TBR News February 20, 2017

Feb 20 2017

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. February 20, 2017:”Roosevelt’s role in the Pearl Harbor attack has been the subject of speculation even from the first. His opponents claimed that he deliberately pushed the Japanese into war to permit him to fight his archenemy, Adolf Hitler. His supporters have firmly denied this thesis and the multiplication of books, scholarly articles and media dramas seems to have no end.

Several valid points have been brought by Roosevelt partisans that deserve to be carefully considered. The first is concerned with American military intelligence work and deals, in the main, with the interceptions of Japanese coded messages. It has been fully acknowledged that the Japanese diplomatic code, called “Purple,” was broken by the Americans and consequently, all high-level diplomatic messages between Tokyo and Japanese diplomats throughout the world were being read almost as soon as they were sent. (The average translation took two days.)

The question of the Japanese Army and Navy operational codes was another matter. The American government has firmly denied for decades that such codes had even been broken or, if that had, were not translated until 1945! While nearly all of the “Purple” intercepts have been made public, only a very few of the coded Japanese Naval messages have appeared in print and then only concerning matters of no special significance.

The Japanese Pearl Harbor task force did not broadcast any messages during their passage to the Hawaiian Islands but Japanese Naval headquarters did send messages to the task force. What they may have consisted of are not known at present and perhaps will never be known, although the National Security Agency, holder of these documents, has stated that it will release the Naval intercepts (known as JN-25) at an unspecified future date.

The argument has been well made, specifically by Roberts Wohlstetter, that so much material was intercepted during the period just prior to the Japanese attack, that it was extremely difficult for American intelligence agencies to winnow out the wheat from the chaff. In retrospect, it is glaringly obvious that some kind of a Japanese attack was planned and in train, but the direction of this attack was lost in the muddle of complex and difficult-to-translate messages.

A further point well made is, had American military intelligence learned of a definite attack on Pearl Harbor, it would have been impossible to keep this a secret, given the number of translators and other military personnel who handled such intercepted messages. The army and navy of that period were small in size and most senior officers in both services knew each other well, having served together for many years. In the absence of any concrete evidence to support the receipt of Japanese military messages dealing with an attack on any specific American installation, it is not within the realm of belief that these senior officers would passively allow American military units to be attacked.

In response to this entirely valid postulation, it should be noted that the specific warning did not come to Roosevelt from below but on a parallel level and from a foreign intelligence source which was far better equipped to decode and translate the Japanese transmissions.

A second area of interest has been the possible motivation for Roosevelt’s increasing pressure on the Japanese, pressure which culminated in a stringent oil embargo that forced Japan into war. Diverse reasons are given for this, including a personal prejudice in favor of China stemming from his maternal grandfather’s highly lucrative opium and immigrant-smuggling operations to an intense hatred of Hitler in specific and Germans in general.

Both of these reasons for Roosevelt’s attitude are historically valid but in and of themselves do not explain the dangerous brinkmanship practiced by Roosevelt in his dealings with Japan. It is clearly evident from reading the intercepts of the Japanese diplomatic coded messages that Tokyo was not only not interested in pursuing war against the United States but was seriously engaged in attempting to defuse and dangerous situation whose accelerating progress caused them great alarm. Roosevelt and his advisers were fully aware of the ease with which they could achieve effective dialog with the Japanese government. All diplomatic approaches by Japan were rebuffed by Washington and as the diplomatic crisis deepened, the possibility of military action by Japan against the United States was very clearly evident in Washington.

The actual motivation behind the turning of the screw against Japan and the refusal on the part of Roosevelt to negotiate has been explored extensively in print but one of the most valid answers seems to lie clearly in the section of the intercepted communication dealing with the Soviet Union.

As much as Roosevelt wished to enter a war against Germany, he was constrained by Congress from conducting a personal war. A de facto war against Germany was in progress in the Atlantic where US naval units were engaged in open warfare with German U boats but Hitler would not rise to the bait and issue a unilateral declaration of war against the United States. For a time, Roosevelt was check in his ambitions.

With Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Roosevelt’s aims shifted. He had very strong reasons for supporting Stalin in his epic struggle with the Wehrmacht. There were no forces available in Europe to effectively counter Hitler. France was defeated and England’s army was shattered and the island under siege. The British has been soundly beaten on the continent by German forces and in 1941, they had been chased out of Greece and Crete. England was in no position to support any kind of a serious military action against Germany and the US was still technically neutral.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Roosevelt had actively sought the support of the well-organized Communist party in the United States. This entity was especially numerous and effective in the state of New York, whose Governor he had once been, and by voting en bloc the Communists could and did swing major elections. Roosevelt’s administration was filled with Communists, both active and passive, who aggressively supported the programs of the New Deal. When the Hitler-Stalin pact was signed in 1939, many of these persons underwent serious conscience crises but in June 1941, when Hitler invaded Mother Russia, their collective angst was resolved and Stalin once more resumed his place as the exalted champion of the workers and peasants and the beau ideal of embittered intellectuals and academics throughout the world.

All of Roosevelt’s aims were addressed by his now permissible support of Stalin, However, the swift advances of the Wehrmacht into Russia and the massive losses in territory, manpower and material suffered by the Red Army caused great consternation in Washington and London. If, as it appeared in the autumn of 1941, Russia could collapse, the last major hope for the containment and destruction of Hitler and his country was gone.

The point of balance now shifted from European Russia to the Far East. The advance guard of the German Army was in front of Moscow and most of the Soviet Army was engaged in a protracted death struggle for the capital. There was an acute possibility that the Japanese, chronic enemies of Russia and putative allies of Germany, would take advantage of Stalin’s major preoccupations and fall onto his rear by invading his eastern provinces, an area extraordinarily difficult to supply as the Tsar’s generals had found out in 1904.

The hostility between the Japanese and the Russians culminated in the Russo-Japanese war which Russia lost. The public humiliation suffered by Russia was balanced by the elevation of Japan tom the status of a world power. The animosity between the two countries never abated and in July of 1938, an expansionist Japan, engaged in a savage war with the warlords of China, turned its attentions to Russia and attempted to seize land near the vital Soviet naval base at Vladivostok. The Soviets counterattacked and drove the Japanese back into their own territory. Undaunted, Japan attacked the Russians again in May 1939 and for four months a series of major battles were fought between the two countries. Finally, in late August, Soviet General Zhukov launched a powerful attack against the Japanese using nine divisions and 600 tanks. The Japanese were severely beaten and suffered a loss of 18,000 men and considerable aircraft.

Following this embarrassing defeat, there was a movement in the Japanese high command to prepare for war against the Soviet Union. Japanese plans for a full scale attack on Vladivostok were shown to Hitler by Baron Oshima, Japan’s pro-German ambassador as early as March 1941. Hitler discussed the probability of these attack with members of his military entourage throughout the balance of the year. The Matsuoka referred to in the Roosevelt-Churchill intercept was Yosuke Matsuoka, a hardline anti-Soviet who had been dropped from the cabinet in July 1941 to placate the Russians. His return to power was certainly not out of the questi

The major problem facing Roosevelt then is evident. Stalin was the lynchpin of the US-British policy. If Stalin fell, Hitler was certain to shatter Russia’s military establishment and this could not be allowed to happen. Roosevelt gave money to Stalin but could render no further assistance to the dictator without actually being at war with Germany. If the Japanese decided to a move against Stalin’s eastern territories, he would be fighting a two-front war and in all probability would be swiftly defeated.

Roosevelt’s most urgent necessity was to prevent Japan from making any military moves against Russia. By applying diplomatic and economic pressure against Japan, Roosevelt hoped to distract them from a Russian adventure and encourage them to move, if move they did, in the opposite direction. The American President was safe in promoting this course of action because the United States had very little invested in the Far East with the exception of a few mid-Pacific islands and the Philippines which were slated for independence in 1948.

