TBR News February24, 2019

Feb 24 2019

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. February 24, 2019:” The Plan-A constant subject for the high-level intelligence people inside the Beltway is the progress of what is called ‘The Plan.’

This is a long-term program, formulated and implemented, by the far-right element in the government and eagerly supported by the so-called neo-cons.

The purpose of this program is to destabilize Russia, force Putin and his supporters out of office and replace them, as was done during the reign of the CIA-friendly Yeltsin, with persons friendly to the United States aims and, especially, friendly to US business interests.

Russia is in possession of a very large reservoir of natural resources from oil to gold and American interests very nearly had their controlling hands on all of this during the Yeltsin years but lost it when Putin got in control.

They hate his intractable nationalism and have done, and are doing, everything they can to discredit, defeat and eventually oust him.

A major part of The Plan has been to get physical control of countries surrounding Russia from the Baltic states to the ‘Stans and to ring Russia with American-oriented and friendly countries.

Putin, aware of this because of the obviousness of the plottings and also because of very high-level information leaks from Washington, responded and with deadly effect. Georgia was run by a domestic politician who was eccentric, egotistical but in the pocket of Washington, and who allowed American troops and their military equipment to pour into the country.

But two Georgian provinces, inhabited mostly by Russians, objected to the blatantly pro-West government in Tiblisi and protested.

Georgia’s answer was to threaten force and, with full American support, to mass Georgian troops on the borders of these provinces.

Putin responded by sending a Russian military strike force into the area in support of the break-away areas and this caused a two-fold retreat on the part of American supporters. The military units rapidly evacuated west to the Black Sea and US Naval evacuation while an army of CIA personnel fled in terror to the airport at Tiblisi to avoid capture. This demarche disillusioned a number of eastern European countries who then toned down their anti-Russian rhetoric and made pacific moves towards the Kremlin.

A very high-level Polish government contingent flying into Smolensk to confer with the Russians were destroyed when their aircraft, responding to faked ground signals at the fog-shrouded Smolensk airport, slammed into the ground, wiping out the top level Poles. The Russians did not destroy the Poles but American intelligence operatives did.

This pointless slaughter was designed to teach wavering cantonists a lesson.

And the so-called “Orange Revolution” in the Ukraine was entirely a CIA operation.

The government in that country was replaced with a pro-Western one and the Ukraine was then viewed in Washington as another country to stock with threatening American missiles and troops.

When the Ukrainians tired of the corruption that inevitably is attendant upon a pro-West government and eventually elected a pro-Russian president, the CIA predictably responded by fomenting civil strife in Kiev and when that appeared to be waning, had their surrogates start shooting at random into the crowd to stir up public anger.

Putin’s response was to occupy the Russian-populated Crimea, hold an election that overwhelmingly supported union with Russia and gained the important naval base at Sebastopol that the Ukraine had promised to the US Navy and, more important, the Crimean off-shore oil fields and a coastline that permitted an easier installation of the South Stream oil transmission line from Russian oil fields to southern Europe.

The fury of the balked intelligence and governmental organs in Washington has been monumental and because a restive Europe is presenting a disunited front in the dictated attacks on Russia, more pressure is being planned to further threaten and pressure Putin.

The oil-rich Arctic is a prime future battlefield selected by Washington to engage the Russians, but the latter hold most of the geo-political cards.

And attempts to economically isolate Russia can easily backfire and create economic chaos with America’s economic powers.

The Russians hold 118 billion dollars worth of US Treasury certificate and their tenative allies, the Chinese, hold one trillion dollars of the same certificates. Should these countries, against whom the United States has been conducting clandestine political warfare, ever decide to jointly dump these financial instruments, the collapse of the dollar as the leading international currency would create an economic crisis that could easily prove fatal to Washington.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department usually uses water.”



