TBR News August 2, 2010

Aug 02 2010

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., August 1, 2010: “To paraphrase William Butler Yeats, our national structures are starting to fall apart because it is becoming more and more evident that the center cannot hold. The Bush people started the process by taking controls off the business community, no doubt in return for a piece of the pie, and the housing bubble was the cause of the very predictable economic collapse. Also, the Bush people permitted major American business entities to move their operations to much cheaper overseas labor markets. Not only did this deprive the country of taxes but it also blocked  millions of young Americans of entry-level jobs. The American dream of a job, a wife and family, a car and a house has now vanished. Corruption and financial manipulation have taken millions of American mortgages, sliced, diced and packaged them for sale abroad so that in essence, Americans do not own their homes and never will because no one knows who owns their mortgage. The public no longer trusts the government and treats the American media as nothing more than a propaganda organ for that government,. rendering it useless as a tool for public opinion control. That press tells us, cheerfully, that the economy is rebounding from the collapsed. It isn’t. Yes, the bankers are making money, the stock market is coming back but the public is not. Home sales are down, income has dropped, buying has fallen off and, worst of all, there is a huge, and growing, part of our current society that cannot find any kind of work. Government support of the jobless cannot continue lest it destroy what is left of the economy and unless, and until, more manufacturing jobs are created in this country, the chances of public grow by the day. Lao Tzu said  “Spare me from living in interesting times!” I have used this simile before and I will use it again: If you stop up the spout of a boiling tea kettle, the lid will blow off.

Old Debts That Won’t Die

July 30, 2010

by Andrew Martin

New York Times

Timothy McCollough freely admits that he stopped making payments on his Chase Manhattan credit card in 1999. He says he did not have the means to pay after he was disabled by a head injury that cost him his job as a school security guard.

But more than a decade later, Mr. McCollough, who is 52 and lives in Laurel, Mont., is still haunted by the unpaid balance, which was originally about $3,000.

In 2007, he was sued a second time over the debt, and this time the suit contended that he owed significantly more: $3,816 in credit card debt, plus $5,536 in interest and $481 in legal fees. As he did the first time, Mr. McCollough sent a handwritten note to the court explaining that the statute of limitations on the debt had passed.

“I have had no dealing with any credit card in 8 1/2 years,” he wrote to the court. “The pain they caused is worth more than the money they want.”

Mr. McCollough is not the only borrower being pursued for a balance that has expired. Such claims are routinely sold on debt collection Web sites, where out-of-statute debt is for sale for a penny or less on the dollar.

In most states, it is legal for collectors to pursue out-of-statute debt, as long as they do not file a lawsuit or threaten to do so.

But some lawsuits are filed anyway, and consumer groups and even some industry consultants argue that collectors routinely harass debtors for unpaid balances that have exceeded the statute of limitations. In some cases, collectors have unlawfully added fees and interest.

“It’s so cheap, if you can work it smart, you don’t need to collect that much,” said John Pratt, a consultant to the debt-buying industry and an author of “Debt Purchasing: An Investor’s Guide to Buying Debt” (Morris Publishing, 2005). He said investors in old debt generally hoped to recoup two and half times what they paid for a group of claims.

Because collectors cannot sue on old debt, he said, they are more likely to resort to abusive tactics. “Time-barred debt is where the worst abuse has occurred towards the debtor,” he said.

In a report issued July 12, the Federal Trade Commission called for “significant reforms” in the debt collection industry and recommended that states change the murky laws that govern out-of-statute debt.

The statute of limitations for debt varies by state, generally from three to 10 years. In many states, collectors can restart the clock if they can persuade the consumer to make even a tiny payment toward the old debt. Debt collectors generally do not tell consumers that making a payment will revive the debt so it can be legally pursued.

“The point of the payments is not so much to get the money” as it is to restart the clock, said Daniel Schlanger, a New York lawyer who represents consumers in cases against debt collectors.

The F.T.C., in its report, recommends that states make sure the statute of limitations for outstanding debt is clear and that collectors filing a lawsuit be required to prove that the debt is not out of statute.

In addition, the agency recommends that states require collectors to tell consumers that they are not entitled to sue on out-of-statute debt and that making a partial payment revives the entire liability.

Rozanne Andersen, chief executive of ACA International, an association of debt collection companies, said she did not believe that old consumer debt should expire at all. The money is owed whether the debt is a month old or 10 years old, she said.

Ms. Andersen says her association opposes filing lawsuits against out-of-statute debt or using trickery to get consumers to pay. But she says she sees nothing wrong with debt collectors pursuing legitimate debts, even if that might spur the borrower to restart the statute of limitations.

In addition, she said it was ridiculous to expect debt collectors to warn consumers that their debts had expired.

“It suggests that if a consumer can avoid paying for a certain period of time, they will enjoy a windfall,” she said, adding later, “People are obligated to pay their debts, whether the statute of limitations period has run or not.”

The debt collection industry has undergone a transformation in the last decade. Credit card issuers, health care providers and cellphone companies now routinely sell debt that they deem uncollectible to debt buyers, who then either try to collect it themselves, turn it over to a collections law firm or sell it again.

The price of secondhand debt depends on factors like the age of the debt, average balance, how much documentation is available to prove the debt and where the debtors are located.

Out-of-statute debt is readily available on various Web sites that cater to the collections industry. For instance, a Chaska, Minn., company called Credit Card Reseller is offering an $8 million portfolio of Bank of America credit card accounts, which on average have a balance of $4,981 and were written off by the bank in 2003.

The expected asking price is $16,000, or two-tenths of a cent for every dollar owed.

While collectors are not supposed to file lawsuits to pursue out-of-statute debt, some consumer lawyers say it happens routinely. In California, for instance, Victoria Byers of Los Angeles was sued last year for $1,708 over an old AT&T cellphone bill that she disputed. Her last payment was made in 2005.

Last month, Ms. Byers, who is 50, filed her own suit contending that the debt collector, Professional Collection Consultants, and its lawyer, Scott Wu, violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Her suit asserts that the collection firm and Mr. Wu routinely file lawsuits on stale debt in the hopes of obtaining default judgments.

Ms. Byers’s lawyer, Michael Stone, said he based the accusation on the high volume of lawsuits filed by Mr. Wu and on the “reckless” manner in which they treated Ms. Byers.

Clark Garen, a lawyer for Professional Collection Consultants, denied that his firm purposely set out to collect expired debt. As a result of the accusations in the Byers lawsuit, he said the firm reviewed its record of filing lawsuits and found a small number of instances in which lawsuits were filed against debt in which the statute of limitations had expired.

Of the 11,946 lawsuits that it filed over the last four years in California, 73 involved debt in which the statute of limitation had expired, Mr. Garen said. Professional Collection Consultants is dropping the lawsuits in which a judgment has not been entered and refunding $44,710.82 to consumers in 29 of the cases in which some money was collected, he said.

Mr. McCollough, the man who was pursued for his old Chase credit card debt, also ended up countersuing the collection law firm that sued him, Johnson Rodenburg & Lauinger of Bismarck, N.D. Last year, a Montana jury awarded him $311,000 in damages, primarily for emotional distress. The decision is being appealed.

Fred Simpson, a Missoula, Mont., lawyer representing Johnson Rodenburg, declined to comment and pointed instead to his appellate brief, in which cites an “accumulation of errors” by the district court.

In his closing arguments at the trial, Mr. Simpson pointed out that Mr. McCollough still owed the balance on his Chase card.

“The money was green and he spent it,” Mr. Simpson said. “If Mr. McCollough paid his credit card bill to Chase Manhattan, we wouldn’t be here this morning.”

