TBR News August 15, 2011

Aug 15 2011

The Voice of the White House


            Washington, D.C. August 15, 2010: “You see mention of this problem occasionally in some of the more responsible newspapers but it apparently is being blithely ignored at the higher levels of government. The problem is massive, and growing, unemployment. When more of the growing poor have to leave the unemployment benefits lists, the government crows that there are fewer unemployed! No, there are more not less because now these people have to get on public assistance and the states are no longer able to do much for them. This immense body of the unemployed is added to every year when the high schools disgorge their seniors into a jobless world. Our business community has moved almost all the blue collar jobs overseas because they can pay a dollar or two an hour. That the unemployed cannot buy much of anything, let alone homes or automobiles, does not seem to register on this business community. Eventually, there will be serious social unrest and the unemployed youth will use their social networks to riot here, steal and burn just as they are doing in England and threatening to do in other countries, such as Greece and soon, Sweden. The politicians should realize that when a country suffers serious economic reverses, the marginal are the first to go and later, the first to rebel. Americans are a violent and well-armed people and it would take very little to start civil disobedience in this country. Instead of waving his arms around and making elegant speeches, Obama should take immediate, and very public, steps, to start up a Rooseveltian CCC type program because if it is perceived that the Government does not care about the growing poor, the growing poor will take matters into its own hands.:”

How the Head of Fox News Is Making Americans More Right-Wing, More Ignorant and Ever More Terrified

Even his boss Rupert Murdoch is afraid of Roger Ailes.

August 10, 2011

by Tim Dickenson

The Guardian/UK

At the Fox News Christmas party the year the network overtook arch-rival CNN in the cable ratings, tipsy employees were herded down to the basement of a midtown bar in New York. As they gathered around a television mounted high on the wall, an image flashed to life, glowing bright in the darkened tavern: the MSNBC logo. A chorus of boos erupted among the Fox faithful. The CNN logo followed, and the catcalls multiplied. Then a third slide appeared, with a telling twist. In place of the logo for Fox News was a beneficent visage: the face of the network’s founder. The man known to his fiercest loyalists simply as “the Chairman” – Roger Ailes.

“It was as though we were looking at Mao,” recalls Charlie Reina, a former Fox News producer. The Foxistas went wild. They let the dogs out. Woof! Woof! Woof! Even those who disliked the way Ailes runs his network joined in the display of fealty, given the culture of intimidation at Fox News. “It’s like the Soviet Union or China: People are always looking over their shoulders,” says a former executive with the network’s parent, News Corp. “There are people who turn people in.”

The key to decoding Fox News isn’t hosts Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. It isn’t even News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch. To understand what drives Fox News, and what its true purpose is, you must first understand Chairman Ailes. “He is Fox News,” says Jane Hall, a Fox commentator for 10 years, who defected over Ailes’s embrace of the fear-mongering Glenn Beck. “It’s his vision. It’s a reflection of him.”

Ailes runs the most profitable – and therefore least accountable – head of the News Corp hydra. Fox News reaped an estimated profit of $816m last year – nearly a fifth of Murdoch’s global haul. The cable channel’s earnings rivalled those of News Corp’s entire film division, which includes 20th Century Fox, and helped offset a slump at Murdoch’s beloved newspapers unit, which took a $3bn writedown after acquiring the Wall Street Journal. With its bare-bones newsgathering operation – Fox News has one-third of the staff and 30 fewer bureaus than CNN – Ailes generates profit margins above 50%. Nearly half comes from advertising and the rest is fees from cable companies. Fox News now reaches 100m households, attracting more viewers than all other cable news outlets combined, and Ailes aims for his network to “throw off a billion in profits”.

The outsize success of Fox News gives Ailes a free hand to shape the network in his own image. “Murdoch has almost no involvement with it at all,” says Michael Wolff, who spent nine months embedded at News Corp researching a biography of the Australian media giant. “People are afraid of Roger. Murdoch is, himself, afraid of Roger. He has amassed enormous power within the company – and within the country – from the success of Fox News.”

Fear, in fact, is precisely what Ailes is selling: his network has relentlessly hyped phantom menaces such as the planned “terror mosque” near Ground Zero, inspiring Florida pastor Terry Jones to torch the Qur’an. Privately, Murdoch is as impressed by Ailes’s business savvy as he is dismissive of his extremist politics. “You know Roger is crazy,” Murdoch recently told a colleague, shaking his head in disbelief. “He really believes that stuff.”

To watch even a day of Fox News – the anger, the bombast, the virulent paranoid streak, the unending appeals to white resentment, the reporting that is held to the same standard of evidence as a political campaign attack ad – is to see a refraction of its founder, one of the most skilled and fearsome operatives in the history of the Republican party. As a political consultant, Ailes repackaged Richard Nixon for television in 1968, papered over Ronald Reagan’s budding Alzheimer’s in 1984, shamelessly stoked racial fears to elect George Bush in 1988, and waged a secret campaign on behalf of Big Tobacco to derail healthcare reform in 1993. “He was the premier guy in the business,” says former Reagan campaign manager Ed Rollins. “He was our Michelangelo.”

            In the fable Ailes tells about his own life, he made a clean break with his dirty political past long before 1996, when he joined forces with Murdoch to launch Fox News. “I quit politics,” he has claimed, “because I hated it.” But an examination of his career reveals that Ailes has used Fox News to pioneer a new form of political campaign – one that enables the Republican party to bypass sceptical reporters and wage an around-the-clock, partisan assault on public opinion. The network, at its core, is a giant soundstage created to mimic the look and feel of a news operation, cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.

The result is one of the most powerful political machines in American history. One that plays a leading role in defining Republican talking points and advancing the agenda of the far right. Fox News tilted the electoral balance to George W Bush in 2000, prematurely declaring him president in a move that prompted every other network to follow suit. It helped create the Tea Party, transforming it from the butt of late-night jokes into a nationwide insurgency capable of electing US senators. Fox News turbocharged the Republican takeover of the House last autumn, and even helped elect former Fox News host John Kasich as the union-busting governor of Ohio – with the help of $1.26m in campaign contributions from News Corp. And by incubating a host of potential Republican contenders on the Fox News payroll – including Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum – Ailes seems determined to add a fifth presidential notch to his belt in 2012. “Everything Roger wanted to do when he started out in politics, he’s now doing 24/7 with his network,” says a former News Corp executive. “It’s come full circle.”

The 71-year-old Ailes presents the classic figure of a cinematic villain: bald and obese, with dainty hands, Hitchcockian jowls and a lumbering gait. Friends describe him as loyal, generous and funny. But Ailes is also, by turns, a tyrant: “I only understand friendship or scorched earth,” he has said. One former deputy pegs him as a cross between Don Rickles, the venomous comic, and Don Corleone. “What’s fun for Roger is the destruction,” says Dan Cooper, a key member of the team that founded Fox News. “When the lightbulb goes on and he’s got the trick to outmanoeuvre the enemy – that’s his passion.” Ailes is also deeply paranoid. Convinced that he has personally been targeted by al-Qaida for assassination, he surrounds himself with an aggressive security detail and is licensed to carry a concealed handgun.

Ailes was born in 1940 in Warren, Ohio, a manufacturing outpost near Youngstown. His father worked at the Packard plant producing wiring for GM cars, and Roger grew up resenting the abuse his father had to take from the “college boys” who managed the line. Roger spent much of his youth in convalescence. A sickly child – haemophilia forced him to sit out breaktime at school – he had to learn to walk again after getting hit by a car aged eight. His mother worked, so he was raised in equal measure by his grandmother and TV. “Television and I grew up together,” he later wrote.