The British, on the other hand, had a great deal invested in the Far East as Churchill pointed out. Roosevelt, who at that time held all the cards, brushed Churchill’s fear of loss of empire aside with the vague promise that lost territories could be recovered later. In actual fact, Roosevelt was a bitter opponent of the colonial systems extant at that time and had no intentions of giving any liberated former colonies back to their former masters.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, both Australia and New Zealand had been asked by Churchill to supply troops for duty in North Africa. When it became a possibility that Japan might engage in hostilities in the Pacific, Churchill sought an opinion from his military experts as to the effectiveness of using British military forces to defend British holdings in the Pacific. The resulting report was extremely negative and Churchill decided that it would be an impossibility to reinforce the great British naval base at Singapore or assist in the defense of either Australia or New Zealand against Japanese aggression. Neither of these countries were to be supplied with a copy of  report and his subsequent decision to write them off, but a copy was sent out to the military commander of Singapore. Unfortunately, this report was sent by sea on the SS Automedon which was captured by the German commerce raider Atlantis. The secret Churchill report was forwarded to both the Japanese government and to Berlin. The foreknowledge that Britain could not and would not defend her interests in the Pacific was obviously of great interest to the Japanese.

American pressure on Japan to prevent any attack on Russia is certainly the simplest answer to the complex welter of issues raised in the post-war years concerning the outbreak of the war in the Pacific. In reality, Roosevelt was completely successful in his matador’s movements to distract the Japanese bull. From a pragmatic point of view, he achieved his aims completely. There is no valid place in the compilation of history for moral issues. Morals and ethics are excellent norms but hardly effective techniques.

The British Prime Minister was a man who was the greatest loser in the general end game that represented the Second World War. Frantic to save what was left of the decaying British Empire, he lived to witness its economic and geopolitical destruction. Roosevelt was the posthumous winner if the post-war preeminence of the United States is taken into account. Hitler vanished from the stage and his replacement, Stalin, created a hollow empire which eventually imploded. The Japanese rebuilt their shattered factories and emerged from the charred rubble of their homes to become a powerful world economic force. Their code of Bushido has been transferred from the battlefield to the boardroom and with far more success than they had implementing their Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.”



Table of Contents

  • The War Party Fights Back
  • Red Hysteria Engulfs Washington
  • Has the Art Market Become an Unwitting Partner in Crime?
  • The Silent Jew- An Open Letter
  • After seven years of bailouts, Greeks sink yet deeper in poverty
  • Things You Should’ve Learned By Middle Age
  • Your tax-dollars at work!
  • Trump names Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as new national security adviser
  • Democrats, Liberals Catch McCarthyistic Fever

 The War Party Fights Back

McCain in Munich mobilizes the NATO-crats

February 20, 2017

by Justin Raimondo,


The Munich conference held over the weekend – an annual event that brings the leaders of the Atlantic alliance together to celebrate their hegemonic pretensions – was anything but celebratory this time around. Despite the assurances of Vice President Pence that America’s commitment to NATO is “unwavering,” the Euro-crats in the audience were miffed that he failed to mention the European Union. And while they agreed, at least in public, with US admonitions that they have to start fulfilling their obligations to devote at least 2 percent of their budgets to defense, the reality is that there is very little will to do so: for example, the Brits are now boasting that they have brought their military expenditures up to speed, but as Peter Hitchens points out they only did this by adding in the cost of military pensions, i.e. cooking the books.

And while Pence averred that the US would “hold Russia accountable,” he also said that the US would seek to cooperate with Moscow – not at all reassuring for the hawks in the audience, especially the Baltic states and the virulently anti-Russian Brits, who oppose any accommodation whatsoever. With US troops (sent by the Obama administration) on Poland’s border with Russia, tensions have risen, and as the War Party’s McCarthyite campaign tying the Trump administration to Russian intelligence intensifies, the battle over US foreign policy is taking center stage.

Sen. John McCain, the Senate’s leading warmonger, is at the forefront of the fight: in a speech delivered at Munich, he took direct aim at Trump – without having the courage to name him, of course. Assailing the “blood and soil” nationalism that is supposedly taking root not only in Europe but also in the US, McCain noted with sympathy the “alarm” with which the founders of NATO would view the new trend:

“But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West … that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without … and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it is unclear whether we have the will.”

The speech was full of faux-Churchilian rhetorical flourishes, with frequent references to Western “values,” but was remarkably free of actual substance. What, for example, do these “universal values” mean in the face of Turkey’s Recip Erdogan, whose regime is jailing thousands for “sedition,” and setting its sights on our Kurdish allies who are fighting ISIS? So much for NATO’s commitment to these supposedly “universal” values.

And where, exactly, is “our world order”? The world is in chaos, thanks in large part to people of McCain’s ilk, who led us into the Middle Eastern quagmire and plunged that region in a maelstrom of violence that has only escalated since George W. Bush’s fateful decision to invade Iraq. The attack on Libya, which McCain fulsomely endorsed, decimated that country and created a terrorist paradise where none existed before. And in Syria, McCain championed radical Islamists who sought to overthrow the government and slaughtered tens of thousands – sparking an exodus of refugees now flooding into Europe and destabilizing the very governments the Arizona Senator is so eager to reassure.

I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my analysis of McCain’s utter wrongness. In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” this [Sunday] morning, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), gave it to Mad John with both barrels:

“Everything that he says about the president is colored by his own personal dispute he’s got running with President Trump, and it should be taken with a grain of salt, because John McCain’s the guy who’s advocated for war everywhere. He would bankrupt the nation. We’re very lucky John McCain’s not in charge, because I think we’d be in perpetual war,”

“I would say John McCain’s been wrong on just about everything over the last four decades. He advocated for the Iraq War, which I think destabilized the Middle East. If you look at the map, there’s probably at least six different countries where John McCain has advocated for us having boots on the ground.”

Amen, brother!

One thing McCain isn’t wrong about is that there is considerable opposition in the political class to the new turn in American foreign policy, and the core of it was present in Munich:

“I know there is profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership. I can only speak for myself, but I do not believe that is the message you will hear from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here to Munich this weekend. That is not the message you heard today from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. That is not the message you will hear from Vice President Mike Pence. That is not the message you will hear from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. And that is certainly not the message you will hear tomorrow from our bipartisan congressional delegation.”

The old order isn’t going to give up without a fight: that’s why we see the Deep State openly trying to undermine – and overturn – the Trump presidency. “Our world order” is backed to the hilt by an interlocking network of economic and political interests that have profited from the status quo – and they’ll fight to the death to preserve it. Right now within the administration there are competing factions battling it out for control of our foreign policy, with the GOP Establishment – chief of staff Reince Priebus, Pence, and Secretary of State Rex Tillorsen – arrayed against the so-called ideologues, represented by Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, who are close to the President. The latter want a grand deal with the Russians, and a basic realignment of our alliances, while the old Republican guard – and especially the Saudi lobby — wants to preserve the status quo at all costs.

McCain, and his co-warmonger Lindsey Graham, hope to mobilize the bipartisan foreign policy Establishment and throw a monkey wrench into any effort to rip up the many tripwires that would drag us into a conflict with Russia. Yet they are generals without an army: polls show that Americans don’t consider Russia much of a threat to the US, and this is true especially among Republicans. And there is no appetite among the general public for a confrontation with Moscow: that sentiment is limited to the Washington Beltway.

Red Hysteria Engulfs Washington

February 18, 2017

by Eric Margolis

The Unz Review

President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the military-industrial complex made half a century ago ring as loud and clear today. The soft coup being mounted against the Trump government by America’s ‘deep state’ reached a new intensity this week as special interests battled for control of Washington.