The Table of Contents

  • ‘You’re fired!’ America has already terminated Trump
  • Help, the helpers are coming!
  • The very fake ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ and the art rip-off of the millennium
  • The Anatomy of a Fraud
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations


‘You’re fired!’ America has already terminated Trump

The Mueller report looms but the president is doomed anyway – no one who screws the people so blatantly can win re-election

February 24, 2019

by Robert Reich

The Guardian

Robert Mueller’s soon-to-be-delivered report will begin months of congressional investigations, subpoenas, court challenges, partisan slugfests, media revelations, and more desperate conspiracy claims by Donald Trump, all against the backdrop of the burning questions: Will he be impeached by the House? Will he be convicted by the Senate? Will he pull a Richard Nixon and resign?

In other words, will America fire Trump?

I have news for you. America has already fired him.

When the public fires a president before election day, as it did Jimmy Carter, Nixon and Herbert Hoover, they don’t send him a letter telling him he’s fired.

They just make him irrelevant. Politics happens around him, despite him. He’s not literally gone but he might as well be.

It’s happened to Trump. The courts and House Democrats are moving against him. Senate Republicans are quietly subverting him. Even Mitch McConnell told him to end the shutdown.

The Fed is running economic policy. Top-level civil servants are managing day-to-day work of the agencies.

Isolated in the White House, distrustful of aides, at odds with intelligence agencies, distant from his cabinet heads, Trump has no system to make or implement decisions.

His tweets don’t create headlines as before. His rallies are ignored. His lies have become old hat.

Action and excitement have shifted elsewhere, to Democratic challengers, even to a 29-year-old freshman congresswoman too young to run.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s still dangerous, like an old landmine buried in the mud. He could start a nuclear war.

Yet even America’s adversaries just humor him. Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping give him tidbits to share with the American public, then do whatever they want.

Why did America fire him? If the nation were to write him a letter informing him he’s no longer president, it would go like this:

Dear Mr President,

While many of us disagree on ideology and values, we agree on practical things like obeying the constitution and not letting big corporations and the wealthy run everything.

Your 35-day government shutdown was a senseless abuse of power. So too your “national emergency” to build your wall with money Congress refused to appropriate.

When you passed your tax bill you promised our paychecks would rise by an average of $4,000 but we never got the raise. Our employers used the tax savings to buy back their shares of stock and give themselves raises instead.

Then you fooled us into thinking we were getting a cut by lowering the amounts withheld from our 2018 paychecks. We know that now because we’re getting smaller tax refunds.

At the same time, many big corporations aren’t paying a dime in taxes. Worse yet, they’re getting refunds.

For example, GM is paying zilch and claiming a $104m refund on $11.8bn of profits. Amazon is paying no taxes and claiming a $129m refund on profits of $11.2bn. (This is after New York offered it $3bn to put its second headquarters there.)

They aren’t breaking any tax laws or regulations. That’s because they made the tax laws and regulations. You gave them a free hand.

You’re supposed to be working for us, not for giant corporations. But they’re doing better than ever, as are their top executives and biggest investors. Yet nothing has trickled down. We’re getting shafted.

Which is why more than 75% of us (including 45% who call ourselves Republicans) support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70% tax on dollars earned in excess of $10m a year.

And over 60% of us support Elizabeth Warren’s proposed 2% annual tax on households with a new worth of $50m or more.

You’ve also shown you don’t have a clue about healthcare. You promised us something better than the Affordable Care Act but all you’ve done is whittle it back.

A big reason we gave Democrats control of the House last November was your threat to eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions.

Are you even aware that 70% of us now favor Medicare for all?

Most of us don’t pay much attention to national policy but we pay a lot of attention to home economics. You’ve made our own home economics worse.

We’ll give you official notice you’re fired on 3 November 2020, if not before. Until then, you can keep the house and perks, but you’re toast.



Help, the helpers are coming!

What’s happening on the borders of Venezuela is anything but a humanitarian aid operation, according to DW’s Astrid Prange. She says using aid for political purposes is abhorrent and dangerous.

February 23, 2019

by Astrid Prange


Let’s first avoid any misunderstanding: Venezuela’s population is without question in urgent need of aid. More and more people there are struggling just to exist; the supply chain of food and medicines has collapsed.