A teenage booze hound – “I was hammered all the time” – Ailes said he “went to state school because they told me I could drink”. In fact, his father kicked him out of the house when he graduated from high school. During his stint at Ohio University, where he studied radio and television, his parents divorced and left the house where he had spent so much of his childhood recovering from illness and injury. “I went back, the house was sold, all my stuff was gone,” he recalled. “I never found my shit!” The shock seems to have left him with an almost pathological nostalgia for the trappings of small-town America.

In college, Ailes tried to join the Air Force reserve officer training corps but was rejected because of his health. So he became a drama geek, acting in college productions. The thespian streak never left Ailes: His first job out of college was as a gofer on The Mike Douglas Show, a nationally syndicated daytime variety show that featured ageing stars such as Jack Benny and Pearl Bailey in a world swooning for Elvis and the Beatles. In many ways, Ailes remains a creature of that earlier era. His 1950s manners, martini-dry ripostes and unreconstructed sexism give the feeling, says one intimate, “like you’re talking to someone who’s been under a rock for a couple of decades”.

 Ailes found his calling in television. He proved to be a TV wunderkind, charting a meteoric rise to executive producer by the age of 25. Ailes had an uncanny feel for stagecraft and how to make conversational performances pop on live television. But it was behind the scenes at Mike Douglas in 1967 that Ailes met the man who would set him on his path as the greatest political operative of his generation: Richard Milhous Nixon. The former vice-president – whose stilted and sweaty debate performance against John F Kennedy had helped doom his presidential bid in 1960 – was on a media tour to rehabilitate his image. Waiting with Nixon in his office before the show, Ailes needled his powerful guest. “The camera doesn’t like you,” he said. Nixon wasn’t pleased. “It’s a shame a man has to use gimmicks like television to get elected,” he grumbled. “Television is not a gimmick,” Ailes said. “And if you think it is, you’ll lose again.”

The exchange was a defining moment for both men. Nixon became convinced that he had met a boy genius who could market him to the American public. Ailes had fallen hard for his first candidate. He soon abandoned his high-powered job producing Mike Douglas and signed on as Nixon’s “executive producer for television”. For Ailes, the infatuation was personal – and it is telling that the man who got him into politics would prove to be one of he most paranoid and dirty campaigners in the history of American politics. “I don’t know anyone else around that I would have done it for,” Ailes has said, “other than Nixon.”

Like Nixon, Rupert Murdoch found Ailes captivating: powerful, politically connected, funny as hell. By the time the two men teamed up in 1996 both had been married twice and both shared an open contempt for the traditional rules of journalism. Murdoch also had a direct self-interest in targeting regulation-minded liberals, whose policies threatened to interfere with his plans for expansion.

Even before he hired Ailes, Murdoch had several teams at work on an early version of Fox News that he intended to air through News Corp affiliates. The false starts included a 60 Minutes-style programme that, under the guise of straight news, would feature a weekly attack-and-destroy piece targeting a liberal politician or social programme. “The idea of a masquerade was already around prior to Roger arriving,” says Dan Cooper, managing editor of that first iteration of Fox News. Murdoch envisioned his new network as a counterweight to the “leftwing bias” of CNN. “There’s your answer right there to whether Fox News is a conventional news network or whether it has an agenda,” says Eric Burns, who served for a decade as media critic at Fox News. “That’s its original sin.”

Before signing on to run the new network, Ailes demanded that Murdoch get “carriage” – distribution on cable systems nationwide. In the normal course of business, cable outfits such as Time Warner pay content providers such as CNN or MTV for the right to air their programmes. But Murdoch turned the business model on its head. He didn’t just give Fox News away – he paid the cable companies to air it. To get Fox News into 25m homes, Murdoch paid cable companies as much as $20 a subscriber. “Murdoch’s offer shocked the industry,” writes biographer Neil Chenoweth. “He was prepared to shell out half a billion dollars just to buy a news voice.” Even before it took to the air, Fox News was guaranteed access to a mass audience, bought and paid for. Ailes hailed Murdoch’s “nerve”, adding: “This is capitalism and one of the things that made this country great.”

Ailes was also determined not to let the professional ethics of journalism get in the way of his political agenda. To secure a pliable news staff, he led what he called a “jailbreak” from his old employers, NBC, bringing dozens of top staffers with him to Fox News.

 Ailes then embarked on a purge of existing staffers at Fox News. “There was a litmus test,” recalled Joe Peyronnin, whom Ailes displaced as head of the network. “He was going to figure out who was liberal or conservative when he came in, and try to get rid of the liberals.” When Ailes suspected a journalist wasn’t far enough to the right for his tastes, he’d spring an accusation: “Why are you a liberal?” If staffers had worked at one of the major news networks, Ailes would force them to defend working at a place such as CBS – which he spat out as “the Communist Broadcast System”. To replace the veterans he fired, Ailes brought in droves of inexperienced up-and-comers – enabling him to weave his own political biases into the network’s DNA. Reporters understood that a rightwing bias was hard-wired into what they did from the start. “All outward appearances were that it was just like any other newsroom,” says a former anchor. “But you knew that the way to get ahead was to show your colour – and that your colour was red.” Red state, that is.

Befitting his siege mentality, Ailes housed his newsroom in a bunker. Reporters and producers at Fox News work in a vast, windowless expanse below street level, a gloomy space lined with video-editing suites along one wall and cubicle offices along the other. In a separate facility on the same subterranean floor, Ailes created an in-house research unit – known at Fox News as the “brain room” – that requires special security clearance to gain access. “It’s where the evil resides,” says Cooper, who helped design its specs.

It was the election of Bush in 2000 that revealed the true power of Fox News as a political machine. According to a study of voting patterns by the University of California, Fox News shifted roughly 200,000 ballots to Bush in areas where voters had access to the network. But Ailes, ever the political operative, didn’t leave the outcome to anything as dicey as the popular vote. The man he tapped to head the network’s “decision desk” on election night – the consultant responsible for calling states for either Gore or Bush – was none other than John Prescott Ellis, Bush’s first cousin.

In any newsroom worthy of the name, such a conflict of interest would have immediately disqualified Ellis. But for Ailes, loyalty to Bush was an asset. “We at Fox News,” he would later tell a House hearing, “do not discriminate against people because of their family connections.” On election day, Ellis was in constant contact with Bush himself. After midnight, when a wave of late numbers showed Bush with a narrow lead, Ellis jumped on the data to declare Bush the winner – even though Florida was still rated too close to call by the vote-tracking consortium used by all the networks. Fox News called the election for Bush at 2.16 am – a move that spurred every other network to follow suit, and led to “Bush Wins” headlines in the morning papers.

“We’ll never know whether Bush won the election in Florida or not,” says Dan Rather, who was anchoring the election coverage for CBS that night. “But when you reach these kinds of situations, the ability to control the narrative becomes critical.”

After Bush took office, Ailes stayed in frequent touch with the new Republican president. “The senior-level editorial people believe that Roger was on the phone every day with Bush,” a source close to Fox News tells me. “He gave Bush the same kind of pointers he used to give [his father] – delivery, effectiveness, political coaching.” In the aftermath of 9/11, Ailes sent a back-channel memo to the president through Karl Rove, advising Bush to ramp up the war on terror. As reported by Bob Woodward, Ailes advised Bush that, “the American public would tolerate waiting and would be patient, but only as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible”.