The newly named national security advisor, Lt Gen Michael Flynn, was ousted by Trump over his chats with Russia’s ambassador and what he may or may not have told Vice President Pence. The defenestration of Flynn appeared engineered by our national intelligence agencies in collaboration with the mainstream media and certain Democrats.

Flynn’s crime? Talking to the wicked Russians before and after the election. Big, big deal. That’s what security advisors are supposed to do: keep an open back channel to other major powers and allies. This is also the job of our intelligence agencies.

There is no good or bad in international affairs. The childish concept of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ comes from the Bush era when simple-minded voters had to be convinced that America was somehow in grave danger from a bunch of angry Mideast goat herds.

The only nations that could threaten America’s very existence are nuclear powers Russia, China, India, France, Britain and Israel (and maybe Pakistan) in that order.

Russia has thousands of nuclear warheads targeted on the US mainland. Any real war with Russia would invite doom for both nations. Two near misses are more than enough. Remember the 1962 Cuban missile confrontation and the terrifying 1983 Able Archer scare – near thermonuclear war caused by Ronald Reagan’s anti-Russian hysteria and Moscow’s panicked response.

Margolis’ #1 rule of international relations: make nice and keep on good terms with nations that have nuclear weapons pointed at you. Avoid squabbles over almost all matters. Intelligence agencies play a key role in maintaining the balance of nuclear terror and preventing misunderstandings that can cause war.

Gen. Flynn was a fanatical anti-Islamic wing nut. He was, to use Trumpese, a bigly terrible choice. I’m glad he is gone. But Flynn’s sin was being loopy, not talking on the phone to the Russian ambassador. The White House and national intelligence should be talking every day to Moscow, even ‘hi Boris, what’s new with you guys? ‘Nothing much new here either besides the terrible traffic.’

The current hue and cry in the US over Flynn’s supposed infraction is entirely a fake political ambush to cripple the Trump administration. Trump caved in much too fast. The deep state is after his scalp: he has threatened to cut the $80 billion per annum intelligence budget – which alone, boys and girls, is larger than Russia’s entire defense budget! He’s talking about rooting waste out of the Pentagon’s almost trillion-dollar budget, spending less on NATO, and ending some of America’s imperial wars abroad.

What’s to like about Trump if you’re a member of the war party and military-industrial-intelligence-Wall Street complex? The complex wants its golden girl Hilary Clinton in charge. She unleashed the current tsunami of anti-Russian hysteria and demonization of Vladimir Putin which shows, sadly, that many Americans have not grown beyond the days of Joe McCarthy.

As a long-time student of Cold War intelligence, my conclusion is that both sides knew pretty much what the other was up to, though KGB and GRU were more professional and skilled than western special services. It would be so much easier and cheaper just to share information on a demand basis. But that would stop the Great Game.

It’s sickening watching the arrant hypocrisy and windbaggery in Washington over alleged Russian espionage and manipulation. The US has been buying and manipulating foreign governments since 1945. We even tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. This week Wikileaks issued an intercept on CIA spying and manipulation of France’s 2012 election. We live in a giant glass house.

The Russians are not our pals. Nor are they the evil empire. We have to normalize our thinking about Russia, grow up and stop using Moscow as a political bogeyman to fight our own internal political battles.

Right now, I’m more worried about the far right crazies in the Trump White House than I am about the Ruskis and Vlad the Bad.

Has the Art Market Become an Unwitting Partner in Crime?

February 19, 2017

by Graham Bowley and William K. Rashbum

New York Times

When you sell your home the paperwork details the sale, including your name, and the title search lists the names of the people who owned the property before you. But when someone sells an artwork at auction — even something worth $100 million, much more than your house — the identity is typically concealed.

Oh, the paperwork might identify the work as coming from “a European collection.” But the buyer usually has no clue with whom he or she is really dealing. Sometimes, surprisingly, even the auction house may not know who the seller is.

Secrecy has long been central to the art world. Anonymity protects privacy, adds mystique and cuts the taint of crass commerce from such transactions. But some experts are now saying this sort of discretion — one founded in a simpler time, when only a few wealthy collectors took part in the art market — is not only quaint but also reckless when art is traded like a commodity and increasingly suspected in money laundering.

“The art market is an ideal playing ground for money laundering,” said Thomas Christ, a board member of the Basel Institute on Governance, a Swiss nonprofit that has studied the issue. “We have to ask for clear transparency, where you got the money from and where it is going.”

The debate about anonymity in the art world has intensified over the past year, fed in part by the release of the so-called Panama Papers, which detailed the use of corporate veils to conceal ownership, dodge taxes and enable crime, its authors say. Now various expert groups, like the Basel Institute, are coming forward with ways for dealers and auction houses to curb secrecy and combat money laundering. In a significant change, Christie’s said last week it has strengthened its policy in recent months and now requires agents looking to sell a work through the auction house to tell it the name of the owner they represent.

“Where it has concerns, Christie’s declines the transaction,” the company said in a statement.

The stakes have risen alongside the soaring value of art, with an estimated $63.8 billion worth of sales in 2015.

In one current money-laundering case, United States authorities have accused Malaysian officials and associates in a civil complaint of converting billions of dollars of embezzled public funds into investments like real estate and art. Masterworks by Basquiat, Rothko, Van Gogh and others were purchased, many at Christie’s, according to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors. Later, a Cayman Island company owned by one of the accused launderers took out a $107 million loan from Sotheby’s in 2014 using some of those artworks as collateral, authorities say.

Another recent dispute seems to reveal that auction houses themselves do not always know whose art they are selling. In this instance a collector has accused Sotheby’s of selling his $16 million painting by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec without knowing who actually owned it.

The Toulouse-Lautrec work, “Au Lit: Le Baiser,” consigned for sale at Sotheby’s in London in 2015, depicts two women embracing on a bed. The Swiss dealer who brought the work to Sotheby’s, Yves Bouvier, signed the standard paperwork surrounding such a sale, which requires the consignor to indicate he or she either owns the painting or is authorized to sell it. After the sale, he was given the proceeds.

But the real owner was a trust controlled by Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire who had been using Mr. Bouvier as his art adviser. Mr. Rybolovlev agrees he had authorized the sale but says Sotheby’s should have checked who the real owner was before turning over the money.

“It is extraordinary that such a rare and high-value work could have been sold at auction without the auction house knowing the identity of the true owner,” Tetiana Bersheda, a lawyer for the Rybolovlev family office, said in a statement.

Actually, experts said, it’s not that rare. “Do auction houses know who the principal is?” asked Amelia K. Brankov, a lawyer who specializes in the art market. “I don’t think they always do.”

Mr. Rybolovlev, who himself has used offshore shell companies that obscured his ownership of art, is now engaged in a sprawling legal battle in several courts with Mr. Bouvier, over matters that include the money from the Sotheby’s sale.

Mr. Bouvier, who is also a leader in the international art storage business, said he has not turned over the money because, he said, Mr. Rybolovlev had told him to keep it to partially settle a debt from another transaction.)

Sotheby’s declined to comment on whether it believed Mr. Bouvier to be the owner. But it says it knew him very well as a customer and that he had represented to them that he had the legal right to sell the property. As to its policy of learning the identity of ultimate owners, Sotheby’s said it takes a risk-based approach — sometimes requiring disclosure depending on the specific facts and circumstances of each situation.

Auction houses live off the fees they earn for brokering sales, so it makes sense that auction houses would both value and trust customers who bring in a lot of business like Mr. Bouvier, who bought hundreds of millions of dollars of art at sales.