This makes it all the more appalling the way the interim president, Juan Guaido, and his supporters are abusing the provision of humanitarian aid as an instrument of power. Guaido may gain good TV publicity by being shown amidst packages of baby food, but it does not give him any political credibility.

Covering up political failure

Nicolas Maduro, who wields the power in Venezuela, is no more credible. Maduro, the successor to President Hugo Chavez who died in 2013, has systematically mismanaged the country. He has his political opponents arrested, has disempowered the parliament, which has been dominated by the opposition since 2015, and left the people to fend for themselves.

Both sides are now looking to use humanitarian aid to make up for political failure. For the sanctions that have been imposed on the Maduro regime by the US since 2015 have so far not led to the desired “success,” i.e., the collapse of the “socialism of the 21st century.”

Seeking refuge in Moscow’s arms

Rather, they have led to the virtual collapse of Venezuela and pushed Maduro further and further toward Moscow and Beijing. Even though Maduro last week was still claiming that there was no hunger in Venezuela, he announced ahead of the showdown in Cucuta on February 23 that he was expecting a delivery of 300 tonnes (330 US tons) of aid supplies from Russia. Guaido is set to arrive at the border on Saturday to help volunteers transport tonnes of aid supplies into the crisis-ridden country.

Russia is currently Venezuela’s most important ally. Even while Hugo Chavez was president, the Kremlin delivered arms to the Venezuelan army. Caracas is also in debt to Moscow to the tune of €12 billion ($13.6 billion). As security for the loans, Venezuela mortgaged half of the shares for its Citgo gas stations in the US, which belong to the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA.

This gives Moscow two aces to play against US President Donald Trump: It has influence on the Citgo gas-station network and the fuel supply in the USA. And its presence in Venezuela means it has established itself as a major player in Latin America alongside China and the USA.

Blockade at the Security Council

The most recent example is Russia’s veto at the UN Security Council last week. Moscow countered Washington’s resolution calling for new elections and international aid for Venezuela with a rival proposal.

The stalemate points to a return of the Cold War. The fact that this is now happening in Latin America, of all places, is particularly tragic: After all, the official confrontation between the USA and Russia there has only finally come to an end since the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba at the end of 2014.

‘Help’ from Russia

If it were really about help for Venezuela’s people, UN organizations such as the World Food Program (WFP) could supply food to the country — if necessary with a mandate from the UN Security Council. American and Russian aid organizations and aid workers from across the world could make their deliveries available to UN organizations instead of aid supplies being used to aggravate the political divisions in the country.

And what is even more important: Venezuela’s government could itself ask the international community for support. If necessary, aid supplies could even be brought by volunteers on foot via other border crossings than Cucuta — completely away from any media attention.

The current political exploitation of humanitarian aid, on the other hand, is anything but humanitarian. It is making political hostages of an entire population and turning aid workers into accomplices in a bitter political power struggle. It is highly dangerous. And a political crime to boot.


Comment: Although the American media constantly proclaims that America is the world’s largest oil producer, as usual, it is totally incorrect.

The world’s largest holder of undeveloped oil reserves is Venezuela, followed by Saudi Arabia as the second. Russia is number eight and the United States is number fourteen!.

This clearly explains the US interest in getting physical control of Venezuelan oil.

It is business pragmatism, not social concern that moves American business and political entities to try to overthrow the Venezuelan government.

America once tried to get their hands on the Russian oil fields when the CIA’s Yeltsin collapsed and when that clumsy attempt failed, they tried, also without success, to grab all the oil reserves in the Arctic.

It seems that by treaty the Russians ended up with physical control of those reserves.

If the US is unable to put its own puppet into power in Venezuela, perhaps it might try to grab Nigerian oil fields on the usual shabby pretext of bringing democracy and justice, American style, to that backwards but oil-rich African country. Ed

The very fake ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ and the art rip-off of the millennium

How an airheaded Saudi prince took it in the shorts

February 24,2019

by Michael Hunt

A purported da Vinci painting, entitled ‘Salvator Mundi’, which means “Savior of the World” in Latin, is a small (46 x 66 centimeters) oil painting on a wood panel that depicts Jesus in Renaissance attire, giving a benediction. His right hand is raised and his left hand holds a transparent orb (right) to signify this.