Fox News did its part to make sure that viewers lined up behind those harsh measures. The network plastered an American flag in the corner of the screen, dolled up one female anchor in a camouflage-print silk blouse, and featured Geraldo Rivera threatening to hunt down Osama bin Laden with a pistol. The militarism even seemed to infect the culture of Fox News. “Roger Ailes is the general,” declared Bill O’Reilly. “And the general sets the tone of the army. Our army is very George Patton-esque. We charge. We roll.”

Ailes likes to boast that Fox News maintains a bright, clear line between its news shows, which he touts as balanced, and primetime hosts such as O’Reilly and Hannity, who are given free rein to voice their opinions. “We police those lines very carefully,” Ailes has said. But after Bush was elected, Ailes tasked John Moody, his top political lieutenant, to keep the newsroom in lockstep. Early each morning, Ailes summoned Moody into his office and provided his spin on the day’s news. Moody then posted a daily memo to the staff with explicit instructions on how to slant the day’s news coverage according to the agenda of those on “the second floor”, as Ailes and his loyal cadre of vice-presidents are known. “There’s a chain of command, and it’s followed,” says a former news anchor. “Roger talks to his people, and his people pass the message on down.” (Ailes and Fox News declined repeated requests for an interview for this piece.)

The more profits soared at Fox News, the more Ailes expanded his power and independence. In 2005, he staged a brazen coup within the company, conspiring to depose Murdoch’s son Lachlan as the anointed heir of News Corp. Ailes not only took over Lachlan’s portfolio – becoming chair of Fox Television – he even claimed Lachlan’s office on the eighth floor. In 2009, Ailes earned a pay package of $24m – a deal slightly larger than the one enjoyed by Murdoch himself. He brags privately that his contract also forbids Murdoch – infamous for micromanaging his newspapers – from interfering with editorial decisions at Fox News.

Many within Murdoch’s family have come to viscerally hate Ailes. Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi, has worked to soften her husband’s politics, and his son James has persuaded him to embrace the reality of global warming – even as Ailes has led the drumbeat of climate deniers at Fox News. PR man Matthew Freud, Murdoch’s son-in-law, recently told reporters: “I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”

“Rupert is surrounded by people who regularly, if not moment to moment, tell him how horrifying and dastardly Roger is,” says Wolff, Murdoch’s biographer. “Wendi cannot stand Roger. Rupert’s children cannot stand Roger. So around Murdoch, Roger has no supporters, except for Roger himself.”

Ailes begins each workday buffered by the elaborate private security detail that News Corp pays to usher him from his $1.6m home in New Jersey to his office in Manhattan. Travelling with the Chairman is like a scene straight out of 24. A friend recalls hitching a ride with Ailes after a power lunch: “We come out of the building and there’s an SUV filled with big guys, who jump out of the car when they see him. A cordon is formed around us. We’re ushered into the SUV, and we drive the few blocks to Fox’s offices, where another set of guys come out of the building to receive ‘the package’. The package is taken in, and I’m taken on to my destination.”

Ailes is certain that he’s a top target of al-Qaida terrorists. Inside his blast-resistant office at Fox News headquarters, he keeps a monitor on his desk that allows him to view any activity outside his closed door. Once, after observing a dark-skinned man in what Ailes perceived to be Muslim garb, he put Fox News on lockdown. “What the hell!” Ailes shouted. “This guy could be bombing me!” The suspected terrorist turned out to be a janitor. “Roger tore up the whole floor,” recalls a source close to Ailes. “He has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim – which is consistent with the ideology of his network.”

 Ailes knows exactly who is watching Fox News each day, and he is adept at playing to their darkest fears in the age of Obama. The network’s viewers are old, with a median age of 65. Ads cater to the immobile, the infirm and the incontinent, with appeals to join class action hip-replacement lawsuits, commercials for products such as Colon Flow and testimonials for the services of Liberator Medical (“Liberator gave me back the freedom I haven’t had since I started using catheters”). The audience is also almost exclusively white – only 1.38% of viewers are African-American. “Roger understands audiences,” says Rollins, the former Reagan consultant. “He knew how to target, which is what Fox News is all about.” The typical viewer of Sean Hannity’s show, to take the most stark example, is a pro-business (86%), Christian conservative (78%), Tea Party-backer (75%) with no college degree (66%), who is over 50 (65%), supports the NRA (73%), doesn’t back gay rights (78%) and thinks government “does too much” (84%). “He’s got a niche audience and he’s programmed to it beautifully,” says a former News Corp colleague. “He feeds them exactly what they want to hear.”

From the time Obama began contemplating his candidacy, Fox News went all-out to convince its white viewers that he was a Marxist, a Muslim, a black nationalist and a 1960s radical. In early 2007, Ailes joked about the similarity of Obama’s name to a certain terrorist’s. “It is true that Barack Obama is on the move,” Ailes said in a speech to news executives. “I don’t know if it’s true that President Bush called Musharraf and said: ‘Why can’t we catch this guy?'” References to Obama’s middle name were soon being bandied about on Fox & Friends, the morning happy-talk show that Ailes uses as one of his primary vehicles to inject his venom into the media bloodstream.

The Obama era has spurred sharp changes in the character and tone of Fox News. “Obama’s election has driven Fox to be more of a political campaign than it ever was before,” says Burns, the network’s former media critic. “Things shifted,” agrees Jane Hall, who fled the network after a decade as a liberal commentator. “There seemed suddenly to be less of a need to have a range of opinion. I began to feel uncomfortable.”

Most striking, Ailes hired Glenn Beck away from CNN and set him loose on the White House. During his contract negotiations, Beck recounted, Ailes confided that Fox News was dedicating itself to impeding the Obama administration. “I see this as the Alamo,” Ailes declared. Leading the charge were the ragtag members of the Tea Party uprising, which Fox News propelled into a nationwide movement. In the buildup to the initial protests on 15 April 2009, the network went so far as to actually co-brand the rallies as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.”

According to recent polls, Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news consumers. They are 12 percentage points more likely to believe the stimulus package caused job losses, 17 points more likely to believe Muslims want to establish Sharia law in America, 30 points more likely to say that scientists dispute global warming, and 31 points more likely to doubt President Obama’s citizenship. At the height of the healthcare debate, more than two-thirds of Fox News viewers were convinced Obamacare would lead to a “government takeover”, provide healthcare to illegal immigrants, pay for abortions and let the government decide when to pull the plug on grandma. In fact, a study by the University of Maryland revealed that ignorance of Fox viewers actually increases the longer they watch the network. That’s because Ailes isn’t interested in providing people with information, or even a balanced range of perspectives. Like his political mentor, Richard Nixon, Ailes traffics in the emotions of victimisation.

“What Nixon did – and what Ailes does today in the age of Obama – is unravel and rewire one of the most powerful of human emotions: shame,” says Perlstein, the author of Nixonland. “He takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilises it for political purposes. Roger Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin’s  politics of resentment. He’s the golden thread.”

Fox News stands as the culmination of everything Ailes tried to do for Nixon back in 1968. He has created a vast stage set, designed to resemble an actual news network, that is literally hard-wired into the homes of millions of America’s most conservative voters. Republican candidates then use that forum to communicate directly to their base, bypassing the professional journalists Ailes once denounced as “matadors” who want to “tear down the social order” with their “elitist, horse-dung, socialist thinking”. Ironically, it is Ailes who has built the most formidable propaganda machine ever seen outside of the Communist bloc, pioneering a business model that effectively monetises conservative politics through its relentless focus on the bottom line. “I’m not in politics,” Ailes recently boasted. “I’m in ratings. We’re winning.”