Other valuable customers for the auction houses and dealers were Malaysian businessmen who, beginning in 2013, bought more than $200 million in art, usually operating as the Tanore Finance Corporation, including eight works at Christie’s. The United States government contends in a civil complaint that the art was purchased with money that had been embezzled from Malaysian government accounts and that the ultimate beneficiary was Jho Low, one of the businessmen. Mr. Low, who has denied any wrongdoing, has not been criminally charged.

Art was far from the only asset into which Mr. Low transferred funds, and the art world has pointed out that he passed muster with other entities such as banks and law firms before federal officials here last year identified him in its complaint.

Christie’s and Sotheby’s said they each have long had rigorous programs to curb money laundering and that until the investigation became public, there had been no reason to suspect anything was amiss with Mr. Low.

“Before extending a loan to Mr. Low, we conducted extensive due diligence in accordance with our Anti Money-Laundering and Know Your Client procedures,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.

Artworks are particularly suitable vehicles for money launderers, experts said, because they transfer easily and store quietly, perhaps in a basement or in an offshore tax haven. Unlike the real estate market, where lightning escalations in price are rare, values in art can be suddenly boosted by intangibles such as fads and personal taste.

Beyond the question of money laundering, some experts say the anonymity of buyers and sellers hinders their ability to track ownership, a key element in establishing a work’s authenticity

Anonymity was certainly a factor in the success of the scam that took down the estimable Knoedler gallery in New York after 165 years in business. Some $80 million was turned over by collectors to purchase unknown, albeit fake, “masterpieces” that were brought to market by a Long Island art dealer and her boyfriend. They said all the work had come from a mystery collector who became known as Mr. X. In fact, they were being created by a forger in his Queens garage.

Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, a New York gallerist and art adviser, said there are situations, as when a scholar is putting together an academic inventory of an artist’s work, where collectors do acknowledge ownership. “We work with the collector,” she said, ‘Would you like to cooperate?’ If they say no, we respect that.”

But she said she would resist a more general turn away from secrecy. “The move toward transparency is always there, but a collector’s private collection is their private collection,” she said. “It is in their home. It is not in the public domain.”

Regulators in other financial sectors have been working to eliminate veils.

In finance, Treasury officials last year began asking banks to identify customers who set up accounts in names of shell companies. In real estate, they introduced a pilot program that requires the full identification of people who buy expensive properties in New York and Miami using cash and shell companies.

But efforts to reduce anonymity in art sales have gone nowhere. In 2012, a New York appeals court ruled that auction houses did have to let buyers know the identity of sellers. But the decision was overturned on appeal.

The auction houses and some experts say that money laundering is rare and the threat overstated.

Sometimes, they said, the names of prior owners are carried in auction catalogs and even in situations where owners sell through an agent, the houses often know their identity because of their broad knowledge of the market.

Many in the art world believe that eliminating anonymity would damage the market and invade privacy. Some sellers, they say, are families only looking to avoid the embarrassment of crushing debt. Others may be museums seeking to quietly deaccession works from their collection without causing a big fuss.

Imposing rules on auction houses, some experts argue, would only push the business toward less regulated markets abroad or into the hands of private dealers — who are not required to announce sales or publish prices.

“We have to tread lightly,” said Evan Beard, who advises clients on art and finance at U.S. Trust, “unless we start to see that art is being misused in various ways. You have got to do it without throwing too much sand in the gears.”

The Silent Jew- An Open Letter

by Rabbi Joel Timmerman

There are several millions of Jews living in the United States. The bulk of us are Reformed Jews. Nearly all of us consider ourselves to be Americans. We and our children are proud to have served in the American military and even prouder to be citizens of the one nation that has welcomed refugee Jews, fleeing from European persecutions, and permitted them free access to American society.

A much smaller percentage of American Jews are Zionists. They view themselves as Jews first, Israeli’s second and, perhaps, Americans third. Their complete allegiance is to the state of Israel and not to America. They send money to Israel and, when they have access to it, military and commercial secrets. They are the Pollards of this country. They do not represent the rest of us at all.

The State of Israel has always been a Zionist state. It was born in violence and hatred. Jews, mostly from Poland, invaded the Palestine area, killing and maiming anyone who stood in their way: Arabs, British soldiers, civilians and even high UN officials. Bombings, bank robberies, arsons and mass murder attended the birth of this state. One man, Menachim Begin, blew up a hotel full of people and was later made Chief of State!

The Zionists have fastened themselves onto the instruments of power in the United States, feeling, rightly, that American soldiers, and most importantly, money, will nurture their state and protect it from their many enemies.

Instead of making efforts to co-exist with their neighbors, Israel has constantly attacked the impoverished Palestinian Arabs and killed as many of them as they could. The IDF has had no problem murdering Arab men, women and children. It has had no problem destroying the homes and businesses of the reviled Arabs and their sole, stated aim, is to drive the Arabs out of their homes so that Jews can take them over.

How redolent this is of the attacks by the Nazis, the Poles and the Russians in recent times past! It is true that the abused child becomes the abusing parent and Israel has in truth become the National Socialists of the Middle East.

The Zionists have infiltrated the American government to a remarkable degree. They have gained an astonishing hold in the American mass media. CNN, Time Warner, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek and Time magazines and a host of other media giants are either owned outright by Jews or are under the control of Jews.

These mighty organs daily pour out a great stream of pro-Israel commentary while Jewish organizations such as the ADL and various other pressure groups, make constant, threatening demands on a subservient American legislative entity.

The fact that there are many Jews in America that view such blatant and ruthless manipulation with horror is never reported in the media.

We are the silent Jews although we outnumber the loud ones twenty to one. Our views, those of tolerance and moderation, are never seen in the media but the frantic, fanatic views of the hysterical Zionists receive daily, slavish attention.

The American pubic is not stupid but it has no voice to express its concerns. Faked opinion polls, pious statements about Israel as “America’s best ally” can be seen daily in all the major branches of the media.

Believe me, Israel is not America’s best ally. Through the Israel lobby, American leaders and legislators do as they are told. The consequences of refusal or worse, opposition to Zionist demands is orchestrated oblivion. Furious because President Harry Truman blocked the sale of weapons of destruction to the rampaging Zionists in 1948, Jewish money backed Thomas Dewey. An assassination attempt was launched by the Stern Gang against Truman but failed.

The British, the United Nations and the United States eventually let the Zionists have their murderous way in Palestine because they grew tired of the constant acts of savage terrorism which seemed to inspire the terrorists to even greater infamies.

These miserable, vicious and ideological creatures have nothing to do with the great majority of American Jews. We deplore their savage, manipulative behavior because we know from bitter experience that eventually the American public will become aroused and infuriated. When that dismal day comes, and it will come, all the rest of us will be held to account for the savage brutes like Sharon and his butchers.

We will become the eternal victims of a population enraged by the ruthless and self-serving manipulations of a small, detestable handful of chronic fanatics. We will, at last, lose the respect of our colleagues, our neighbors and our friends and again, the eternal wandering will begin.

Note here that Israel was afraid of Saddam Hussein. He attacked Israel before, just as Israel had attacked him even earlier. Why should valuable Jewish youth have been sacrificed in a war with Iraq when expendable American youth can accomplish the same thing?

Perhaps, and I have learned this from a close friend in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israel and America have seriously considered attacking  Saudi Arabia and thereby gain military control of two major oil producing areas.

Those who control the American politicians and the Amerian media as well as the Israeli lobby, can see that if both America and Israel can wrest control of oil from the Arabs, both countries will be better off…from the Zionist world view. Jews can make money from the captured oil fields and some of this can be stuffed into the pockets of America’s notoriously corrupt legislators…and bureaucrats.