Salvator Mundi is the most expensive painting sold in the history of the world.

350,000,000% Appreciation in 59 Years

Generally believed by art experts to be the work of Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi was bought in 1958 for 45 Pounds Sterling ($130 at the time!).

Forty seven years later in 2005, three art dealers paid $10,000 for it, had it cleaned and restored over the next 6 years, then had it authenticated in 2011 as a work of Leonardo da Vinci himself. In 2013 they sold Salvator Mundi for $75 million to Yves Bouvier, a Swiss art dealer, who quickly flipped it for $127.5 million to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who sold it in 2017 to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, for a cool $450 million.

Is Salvator Mundi worth $450 million?

Many say it isn’t, for the following four reasons.

  1. Its provenance is weak. No one knows where Salvator Mundi has been since it was supposedly painted in the 15th century. Theories abound but even they have gaps, some lasting hundreds of years.
  2. In 2005, three art dealers paid $10,000 for it because they thought it might be a da Vinci, and then handed it off to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Dianne Dwyer Modestini, who spent the next 6 years restoring it. When she received Salvator Mundi, Modestini, one of the most respected painting conservators in the world, didn’t recognize it as a da Vinci, who also painted The Last Supper.
  3. Salvator Mundi should have been authenticated in 2005, before Modestini spent 6 years to restore it – i.e., fix up what she received (right) to make it look the way she thought it should look.
  4. Before auctioning Salvator Mundi in 2017, Christie’s of New York sent it on a worldwide promotional tour and pulled out all the stops, even calling it “the male Mona Lisa.” For generating this delightful, and very fictional, hype, Christie’s kept $50 million of the $450 million as its sales commission, so the intrinsic value of Salvator Mundi is at most $400 million.

Has anything about “Salvator Mundi” been confirmed to be 100% authentic?

Doubts on Salvator Mundi as a work of da Vinci

Salvator Mundi has raised doubts about its authenticity as a work of Leonardo da Vinci, due to it being distinct from the (less than 20) extant works of the master painter: to begin with, there is no other painting of an individual Jesus among da Vinci’s work.

Doubts are also founded on the crucial lack of real depth in the modelling that is the hallmark of da Vinci’s work. Also it lacks complexity of posture of figures da Vinci depicted with twists and movement. None of his other work including single portraits is front facing.

Then there is a crucial error: the crystal orb in the image doesn’t distort light as per the laws of reflection and refraction of light in physics, a feature da Vinci was fastidious about reproducing in his work as revealed by diagrams of light bouncing at different angles in his notebooks on optics studies. Most art critics consider this to be a rookie mistake.

The seller of the painting, Christie’s auction house in New York maintains that they have extensively analysed the painting using a powerful microscope, and maintains that the painting is authentic.They speculate that Da Vinci included a distractingly incorrect glass globe because he didn’t want to distract viewers from Christ himself. But, they have 450.3 million reasons to say so!

Forgery has been an integral part of Western art, dating back to Greek and Roman timeswhen art was created for historical reference, religious inspiration, or simply aesthetic enjoyment than for commercial purposes, and the identity of the artist was often of little importance to the buyer. The tradition continued during the Renaissance, when apprentices of master painters studied painting techniques by copying the works and style of the master, later sold as a pay for the trainees. This practice was generally considered a tribute, not forgery, although some of these copies have later erroneously been attributed to the master.

Following the Renaissance, the increasing prosperity of the middle class created a fierce demand for art, making it a commodity of which the monetary value depend on the identity of the artist. To identify their works, painters began to mark them and later to sign. As the demand for the work of certain artists began to exceed the supply, fraudulent marks and signatures began to appear on the open market.