The only thing that remains to be seen is whether Ailes can have it both ways: reaching his goal of $1bn in annual profits while simultaneously dethroning Obama with one of his candidate-employees. Either way, he has put the Republican party on his payroll and forced it to remake itself around his image. Ailes is the Chairman, and the conservative movement now reports to him. “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us,” said David Frum, the former Bush speechwriter. “Now we’re discovering that we work for Fox.”

Financial burden of debt crisis could lead countries to opt out of the euro

Differing opinions on the euro’s evolution hide the fact some eurozone countries may see their future outside of fiscal union 

August 14,2011

by Heather Stewart

The Observer/UK

Quelle horreur! French president Nicolas Sarkozy was so alarmed by the panic in the financial markets last week that he even – briefly – abandoned his sacrosanct summer holiday to return to Paris and instruct his ministers to draw up new austerity plans. On Tuesday, he’ll meet Angela Merkel, who’s also having a less than tranquil August.

The markets’ concerns were partly fuelled by rumours about the fragile state of French banks and their hefty exposures to Greece, Italy and Spain, particularly Société Générale.

But they were also simply following the relentless logic of the ever-deepening sovereign debt crisis. If Italy and Spain are in the firing line and could eventually need bailing out, as bond markets have been signalling, then Germany’s taxpayers won’t be the only ones on the hook – France will have to pay its share of the price too.

Nothing in the latest rescue deal, to increase the powers of the European financial stability facility (EFSF) and arrange a bond-swap for Greece, provided an answer to the wider sovereign debt crisis. Leaders hoped it would buy them enough time to go on holiday; in the event, the peace deal with the markets lasted little more than days. Clearly, something more radical is needed – and it’s not banning the short-selling of bank shares.

George Osborne’s blithe insistence in the Commons on Thursday that our European neighbours should examine the idea of issuing “eurobonds”: joint debts, guaranteed by all the governments in the single currency, glossed over deep issues of democracy.

The eurobond may be what you get if you take the founding principles of the eurozone to their logical conclusion; but it involves a wholesale surrender of economic sovereignty. That sounds anodyne in theory, but in fact, as the Greeks have already discovered, it means your creditors – in this case eurozone partners – combing through every penny of your public spending plans, raising objections to how much you’re paying teachers, how many civil servants you’re prepared to sack, and which treasured national assets you put up for sale at knockdown prices.

That might be the consequence of living beyond your means during the boom years, but it’s still an affront to national democracy. Just as the voters of Argentina eventually lost faith in the unelected International Monetary Fund’s prescriptions for fixing their problems, the Greeks are already furious about the pain they’re having to go through; and there’s likely to be much more to come.

Jean-Claude Trichet, the outgoing head of the European Central Bank (ECB), who has been dragged kicking and screaming into rescuing Greece and Portugal, and now buying up billions of euros of Italian and Spanish bonds, has suggested a eurozone-wide finance ministry. (This at the same time as he was ratcheting up the pressure on struggling economies by increasing interest rates, in stark contrast to the more accommodating Bank of England and Federal Reserve).

But many taxpayers in the eurozone (both the German and French paymasters and the rueful debtors) are likely to feel this is a lot more than they bargained for when they signed up to the single currency.

Even if there’s little talk yet of ditching the euro, the cliched arguments about lazy Greeks and stingy Germans that have characterised the political clashes since the crisis began show just how far the public in many of these countries feel from being ready to surrender national, democratic control over tax and spending for the greater good of the European ideal.

If anything, there has been a resurgence of nationalism since the crisis, with the travails of the struggling states reigniting tired old prejudices.

It’s worth remembering that the French and Germans themselves didn’t stick by the targets in the “stability and growth pact” – the rules of the euro-game that were meant to prevent deficits running out of control.

Even before the expansion of the eurozone to include Slovakia, Malta and Cyprus, it was hard to identify a coherent “European model”, which would guide countries as to where and how to trim their spending – or much more importantly, generate sustainable growth. Tax and spending decisions are by their nature political (“no taxation without representation”, as the original tea partiers used to say; and we know how that ended.)

German taxpayers are, not surprisingly, none too keen on the proposed increase in the size of the EFSF, which would have to be ratified by national parliaments, as will the details of the July agreement. If rescuing the Greeks was a stretch, bailing out core countries such as Italy could prove too much for the German public to swallow.

The Greeks aren’t exactly brimming with confidence about their future in the single currency zone either, judging by the latest figures on bank deposits: they’re withdrawing almost €4bn a month, to salt away, either out of the country or under the mattress.

Somehow, the clashing interests of Germany and its fellow creditor countries, and Greece and the other debt-burdened states, will have to be reconciled, or the single currency will blow apart.

As Sir Mervyn King pointed out in his quarterly inflation report briefing last week, the current turmoil is only the latest chapter in the long-running credit crisis. The debts that were run up during the boom years have never gone away; and as the governor also pointed out, the next phase will have to involve some sharing of the burden between creditors and debtors. That’s as true of Europe as it is of China and the United States.

Yet press reports last week suggested that even Germany and France have different visions of how the euro should evolve, with Sarkozy favouring something more akin to Trichet’s fiscal union, and German politicians extremely sceptical about the notion of a eurobond.

There’s no easy solution: Merkel and Sarkozy will no doubt come up with another of their “grand bargains” on Tuesday, with tough language about enhancing European economic governance. But as with every other such deal throughout recent months, it’s likely to evade the fraught question of who’s going to have to pay the bill. And piling fresh spending cuts on already fragile economies will only increase the burden by stifling growth.

Barring a political miracle, it looks like a toss up as to whether the Germans or the Greeks are the first to become so exasperated that they decide their future should lie outside the euro.

Riot erupts in southwest China town 

August 12, 2011

by Chris Buckley and Sally Huang


BEIJING (Reuters) – Thousands of Chinese took to the streets of a southwestern town on Thursday, with some smashing police vehicles in the latest protest by citizens angered by the rough handling of local officials, according to news reports.

The protest in Qianxi County, Guizhou province, was the latest of thousands of brief, local riots and demonstrations that happen in China every year, and like many recent outbreaks this one pitted residents against “urban administration” officials charged with enforcing law and order.

A “clash broke out between urban administration officials and the owner of an illegally parked vehicle, drawing in thousands of onlookers and sparking incidents of crowds smashing law enforcement vehicles and blocking roads,” the website of China National Radio (http://cds.cnr.cn) reported on Friday.

“Crowds turned over the vehicle of the urban administration staff and attacked police who came to quiet down the situation,” the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The rioters smashed ten vehicles and torched another five, said Xinhua, adding that 10 police officers and guards were injured. The police arrested 10 people suspected of attacking the vehicles.

Canyu, an overseas Chinese website (http://www.canyu.org) that often reports on protests, showed photos it said were taken in Qianxi, showing thousands of residents crowding a square in the town, surrounding overturned police vehicles. Reuters could not verify if those photos were reliable.

A riot in southern China in June was also triggered by rancor between residents and local law-and-order officials, and researchers say such explosive but usually brief outbursts are a hallmark of the unrest testing the controls of the ruling Communist Party.

