas and shotgun pellets.

A short time later, the protesters appeared again on a nearby street.

By the end of the day, more than 200 people were reportedly detained, including dozens of journalists.

Although secure messaging apps like Signal and WhatsApp do allow users to send some group chat messages, by their nature they are not as easy to use for public broadcast, like Facebook or Twitter, which could hinder their usefulness as organizing tools for mass street protests.

A potentially more significant problem with the use of encrypted messaging apps by protesters hoping to avoid detection by the authorities is that just having the software on their phones could start to seem suspicious. There was some evidence of this in Cairo on Monday, with reports of the police searching the phones of protesters, and even scanning their Facebook and WhatsApp accounts.

Another vulnerability dissidents in Egypt and elsewhere need to be aware of is that Signal, like Telegram, is activated by an ordinary, and easily intercepted, SMS text message to the phone of a new user. That means that it is technically possible for a phone provider, or a police surveillance unit, to know whenever a new user activates the service.

Frederic Jacobs, formerly a lead developer for Signal, pointed to this problem in a blog post in January about the dangers of using Telegram in Iran:

Most mobile messaging apps these days use SMS as a login technique. It’s really convenient because it doesn’t require the user to remember yet another username or identifier and telcos are taking care of the identity management such as re-assigning the phone number to you if you lose your phone.

SMS are trivial to intercept for your telecom provider. And in almost all countries, they are actively cooperating with the state to help intercept text messages and phone calls. But it’s not only your telecom provider, devices like IMSI catchers provide a cheap and efficient way of intercepting text messages for a local adversary.

As Orla Guerin of the BBC noted, the Sisi supporters were allowed to demonstrate unmolested, and harass foreign journalists, even as a law banning spontaneous rallies was used to arrest protesters in other parts of the city. Some of the most ardent government supporters seen on local television were familiar to viewers from previous rallies, including a woman who had achieved viral fame two years ago for an interview in which she scolded President Barack Obama for his supposed interference in the country’s affairs by saying, in fractured English: “Shut up your mouse, Obama! Sisi, yes! Sisi, yes!”

Waving a Saudi flag at the center of a small pro-government rally on Monday in Cairo’s Talaat Harb square, the same woman was filmed saying that the Saudi king could have Egypt’s pyramids and the Sphinx as well.

Suspicions that the government supporters might have been mobilized by the authorities were reinforced by reports that some of them were transported to Tahrir Square in police vans.

As if to underline how much Egypt has changed since the end of the 2011 revolt, government supporters even rallied on Monday outside the window of the deposed president, Hosni Mubarak, who waved to fans from his hospital room at the Maadi Military hospital in a Cairo suburb.


Report of the National Intelligence Council (excerpts)

Transmuting International Terrorism

The key factors that spawned international terrorism show no signs of abating over the next15 years. Facilitated by global communications, the revival of Muslim identity will create a framework for the spread of radical Islamic ideology inside and outside the Middle East, including Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Western Europe, where religious identity has traditionally not been as strong. This revival has been accompanied by a deepening solidarity among Muslims caught up in national or regional separatist struggles, such as Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, Kashmir, Mindanao, and southern Thailand, and has emerged in response to government repression, corruption, and ineffectiveness. Informal networks of charitable foundations, and other mechanisms will continue to proliferate and be exploited by radical elements; alienation among unemployed youths will swell the ranks of those vulnerable to terrorist recruitment.

We expect that by 2020 al-Qa’ida will be superseded by similarly inspired Islamic extremist groups, and there is a substantial risk that broad Islamic movements akin to al-Qa’ida will merge with local separatist movements. Information technology, allowing for instant connectivity, communication, and learning, will enable the terrorist threat to become increasingly decentralized, evolving into an eclectic array of groups, cells, and individuals that do not need a stationary headquarters to plan and carry out operations. Training materials, targeting guidance, weapons know-how, and fund-raising will become virtual (i.e., online).

Terrorist attacks will continue to primarily employ conventional weapons, incorporating new twists and constantly adapting to counterterrorist efforts. Terrorists probably will be most original not in the technologies or weapons they use but rather in their operational concepts—i.e., the scope, design, or support arrangements for attacks.

Strong terrorist interest in acquiring chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons increases the risk of a major terrorist attack involving WMD. Our greatest concern is that terrorists might acquire biological agents or, less likely, a nuclear device, either of which could cause mass casualties. Bioterrorism appears particularly suited to the smaller, better-informed groups. We also expect that terrorists will attempt cyber attacks to disrupt critical information networks and, even more likely, to cause physical damage to information systems.

“Radical Islam will have a significant global impact… rallying disparate ethnic and national groups and perhaps even creating an authority that transcends national boundaries.” Radical Islam will continue to appeal to many Muslim migrants who are attracted to the more prosperous West for employment opportunities but do not feel at home in what they perceive as an alien culture..