The 20th-century art market is inundated with forgeries typically sold to art galleries and auction houses that cater to the tastes of art collectors with money more than brains.

Still, the saying that ‘a fool and his money are soon parted’ will not hold true in the case of Saudi princes, simply because of the volume of money involved! And when Saudi princes are not paying hundred of millions of dollars for thirty dollar fakes, they are murdering annoying newspaper reporters.

Or bribing American presidents with bags of gold bars.


The Anatomy of a Fraud

by Christian Jürs

On May 23, 1977, a Basilisk Press of Santa Clara, California made a mass mailing. The yellow envelope sported a drawing of the mythological Basilisk, a creature described in the literature of the Middle Ages as being half serpent and half rooster whose very glance could kill.

Inside was a letter from the Press to prospective customers advertising a book that they were in the process of publishing. This was Rodin: The Anatomy of a Fraud by one Friederich Hasek. The brochure spoke of “deliberate fakery” in the world of fine art and discussed a series of books on the subject of massive art fraud that the Press was in the process of publishing.

The Rodin book ad strongly alleged that “Rodin hired students to prepare works he took credit for” and “Rodin works were being faked in the artist’s lifetime and with his consent.” More interesting to some was the statement that preceded these that spoke of, “…the production of fake bronzes, outlining in detail how bronzes are produced and how to detect recent forgeries by a series of simple measurements.”

Other books the Press claimed were to be part of their new series were an additional eighteen titles covering such diverse topics as the bronzes of Remington, Georgian silver, ancient Greek and Roman coins, counterfeit Japanese swords, pre-Colombian and Incan artifacts and a number of other subjects that were guaranteed to give a terrible case of spastic colon to the majority of the major art galleries and auction houses.

It is the general, and very sensible, attitude on the part of individuals and organizations that might be severely damaged by such publications, to say absolutely nothing about a work that might well seriously damage their business and professional reputations, and pray that either the publisher will go bankrupt after the first book or be run over by a drunken truck driver while on the way to the bank.

Art salesmen thrive on publicity but only of their own generating.

However, in the case of the Basilisk mailing, one of the seeds fell into fertile ground and produced a mini-scandal which was no doubt very pleasing to someone but certainly not to persons who either bought or sold the works of Auguste Rodin.

One of these mailers apparently got into the hands of one Albert Edward Elsen, a local art expert, who shortly thereafter appeared at the address of the Basilisk Press given on the envelope. It was 2275 Park Avenue in Santa Clara and it housed a Western Union office, telephone answering service and mail drop firm.

There was no sign anywhere on the building to indicate that the Press was engaged in business there.

In spite of this, Elsen, an overweight and florid man with a thick, graying mustache, had a highly vocal and very intemperate heated exchange with the manager of the mail service, demanding at full voice to know where the owners of the press lived. When told that this information was not available, he became even more agitated and was eventually asked to leave the premises before the police had to be summoned.

In August of 1978, George Schattle, an industrial designer of Menlo Park, California, a suburb of San Francisco, filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the County of Santa Clara, California.

The suit charged one Albert Edward Elsen, a professor of art history at the prestigious Stanford University and a published specialist on the works of French Impressionist sculptor, Auguste Rodin, with libel, defamation, interference with advantageous contractual rights and invasion of privacy.

Mr. Schattle requested $3.75 million in punitive and exemplary damages from the savant-cum-art expert.

Most of the issues raised in this case relate directly to the marketing of what is sometimes called ‘fine art’ and although Schattle vs. Elsen achieved a very private, out-of-court settlement, the facts remain a matter of record and highlight what appears to be certain questionable but long-accepted practices in the merchandising of fine art.

Schattle’s claim was that on August 3, 1978, Professor Albert Edward Elsen had written a completely unsolicited letter on his official Stanford University letterhead to one Jerry Jensen, a television anchorman with the San Francisco-based KGO-TV.