Radio Free Asia, a news service based in Washington D.C., reported the clash in Qianxi broke out after officials tried to confiscate an electric-powered bicycle, injuring the female owner.

China saw almost 90,000 such “mass incidents” of riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts of unrest in 2009, according to a 2011 study by two scholars from Nankai University in north China. Some estimates go even higher.

That is an increase from 2007, when China had over 80,000 mass incidents, up from over 60,000 in 2006, according to an earlier report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Like many other recent protests and riots, news of this one spread on China’s Internet, especially on Sina’s popular Weibo microblogging site, reported Radio Free Asia.

But Chinese authorities are wary of any discussion of such discontent spreading, and by Friday morning, searches on Weibo for Qianxi County and even Guizhou province were largely blocked on Weibo, with a message saying the “relevant legal regulations” prevented showing the search results.

Users nonetheless posted comments, and some drew sardonic parallels with recent riots in London and other English cities.

“In fact, China has riots more serious than England’s every week,” said one Weibo comment.

(Reporting by Chris Buckley and Sally Huang; Editing by Ken Wills and Miral Fahmy)


Riots Put UK Rights at Risk, says WikiLeaks’ Assange

August 13, 2011

by Olivia Ward

Toronto Star

The looters and rioters who torched Britain’s neighborhoods are “doing Big Brother” a favor by giving the government more latitude to destroy citizens’ rights and freedoms, says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Great Britain has turned itself into an Orwellian 1984 during the last decade, yet all those cameras and anti-terror laws could not prevent this recent chaos,” he told the Star from England, where he is awaiting the outcome of his appeal against extradition to Sweden, which wants him for questioning in connection with a sexual assault case. British Prime Minister David Cameron touched off a fierce debate Thursday by suggesting that the rioters, who have called up mob attacks through social media and instant messaging, could be shut down in cyberspace.

“When people are using social media for violence we need to stop them,” he told the House of Commons. “We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”

The popular BlackBerry Messenger — produced by Canada’s Research in Motion — had given police a new headache because of its closed network, he added: “we’ve got to examine that and know how to keep up with them.”

Some MPs agreed, including Tory Louise Mensch, who tweeted that Cameron’s plans were “common sense” and if Facebook and Twitter were carrying messages that incited violence “the world won’t implode” if they were shut down for an hour or two. BlackBerry earlier announced that it was co-operating with police.

But advocates responded angrily that Cameron was “shooting the messenger,” and covering up the government’s inadequate responses by blaming social media and BlackBerry’s free messaging service that is widely used by younger and poorer Britons.

“The naive public often is ready to sacrifice its privacy, and laws safeguarding basic freedom and rights in exchange for safety, guaranteed by the state,” Assange said. “Now it is clear that governments cannot keep their promises.”

Britain has extensive security laws that date back to the days of IRA terrorism. Surveillance grew in the early 2000s after the 9/11 attacks, and “7/7” assault on London transport that killed 52 people in July 2005. But as the riots spread this week, Cameron said he had asked the police if they needed additional powers.

Assange said the British government was paying the price “for creating a society that denies young people both responsibility, trust and proper challenges,” adding “it is time to rethink rather than restrict things even more. The real problems, which led up to the riots, can only be solved by the whole community, not the government or police.”

While Britons are outraged by the destruction of the riots, many are reluctant to blame the new media.

“Digital technology did play a role in providing rioters with an organizational tool,” said sociologist Frank Furedi of University of Kent. “But the more important factor has been the role of the police or more specifically the disorganization of the institutions of law and order.

“Those who are involved in ‘recreational rioting’ are not abnormal feral youngsters but young people who simply have no stake in their community.”

Experts say that in any case shutting down social media sites or the Internet is unlikely to work.

“The first option requires every social media firm to cooperate with government,” says an article in politics.co.uk. “Even if that were achievable individuals would still be able to create a new account.”

And it said a Chinese-style “final option” of shutting down Internet access to turbulent regions would be so drastic “it would require highly controversial new powers to implement.”


UK riots: police should tackle racial tension, says ‘supercop’ Bill Bratton

Cameron’s new adviser says UK cannot ‘arrest its way out’ of gang crime and must tackle underlying causes

August 13, 2011

by David Batty


            The UK cannot arrest its way out of violence and should tackle the underlying causes of unrest such as racial tensions, the prime minister’s new crime adviser, US “supercop” Bill Bratton, has warned.

The former New York and Los Angeles police chief, who will meet David Cameron next month to share his expertise in tackling gang violence and street crime, said crime-fighting solutions that have worked in the US, such as making police forces more ethnically diverse, could get results in the UK.

Bratton said British police needed to focus on calming racial tensions by working more with community leaders and civil rights groups, noting that communities could not “arrest their way out” of gang crime.

Employing more police officers from ethnic minority communities was another potential long-term solution to stopping future disorder, he said.

“Part of the issue going forward is how to make policing more attractive to a changing population,” said Bratton.

Los Angeles and New York had benefited from police forces that “reflect the ethnic make-up of the cities”.

“Arrest is certainly appropriate for the most violent, the incorrigible, but so much of it can be addressed in other ways and it’s not just a police issue, it is in fact a societal issue,” he told US broadcaster ABC.

“It’s not easy, it’s hard work, but it can be done and in many respects you have to argue that it must be done because you just can’t continue the way you’ve been going.”

Bratton, who is chairman of private security firm Kroll, said social media sites could be useful for law enforcement in monitoring gang activities. “The idea is to get ahead of the violence rather than just react to it,” he said.

Police forces should be more assertive in their dealings with offenders so criminals would “fear them” and lose confidence in their ability to commit crimes, he said in an interview with the Telegraph.

Bratton advocates a doctrine of “escalating force” against criminalscalling for rubber bullets, Tasers, pepper spray and water cannon as potential weapons.

Over the past two decades Bratton has gained a reputation for introducing bold measures to reduce crime, particularly in Los Angeles where he is credited with ushering in an era of safer streets and improved relations between police and communities.

Civil rights attorney Connie Rice said she considered Bratton a transformative figure in the history of the LAPD, which was tarnished by the 1991 attack on black motorist Rodney King by four white police officers, leading to rioting the following year.

“He has a racial-justice vision that is married to effective law enforcement,” Rice said of Bratton, who ran the LAPD between 2002 and 2009. “He knows how to carry out both.”

Bratton’s initial success in reducing crime in New York relied on big increases in resources, which contrasts sharply with Cameron’s pledge to stick to planned cuts in UK police budgets.

Bratton recruited 5,000 new, better-trained officers to make the police more visible on the streets. This was partly funded by a new local crime tax.

The chancellor, George Osborne, has indicated he backs Bratton’s analysis but has reiterated that there will not be extra resources for the police.

“There are very deep-seated social problems which we need to tackle. There are communities that have just been left behind by the rest of the country, there are communities cut off from the economic lifeblood of the rest of the country,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

He pledged to press ahead with planned police budget cuts, claiming the debate should not be reduced to “whether there should be x-thousand numbers of police officers or x-thousand-plus-one numbers of police officers”.

“We want an effective police service. They have done an amazing job this week. We want to use the advice of people like Bill Bratton to really tackle some of the deep-seated social issues like gang culture.

“But this is not just about police budgets; this is about a far bigger challenge for our society, which is dealing with people who we have ignored for too long and helping them feel they have a stake in society.”