Stop Debt Collector Calls
Stop Debt Collectors-Make Them Pay. Expert FDCPA Lawyer. Call Toll-Free 1-800  303 9840
FdcpaLawyerOnline.com (see below)

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and your rights

The FDCPA is a federal law that provides residents of all states with considerable rights and protections against abusive, unfair and deceptive debt collection practices used by debt collectors. Examples of debt collection practices prohibited by the FDCPA include using profane language, lying and calling a debtor at work if the debt collector knows the employer disapproves. The debt collector must also protect the debtor’s privacy by not disclosing the debt to others such as friends, family members or co-workers.

A debt collector, as defined in the FDCPA, is anyone who regularly collects debts on behalf of an original creditor.

The FDCPA covers only consumer debt, which includes personal, family and household debt, but not business debt or any debt incurred for business purposes. Common types of consumer debt are credit card debt, automobile loans, home loans, utility bills and medical debt.

A debt collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you are first contacted, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.

Debt collectors may not:

Use threats of violence or harm against the person, property, or reputation

Publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts

Use obscene or profane language

Repeatedly call on the telephone to annoy and without identifying themselves

Advertise your debt

Falsely imply that they are attorneys or government representatives;

Falsely imply that you have committed a crime

Falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau

Illegal Actions of a debt collector include:

Calling you at work and knows that it is inconvenient or that your employer disapproves or forbids it.

A debt collector knows that an attorney, whose contact information is known or is easy to locate, represents you and the debt collector continues to contact you.

Debt collectors can only communicate with other people to obtain contact

Misrepresenting the amount, character, or legal status of a debt

Communicating false credit information about you

Refusing to honor your dispute or cease communication rights

Threatening to take your property or garnish your wages without a court order (judgment).

Intimidating you, AND your family

Endangering your reputation, or your property

Using profane or obscene language

Painting the Debt and credit issues are matters of criminal law while in actuality it is civil law

Tricking you into accepting charges for collect calls, telegrams, or a C.O.D

Attempting to cash a post-dated check before the date written on the check

Claiming to be an attorney or sends a letter made to look like it is from an attorney when he is not an attorney

Sending a letter that is made to look like a government or court document when it isn’t

You can sue:

You may have the right to sue a collector in a court of law. If you win, you may recover money for the damages you suffered and, in certain jurisdictions, you may recover statutory damages. In addition, court costs and attorney’s fees may also be recovered.

You can report to the office of your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission;

Report any problems you have with a debt collector to the office of your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states have their own debt collection laws and your state attorney general can help you determine your rights. In addition, you may contact a local attorney to determine your legal options regarding an alleged FDCPA violation.


Always take a small magnet on your holiday, they come in handy at the end of it.  Thought you all needed to know. This is pretty good info. Never even thought about key cards containing anything other than an access code for the room!

Ever wonder what is on your magnetic key card?

a.  Customer’s name
B.  Customer’s partial home address
c.  Hotel room number
d.  Check-in date and out dates
e. Customer’s  credit card number and expiration date!

When  you turn them in to the front desk your personal information is there for  any employee to access by simply scanning the card in the hotel scanner.. An  employee can take a hand full of cards home and using a scanning device,  access the information onto a laptop computer and go shopping at your  expense.

Simply put, hotels do not erase the information on these cards until an employee  reissues the card to the next hotel guest. At that time, the new guest’s  information is electronically ‘overwritten’ on the card and the previous  guest’s information is erased in the overwriting  process.

But until the card is rewritten for the next guest, it usually is kept in a  drawer at the front desk with YOUR INFORMATION ON IT!

The bottom line is: Keep the cards, take them home with you, or destroy them.  NEVER leave them behind in the room or room wastebasket, and NEVER turn them  into the front desk when you check out of a room. They will not charge you for the card (it’s illegal) and you’ll be sure you are not leaving a lot of  valuable personal information on it that could be easily lifted off with any  simple scanning device card reader.

For the same reason, if you arrive at the airport and discover you still have the  card key in your pocket, do not toss it in an airport trash basket. Take it home and destroy it by cutting it up, especially through the electronic information strip!

If you have a small magnet, pass it across the magnetic strip several times. Then  try it in the door, it will not work. It erases everything on the card.

Information  courtesy of:  Metropolitan Police Service.

Crises at home sap Obama’s outreach abroad

August 1, 2010


WASHINGTON, Aug  1 – President Barack Obama’s foreign policy of grand gestures has given way in his second White House year to a diplomatic slog in pursuit of elusive but occasionally promising gains.

Obama piled up eyecatching foreign trips in 2009, with a soaring appeal to the Muslim world in Egypt, an online town hall meeting in Shanghai and a starring role at his Nobel peace prize gala in Norway.

But domestic crises have torn at the administration this year, from health care reform to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and Obama has rarely left US soil.

He made a quick trip to Prague, to sign a nuclear deal with Russia — one of his big wins so far — a swift visit to Afghanistan, and spent three days in Canada for the G8 and G20 summits.

But his limited travel has watered down the “biography as foreign policy” approach which saw Obama leverage his exotic background to appeal for a new beginning with Muslims and declare himself the United States’ first “Pacific President.”

Three times, domestic politics forced Obama to postpone a homecoming of sorts to Indonesia, where he spent some years as a child, and no foreign travel is expected before his India, South Korea and Japan trip in November.

So presidential diplomacy has shifted to talks with visiting leaders, bilateral meetings at a nuclear summit in Washington and telephone chats with world leaders.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden have shouldered the burden as road warriors.

Seeking to showcase success, the administration lists new UN sanctions against Iran, improving ties with Russia, engagement in Asia and a repaired US global image.

Yet for all the hype of Obama’s inauguration, few foreign policy challenges — such as Iran’s nuclear program for instance — have eased fundamentally since he took office.

China, taking a hardnosed view of its interests, has meanwhile more often frustrated Obama than aided him.

Nuclear North Korea is increasingly belligerent and a row over the US base in Okinawa may also sully his second visit to Japan in November.

And the administration rising Islamic militancy in Africa has sparked fears that recent thwarted terror attacks on US soil, may presage a more deadly future strike.
Obama’s political foes lie in wait meanwhile, framing a foreign policy narrative for the 2012 presidential campaign.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a possible Republican candidate, accuses Obama of ideological fudging on Islamic extremism.

“These are difficult times.” Gingrich said last week.

“It requires us to think carefully and long about a grand, national strategy. It requires us to recommit ourselves to freedom.”

Obama’s critics say 18 months of work on the Middle East peace process has yielded little but a row with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Still, there are signs Obama’s pressure may soon yield direct Israeli-Palestinian talks — though few analyst predict success.

One region where Obama is objectively making progress, is Asia, and he has committed to annual summits with regional leaders from 2011.

“The Obama Administration is starting to connect the dots in Asia,” said Ernest Bower, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Secretary Clinton is leading the way on follow through on early commitments to substantively engage in Asia.”

Bower however warned it was important that foreign policy professionals in the administration secure the precious days of time in Obama’s diary his ambitions in the region require.

Obama’s most fateful decision so far was to surge 30,000 extra troops into Afghanistan in a fundamental change of war strategy.

But with bloodshed rising and progress elusive, Obama faces fierce pressure to demonstrate success, as the war hangs like a cloud over his presidency.

In Iraq though, there is more hope, with Obama set to honor a campaign vow to get all US combat troops out of the country by the end of August.