This is a suicidal, very short-term policy. By catering to American religious fundamentalists, Jewish groups and the oil industry, Bush is digging the grave, not only of his own erratic and fanatic administration but also of very loyal American Jews.

The American Congress may be dull-witted and greedy and they are all so myopic that they cannot see that they are rushing in haste towards the top of a very high cliff.

If only it were the guilty, the stupid and the vicious that would plunge down to their deaths, nothing would be lost and much gained but they will drag with them tens of thousands of completely innocent people.


Joel Timmerman

Director, Holocaust Survivors Association

New York

After seven years of bailouts, Greeks sink yet deeper in poverty

February 20, 2017

by Karolina Tagaris


ATHENS-Greek pensioner Dimitra says she never imagined a life reduced to food handouts: some rice, two bags of pasta, a packet of chickpeas, some dates and a tin of milk for the month.

At 73, Dimitra – who herself once helped the hard-up as a Red Cross food server – is among a growing number of Greeks barely getting by. After seven years of bailouts that poured billions of euros into their country, poverty isn’t getting any better; it’s getting worse like nowhere else in the EU.

“It had never even crossed my mind,” she said, declining to give her last name because of the stigma still attached to accepting handouts in Greece. “I lived frugally. I’ve never even been on holiday. Nothing, nothing, nothing.”

Now more than half of her 332 euro ($350) monthly income goes to renting a tiny Athens apartment. The rest: bills.

The global financial crisis and its fallout forced four euro zone countries to turn to international lenders. Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus all went through rescues and are back out, their economies growing again. But Greece, the first into a bailout in 2010, has needed three.

Rescue funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund saved Greece from bankruptcy, but the austerity and reform policies the lenders attached as conditions have helped to turn recession into a depression.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose leftist-led government is lagging in opinion polls, has tried to make the plight of Greeks a rallying cry in the latest round of drawn-out negotiations with the lenders blocking the release of more aid.

“We must all be careful towards a country that has been pillaged and people who have made, and are continuing to make, so many sacrifices in the name of Europe,” he said this month.

Much of the vast sums in aid money has simply been in the form of new debt used to repay old borrowings. But regardless of who is to blame for the collapse in living standards, poverty figures from the EU statistics agency are startling.

Greece isn’t the poorest member of the EU; poverty rates are higher in Bulgaria and Romania. But Greece isn’t far behind in third place, with Eurostat data showing 22.2 percent of the population were “severely materially deprived” in 2015.

And whereas the figures have dropped sharply in the post-communist Balkan states – by almost a third in Romania’s case – the Greek rate has almost doubled since 2008, the year the global crisis erupted. Overall, the EU level fell from 8.5 percent to 8.1 percent over the period.


The reality of such statistics becomes clear at places like the food bank run by the Athens municipality where Dimitra collects her monthly handouts.

Here, dozens more Greeks waited solemnly with a ticket in hand to get their share. All are registered as living below the poverty line of about 370 euros a month.

“The needs are huge,” said Eleni Katsouli, a municipal official in charge of the center.

Figures for the food bank, which serves central Athens, show a similar trend on a local scale to the wider Eurostat data. About 11,000 families – or 26,000 people – are registered there, up from just 2,500 in 2012 and 6,000 in 2014, Katsouli said. About 5,000 are children.

Many of the shelves and refrigerators in its stock room stood empty. What they give away depends on what sponsors – themselves often struggling businesses – can donate.

“We’re worried because we don’t know if we’ll be able to meet these people’s needs,” Katsouli said. “There are families with young children and on some days we haven’t even got milk to give them.”


International organizations, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, have urged the government to prioritize tackling poverty and inequality.

Unemployment has slipped from a peak of 28 percent of the workforce to 23 percent but the rate remains the highest in the EU. Since the crisis began, the economy has shrunk by a quarter and thousands of businesses have closed for good.

Hopes are high the economy can pick up this year but data last week showed it contracted again from October to December after two straight quarters of growth.

Better living standards seem as far away as ever. Over 75 percent of households suffered a significant income reduction last year, a survey by business confederation GSEVEE and Marc pollsters found. A third had at least one unemployed member and 40 percent said they had to cut back on food spending.

The Greek Ombudsman says a growing number of people struggle to pay utility bills. In a no-frills Athens neighborhood, a soup kitchen run by the Orthodox church serves 400 meals a day over four sittings in under two hours.

“Everyone is going through hard times – all of Greece is,” said Eva Agkisalaki, 61, a former teacher who volunteers there.

Agkisalaki did not qualify for a pension because her contract ended when the retirement age was lifted to 67 under the bailout program and she could not find work, she said. Part of her husband’s pension, cut to 600 euros from 980 also under reforms demanded by the international lenders, goes to her son and daughter’s families.

In return for volunteering, Agkisalaki receives handouts from the soup kitchen which she shares among her unemployed daughter and her son.

“We’re vegetating,” she said between setting a long wooden table for the next meal of bean soup, bread, an egg, a slice of pizza and an apple. “We just exist. Most Greeks just exist.”

Evangelia Konsta, who oversees the center and whose business supplies the meat, said the number of people eating at the soup kitchen has more than doubled in two years and the church often also helps cover people’s electricity or water bills too.

“Things are getting worse, they’re not getting better and that’s reflected in people’s needs,” Konsta said. “There are people who haven’t even got 1 euro.”

Across Athens, the number of Greeks sleeping rough is a testament to that. Volunteers drive a van with two washing machines and two dryers to neighborhoods where the homeless gather to help them clean up.

“You see the same faces, but also new ones,” said Fanis Tsonas, co-founder of the Ithaca mobile laundry, as destitute men and women brought bags of laundry.

Few are hopeful of better days.

“I don’t think there’s one person who’s not afraid of the future,” said Dimitra, the pensioner, clutching her plastic bag of rationed goods.

($1 = 0.9422 euros)

(Editing by David Stamp)


Things You Should’ve Learned By Middle Age

February 20, 2017

by Ben Dova


  1. If you’re too open-minded; your brains will fall out.
  2. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
  3. Going to church makes you a Christian, like standing in a garage makes you a mechanic.
  4. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
  5. If you must choose between two evils; pick the one you’ve never tried before.
  6. The best way to do housework is to sweep the room with a glance.
  7. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
  8. It is easier to get forgiveness than permission.
  9. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program.
  10. If you look like your passport picture; you probably need the trip.
  11. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
  12. A conscience is what hurts when all of your other parts feel good.
  13. Eat well, stay fit, die anyway.
  14. Men are from earth. Women are from earth. Deal with it.
  15. No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes.
  16. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
  17. Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.
  18. Opportunities always look bigger going away than coming towards you.
  19. Junk is something you’ve kept for years only to throw away three weeks before you need it.
  20. There is always one more imbecile than you counted on.
  21. Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
  22. By the time you can make ends meet; they move the ends.
  23. Thou shalt not weigh more than thy refrigerator.
  24. Someone who thinks logically provides a nice contrast to the real world.
  25. It ain’t the jeans, Mom, that make your butt look fat.


Your tax-dollars at work!

February 20, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) transitioned a Remote Viewing Program to SAIC in 1991 and it was renamed Stargate Project. STARGATE was one of a number of “remote viewing programs” conducted under a variety of code names, including SUN STREAK, GRILL FLAME, and CENTER LANE by DIA and INSCOM, and SCANATE by the eccentrics at the CIA. These efforts were initiated to assess foreign programs in the field; contract for basic research into the phenomenon; and to evaluate controlled remote viewing as an intelligence tool.

The program consisted of two separate activities. An operational unit employed remote viewers to train and perform remote viewing intelligence-gathering. The research program was maintained separately from the operational unit.