Operation Oraj: Pushing Turkey to the brink of war with Greece   

by Abdullah Bozkurt   


There are numerous examples in modern history of how to provoke a war with an enemy by secretly plotting incidents that will create public uproar at home, giving legitimacy and the necessary backing to wage a bloody war on a neighboring country. Japan’s annexation of Manchuria in 1931 and attacking China six year later, Germany’s assault on Poland in 1939 and the Soviet Union’s (modern-day Russia) attack on Finland the same year were all carried out after so-called “false-flag” operations during which belligerent states had simply fabricated stories and in some cases killed their own nationals to justify a war.

It was only a decade ago when we were falsely led to believe that both US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were acting on “solid” intelligence reports about alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It turned out major manipulation was at work to make the case for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The “usual suspect,” America, has a murky past in conducting clandestine operations in foreign countries, mostly through its intelligence agencies. The 1962 Operation Northwoods, a plot planned by the US Department of Defense to trigger a war with Cuba, was another classic example in the long list of illicit US affairs. Though the plan was not put into action following John F. Kennedy’s rejection of it, it nevertheless portrays the grim picture on how far nations and some groups are willing to go to get what they want.

The Northwoods plot, authored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, involved appalling scenarios such shooting down passenger and military planes, the harassment of US aircraft, the sinking of a US ship in the vicinity of Cuba, the burning of crops, the sinking of a boat filled with Cuban refugees, attacks by alleged Cuban infiltrators inside the US, and the destruction of aerial drones by aircraft disguised as Cuban MiGs. The ultimate aim was to lay the blame on Communist Cuba for these premeditated actions and provide a pretext for an invasion of Cuba.

Last year we discovered a Turkish version of Operation Northwoods with similarly unique twists: Operation Thunderstorm (Oraj) which was a sub-plot of the Sledgehammer military coup operation. The plot was uncovered by investigators during the execution of a search warrant at the Naval Intelligence Department located at Gölcük Naval Command, a major naval base located on the east coast of the Sea of Marmara. The plan sees an escalation of the crisis with Greece by provoking conflict in the air, at sea and on land borders. However, the ultimate target of the plan was not Greece but the Turkish government itself, which many Turkish generals very much despised. Bringing Turkey to the brink of war with Greece was a “means to an end” scenario to prepare the groundwork for an armed military intervention in Turkey.

The Oraj plan, dated February 2003, specifically asks for increased flights over the Aegean and orders commanding officers to instruct pilots to engage in harassment maneuvers with Greek fighter planes. It wants Turkish pilots to be more aggressive and even issues new engagement rules allowing pilots to take shots at Greek fighters, albeit unofficially. The plan suggests reorganizing the Special Fleet with a specific objective of placing a Turkish pilot to shoot down a Turkish jet in his own squadron in case all efforts to provoke a Greek fighter to destroy a Turkish jet fail. Fabricated stories would then be planted in the media, saying that Greece intentionally shot down a Turkish jet. The plotters hoped this would create a huge embarrassment for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

To accompany provocations in the air, both land and sea forces would also be instructed to engage in hostilities. Tensions would increase along Thracian border with Greece, with new guard missions set up in the area. “The naval forces would continuously conduct training exercises in the Aegean Sea. Fighter jets would be kept on standby mode on the tarmac around the clock at Balıkesir, Bandırma, Çiğli, Çorlu and Dalaman military airports and they would be scrambled to the air even if there are reports for minor infractions,” the plan explained.

Another document, dated December 2002, disclosed a secret meeting in Ankara about the Suga plan, where the issue of islands/islets whose sovereignty still remains disputed were discussed to provoke Greece. In a related memo dated Jan. 10, 2003, Navy Col. Mustafa Karasabun submitted plans to make changes in rules of engagement in the Aegean, giving a free hand in provocations. Plotters debated different scenarios on how to best trigger conflict with Greece, short of war. For example, one proposal envisaged creating an impression that the Turkish navy is about to conduct a major amphibious assault on the Greek base on Nisos Leros Island (İleryoz Ada in Turkish) near Turkey. Air assets were to be mobilized to boost that impression. The plan was intended to precipitate a change in the Greek navy’s levels of alertness, resulting in a panicked response, stated Commander Murat Saka, the planning project officer, in a document submitted to a court.

With all this, conspirators hoped to portray the government as inept and incapable of handling the threat coming from Greece. With the resulting public outcry, the escalation of the crisis was to help secure a declaration of marshal law by Parliament in some provinces, including İstanbul. The military would then be empowered with the tools necessary to crush what they saw as a growing internal threat in Turkey. Prosecutors believe the Oraj plan was cooked up by Bilgin Balanlı, who was the air chief marshal at the time and next in line to become the chief of the Turkish Air Force this year, before his dreams was quashed by his arrest. He was given orders to do so by former Air Force Commander Gen. İbrahim Fırtına, who was the commander of the War Academies in 2003.

The ring leaders were the heads of the three commands in 2003 — Gen. Çetin Doğan of the İstanbul-based 1st Army Command, Gen. Fırtına and Adm. Özden Örnek of the Naval Forces Command — all of whom are currently in jail pending trial. The mastermind was Gen. Doğan, who was named the number one suspect in the Sledgehammer indictment. He was recorded in March 2003 debating with his officers in İstanbul on how to implement the plan with a controlled increase of tensions and hostilities against the Greek Air Force. These three men set up “special teams” for the planned coup from their staff and trained them for the post-coup period. Unlike Operation Northwoods, some parts of the Oraj plan had already started to be implemented. For example, a confidential memo written by Navy Col. Cem Gürdeniz in February 2003 discussed increasing flights over the Aegean Sea as part of the Oraj plan. It also said the harassment of Turkish fighters by Greek jets and their prevention from undertaking given tasks would be brought to the attention of the public through the media.

An actual timeline of events corresponds with the steps detailed in the Oraj plan. According to a January 2004 report in Greek newspaper Eleftheros Typos, there was a huge spike in the number of alleged violations of Greek air space by Turkish fighters in that period. In 2003, there were a total of 3,900 violations committed by Turkish fighters, up from 3,200 in 2002. In contrast, the preceding years saw a lower number of violations. In 2000 this figure was 398 and in 2001 it was 957. In 2003, when the Oraj plan was active, 1,020 incidents of so-called “dog fights” between Greek and Turkish jet fighters were reported.

From the press coverage back in those years, it was clear that Greece was understandably upset over the unprecedented number of violations, prompting Athens to raise the issue with Ankara. In fact, both governments were willing to reduce the number of dangerous dog fights in the Aegean to reduce the tension, but the call apparently fell on deaf ears in the air forces. Frustrated by the lack of progress on the issue, Greek government spokesman Hristos Proropapas in October 2003 said: “Many circles both in Athens and Ankara do not want the violations to continue. But there are generals sitting in Ankara.” He was pointing his finger to untouchable generals who secretly launched plans to oust the AK Party government in the 2003/04 period. Even former Greek Ambassador Michalis Christidis called a press conference in Ankara in June 2003 to share his government’s concerns directly with the Turkish public. Stressing that Greece had taken note of an unusual increase in the number of violations over the Aegean, the ambassador also underlined that there was a qualitative change in the way these violations had occurred. “Most of the Turkish fighters were armed. Two-thirds of the violations happened within six miles of Greek air space and some of them were committed very close to residential areas,” he said. By then Greece must have realized something was definitely wrong on the Turkish side and alerted the Turkish government, which was unfortunately weaker against the powerful military at the time.