Another problem area: strategically vital Turkey. Obama spent considerable time — including a visit last year — courting Ankara, but its anti-Israel stance, and bid to block UN sanctions against Iran defied US wishes.

Barely a month went by in 2009 without Obama touching down in Europe.

But spats over economics with weakened European leaders have left some in Europe frustrated and some in Washington seeking scapegoats.

“The United States made some tough decisions to stabilize our financial system and to inject some recovery into their economy,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

“Europe didn’t do, quite frankly, as much and that has no doubt stunted our growth and stunted world growth.”

Military reform: what’s the recipe for success?

July28, 2010

by Alexei Kudenko

RIA Novosti

A naval infantry unit landing on floating armored personnel carriers has been one of the highlights of a recent review of the Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol. Two companies disembarked from two large landing ships Yamal and Tsezar Kunikov, while other naval infantry units demonstrated hand-to-hand combat skills.

Like Russia’s entire army, its naval infantry is in the process of reform. Some of its units are being abolished, others restructured or retrained. The training pace, officers say, has now increased – to compensate for the reduced numbers. One man’s training is even more important in such conditions, and here the naval infantry is experiencing the same problems as the rest of the Russian armed forces: fewer servicemen on contract, short terms of service for draftees, and more effort needed to keep troops in fighting form.

In other words, conscripts join the reserve after just mastering the basic skills, while there are too few contract personnel to provide enough non-commissioned officers and specialists.

In the naval infantry, where, as in the navy in general, an individual plays a much greater role than in motorized rifle units, this problem is particularly acute.

It cannot be solved within the armed forces alone. One-year service in Russia was introduced for several reasons, and one of them was political. It was believed the Russian army would be like Western armies with their short call-up periods. But these armies have a sufficient number of contract servicemen, well over the 15% available in Russia.

Contract personnel numbers can be increased only if the state spends more on the pay for soldiers, sailors, sergeants and master sergeants and trains more petty officers and specialists.

The naval infantry’s weapons also require attention. And their rearmament is under way. The Black Sea naval infantry, for example, is getting new self-propelled artillery guns and new trucks. The Marines also use updated Kalashnikov rifles. On the other hand, outdated armored personnel carriers, criticized by many, including First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin, are still in service, while the large landing ships in current use were built in Poland on Soviet orders.

These ships need to be replaced just as much as do the armored personnel carriers. What can replace them? Certainly not a Mistral-type ship, the negotiations on whose construction for Russia are nearing completion.

Such an ocean-going ship will come in handy if the Black Sea fleet operates far away, say off Eastern Africa, but should such operations ever be conducted, it will be in cooperation with other fleets. The navy’s top leadership seems to be of the same view. Its representatives have often said that it is planned that ships of the Mistral type will be used by the Northern and Pacific fleets.

The construction of three to four large landing ships under Project 1177.1 may do a great deal to strengthen the Black Sea naval infantry. Their type ship Ivan Gren is expected to join the navy in 2011. Combined with several newly built hovercraft vessels, it will enable the Black Sea naval infantry to fulfill all realistic missions.

The ships of the new project can perform more tasks than today’s vessels, allowing the naval infantry to undertake peacekeeping operations away from its own sea and using the ship as a home base.

The naval infantry has traditionally been elitist and remains so to this day. But in Soviet days it was viewed above all as the “spearhead”, as the cutting edge of a landing force whose mission was to clear their way to securing a foothold, capturing a port where the main land forces and their heavy weapons transported by sea could land. Now their objectives are changed. What used to be secondary goals has come to the fore.

The naval infantry is gaining value as one of the most pliant instruments of the navy. Any naval unit, with naval infantry added, becomes capable of waging its own “limited war” on shore and of achieving the required results. These may be the pacification of the combatant sides, taking out key targets – using its own units, or involving the strike potential of ships and naval aviation – or protecting shipping, including the destruction of pirate bases. Finally, the naval infantry still remains the assault wave of a landing operation in case of a full-scale war.

However, it is the level of training, not of rank-and-file sailors, but of senior and top commanders, that guarantees the success of the naval infantry and the navy as a whole. This success depends on to what extent the senior officers who staff these headquarters are aware of the altered nature of present-day conflicts and war as a whole. And also on how competent they are as they act in a rapidly changing situation with conflicting information, the uncertain status of parties to the conflict, and many other factors.

Should this type of armed forces reform fail to bring about the required changes, the outlook could be very disturbing.

RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik

German society split over practice of preventive detention

July 30, 2010,

RIA Novosti

The practice of preventive detention, under which German courts can keep violent offenders imprisoned indefinitely, has stirred controversy after the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the measure.

Shifty glances and nervous stares is all that could be spotted of Walter H, a murderer and sex offender now living in the German city of Saarbrucken. He is guarded all day, every day, by at least four policemen. Yet he has escaped from his minders before, and locals are worried he could do it again.

Mr. H should have still been in prison under Germany’s policy of preventive detention – a measure designed to keep offenders behind bars, even after a sentence was served, in order to avert possible recidivism. However, it was a policy that fell afoul of the European Court of Human Rights, which has ruled the practice unlawful.

Read moreThe German government argued it worked, and defended it to the end.

Of course there’s the danger that a convict could stay in preventive detention for the rest of his life,” admitted Wolfgang Shild, Saarland Secretary of State for Justice. “But to avoid this situation we have frequent specialist checks to assess their condition.”

Anti-Paedophile campaigner Thomas Bruckman opposes preventive detention. His alternative, however, is longer sentences in the first place.

Last year, another sex offender who avoided preventive detention was released back into his community – a move that still causes angry protests. Now these fears are being replicated across Germany.

A few of these criminals will repeat such crimes again,” Bruckman insisted. “That’s the worst thing that could happen and it probably will happen because they weren’t put away.”

It costs far more to keep offenders under guard in the community than behind bars. The German newspaper “Bild” put the figure at 12,000 euros a day compared to 100 euros a day in prison.

This may be a large price to pay when lawyers insist that the option hardly provides the freedoms of daily life.

If he goes into a shop, there’s always two people following him. If he goes to a doctor, two people are next to him,” said Walter H’s lawyer, Michael Rehberger. “And it is impossible to have a normal life.”

As Michael Rehberger fights for greater freedoms for Mr. H., criminals’ rights remain of little worry to most Germans anxious about the safety of their own families.

An estimated 200 potentially dangerous prisoners could soon be released across Germany. And while that might ease consciences in Strasbourg, it does not ease anyone’s nerves in Germany

The opposites game

July 29, 2010

by Tom Engelhardt

Asia Times

Have you ever thought about just how strange this country’s version of normal truly is? Let me make my point with a single, hardly noticed Washington Post news story that’s been on my mind for a while. It represents the sort of reporting that, in our world, zips by with next to no reaction, despite the true weirdness buried in it.

The piece by Craig Whitlock appeared on June 19 and was headlined, “US military criticized for purchase of Russian copters for Afghan air corps.” Maybe that’s strange enough for you right there. Russian copters? We all know, at least vaguely, that byyear’s end, US spending on its protracted Afghan war and nation-building project will be heading for US$350 billion. And those dollars do have to go somewhere.

Admittedly, these days in parts of the US, state and city governments are having a hard time finding the money just to pay teachers or the police. The Pentagon, on the other hand, hasn’t hesitated to use at least $25-27 billion to “train” and “mentor” the Afghan military and police – and after each round of training failed to produce the expected results, to ask for even more money, and train them again.