Mr. Schattle’s attorney, Charles Hawkins, attached this letter to the suit as Exhibit A and as it is public record, significant portions of it are quoted here:

“Dear Mr. Jenson (sic)

“From Gay Morris, who writes on art for the Palo Alto Times, and who has been in touch with the Basilisk Press people, I gather you have a copy of a manuscript titles, ‘Rodin: Portrait of a Fraud’ (sic) authored by Frederich Hasek. I am also given to understand that you have a long time interest in art frauds and that your researches coincide with the findings in this manuscript. Gay Morris was told this on the phone by a M. McGregor who claims to be one of a group of businessmen who have bought manuscripts from Hasek.”

There is a reference to someone Elsen suspects might have written the manuscript, couched in savage, and badly written, derogatory terms and the letter continues:

“For the past three years he and a George Schattle of Menlo Park have been trying to con unsuspecting businessmen into buying four reputedly unique Rodin sculptures, supposedly obtained by an American army officer during the second world war (sic) from Goering’s art collection, to which they had come after the Wehrmacht moved into Poland. These sculptures come in a Wehrmacht crate and these men have a raft of documentation testifying to the authenticity of the Wehrmacht markings–but not a scintilla of evidence on that of the sculptures. The sculptures are outright fakes. For three years, and on one occasion working with the police, I have thwarted the sale of these sculptures.”

Elsen goes on to claim that over the years, Schattle and others have tried to slander him, Stanford University, “one of our principle (sic) donors,” and even the government of France! He continues on to state that the alleged author of the manuscript also “libels Rodin (Rodin never ‘condoned fakes’ in his lifetime, as the Basilisk Press advertised in its flyer on the book.)”

Elsen was undoubtedly unaware that the dead cannot be libeled.

The balance of this rather extraordinary outburst sets forth the writer’s academic and literary credentials (and the latter are not especially bolstered by a mass of grammatical errata) and claims that he is the world’s “foremost expert on Rodin”, finally asking Jensen, in a burst of petulant outrage, “Why, in fact, are you given the manuscript to read but not me?”

He concludes with a demand to see the manuscript in Mr. Jensen’s possession and have the pleasure of his company through a personal visit when Professor Elsen can personally discuss the “truth and the reputation of a great artist.”

By one means or another, never made clear by any of the parties to the suit, this letter came into the possession of the unfortunate Mr. Schattle who then referred it to an attorney.

Prior to the filing of this suit, Mr. Schattle’s attorney, Charles Hawkins of San Jose, wrote on May 25, 1978, to Stanford President Richard Lyman.

“Dear President Lyman

“Please be advised that this office represents Mr. George Schattle in connection with pending litigation involving the activities of Professor Albert Elsen.

“Mr. Schattle is the owner of four (4) pieces of Rodin sculpture which he believes to be authentic. Mr. Elsen has examined two of these pieces and for subjective reasons best known to him, Mr. Elsen has formed the opinion that said pieces are not genuine. Another noted art expert has expressed a contrary view.

“Had Mr. Elsen let this matter rest, there would have been no significant problem. However, for unexplained reasons, Mr. Elsen has personally undertaken a campaign to discredit and damage Mr. Schattle and to destroy the value of Mr. Schattle’s sculptures.

“I am enclosing herewith a copy of Mr. Elsen’s unsolicited letter of Aug 3, 1977 addressed to Mr. Jerry Jensen of Channel 7 news. You will note that the letter is on Stanford University stationery and makes reference to Mr. Elsen’s position at Stanford University. This letter is libelous on its face in that it accuses Mr. Schattle of ‘trying to con unsuspecting businessmen into buying four unique Rodin sculptures….’ Other references in the letter are equally as damaging and distasteful.

“Furthermore, Mr. Elsen admits that he has thwarted the sale of my client’s sculptures and it has come to my attention that Mr. Elsen has contacted the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the District Attorney of Santa Clara County, and the Palo Alto Police Department in an effort to have unfounded criminal charges files against Mr. Schattle. Elsen has engaged in other activities which are equally as bizarre and damaging to my client’s reputation and financial interests, but it would serve no purpose to detail such activity in this letter. Suffice it to say that this office is in the process of preparing a complaint against Mr. Elsen on behalf of Mr. Schattle to recover damages resulting from Mr. Elsen’s conduct.