There are two critical factors that helped calm the situation and prevented coup generals from succeeding with Operation Oraj. First, then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Hilmi Özkök was against the coup and tried to rein in unruly flag commanders serving under him. He had succeeded in keeping the top brass in disarray so that they could not mount a successful and unified campaign against the government. In a pre-emptive strike at his own generals, Özkök even gave an interview to Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia in October 2003 to ease Greek concerns. The second and most powerful factor was the decision by the EU to give Turkey an official date for accession talks in December 2004. This strengthened the hand of the civilian government against the powerful military and helped foil coup plans.

The trial is still going on and we’ll see what more evidence will come out during cross-examination


Centuries of Lying in the Name of Christianity

A Review of ‘Forged’ by Bart D. Ehrman

May 14th, 2011

by Walter C. Uhler



             The Bible is a book that has been read more and examined less than any book that ever existed.– Thomas Paine

Professor Bart Ehrman has done something that more than 99 percent of American Christians have failed to do. He has devoted much of his adult life to a serious study of the New Testament.

Ehrman commenced his studies at a fundamentalist Bible college, Moody Bible Institute, before completing his undergraduate education at Wheaton College. While at Wheaton, Ehrman did what every serious student of the New Testament must do; he studied Greek. As he explained in Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, “I took Greek, so that I could read the New Testament in its original language.” [p. 4]

After graduating from Wheaton, Ehrman went to Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied under one of the world’s great experts on the Greek New Testament, the late Bruce Metzger. Among Metzger’s many scholarly contributions is his indispensible book, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration, which identifies the three classes of sources available for ascertaining the text of the New Testament: Greek manuscripts, ancient translations into other languages and quotations from the New Testament made by early ecclesiastical writers, such as Augustine, Eusebius, Tertullian and Marcion. [p. 36-89]

Readers of that book would learn, for example, that the oldest known portion of a New Testament is a few verses from John that were written during the first half of the second century — or approximately a full century after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Readers also would learn that the two oldest surviving complete New Testaments are the codex Sinaiticus and codex Vaticanus. Sinaiticus is a fourth-century Greek Bible discovered in the middle of the nineteenth century that not only contains the complete New Testament, but also The Shepard of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas, books that were considered to be part of the New Testament for several centuries. Vaticanus also is a fourth-century Greek Bible that has been housed in the Vatican Library at least since 1475.

Because approximately 5,000 Greek manuscripts containing all or part of the New Testament have been identified, textual criticism became a necessity. As Professor Metzger put it, “The necessity of applying textual criticism to the books of the New Testament arises from two circumstances: (a) none of the original documents is extant, and (b) the existing copies differ from one another.�”

(These are facts to keep in mind whenever some biblical literalist, presumably incapable of reading Greek, tells you that the New Testament is inerrant.)

Having studied under Metzger and reading all he could, Ehrman not only abandoned his early belief that the Bible was inerrant, he also was compelled to conclude: “the Bible not only contains untruths or accidental mistakes. It also contains what almost anyone today would call lies.” [p. 5] As he asserts in Forged, “Throughout this book it will become quite clear from the ancient writings themselves that even though forgery was widely practiced, it was also widely condemned and treated as a form of lying.” [p. 36].

Given that 84 percent of Americans believe the Bible to be a holy book, one would think that such people would be concerned to learn that many of the New Testament books are forgeries. Yet, whenever I have brought New Testament forgeries, mistakes or contradictions to the attention of a Bible-believing Christian, he or she invariably falls back to the excuse: “Well, it’s simply a matter of faith, isn’t it?”

Upon hearing this excuse, I always respond: “No, if it were simply a matter of faith, I could assert that my cell phone is my savior, and so could you. You obviously believe that your faith in Jesus Christ is superior to my faith in my cell phone because it is based on nearly two-thousand years of tradition that was legitimized by the stories told in the New Testament.” Protestants are even more focused on that book, because — ever since Martin Luther – they’ve been told, Sola scriptura, (by scripture alone).

What’s worse is the sad fact that few Christians even comprehend the disturbing paradox: Had Jesus returned as quickly as he predicted, nobody would need a New Testament.

Remember the biblical passages that suggest Jesus’ imminent return? “Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here which shall not taste death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come to power.” (Mark 9:1)

Or, how about Paul’s expectation that he and some of the Thessalonians will be alive when the apocalypse occurs. Remember how he contrasts “those who have died” with “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord?” (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17) [The New Testament, Bart D. Ehrman, p.314]

Obviously, either Jesus or Mark got it wrong — and so did Paul. According to Professor Ehrman, Paul “appears to have no idea that his words would be discussed after his death, let alone read and studied some nineteen centuries later.” [Ibid]

Nevertheless, “as hopes of Christ’s imminent return began to fade in the later first century,” Christians began to realize that they must create structures which might last at least for a generation or more amid a world of non-believers. [Diarmaid MacCullough, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, p. 118]

Structures? Yes, Christians attempted to create a universal faith based upon: (1) an agreed list of authoritative sacred texts, (2) the formation of creeds and (3) the establishment of an authoritative ministry (bishop, priest and deacon) [Ibid, p. 127-137]

Thus, as Ehrman notes, “Christians from the very beginning needed to appeal to authorities for what they believed.” [Forged, p.7] “The ultimate authority was God, of course. But the majority of Christians came to think that God did not speak the truth about what to believe directly to individuals. If he did, there would be enormous problems, as some would claim divine authority for what they taught and others would claim divine authority for the completely opposite teaching. Thus most Christians did not stress personal revelation to living individuals.” [Ibid]

Yet, it was precisely the need to establish authority that prompted Christians to forge parts of the New Testament books, as well as entire books of the New Testament, by falsely claiming that they were written, for example, by Peter, Paul or Mark.

Consider, for example, the fact that neither of the two oldest complete New Testaments (codex Sinaiticus and codex Vaticanus) contains the last twelve verses that we find in Mark today. According to Professor Metzger, “Since Mark was not responsible for the composition of the last twelve verses of the generally current form of his Gospel, and since they undoubtedly had been attached to the Gospel before the Church recognized the fourfold Gospels as canonical, it follows that the New Testament contains not four but five evangelic accounts of events subsequent to the Resurrection of Christ.” [p. 229]

Professor Ehrman is less diplomatic. He simply notes: “Whoever added the final twelve verses of Mark did not do so by a mere slip of the pen.” [p. 250] Somebody forged them so they would pass as being written by Mark.

Ehrman doubts that the letters of 1 Peter and 2 Peter were actually written by Peter. Through the examination of word usage that didn’t gain currency until after Peter’s death in 64 CE — such as the word “Babylon” which was a code word for Rome that came into use near the end of the first century; scholars have come to believe that the letters are forgeries. Moreover, “there are excellent grounds for thinking that Peter could not write.” [p. 70]

Now consider the thirteen letters in the New Testament that claim to have been written by Paul. According to Ehrman, “Virtually all scholars agree that seven of the Pauline letters are authentic: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.” Six, probably, are forgeries: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians. (Readers who are interested in the evidence used to categorize them as forgeries should turn to pages 95-114 of Forged.)

Thus, readers might now find it ironic that 2 Timothy 3:16 claims, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” After all, 2 Timothy, as noted above, is one of the Pauline letters now thought to have been forged.