That includes the Afghan National Army Air Corps which, in the Soviet era of the 1980s, had nearly 500 aircraft and a raft of trained pilots. The last of that air force – little used in the Taliban era – was destroyed in the US air assault and invasion of 2001. As a result, the “Afghan air force” (with about 50 helicopters and transport planes) is now something of a misnomer, since it is, in fact, the US Air Force.

Still, there are a few Afghan pilots, mostly in their forties, trained long ago on Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters, and it’s on a refurbished version of these copters, Whitlock tells us, that the Pentagon has already spent $648 million. The Mi-17 was specially built for Afghanistan’s difficult flying environment back when various Islamic jihadis, some of whom we’re now fighting under the rubric of “the Taliban”, were allied with us against the Russians.

Here’s the first paragraph of Whitlock’s article: “The US government is snapping up Russian-made helicopters to form the core of Afghanistan’s fledgling air force, a strategy that is drawing flak from members of Congress who want to force the Afghans to fly American choppers instead.”

So, various congressional representatives are upset over the lack of a buy-American plan when it comes to the Afghan air force. That’s the story Whitlock sets out to tell, because the Pentagon has been planning to purchase dozens more of the Mi-17s over the next decade, and that, it seems, is what’s worth being upset about when perfectly good American arms manufacturers aren’t getting the contracts.

But let’s consider three aspects of Whitlock’s article that no one is likely to spend an extra moment on, even if they do capture the surpassing strangeness of the American way of war in distant lands – and in Washington.

1. The little training program that couldn’t: There are at present an impressive 450 US personnel in Afghanistan training the Afghan air force. Unfortunately, there’s a problem. There may be no “buy American” program for that air force, but there is a “speak American” one. To be an Afghan air force pilot, you must know English – “the official language of the cockpit”, Whitlock assures us (even if to fly Russian helicopters). As he points out, however, the trainees, mostly illiterate, take two to five years simply to learn the language. (Imagine a US Air Force in which, just to take off, every pilot needed to know Dari!)

Thanks to this language barrier, the US can train endlessly and next to nothing is guaranteed to happen. “So far,” reports Whitlock, “only one Afghan pilot has graduated from flight school in the United States, although dozens are in the pipeline. That has forced the air corps to rely on pilots who learned to fly Mi-17s during the days of Soviet and Taliban rule.” In other words, despite the impressive Soviet performance in the 1980s, the training of the Afghan air force has been re-imagined by Americans as a Sisyphean undertaking.

And this offers but a hint of how bizarre US training programs for the Afghan military and police have proven to be. In fact, sometimes it seems as if exactly the same scathing report, detailing the same training problems and setbacks, has been recycled yearly without anyone who mattered finding it particularly odd – or being surprised that the response to each successive piece of bad news is to decide to pour yet more money and trainers into the project.

For example, in 2005, at a time when Washington had already spent $3.3 billion training and mentoring the Afghan army and police, the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report indicating that “efforts to fully equip the increasing number of [Afghan] combat troops have fallen behind, and efforts to establish sustaining institutions, such as a logistics command, needed to support these troops have not kept pace”. Worse yet, the report fretted, it might take “up to $7.2 billion to complete [the training project] and about $600 million annually to sustain [it]”.

In 2006, according to the New York Times, “a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department … found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.” At best, stated the report, fewer than half of the officially announced number of police were “trained and equipped to carry out their police functions”.

In 2008, by which time $16.5 billion had been spent on army and police training programs, the GAO chimed in again, indicating that only two of 105 army units were “assessed as being fully capable of conducting their primary mission”, while “no police unit is fully capable”.

In 2009, the US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction reported that “only 24 of 559 Afghan police units are considered ready to operate without international help”. Such reports, as well as repeated (and repetitive) news investigations and stories on the subject, invariably are accompanied by a litany of complaints about corruption, indiscipline, illiteracy, drug taking, staggering desertion rates, Taliban infiltration, ghost soldiers, and a host of other problems. In 2009, however, the solution remained as expectable as the problems: “The report called for more US trainers and more money.”

This June, a US government audit, again from the Special Inspector General, contradicted the latest upbeat American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) training assessments, reporting that “the standards used to appraise the Afghan forces since 2005 were woefully inadequate, inflating their abilities”.

The usual litany of training woes followed. Yet, according to Reuters, President Barack Obama wants another $14.2 billion for the training project “for this year and next”. And just last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Julian Barnes reported that new Afghan war commander General David Petraeus is planning to “retool” US strategy to include “a greater focus on how Afghanistan’s security forces are being trained”.

When it comes to US training programs then, you might conclude that Afghanistan has proved to be Catch-22-ville, the land where time stood still – and so, evidently, has the Washington national security establishment’s collective brain. For Washington, there seems to be no learning curve in Afghanistan, not when it comes to “training” Afghans anyway.

And here is the oddest thing of all, though no one even bothers to mention it in this context: the Taliban haven’t had tens of billions of dollars in foreign training funds; they haven’t had years of advice from the best US and NATO advisors that money can buy; they haven’t had private contractors like DynCorp teaching them how to fight and police, and strangely enough, they seem to have no problem fighting.

They are not undermanned, infiltrated by followers of President Hamid Karzai, or particularly corrupt. They may be illiterate and may not be fluent in English, but they are ready, in up to platoon-sized units, to attack heavily fortified US military bases, Afghan prisons, a police headquarters and the like with hardly a foreign mentor in sight.

Consider it, then, a modern miracle in reverse that the US has proven incapable of training a competent Afghan force in a country where arms are the norm, fighting has for decades seldom stopped, and the locals are known for their war-fighting traditions. Similarly, it’s abidingly curious that the US has so far failed to train a modest-sized air force, even flying refurbished Italian light transport planes from the 1980s and those Russian helicopters, when the Soviet Union, the last imperial power to try this, proved up to creating an Afghan force able to pilot aircraft ranging from helicopters to fighter planes.

2. Non-exit strategies: Now, let’s wade a little deeper into the strangeness of what Whitlock reported by taking up the questionof when we’re actually planning to leave Afghanistan. Consider this passage from the Whitlock piece: “US military officials have estimated that the Afghan air force won’t be able to operate independently until 2016, five years after President Obama has said he intends to start withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan. But [US Air Force Brigadier General Michael R] Boera said that date could slip by at least two years if Congress forces the Afghans to fly US choppers.”

In other words, while Americans argue over what the president’s July 2011 drawdown date really means, and while Karzai suggests that Afghan forces will take over the country’s security duties by 2014, Whitlock’s anonymous “US military officials” are clearly operating on a different clock, on, in fact, Pentagon time, and so are planning for a 2016-2018 target date for that force simply to “operate independently” (which by no means indicates “without US support”.)

If you were of a conspiratorial mind, you might almost think that the Pentagon preferred not to create an effective Afghan air force and instead – as has also been the case in Iraq, a country that once had the world’s sixth-largest air force and now, after years of US mentoring, has next to nothing – remain the substitute Afghan air force forever and a day.

3. Who are the Russians now?: Okay, let’s move even deeper into American strangeness with a passage that makes up most of the 20th and 21st paragraphs of Whitlock’s 25-paragraph piece: “In addition,” he reports, “the US Special Operations Command would like to buy a few Mi-17s of its own, so that special forces carrying out clandestine missions could cloak the fact that they are American. ‘We would like to have some to blend in and do things,’ said a senior US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the clandestine program.”

No explanation follows on just how – or where – those Russian helicopters will help “cloak” American special operations missions, or what they are to “blend” into, or the “things” they are to do. There’s no further discussion of the subject at all.