This effort was initiated in response to CIA concerns about highly unreliable reports of Soviet investigations of ‘psychic phenomena.’ Between 1969 and 1971, US intelligence sources erroneously concluded that the Soviet Union was engaged in “psychotronic” research. By 1970, it was suggested that the Soviets were spending approximately 60 million rubles per year on it, and over 300 million by 1975. The money and personnel devoted to Soviet psychotronics suggested that they had achieved breakthroughs, even though the matter was considered speculative, controversial and “fringy.” Using a declared, but fictional ‘Soviet threat,’ the CIA and other agencies have successfully deluded Congress, and often the White House, into heavily funding project that the agencies consider to be ‘cash cows.’

The initial research program, called SCANATE [scan by coordinate] was funded by CIA beginning in 1970. Remote viewing research began in 1972 at the Stanford Research Institute [SRI] in Menlo Park, CA. This work was conducted by Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, once with the NSA and a later-identified Scientologist. The effort initially focused on a few “gifted individuals” such as the very eccentric Ingo Swann, an OT Level VII Scientologist. Many of the SRI “empaths” were from the Church of Scientology. Individuals who appeared to show potential were trained and taught to use talents for “psychic warfare.” The minimum accuracy needed by the clients was said to be 65%, and proponents claim that in the later stages of the training effort, this accuracy level was “often consistently exceeded.”

Ingo Swann born in 1933 in Telluride, Colorado, has been heavily involved with the bizarre Scientology movement from its onset and is best known for his work as a co-creator (according to his frequent collaborators Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff) of what has been called ‘remote viewing,’ specifically the Stargate Project.

Swann has described himself as a “consciousness researcher” who had sometimes experienced “altered states of consciousness.” In other words, Swann actually believed that “special” individuala can leave their body and travel through space..

Swann helped develop the process of remote viewing at the Stanford Research Institute in experiments that caught the attention of the Central Intelligence Agency. He proposed the idea of Coordinate Remote Viewing, a process in which ‘remote viewers’ would see a location given nothing but its geographical coordinates,. This bizarre project, was developed and tested by Puthoff and Targ with CIA funding.. Details and transcripts of the SRI remote viewing experiments themselves were found to be edited and even unobtainable.

A Dr. Silfen and Swann prepared an unofficial report of later out-of-body experiments and circulated it to 500 members of the ASPR, before the ASPR board was aware of it. According to Swann, Dr. Silfen has ‘disappeared’  (or like so many other Scientology stories, never existed) and ‘cannot be located.’ Swann claimed he searched diligently for her and begged help from all his Scientology friends. According to Swann, in April 1972 a move was made at the ASPR in New York to discredit him and throw him out because he was a scientologist

GONDOLA WISH was a 1977 Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (ACSI) Systems Exploitation Detachment (SED) effort to evaluate potential adversary applications of remote viewing.

Building on GONDOLA WISH, an operational collection project was formalized under Army intelligence as GRILL FLAME in mid-1978. Located in buildings 2560 and 2561 at Fort Meade, MD, GRILL FLAME, (INSCOM “Detachment G”) consisted of soldiers and a few civilians who were believed to possess varying degrees of natural psychic ability. The SRI research program was integrated into GRILL FLAME in early 1979, and hundreds of remote viewing experiments were carried out at SRI through 1986.

In 1983 the program was re-designated the INSCOM CENTER LANE Project (ICLP). Ingo Swann and Harold Puthoff at SRI developed a set of instructions which theoretically allowed anyone to be trained to produce accurate, detailed target data. used this new collection methodology against a wide range of operational and training targets. The existence of this highly classified program was reported by columnist Jack Anderson in April 1984.

In 1984 the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council evaluated the remote viewing program for the Army Research Institute. The results were unfavorable.

When Army funding ended in late 1985, the unit was redesignated SUN STREAK and transferred to DIA’s Scientific and Technical Intelligence Directorate, with the office code DT-S.

Under the auspices of the DIA, the program transitioned to Science Applications International Corporation [SAIC] in 1991 and was renamed STAR GATE. The project, changed from a SAP (Special Access Program) to a LIMDIS (limited dissemination) program, continued with the participation of Edwin May, who presided over 70% of the total contractor budget and 85% of the program’s data collection.

Over a period of more than two decades some $20 million were spent on STAR GATE and related activities, with $11 million budgeted from the mid-1980’s to the early 1990s. Over forty personnel served in the program at various times, including about 23 remote viewers. At its peak during the mid-1980s the program included as many as seven full-time viewers and as many analytical and support personnel. Three psychics were reportedly worked at FT Meade for the CIA from 1990 through July 1995. The psychics were made available to other government agencies which requested their services.

Participants who apparently demonstrated psychic abilities used at least three different techniques various times:

  • Coordinate Remote Viewing (CRV) – the original SRI-developed technique in which viewers were asked what they “saw” at specified geographic coordinates
  • Extended Remote Viewing (ERV) – a hybrid relaxation/meditative-based method
  • Written Remote Viewing (WRV) – a hybrid of both channeling and automatic writing was introduced in 1988, though it proved controversial and was regarded by some as much less reliable.

By 1995 the program had conducted several hundred intelligence collection projects involving thousands of remote viewing sessions. Notable successes were said to be “eight martini” results, so-called because the remote viewing data were so mind-boggling that everyone has to go out and drink eight martinis to recover. It is now believed that they drank the martinis before the sessions.

Reported intelligence gathering failures include:

  • Joe McMoneagle, a retired Special Project Intelligence Officer for SSPD, SSD, and

902 MI Group, claims to have left Stargate in 1984 with a Legion of Merit Award for providing information on 150 targets that were unavailable from other sources. There is no support for the Legion of Merit story and less on the so-called ‘150 targets.’

  • One assignment included locating kidnapped BG James L. Dozier, who had been kidnapped by the Red Brigades in Italy in 1981. He was freed by Italian police after 42 days, without help from the psychics. [according to news reports, Italian police were assisted by “US State and Defense Department specialists” using electronic surveillance equipment, an apparent reference to the Special Collection Service]
  • Another assignment included trying to hunt down Gadhafi before the 1986 bombing of Libya, but Gadhafi was not injured in the bombing. One remote viewer said that the Libyan dictator was in Morocco but he was not. The “target” supplied by another government ‘remote viewer’ was a hospital.
  • In January 1989 DOD asked the SAIC project about Libyan chemical weapons work. A remote viewer reported that ship named either Patua or Potua would sail from Tripoli to transport chemicals to an eastern Libyan port. Subsequent investigation by legitimate agencies disclosed that there was no such ship registered under any flag and that no chemicals has been transported to an eastern Libyan port.
  • During the Gulf War remote-viewers suggested the whereabouts of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, but their information was not accurate and, at best, “confused” and “an obvious attempt to please” the DoD officials.
  • The unit was tasked to find plutonium in North Korea in 1994, but the results were “totally incorrect” and “worthless.”
  • During the US attack on Belgrade, a remote viewer “positively identified” the Chinese Embassy as an ‘important Serbian military headquarters.’ The U.S.immediately attacked it with serious diplomatic repercussions.
  • Remote viewers also vainly attempted to find SCUD missiles and secret biological and chemical warfare projects, and tunnels and extensive underground facilities in Iraq as the justifying evidence for an invasion. None of this material “had the slightest worth” and was “completely delusional.”

The US ‘STARGATE” program was sustained through the support of Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., and Rep. Charles Rose, D-N.C., who were convinced of the program’s effectiveness. However, by the early 1990s the program was plagued by uneven and “often bizarre” management, poor unit morale, divisiveness within the organization, poor performance, and few, if any results that could be considered accurate.