Equally ironic, and more amusing, is the use of forged New Testament scripture by the leading proponent of Christian Economics, Gary North. As reported recently in the New York Times, Mr. North not only believes that “the Bible is opposed to organized labor, and especially to organized public employees,” he also believes that no form of government assistance “will escape the ethical limits” of the Apostle Paul’s dictum, in 2 Thessalonians, that “if any would not work, neither should he eat.” Being an evangelical Christian, the poor soul doesn’t even suspect that 2 Thessalonians is a forgery.

Unwittingly, Mr. North and all Christians who take the New Testament at face value commit a disastrous procedural mistake. They establish their Bible-based moral code of right and wrong before ascertaining the true and the false in that Bible. “Effective virtue, as Socrates pointed out long ago, is knowledge; and a code of right and wrong must await upon a perception of the true and the false.” [Walter Lippmann, The Phantom Public, p. 20]

Now that Professor Bart Ehrman’s Forged has demonstrated, “from the first century to the twentieth century, people who have called themselves Christian have seen fit to fabricate, falsify, and forge documents, in most instances in order to authorize views that they wanted others to accept,” today’s Christians have no excuse for their procedural confusion.

Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA). He can be reached at: waltuhler@aol.com. Read other articles by Walter C., or visit Walter C.’s website.

This article was posted on Saturday, May 14th, 2011 at 8:00am and is filed under Book Review, Religion.


Conversations with the Crow


            When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.

                        Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

          Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:


Here is the ninety-third  chapter

Conversation No. 93

Date: Saturday, July 26, 1997

Commenced: 9:45 AM CST

Concluded: 10:03 AM CST

GD: Hello, Robert. Feeling a bit better today? If not, I could call later.

RTC: No, I’m fine today. Got around a bit today and later, Greg is going to take us shopping.

GD: I take it you don’t do driving.

RTC: God no. Bad hip and I get dizzy sometimes. Not good at all. You drive still?
GD: Oh yes. I used to drive quite a bit more but my son managed to move here and we had to leave my car in the shop. Of course I never got it because it’s several thousand miles away. He swore I could use his car but he changed his mind, even though he has talked me into making the monthly payments.

RTC: Your son sounds like a most ungrateful young man.

GD: How kind. I can think of other things to say but I won’t.

RTC: Are you a good driver?
GD: Oh I am. When I was younger I had some interesting adventures in a car.

RTC: Not in the back seat?
GD: Ah, advanced muff diving for the mentally impaired. No, not like that. Going down on a Mongoloid is not my style. Running over one or using one for bait for an alligator hunt is more like it.

RTC: (Laughter) Are you accident-prone?
GD: No, I’m not. Oh, I am just thinking about an incident once. If I’d had any sense, I would have been scared to death. I was living in a certain West Coast city where I own a nice row home. Nice and anonymous. I can walk to the beach in ten minutes although no one in their right mind would dare go into the water.

RTC: In Alaska?
GD: No, the lower forty eight. Not cold but very dangerous undertows. Oh Grandpa, why not go for a little swim? And after he’s written out a will, another beach tragedy strikes again. But the car business. I was driving back to the city from up north and I had something I felt rather uncomfortable having in the car so I stopped on a bridge, got out and tossed it into the ocean. Down it went and I saw the splash. Anyway, there was quite a bit of traffic leaving the city but almost none coming in so they were using one of the south bound lanes. I had only one lane. There was no one coming when I got back in the car and started up but when I turned on the turn indicator I saw the headlights of an oncoming truck. Now there was only one lane, as I said, so I gunned it and drove along but this penis head came right up behind me, really moving, and hit the air horn and flashed his lights at me. About ten feet behind me. Where was I to go? He couldn’t pass me on the left because that lane was now marked off for northbound traffic and had a lot of vehicles in it. Assbreath kept on my tail so I jammed on my brakes and then punched it. He hit his own breaks and almost went into oncoming traffic. About the time I was exiting the bridge, here he comes again, like a bat out of Hell. I guess he must have been mad. Anyway, I took the next off ramp and drove down into the city but the turd kept right behind me. I went down a parkway with cross streets and lights but it never slowed him down, air horn and all. I ran one red and almost got creamed by a car and he kept right on coming. At this point I was rather alarmed, especially as I had something in the trunk I wanted to keep private. My mother-in-law…No just joking. Anyway, I got into my neighborhood, which I knew very well, and got off the parkway but there he was, behind me. Some car turned out between us and he rode their bumper, blaring his fucking horn at them until the old cow driving got loose bowels and pulled off. Ah, but by then, I was driving on residential streets and Jesus H. Christ, here he came again, roaring along at least fifty, flashing his lights and  doing the horn thing. There were alleys behind the houses, the row houses, so I turned down one, thinking the evil fuck would back off but no, he was right on my tail. He had to slow down to go around a dumpster and I had an idea how to get rid of him. Came to the street, slowed down a little, crossed the sidewalk, and the street and he picked up speed, roaring along like a freight train. He pulled out into the street and a car almost hit him. Roaring of brakes and horns. I started down another alley with him right after me. Ah, but ahead was a pickup on my right, parked against a garage and just ahead of it, on the left, was a car, also parked. I shot left, then right and missed the second car by inches but by God, sir, he didn’t. A huge ripping crash and when I looked back, there was a big cloud of smoke in the alley and some flame. Slowed down, turned right and drove two blocks, turned right again and then up into my driveway, garage door opened and inside in a jiffy. And door shut tight behind me.  Anyway, I unloaded my cargo which, to satisfy you, were four wooden boxes of gold coins, and took them into my locked work area in the back. Then I went upstairs and poured myself a drink. Oh my, such a noise in the neighborhood. Fire trucks, sirens and all kinds of banging and popping noises. I finally went up on the roof…a flat roof…and sure enough, great clouds of smoke, flame and fire trucks hooting and so on. Went back down and made myself a nice dinner and relaxed.

RTC: What was the outcome?
GD: Oh, some Chink was running an illegal fireworks factory in his garage and got pretty well fried when the whole thing went off. I didn’t really feel like walking over there and letting anyone see me.

RTC: And the truck driver? Was he charcoaled as well?

GD: No, he got out and ran away. Too bad for him that a neighbor spotted him, called the cops. I understood from the tube that a cop got the message and spotted him running along the sidewalk. Stopped and so on and the driver pulled one of those knives the Flips carry and went at the cop. That was all she wrote for the driver because the cop emptied his gun into him at point blank range.

RTC: They call those balisong knives.

GD: Well the driver was a Filipino.

RTC: They are very nasty, unstable people. Go off like a rocket for no reason and you really do have to shoot them dead to stop them. Now I can see why he came after you. Makes sense. Good thinking on your part, though. I mean luring him into a crowded alley.

GD: I didn’t actually lure him, Robert, he was chasing me going fifty or more in a crowded residential area. But I lost him and the police found him. Sorry about the burned up garages and cars but you know how it is.

RTC: Are you a coin collector?
GD: Gold is the safest place for money, Robert. The paper is designed to wipe your ass with.

RTC: It was safe?
GD: Oh yes, very safe. A satisfactory dinner, as I recall. Took a nice, long  shower, listened to some Telemann for a few hours and went to sleep. The next day I walked over to the crime scene but there was too much yellow tape around. They had hauled away the ruined vehicles and you could smell burnt wood for blocks. Such a mess. Well, sic transit Gloria mundi.

Dramatis personae:


James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy


James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.


William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.


John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.


James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.


Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.


Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.


Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organizaion eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.


Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”


Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.


Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.


Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.


Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarians and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.


Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers specializing in creative writing. Although he prefers to be called ‘Dr,’ in reality he has no PhD.

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