In other words, the special op urge to Russianize its air transport has officially been reported, and a month later, as far as I know, not a single congressional representative has made a fuss over it; no mainstream pundit has written a curious, questioning, or angry editorial questioning its appropriateness; and no reporter has, as yet, followed up.

As just another little factoid of no great import buried deep in an article focused on other matters, undoubtedly no one has given it a thought. But it’s worth stopping a moment and considering just how odd this tiny bit of news-that-won’t-ever-rise-to-the-level-of-news actually is. One way to do this is to play the sort of opposites game that never quite works on this still one-way planet of ours. Just imagine a similar news item coming out of another country.

·  Hot off the wires from Tehran: Iranian special forces teams are scouring the planet for old American Chinook helicopters so they can be well “cloaked” in planned future forays into Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

·  The People’s Daily reports: Chinese special forces operatives are buying relatively late model American helicopters so that … Well, here’s one problem in the opposites game, and a clue to the genuine strangeness of American activities globally: why would the Chinese need to do such a thing (and, in fact, why would we)? Where might they want to venture militarily without being mistaken for Chinese military personnel?

That might be a little hard to imagine right now, but I guarantee you one thing: had some foreign news source reported such a plan, or had Whitlock somehow uncovered it and included it in a piece – no matter how obscurely nestled – there would have been pandemonium in Washington. Congress would have held hearings. Pundits would have opined on the infamy of Iranian or Chinese operatives masking themselves in our choppers. The company or companies that sold the helicopters would have been investigated. And you can imagine what Fox News commentators would have had to say.

When we do such things, however, and a country like Pakistan reacts with what’s usually described as “anti-Americanism”, we wonder at the nationalistic hair-trigger they’re on; we comment on their over-emotionalism; we highlight their touchy “sensibilities”; and our reporters and pundits then write empathetically about the difficulties American military and civilian officials have dealing with such edgy natives.

Just the other day, for instance, the Wall Street Journal’s Barnes reported that US Special Operations Forces were expanding their role in the Pakistani tribal borderlands by more regularly “venturing out with Pakistani forces on aid projects, deepening the American role in the effort to defeat Islamist militants in Pakistani territory that has been off limits to US ground troops”. The Pakistani government has not been eager to have American boots visibly on the ground in these areas, and so Barnes writes: “Because of Pakistan’s sensitivities, the US role has developed slowly.”

Imagine how sensitive they might prove to be if those same forces began to land Russian helicopters in Pakistan as a way to “cloak” their operations and blend in? Or imagine just what sort of hair-trigger the natives of Montana might be on if Pakistani special operations types were roaming Glacier National Park and landing old American helicopters outside Butte.

Then consider the sensitivities of Pakistanis on learning that the just-appointed head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s National Clandestine Service turns out to be a man of “impeccable credentials” (so says CIA director Leon Panetta). Among those credentials are his stint as the CIA station chief in Pakistan until sometime in 2009, his involvement in the exceedingly unpopular drone war in that country’s tribal borderlands, and the way, as the director put it a tad vaguely, he “guided complex operations under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable”.

Here’s the truth of the matter, as Whitlock’s piece makes clear: we carry on in the most bizarre ways in far-off lands and think nothing of it. Historically, it has undoubtedly been the nature of imperial powers to consider every strange thing they do more or less the norm.

For a waning imperial power, however, such an attitude has its own dangers. If we can’t imagine the surpassing strangeness of our arrangements for making war in lands thousands of kilometers from the US, then we can’t begin to imagine how the world sees us, which means that we’re blind to our own madness. Russian helicopters, that’s nuthin’ by comparison.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the Cold War and beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. He also edited The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), an alternative history of the mad Bush years. His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books),

Right-Wing Crazies Who Fight Witchcraft and Demons Are Taking Over a State Near You

A radical, right-wing charismatic evangelical movement is burrowing into the power structures of major American cities and states.

July 26, 2010

by Bruce Wilson

AlterNet |

They claim to be able to raise the dead and cause miracles, such as the  multiplication of Thanksgiving turkey dinners. They burn “witchcraft items” and “idols.” They hold mass exorcisms to cast out alleged evil spirits they say cause lust, pornography, addiction, homosexuality, bisexuality, and perversion. They claim to be able to heal HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, Glaucoma, and cancer, and to break “generational curses” and “witchcraft curses.” Who are they? Here are a few overviews

They compare opponents of their movement to rats that will be exterminated and one of their leaders has predicted that the regime they’re working to create will initially “seem like totalitarianism”. They’re closely tied to the notorious, so-called “kill the gays bill” before Uganda’s Parliament. They’re behind Sarah Palin and one of their “prophets” has become the de-facto prayer leader for the Republican Party.

While America has fixated on the Tea Party movement, a radical, right-wing charismatic evangelical movement is burrowing into the power structures of major American cities, such as Newark, NJ and even entire states, such as Alaska and Hawaii.

In Hawaii, they claim to be fielding both a Republican and Democratic candidate in the 2010 race for the governor’s seat. Both candidates are staunchly opposed to gay marriage and same-sex civil unions as well as legalized abortion, and both can frequently be found onstage together at movement conferences.

In 2006, movement leaders paid airfare, conference fees, and lodging costs so Hawaii Lt. Governor Duke Aiona and his wife could attend an Argentina conference of the movement which featured, as a prominent speaker, celebrated exorcist and New Apostolic Reformation leader Cindy Jacobs Video footage from the event shows Aiona praying together with the First Lady of Uganda Janet Museveni.

Hawaii’s Republican Lt. Governor James “Duke” Aiona has publicly dedicated his state and its school to Jesus and declared his desire to “disciple the nations, here in Hawaii and everywhere else.”

Heads Up: Prayer Warriors and Sarah Palin Are Organizing Spiritual Warfare to Take Over America

The New Apostolic Reformation, the largest religious movement you’ve never heard of, aims to take control of communities through ‘prayer warriors.’

March 1, 2010

by Bill Berkowitz

Imagine a religious movement that makes geographic maps of where demons reside and claims among its adherents the Republican Party’s most recent vice presidential nominee and whose leaders have presided over prayer sessions (one aimed at putting the kibosh on health-care reform) with a host of leading GOP figures.

It’s a movement whose followers played a significant role in the battle over Proposition 8, California’s anti-same-sex marriage initiative, and Uganda’s infamous proposed Anti-Homosexuality Law, more commonly associated with the Family, a religious network of elites drawn from the ranks of business and government throughout the world. But the movement we’re imagining encompasses the humble and the elite alike, supporting a network of “prayer warriors” in all 50 states, within the ranks of the U.S. military, and at the far reaches of the globe — all guided by an entire genre of books, texts, videos and other media.

Imagine that, and you’ve just dreamed up the New Apostolic Reformation, the largest religious movement you’ve never heard of.

NAR’s videos, according to researcher Rachel Tabachnick, “demonstrate the taking control of communities and nations through large networks of ‘prayer warriors’ whose spiritual warfare is used to expel and destroy the demons that cause societal ills. Once the territorial demons, witches, and generational curses are removed, the ‘born-again’ Christians in the videos take control of society.”

The movement’s notion of “spiritual warfare” has spread from the California suburbs to an East-Coast inner city, and has impacted policy decisions in the developing world. Movement operatives are well-connected enough to have testified before Congress and to have received millions of dollars in government abstinence-only sex-education grants, and bizarre enough to maintain that in its prototype communities, the movement has healed AIDS, purified polluted streams and even grown huge vegetables. Leaders in the NAR movement refer to themselves as “apostles.”