The FY 1995 Defense Appropriations bill directed that the program be transferred to CIA, with CIA instructed to conduct a retrospective review of the program. In 1995 the American Institutes for Research (AIR) was contracted by CIA to evaluate the program. Their 29 September 1995 final report was released to the public 28 November 1995. It was highly negative in nature. The final recommendation by AIR was to terminate the STARGATE effort. CIA concluded that there was not a single case in which ESP had provided data used to guide intelligence operations.

In June 2001 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) paid SAIC $122 million to create a Virtual Case File (VCF) software system to speed up the sharing of information among agents. But the FBI abandoned VCF when it failed to function adequately. Robert Mueller, FBI Director, testified to a congressional committee, “When SAIC delivered the first product in December 2003 we immediately identified a number of deficiencies – 17 at the outset. That soon cascaded to 50 or more and ultimately to 400 problems with that software … We were indeed disappointed.”

Trump names Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as new national security adviser

Donald Trump has appointed his second national security adviser, Herbert Raymond McMaster will take over after Michael Flynn’s Russia-related resignation. The 54-year-old served in both Iraq wars and Afghanistan.

February 20, 2017


US President Donald Trump made the announcement on Monday following meetings at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort. Addressing reporters in Palm Beach, Trump called Herbert Raymond McMaster a “man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience.”

“He is highly respected by everyone in the military and we’re very honored to have him,” the president added. McMaster is a West Point graduate known as “H.R.,” with a Ph.D. in US history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was listed as one of “Time” magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014.

The national security adviser is an independent aide to the president and does not require confirmation by the US Senate.

Flynn resignation

McMaster’s predecessor, Michael Flynn, was forced to step down last week after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about discussions he had held with the Russian ambassador to the US concerning American sanctions on Moscow.

Trump said in a news conference last Thursday that he was disappointed by how Flynn had treated Pence, but did not believe Flynn had done anything wrong by having the conversations.

‘Very, very special’ collaboration

Sitting alongside Trump on a couch at the president’s so-called “winter White House,” McMaster described his appointment as a “privilege.” The Afghanistan veteran, also played key key roles in the Iraq War and Gulf War, and is known for his criticism of the US military’s involvement in the Vietnam War. His 1997 book “Dereliction of Duty” criticized the country’s military and political leadership for poor leadership during the Vietnam War.

The 54-year-old will now work alongside acting national security advisor Keith Kellogg, a retired three-star general, in a “very, very special” collaboration, Trump said. All three declined, however, to answer any questions from reporters, including over whether McMaster would be allowed to hire his own staff.

Former Navy SEAL rejects job

Trump’s appointment of the new national security adviser on Monday followed days of interviews with a handful of candidates, including John Bolton, who previously served as Washington’s United Nations ambassador under Republican president George W. Bush.

Retired vice admiral and former Navy SEAL, Robert Harward, reportedly turned down Trump’s offer of the post last week over concerns that he would not be able to bring in his own team to staff the National Security Council. Other reports said he was put off by apparent ongoing chaos in the White House.

Democrats, Liberals Catch McCarthyistic Fever

Democrats and liberals are so angry about President Trump that they are turning to McCarthyistic tactics without regard to basic fairness or the need to avoid a costly and dangerous New Cold War

February 17, 2017

by Daniel Lazare

Consortium News

America is a strange place and the blow-up over Mike Flynn’s conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak is making it even stranger. Liberals are sounding like conservatives, and conservatives like liberals.

Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, made perfect sense when he remarked on CNN concerning the intelligence leaks that are now turning into a flood: “We’ve got to have some facts to work with here. And what troubles me is that … there are people within the intelligence community that disagree with President Trump [and] that don’t want to see his administration succeed. … General Flynn has been subject to a political assassination here regardless of what he did or didn’t say to President Trump or Vice President Pence.”

Quite right. Breitbart News’ Joel B. Pollak sounded similarly sensible in asking “whether our nation’s intelligence services were involved in what amounts to political espionage against the newly-elected government.” So did right-wing talk-show host Michael Savage in describing “the demonization of Putin, Russia, and Flynn” on the part of “neocons, the intel community, and Democrats who want constant antagonism with Russia.”

Considering the craziness we usually get from such sources, it was all disconcertingly … sane. On the liberal side, however, the hysteria has been non-stop. In full prosecutorial mode, The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza demanded to know:

“Did Trump instruct Flynn to discuss a potential easing of sanctions with Russia? Did Flynn update Trump on his calls with the Russian Ambassador? Did Trump know that Flynn lied to Pence about those contacts? What did the White House counsel do with the information that he received from [Acting Attorney General Sally] Yates about Flynn being vulnerable to blackmail?”

At The Nation, Joan Walsh was thrilled to hear the media asking “the old Watergate question about what the president knew and when.”

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again,” declared Bill Moyers and Michael Winship at Alternet: “there MUST be an investigation by an independent, bipartisan commission of Russia’s ties to Donald Trump and his associates and that nation’s interference in our elections.”

At The Intercept, the perennially self-righteous Glenn Greenwald said intelligence agents are “wholly justified” in leaking inside information because “[a]ny leak that results in the exposure of high-level wrongdoing – as this one did – should be praised, not scorned and punished.”

Over the Top

Finally, there was The New York Times, which, in Thursday’s lead editorial, compared the Flynn contretemps to Watergate and Iran-Contra, expressed “shock and incredulity that members of Mr. Trump’s campaign and inner circle were in repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials,” and called for a congressional investigation into whether the White House has been taken over by Moscow:

“Coming on top of credible information from America’s intelligence agencies that Russia tried to destabilize and influence the 2016 presidential campaign, these latest revelations are more than sufficient reason for Congress to investigate what Moscow has been up to and whether people at the highest levels of the United States government have aided and abetted the interests of a nation that has tried to thwart American foreign policy since the Cold War.”

High-level wrongdoing! Colluding with the enemy! Shock and incredulity! It’s enough to make a concerned citizen reach for the nearest bottle of 151-proof rum. But it’s all nonsense. Liberals are working themselves into a crisis mode on the basis of zero evidence.

Let’s begin with what The Nation’s Joan Walsh regards as the key issue: what do we know and when did we know it?

Well, we know that on Thursday, Dec. 29, Barack Obama expelled 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives for allegedly interfering with the presidential election and imposed sanctions on Russia’s two leading intelligence services. We also know that Flynn had called the Russian ambassador a day earlier to discuss sanctions in general and that although he “never made explicit promises of sanctions relief,” according to unnamed government officials cited by the Times, he “appeared to leave the impression it would be possible.”

In Times-speak, “appeared to leave the impression” means that the paper is unable to pin down anything that Flynn did that was specifically wrong, but still believes that the conversation was somehow unseemly.

According to The Washington Post, the key phone call came after Obama’s Dec. 29 decision to expel the Russian diplomats when Kislyak reached Flynn by phone while the national security advisor-designate and his wife were vacationing at a beachside resort in the Dominican Republic.  “As a veteran intelligence officer,” The Post said, “…Flynn must have known that a call with a Russian official in Washington would be intercepted by the U.S. government, pored over by FBI analysts and possibly even shared with the White House.”

In any event, whatever he told Kislyak must have been reassuring since Vladimir Putin announced later that day that he would not engage in a tit-for-tat retaliation by expelling U.S. diplomats.

Getting Payback

Irritated by such maturity, the American “state security organs,” as the KGB and other Soviet intelligence services were once called, pounced. Having intercepted the Russian ambassador’s phone call, the FBI relayed the contents to Obama’s Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who authorized it to interrogate Flynn about the conversation. Flynn may have lied or not given a complete account or forgotten some of the details about what he and Kislyak discussed. He also may have given a similarly incomplete account to Vice President Mike Pence, which apparently upset Pence and led to Flynn being tossed overboard.