Studies show that Muslim immigrants are being integrated as West European countries become more inclusive, but many second- and third-generation immigrants are drawn to radical Islam as they encounter obstacles to full integration and barriers to what they consider to be normal religious practices. Differences over religion and ethnicity also will contribute to future conflict, and, if unchecked, will be a cause of regional strife. Regions where frictions risk developing into wider civil conflict include Southeast Asia, where the historic Christian-Muslim fault lines cut across several countries, including West Africa, The Philippines, and Indonesia.

  • Schisms within religions, however historic and long lasting, also could lead to conflict in this era of increased religious identity. A Shia-dominated Iraq is likely to encourage greater activism by Shia minorities in other Middle Eastern nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan..

“Terrorist use of biological agents is therefore likely, and the range of options will grow.” The religious zeal of extremist Muslim terrorists increases their desire to perpetrate attacks resulting in high casualties. Historically, religiously inspired terrorism has been most destructive because such groups are bound by few constraints.

The most worrisome trend has been an intensified search by some terrorist groups to obtain weapons of mass destruction. Our greatest concern is that these groups might acquire biological agents or less likely, a nuclear device, either of which could cause mass casualties.

  • Bioterrorism appears particularly suited to the smaller, better-informed groups. Indeed, the bioterrorist’s laboratory could well be the size of a household kitchen, and the weapon built there could be smaller than a toaster. Terrorist use of biological agents is therefore likely, and the range of options will grow. Because the recognition of anthrax, smallpox or other diseases is typically delayed, under a “nightmare scenario” an attack could be well under way before authorities would be cognizant of it.
  • The use of radiological dispersal devices can be effective in creating panic because of the public’s misconception of the capacity of such attacks to kill large numbers of people.


German foreign intelligence chief forced out: sources

April 26, 2016

by Noah Barkin and Thorsten Severin


BERLIN- The head of Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency will be removed from his post two years early, government sources told Reuters on Tuesday, a surprise move that comes at a time when Germany faces a growing threat from Islamic State militants.

It was not immediately clear why Gerhard Schindler, 63, who has led Germany’s version of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency since 2012, was being removed years before he reaches retirement age.

Schindler came under pressure a year ago when it emerged that the BND had gone against German interests and spied on European partners at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

But he appeared to have weathered that storm after promising to centralize control over BND field offices that he admitted had taken on a “life of their own”.

Surveillance is a sensitive issue in Germany because of the extensive snooping by the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany and by the Gestapo in the Nazi era.

Neither the German government nor the BND were immediately available to comment on the matter. But Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Peter Altmaier earlier invited reporters to a briefing on Wednesday without specifying the purpose of the gathering.

Sources told Reuters that Schindler would be replaced by Bruno Kahl, a finance ministry official who is a close ally of Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

German media reports said government officials doubted that Schindler could make the changes to the BND that Berlin felt were necessary in the two years that remained before his retirement.


The move comes after Islamic State militant attacks in Brussels and Paris exposed holes in how European intelligence agencies cooperate and share information with each other.

In a speech on Monday in the northern German city of Hanover, U.S. President Barack Obama acknowledged concerns about privacy linked to German history, but also cautioned against allowing them to impinge upon security.

“If we truly value our liberty, then we have to take the steps that are necessary to share information and intelligence within Europe, as well as between the United States and Europe, to stop terrorists from traveling and crossing borders and killing innocent people,” he said.

Reports last year that the BND had helped the NSA spy on European officials and firms strained German-U.S. relations and created divisions within Merkel’s government.

Revelations several years ago by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden about wide-ranging NSA espionage in Germany, including the bugging of Merkel’s mobile phone, caused public outrage.

Germany has not suffered a major attack by Islamist militants on its soil, but hundreds of its citizens have traveled to Syria in recent years to join the group and some members of the network behind the Paris and Brussels attacks traveled through Germany.

Merkel’s government agreed last year to begin supplying weapons and logistical support to local forces fighting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and Germany is now seen as a primary target of the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Last month, Islamic State, posted pictures online calling on German Muslims to carry out Brussels-style attacks in Germany. The group singled out Merkel’s offices and the Cologne-Bonn airport as targets, the SITE intelligence group reported.

One of the disseminated images features a militant in combat fatigues standing in a field and gazing at Cologne-Bonn airport with a caption reading: “What your brothers in Belgium were able to do, you can do too.”

Another shows the German chancellery building in Berlin on fire with an Islamic State fighter and a tank standing outside the structure. The headline reads: “Germany is a battlefield.”

Earlier this month, the BND celebrated its 60th anniversary. Long based in Pullach in southern Germany, it is due to move into a brand new headquarters in central Berlin next year.