In the days leading up to the historic vote on health-care reform in the Senate, Apostle Lou Engle led the Family Research Council’s “Prayercast” against health-care reform, a Webcast featuring Republican Senators Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Sam Brownback (Kans.), and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Earlier in the year, Engle, who leads the group TheCall, prayed over Newt Gingrich at a Virginia event called Rediscovering God in America. In 2008, Engle, at an event he staged at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, advocated acts of Christian martyrdom to end abortion and same-sex marriage. This “apostle” claims LGBT people are possessed by demons. And Engle is not the only NAR apostle with political connections.

Presidential campaign watchers got their first taste of the New Apostolic Reformation when it was revealed that Sarah Palin, while mayor of Wasilla, had been prayed over in a laying-on-of-hands by Rev. Thomas Muthee of Kenya, director of the NAR East Africa Spiritual Warfare Network, in a ceremony designed to protect Palin from witches and demons. Muthee, it turns out, is famous in his native land for driving out of town a woman he deemed a witch, a charge that had her neighbors calling for her stoning.

Palin, according to Alaskan Apostle Mary Glazier, became part of her prayer network at the age of 24. Wasilla is no stranger to wandering NAR leaders. Last June, Apostle Lance Wallnau stopped through in the course of his world travels, promoting the movement’s Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture campaign at Wasilla Alaska Assembly of God Church — the very church at which Muthee laid hands on Palin. (The “seven mountains” are the realms of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.) Other NAR luminaries dropping by Wasilla last year include leading international Apostles Naomi Dowdy and Dutch Sheets.

Apostle Samuel Rodriguez heads an organization of 15 millions Hispanic evangelicals (the Sacramento, Calif.-based National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference) and was courted by both Democratic and Republican candidates during the 2008 presidential election.

In 2006, former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Penn., who appears to be positioning himself for a run at the presidency, took the stage with Apostle Alistair Petrie at a NAR “Transformation Summit” in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.

The International Transformations Network conferences led by Apostle Ed Silvoso have featured Hawaii’s Republican Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona (who is currently running for governor) and Uganda First Lady Janet Museveni. Silvoso has been hosted abroad by heads of state, including Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni and Gloria Arroyo, president of the Philippines.

Apostle Julius Oyet was recognized by the Ugandan Parliament for the draconian anti-gay bill recently introduced in that country, and is a star in one of the movement’s Transformation movies. An influential Guatemalan pastor, Apostle Harold Caballeros, made a quixotic run for the presidency of that country in 2007.

Christian publishing magnate Stephen Strang is an apostle, as well as a director for John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, while Apostle Tom Hess hosts the annual Christian Government Leaders Conference in the Israeli Knesset.

Outside the realm of politics, Apostle Jim Ammerman, as head of a pentecostal chaplains’ organization, accounts for more than 270 chaplains, including U.S. military and civilian chaplains. “Ammerman is a former military chaplain whose Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches was approved in 1984 by the Department of Defense as an endorsing agency to place chaplains in the United States Military,” writes Rachel Tabachnick.

Apostle Bernard Wilks, in conjunction with Apostle Ed Silvoso’s International Transformation Network, has assigned a “prayer warrior” to almost every single street in Newark, New Jersey, to pray for “transformation” of the city.

The movement has emerged from the largest single block of Protestant Christianity on the globe — sometimes called charismatic, neo-charismatic or neo-Pentecostal — one often overlooked since its adherents do not comprise a single denomination, and often belong to churches characterized as “non-denominational.”

Charismatic Christians are born-again believers who have a secondary conversion experience, one they claim gives them supernatural gifts, such as speaking in tongues, casting out demons, faith healing, and other “signs and wonders” they believe will help to evangelize the world in preparation for the end times. Charismatics are typically Protestant, but there is also a movement of charismatic Catholics.

At the top of the New Apostolic Reformation authority structure is Presiding Apostle C. Peter Wagner, a longtime Christian educator (who recently enjoyed a brief blip of fame when he was revealed as the graduate school mentor of Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church in California). Wagner partnered with Ted Haggard, then pastor of the New Life Christian Church in Colorado Springs, to build the initial nerve center of the movement in that town. (Haggard went on to become president of the National Association of Evangelicals, but resigned both that post and pastorship of his megachurch in 2006 when he was famously disgraced by revelations of a gay affair and drug use.)

Fighting Demons, Raising the Dead, Taking Over the World

April 1, 2009

by Bruce Wilson


What is happening to Christianity?

In 1996 a team from Ted Haggard’s New Life Church flew to Mali and began furtively anointing entire towns with cooking oil.

The strangeness of it gripped Dutch missionary René Holvast, who later wrote: “It was confusing and produced a growing uneasiness. It did not seem to fit our current evangelical theological and anthropological textbooks.”

The team from Haggard’s church was a forerunner in a missionary wave that has washed over the world since the early 1990s, bringing what Holvast calls a ‘new paradigm.’

René Holvast has theological training, but his perplexed reaction was similar to that of Alix Spiegel, a radio journalist who went to Ted Haggard’s New Life Church in 1997 to do a story for This American Life. Spiegel encountered something so alluring, even overwhelming, that the secular, urban Jew was almost pulled in. (After several days at Ted Haggard’s church, Spiegel called This American Life’s Ira Glass who—as if he were a deprogrammer weaning her from a cult—had to convince Alix Spiegel that she really belonged back in her secular realm of origin, Chicago.)

From its early days, New Life Church’s members worked to map out all the territorial demon spirits inhabiting Colorado Springs. At some point in the process, they fed the mapping information into a computer database. Methodically—street by street, block by block—they used prayer-warfare to expel the demons from their city. And they maintained a 24/7 prayer shield over Colorado Springs to prevent demon re-infestations. As with inner-city cockroaches, the price of demon-free living was constant vigilance.

Alix Spiegel called some of the practices she saw at Haggard’s church “medieval,” while René Holvast described this new way as incommensurable with modern Christianity:

Conversations and discussions with some missionary colleagues did not seem to lead to mutual understanding. The usual evangelical ways of reasoning fell mute. It seemed to be not just a different way of understanding, but a different way of reasoning altogether.

In fact, at the very time Holvast and Spiegel encountered it, the ‘new paradigm’ had just been invented. In the period of the late 1980s through the early 1990s, a group of quintessentially American tinkerers grafted new practices of ‘spiritual mapping’ and ‘spiritual warfare’ onto a peculiar and radical theological substrate emerging from the Latter Rain and healing revivals that burst out in Canada and North America during the late 1940s.

They molded their hybridized new Christianity into a standardized package of ideas and practices such that, by the late 1990s, they began exporting the product from Colorado Springs to both the domestic American market and internationally at an astonishing rate.

It was as newfangled as Henry Ford’s Model T had been and, like Ford’s car, it quickly became established, even ubiquitous, on every continent but Antarctica.

In 2009, one can now watch YouTube video footage of Christians from all over the earth practicing the same, very new form of the faith that features the blowing of shofars and the “Davidic dance”—using very distinctive, recently minted, theological terms. There was a common origin. For practical purposes, Colorado Springs was the Dearborn, Michigan of the next Christianity.

A New Reformation?

This development has not gone wholly unnoticed. Here’s how an Atlantic Monthly editor portentously introduced historian Philip Jenkins’ October 2002 article, “The Next Christianity”:

We stand at a historical turning point, the author argues—one that is as epochal for the Christian world as the original Reformation. Around the globe Christianity is growing and mutating in ways that observers in the West tend not to see. Tumultuous conflicts within Christianity will leave a mark deeper than Islam’s on the century ahead.