But if Trump and his team thought that would satisfy the sharks, they were wrong. The press went into a feeding frenzy. But the substance of the complaint against Flynn adds up to very little.

As Obama administration holdovers in the Justice Department searched for a legal justification with which to accuse Flynn of wrongdoing, the only thing they could come up with was the Logan Act of 1799 forbidding private citizens from negotiating with a foreign government that is in dispute with the United States. Adopted during the presidency of John Adams, the law was prompted by Dr. George Logan’s unauthorized negotiations with France, contacts that were praised by the Jeffersonians but anathema to the Federalists.

But invoking the Logan Act in any instance is a stretch, much less this one. It has never been used to prosecute anyone; it has never been tested in a court of law; and its constitutionality couldn’t be more questionable. Moreover, if the law is dubious when used to threaten a private citizen engaged in unauthorized diplomacy, then using it to go after a designated official of an incoming presidential administration that has been duly elected is many times more so.

As journalist Robert Parry points out, the Logan Act has mainly been “exploited in a McCarthyistic fashion to bait or discredit peace advocates” such as Jesse Jackson for visiting Cuba or House Speaker Jim Wright for trying to end the Contra war in Nicaragua. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Trump Caves on Flynn’s Resignation.”]

Of course, the Obama holdovers at Justice also said that Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail. But if Flynn assumed that the U.S. intelligence was listening in, then the Russians probably did also, which means that both sides knew that there was no secret dirt to be used against him.

In other words, there’s no there there. Yet anti-Trump liberals are trying to convince the public that it’s all “worse than Watergate.”

Strangelovian Flynn

This is not to make Flynn into a martyr of some sort. To the contrary, the man is every bit as nutty as critics say. The Field of Fight: How to Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, the book he co-wrote last year with neocon “intellectual” Michael Ledeen, is a paranoid fantasy about Muslim extremists ganging up with North Korea, Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela to bring down the United States and Israel.

Flynn’s appearance at a Feb. 7 White House press briefing in which he announced that “we are officially putting Iran on notice” over a missile test – and then stalked off without taking a single question – was so bizarre as to be positively Strangelovian.

But whether Flynn is a criminal is another matter. As Ronn Blitzer observed in a smart article at Lawnewz.com: “Between the details of the communications being unclear and the complete lack of historical guidance for prosecutors to work off of, chances are slim that he’ll face any legal repercussions.”

Lying to the FBI is another matter, of course. But grilling someone about whether he violated a moldy old law that should have been repealed centuries ago is the equivalent of giving someone the third degree over whether he washed his hands after using a public restroom. It raises questions about civil liberties and prosecutorial abuse that used to concern liberals – before, that is, they went bonkers over Russia.

Moreover, taking a call from the Russian ambassador is not only legal but, with the inauguration only three weeks away, precisely what one would expect a newly designated national security advisor to do. If the call indeed happened while Flynn was on vacation – and hence without the usual staff support – it’s not that surprising that he might not have had total recall of what was discussed. For FBI agents to question him weeks later and test his memory against their transcript of the conversation seems closer to entrapment than a fair-minded inquiry.

The whole area is a gray zone regarding what is and isn’t proper for a candidate or an incoming administration to do. Eight years earlier, Barack Obama reached out to foreign leaders to discuss policy changes before he was even elected.

In July 2008, candidate Obama visited Paris to confer with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy about Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and NATO. In late November – after the election, that is, but before the oath of office – he telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss how his country might achieve greater stability.

Yet as Robert Charles notes at the conservative Townhall.com website, no one thought to mention the Logan Act or accuse Obama of overstepping his bounds by engaging in private diplomacy.

As to whether it was Trump who instructed Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador – what Politico calls “the key question” and what Times columnist Gail Collins says would be “super-illegal” if true – that is also standard operating procedure.

Poor Donald Trump is getting it from both sides, from those who claim that he was unprepared for his new responsibilities (which he was) and from those who claim that he was too “pro-active” in reaching out to key international players before taking office.

The Crime of Peace

As to Glenn Greenwald’s charge that what Flynn did was not only illegal but wrong, all one can say is: what on earth is so terrible about trying to reduce U.S.-Russian tensions? Of all the things that Trump said on the campaign trail, one of the few that was not completely stupid was his call for better relations with Moscow.

After all, Obama had gotten himself into a serious pickle by the end of his administration in the “intermarium” between the Baltic and the Black Sea. This is where Obama found himself beholden to dangerous nationalist provocateurs from Estonia to Ukraine, where a major NATO arms build-up was making observers increasingly nervous and where serious fighting is now underway. But while one would think that liberals would approve of attempts to defuse a dangerous confrontation, Flynn is under assault for merely giving it a try.

(And what about Greenwald’s usual concern about intrusive electronic surveillance? Isn’t the Flynn case a classic example of law-enforcement agencies using powers to entrap an individual into a possible criminal violation by seeing if his recollection diverges from the official transcript of a wire-tapped conversation?)

Finally there is the New York Times editorial, a farrago of half-truths and unsubstantiated assertions. For instance:

–No matter how many times the “paper of record” insists that “Russia tried to destabilize and influence the 2016 presidential campaign,” it should realize that saying something doesn’t make it so. In fact, the Director of National Intelligence’s Jan. 6 report on the alleged hacking was so skimpy that even the Times conceded that it “contained no information about how the agencies had collected their data or had come to their conclusions” and was therefore “bound to be attacked by skeptics.”

–The charge of “repeated contact with Russian intelligence officials” is similarly evidence-free. The Times made the charge in a front-page exposé on Tuesday that was heavy on innuendo but short on facts. It said that Trump associates had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials” without saying what those contacts were or whether the individuals in question were even aware of whom they were talking to. It added, moreover, that there was “no evidence of … cooperation” with Russian intelligence and that it was “unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Mr. Trump himself.” There’s no there there as well.

–As for aiding and abetting “a nation that has tried to thwart American foreign policy since the Cold War,” all one can say is that the Times is engaging in classic McCarthyism by crying treason with zero data to back it up.

Opportunism and Confusion

So, what’s going on? The simple answer is that Democrats are seizing on Russia because it’s an easy target in a capital city where war fever is already rising precipitously. Little thought seems to have been given to where this hysteria might lead. What if Dems get their way by forcing the administration to adopt a tougher policy on Russia? What if something horrendous occurs as a consequence such as a real live shooting exchange between U.S. and Russian troops? Will that make Democrats happy?  Is that really what they want?

The truth is that America is in disarray not only politically but ideologically. Once Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race last summer, voters were faced with a choice between two right-of-center candidates, one (Hillary Clinton) seemingly bent on a pro-war policy regardless of the consequences and another (Donald Trump) who uttered isolationist inanities but nonetheless seemed to sense that a course change was in order with regard to Russia, Syria, and perhaps one or two other hot spots.

Since the election, both parties have responded by going even farther to the right, Trump by surrounding himself with billionaires and ultra-right fanatics and the Democrats by trying to out-hawk the GOP.

Sanity is in such short supply that the voices of reason now belong to Republicans like Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who told the Washington Post, “The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded,” or House Speaker Paul Ryan who says that reaching out to the Russian ambassador was “entirely appropriate.”

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, seems oddly rational in indicating that he will block legislation seeking to prevent Trump from rolling back anti-Russian sanctions.

All in all, it’s the worst Democratic performance since the Washington Post complained in 1901 that Teddy Roosevelt had “fanned the flames of negro aspiration” by inviting Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House. What’s the point of an opposition when it’s even more irresponsible than the party in power?

As Phil Ochs sang about unprincipled liberals back in the 1960s:

Once I was young and impulsive

I wore every conceivable pin

Even went to the socialist meetings

Learned all the old union hymns

But I’ve grown older and wiser

And that’s why I’m turning you in

So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.























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