(Reporting by Noah Barkin, Thorsten Severin, Andreas Rinke and Sabine Siebold; editing by Ralph Boulton and Gareth Jones)


Orwell’s Ghost is Laughing

And the joke’s on us

April 27, 2016

by Justin Raimondo,


What’s the difference between “boots on the ground” and military personnel wearing boots who are engaged in combat – and perhaps dying – on the ground? If you can answer that question convincingly, perhaps you’d like to apply for John Kirby’s job, because he’s not doing it very successfully. Kirby is the State Department spokesman who, in answer to a question from a reporter about the 250 US troops being sent to Syria, denied President Obama ever said there’d be “no boots on the ground” in Syria. Here’s the video, and here’s the relevant transcript:

“Kirby: there was never this – there was never this, “No boots on the ground.” I don’t know where this keeps coming from.

Question: But yes there – well, yes, yes, there was.

Kirby: There was no – there was – no there wasn’t. There was –

Question: More than –

Question: What?

Kirby: We’re not going to be involved in a large-scale combat mission on the ground. That is what the President has long said.”

To anyone who has been following this, Kirby’s argument is patently absurd. The President told the BBC less than twenty-four hours previously that there would be “no boots on the ground” – and then his administration announced that 250 more booted US soldiers would be treading Syrian ground. Not only that, but prior to the summer of last year, the President assured the American people there’d be no “boots on the ground” a total of sixteen times.

As George Orwell dramatized in Nineteen Eighty-Four, and also in this memorable essay, the degeneration of language into an instrument of concealment is one of the hallmarks of the modern age. In the novel, there is a vast apparatus concerned solely with erasing the past in order to justify the actions of the present: the Obama administration doesn’t have the power to do that, and yet thinks it can achieve the same ends by simply denying what everyone knows to be true, as shown by Kirby’s surreal exchange with reporters:

“Question: The point is is that for months and months and months that the mantra from the President and everyone else in the Administration has been, ‘No boots on the ground’ and now –

“Kirby: No, that is not true.

Question: What?

Kirby: It’s just not true, Matt.

Question: It is.

Question: Mr. Kirby –

Kirby: It’s just not true.

Question: It’s true.

Kirby: No, it’s not. I just flatly, absolutely disagree with you …”

When you are dealing with a liar, it’s important to parse every word, every syllable, in order to tease real meaning out of the tissue of dissimulations – and, indeed, if we go back and do this with the President’s pronouncements over the past few years on this question, we get a sense that what is being said is not quite what we are hearing. And that, as Orwell pointed out, is the purpose of most political speech.

If you listen hard, you can hear Orwell’s ghost laughing.

What the Obama administration is doing here is on the same level as Bill Clinton’s handling of the Monica Lewinsky affair: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

So why is the administration engaged in a futile effort to deny the obvious, and make its spokesman look like the American equivalent of Baghdad Bob?

The answer is: politics. The American people have made it very clear that they consider the Iraq war a mistake and they want no repeat of that experience. And yet there are countervailing influences within the military and the national security bureaucracy that want exactly that and they will not be denied. Furthermore, these embedded dead-enders are well aware of the policy differences between Obama and his would-be successor: it was, after all, Hillary Clinton who pushed (and continues to push) for regime change in Syria, hatched a scheme with Gen. David Petraeus to arm Islamist rebels on a large scale, and pushed for the disastrous “liberation” of Libya.

Obama is a lame duck, and the second and third rank officials who really run our foreign policy are already adapting to the likelihood of a Clinton Restoration..

There are now over 4,000 US troops in Iraq, “advising” and “assisting” the Iraq military: there are hundreds in Syria – and this latter represents a significant extension of US intervention over and above what George W. Bush ever tried. Back in the days of “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the Bush administration continually threatened the Syrian government with “regime change,” but never made a serious move to translate rhetoric into action. The Obama administration recognizes no such constraints – and a second Clinton administration, if such there is to be, is likely to throw reticence to the winds and charge full-bore into Syria.

President Obama won the White House largely on the promise that he would not repeat Bush’s folly in the Middle East. Yet his legacy is likely to be that the war he hung around Hillary Clinton’s neck was restarted in the final months of his presidency. And if Mrs. Clinton does indeed succeed him, I have no doubt that she will escalate the war in Syria and in Iraq, with consequences down the road that we can only imagine.

The Republican alternatives are no less dispiriting. Ted Cruz wants to find out whether we can “make the sand glow.” Donald Trump, for all his “isolationist” rhetoric, vows to destroy the Islamic State – albeit without putting troops on the ground. (Want to bet that, once in office, he’ll reverse his stance on ground troops in a New York minute?)

The entire political class –including the alleged “outsiders” – are on the other side of the barricades from the average American when it comes to US intervention in the Middle East. Which leads one to conclude that we’re going to be in for a long and bloody battle over this question, with thousands more lives lost – and the only change that’s going to come won’t be led by politicians, but by a mass movement from below.


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