Jenkins accurately depicted the radical nature of the ‘religious revolution’ underway which, he wrote, “one might equate with the Counter-Reformation.” He also pegged its goal: restoring a global Christian church “filled with spiritual power and able to exorcise the demonic forces that cause sickness and poverty.”

But Philip Jenkins’ “The Next Christianity” argued that the new “counter-reformation” is being driven largely by indigenized forms of Christianity, erupting from the Global South, that view the Christianity of the developed North as spiritually enervated and morally corrupt.

The reality of the North-South dynamic is far more complex—there is cross-pollination these days between Christian traditions in the Global South and in the developed world, with African evangelicals aggressively moving to develop their own missions in Texas, Ukraine, Moscow, and elsewhere.

The original Counter-Reformation did not originate in Europe’s developing colonial holdings but, rather, in the European Catholic Church. In similar fashion, most of the leaders and ideas driving the second (counter) reformation have come out of the developed North, from the pool of conservative Christians bitterly opposed to the liberal Christianity of the North. These Christians have resorted to radical methods to turn back the clock, to the pre-Enlightenment age if not before. It is a counter-reformation, then, but more than that too—while it embodies the sentiments of a traditionalist backlash, it is also creatively moving forward, a second Reformation.

According to Ted Haggard, “Peter Wagner regularly writes and speaks about the New Apostolic Reformation. He has accurately recognized the changes as so dramatic that they are creating an actual reformation within the body of Christ.” That’s from page 44 of Ted Haggard’s book The Life Giving Church (Gospel Light Publications, 1998). On page 35, Haggard describes a 1992 meeting in Upland, California, that was the genesis of his close partnership with Peter Wagner:

When I arrived, I met Luis Bush, Dick Eastman, Peter and Doris Wagner and several other recognized leaders. From that meeting, New Life Church formed its mission for the 1990s—to support Luis Bush generally and Peter and Doris Wagner specifically… a calling that led to the creation of the World Prayer Center and much more. We as a team coordinated the Prayer Through the Window series that had 22,500,000 participants in 1993; 36,700,000 participants in 1995; over 40,000,000 in 1997.

By Haggard’s account, he and C. Peter Wagner had constructed a global communications net that by 1997 could reach tens of millions of Christians in the prayer movement. In 2005, during the Global Day of Prayer, an estimated 200 million Christians in stadiums and arenas around the world joined in synchronous prayer.

Haggard’s New Life Church and the adjacent World Prayer Center that was dedicated in 1998 were, for roughly a decade, the epicenter of an ongoing, radical redefinition of Christianity. One of its early board members became known to the secular world during the 2008 presidential campaign as an enigmatic Kenyan evangelist who, in 2005, had blessed Sarah Palin against witchcraft.

Spiritual Mapping

In the introduction to his dissertation, “Spiritual Mapping: The Turbulent Career of a Contested American Missionary Paradigm,” written for the University of Utrecht and published in 2005, René Holvast described the arrival of the ‘new paradigm’ in Mali, where he and his wife had been engaged in missions work:

Something new happened in 1996. At CMA missionary conferences, US visitors were flown in to teach the missionaries about ‘a new cutting-edge paradigm’ for mission…

The new paradigm entailed that missionaries had to ‘identify’ and ‘bind territorial spirits’ and ‘unleash’ divine power. Evangelism was to be preceded by ‘prayer walks,’ and prayer was considered best if done geographically ‘on-site,’ within a ‘target area.’ Prayer became the identification of and confrontation with demons… All of this was categorized as ‘Spiritual Mapping’…

A team flown in from the New Life Church in Colorado Springs secretively anointed traditional fetish huts and whole villages.

A year later in 1997, Alix Spiegel described Ted Haggard’s New Life Church members methodically ‘prayer walking’ the streets, trying to drive away territorial demon spirits from Colorado Springs.

Two years later, in 1999, the new paradigm came to the Wasilla Assembly of God via a video that was described in the Christian Science Monitor article “Targeting cities with ‘spiritual mapping,’ prayer.”

In the opening sentences of her story, Jane Lampman asked, “Can the ‘spiritual DNA’ of a community be altered? That’s the question posed in a Christian video called ‘Transformations.’” Lampman continued:

Kenyan pastor Thomas Muthee is convinced that it can be. In 1988, he and his wife, Margaret, were ‘called by God to Kiambu,’ a notorious, violence-ridden suburb of Nairobi and a ‘ministry graveyard’ for churches for years. They began six months of fervent prayer and research.

Muthee’s story was held up as a case study in the 1999 pseudo-documentary Transformations the first in a series that its producers assert has brought to tens of millions, even hundreds of millions, the doctrine that Christians can create a utopia on Earth by driving out territorial demon spirits and alleged witches with the power of massed prayer. The exposure brought Thomas Muthee global fame.

Transformations I was released in 1999. The same year, it reached the members of a Mat-Su Valley, Alaska, church network (the Valley Pastors Prayer Network) whose pastors were so gripped by the video that they made contact with most of the religious figures shown in George Otis Jr.’s production. And they were so especially taken with Thomas Muthee’s story they brought him to Alaska in 1999 and raised $30,000 so Muthee could buy land in Kenya to build his church.

As detailed in a late October 2008 Associated Press story by Garance Burke and an AP investigative team, Sarah Palin’s Wasilla mayoral records show that she borrowed the Transformations I video from her former Wasilla Assembly of God pastor in 2000.

In August 2005, Bishop Thomas Muthee returned to Alaska and gave a weeklong sermon series at the Wasilla Assembly of God. The August 16, 2005 ceremony at the church was made notorious when footage of it surfaced during the 2008 presidential election. In it, congregants watch as Thomas Muthee blesses Sarah Palin against “every spirit of witchcraft.” Several days later after that 2005 ceremony, Palin launched her campaign for the Alaska governor’s seat.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

In Radical Holiness For Radical Living (Wagner Publications, 2002) C. Peter Wagner states:

A process that began after World War II has now resulted in a newfound recognition of the gifts and offices of apostle and prophet in our churches today. The movement called the New Apostolic Reformation has been bringing about a most radical change in the way of doing church since the Protestant reformation. It is currently the most rapidly-growing segment of Christianity in every continent of the world.

Evidence suggests Wagner isn’t exaggerating. According to the evangelical missionary reference book, World Christian Trends AD 30—AD 2200, by the year 2000, a category of Christianity known as postdenominationalism encompassed 385 million Christians, nearly 20% of the faith.

World Christian Trends lists 280 dichotomies that distinguish denominational from postdenominational Christianity—which, according to the book, has “no connection with historic Christianity.” The Third Wave represents an even more radical break.

Erupting within postdenominationalism starting in the 1980s, Third Wave Christianity claimed, by 2000, some 295 million adherents. World Christian Trends calls the Third Wave a “new and disturbingly different kind of Christian renewal.” One very distinctive characteristic of Third Wave Christianity is its emphasis that average Christians can perform the same magnitude of healing miracles described in the New Testament to have been performed by Jesus Christ—including raising the dead.

Within two decades, Third Wave Christianity encompassed over four percent of humanity. It is a seismic change.

In his book Churchquake!: A Look at the Dramatic New Movement That Will Affect the Future of the Church, C. Peter Wagner states that the editor of World Christian Trends, David Barrett, told Wagner that by 1996 Barrett had over a thousand apostolic networks in his global research database, representing well over 100 million Christians. How many Christians are in apostolic networks over a decade later? We can only guess. C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation has pulled together those apostolic networks, into what might be, for all we know, the biggest Protestant “nondenominational” (or postdenominational) denomination on the planet.

The Wagner Leadership Institute is currently offering, for free, a one-hour lecture by Wagner, session number 4 of WLI course AP825 (the “AP” stands for “Apostles and Prophets”). For getting a basic understanding of the movement Wagner refers to, and has played a key role in catalyzing, one probably couldn’t do much better than to watch this lecture. C. Peter Wagner is a seasoned, professional educator… who aims to transform the biggest religion on Earth. (It probably doesn’t hurt that Wagner bears a considerable resemblance to former fried-chicken mogul ‘Colonel’ Harlan Sanders.)

Kicking off his lecture, Wagner tells the class:

OK, first of all, I want to repeat something. You don’t have to write it down, because you already have it in your notes. But I want to remind you that the New Apostolic Reformation is the most radical change in the way of doing church since the Protestant Reformation. That’s what we’re dealing with.

X number of megablocks of Christianity, each with Y millions of Christians. Categories of Christianity zoom from the left onto Peter Wagner’s huge blue WLI classroom screen, bouncing slightly for effect as they hit the right edge of the screen before rebounding to center. There’s one little block of 20 million or so, explains Wagner, which includes Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. He typically just ignores this block in his presentations, explains Wagner, because they’re “cultic.”

The biggest megablock outside of the Catholic Church, and the fastest growing of all? The postdenominational block, 385 million strong by 2000. Wagner calls this block “neo-Apostolic.” It’s bigger now than in 2000, he says, and Wagner notes that it’s the only megablock growing faster than the earth’s population and faster than Islam.

Wagner’s cell phone rings mid-lecture; a Hank Williams ringtone. The class laughs. In fact, it’s probably an act designed to loosen them up. A pro with five decades of public speaking under his belt, C. Peter Wagner is the “convening apostle” of the International Coalition of Apostles. He’s also the presiding Apostle over a prayer network originally formed, in 1990, as the “Spiritual Warfare Network,” now called the Global Apostolic Prayer Network. Sarah Palin joined Wagner’s new network the year it was formed, in 1990.

How many Christians worldwide are in Wagner’s various networks? Few know, and Peter Wagner doesn’t seem to be forthcoming with the information. He doesn’t like to boast. But one thing is clear: Christianity is changing.

The 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 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 nineteenth chapter

Conversation No. 19

Date: Thursday, June 27, 1996

Commenced: 9:30 AM CST

Concluded: 9:45 AM CST

GD: Good morning, Robert.

RTC: And to you, Gregory.

GD: Do you have some time now or could I get back to you later?
RTC: Now is just fine. What’s on your mind?

GD: You had been speaking of the overall CIA organizational control in certain domestic areas. I’ve been making rough notes and I would like to get a bit more from you.

RTC: I don’t mind discussing these matters with you, Gregory, but I must ask you to be very, very careful about whom you discuss these things with. Do not, I beg you, ever tell Tom Kimmel about what you and I discuss. He would run to his superiors so fast he would make Jesse Owens look like a paraplegic.

GD: No, no, I wouldn’t even consider that. I know about him. My assurances on all of this. You see, sometime, I might like to upgrade the Müller books and since he worked for you in D.C., some detailed background might be in order. If I put in enough detail, it would shock the brass there into comparative silence. They wouldn’t have to get their paid rats to squeal about me being a fraud or worse.

RTC: OK. Just so we understand each other. These pissheads keep calling me to warn me about how horrible you are and I really don’t want to keep hanging up on them.

GD: Can they make trouble for you, Robert? If so…

RTC: No, retired old crock as I am, I could wipe them out with one phone call and they know it. While we’re on the subject, I have made it very clear that if they overtly go after you, they will have me to answer to.

GD: Thanks for the support. I must tell you that I always wear a bulletproof vest but on my back. That’s where I need it, believe me.

RTC: (Laughter) Ah, well, Gregory, welcome to the club. Now what were you interested in discussing?

GD: All right. Fine. Here we go. We have spoken…or rather you have…about the size and complexity of the CIA. From its humble beginnings as a sort of digest of foreign intelligence for the President. And now, it’s huge. And you discussed the press and business and so on. How great is the overall power or control and how obvious is is? Do you have agents in the local Post Office for instance?

RTC: No, not that finely tuned. As you said, we started out small and ended up big. That’s the way of bureaucracies. Expand or die. Old Hoover hated us and tried his best to take us over but he failed. There were more of us that there were of him and while initially we dealt only with foreign matters, as a matter of pure survival, we turned our eyes and attention to the domestic market. Hoover was in a constant attack mode, whispering, rumor spreading, attempts at internal spying on us, aggravated turf wars and so on.  We not only had to get around him, and did so by being more than useful to the President and also, note this Gregory, by expanding and getting more power. These things have a life of their own but with increasing power comes increasing omnipotence. Eventually, we did an end run on Hoover, although we continued to work with him but very gingerly, and then we moved with caution into the domestic business and political field. For both security and, I might add, profit. I was in charge of business contacts as it were and often a CEO would come to me complaining that this or that country was interfering with their business. Could I help? Of course I would try and if the interference was bad enough, we would try to help our friend by replacing the troublemaking government or president, or king, involved. We justified this by telling the President or his top people that the target country, or president or king was a current serious threat to the security of the United States. In order to support our thesis, we went to one of our wholly-owned think tanks like the RAND people and have them prepare a supportive paper on order. This I would look at and make suitable changes if needed and forward it to our man, or men as it were, on the staff of the New York Times followed by a personal call to the publisher or senior editor and hey presto, the very next day a wonderful story would be on the front page of that influential paper.

GD: Above the fold?

RTC: Yes, above the fold. On the upper right. And the president and his people would see this just before we paid him a solemn visit with our RAND evaluation added to our own. It never failed and pretty soon, the public would learn that the Shah of Iran was running away or that this or that tinhorn dictator like Trujillo got snuffed by what we liked to call ‘dissident internal elements.’

GD: I knew about Guatemala from my uncle. The family had connections with Grace and United Fruit…

RTC: Well, you know what I mean. You know, this usually works but in one case, it did not. We were asked by our mob friends to get rid of Battista in Cuba who was shaking them down more than usual so we were happy to oblige fellow workers in the vineyard of the Lord. Unfortunately, one of our people put Fidel Castro forward as a brilliant reformer and out went Battista and in went Fidel. Of course we do not talk about that.

GD: What happened to the careless agent?

RTC: We don’t talk about that, either.

GD: Robert, have you heard about the joys of finely ground glass? I mean ground in a pestle until it’s like face powder, not gravel.

RTC: Oh, yes, indeed I have. It destroys someone careless enough to eat something the stuff is mixed into. But it takes quite a bit of time before the arteries give way. I don’t recommend it for emergency situations. Still, shooting someone is so public. Better the heart attack, don’t you think?

GD: Yes. A French medical fellow originally developed the drug and Müller got it. Gave it to the CIA. He said it worked better than chucking inconvenient people out of the window. Heini was, all in all, a very considerate person. He used to be concerned, he once told me, about the people and vehicles that might be down below. Someone rapidly descending from ten floors up would do terrible damage to a casual pedestrian, not to mention the damage they could do to a parked car. No, once he got in with your people there, I notice defenestrating seemed to stop and the heart attack surged forward. Harry Dexter White is a case in point.

RTC: Ah, my yes, old Harry. Got him before he was up for sentencing and decided to talk. Although perhaps Stalin had a hand in that, don’t you think? Qui Bono, Gregory?

GD: A good point.

(Concluded at 10:01 AM CST)

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 “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

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 and lives in retirement in Florida

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 Hungarian 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.

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