“The purpose of this letter is to determine whether or not Stanford University should be included as a party defendant in this matter. Mr. Elsen’s libelous letter was written on Stanford University stationery and he has apparently represented himself to the news media and the police authorities as speaking on behalf of the University. If in fact Stanford University has authorized, ratified, or affirmed Mr. Elsen’s conduct in this matter I will, of course, have no choice but to name the University as a party defendant. If Mr. Elsen was acting as an individual without the authority of the University I would refrain from naming Stanford as a party to this litigation.

“Therefore, I would appreciate hearing from your representative in the immediate future concerning the posture of the University in this matter. If I do not hear anything from you within two weeks of the date of this letter, I shall have no choice other than to proceed with the litigation with the University as a party defendant. I hope that you would give this matter your immediate attention and I am looking forward to hearing from your representative in this regard.”

John J. Schwartz, University Counsel, with a copy to Albert Elsen, sent Stanford’s response on June 5, 1978.

“Dear Mr. Hawkins:

“I am responding to your letter of May 25, 1978 to President Lyman. In answer to your question, please be advised that Stanford University has not authorized, ratified or affirmed the action to which you refer.”

The lawsuit against Elsen, duly amended, was filed on December 22, 1978.

An initial impression would certainly be that this litigation appears to be based on a sharp difference of subjective opinion between a highly aggressive, opinionated expert with very little self-control on the one hand and another individual who is in possession of art work that the published expert believes to unoriginal.

Both the letter and the actions of Elsen could well indicate that the art professor had become so outraged at the thought of fakes being marketed that his zeal overcame whatever common sense he might possess, causing him to overreact to the point where provable and actionable indiscretions were committed.

On the other hand, the violence and apparent malice of Elsen’s reaction is certainly out of character for the occupant of the Walter A. Haas Chair of Art History at a prestigious and wealthy university.

Sedate institutions of higher learning do not, as a rule, condone members of their faculty engaging in distasteful public vendettas and in this case, quickly and officially distanced themselves from the specter of an ugly lawsuit with a potential for negative publicity for both the institution and one of its more prominent and tenured staff members.

Albert Elsen was not a stranger to media attention and had been presenting himself with vigor in the local press for some time prior to the Schattle suit. He was very evidently not the sort of individual to keep his opinions, correct or otherwise, to himself.

Albert Edward Elsen was born in New York City in 1927 and obtained his PhD at Columbia University in 1955. From 1952 to 1958, he was associate professor of art at Carleton College in Minnesota, later an associate professor at Indiana University from 1958 to 1962 and a full professor from 1963 to 1968. Elsen had been engaged by Stanford as a professor of art history in 1968.

Among his publication credits are two works that deal specifically with the works of Auguste Rodin: Rodin’s Gates of Hell in 1960 and Rodin in 1963.

In February of 1974, the San Francisco Bay Area press carried several stories about a large gift of Rodin works to Stanford University by one B. Gerald Cantor, a Los Angeles investment banker.

As reported, the initial gift consisted of an incredible 88 pieces of Rodin’s work and this largess was increased by an additional seventy more Rodin sculptures from the cultivated and benevolent banker. The press stories also mentioned that Cantor was donating a large sum of cash to Stanford to establish a ‘Rodin Sculpture Garden.’

Elsen was quoted very often in print as saying that all of these pieces had been made during Rodin’s lifetime, the last one completed “a few months before Rodin’s death in 1917.”

Nearly all of the pieces were bronzes and all, without exception, bore the signature ‘A. Rodin’ and most noteworthy, the French foundry marking, ‘Georges Rudier/Fondeur, Paris.’

Elsen and Cantor both stated repeatedly to the press that this impressive collection was valued at $3 million, five hundred thousand at current art market prices.

Lengthy, well-illustrated local press coverage contained statements by Elsen about the importance of this huge collection of original Rodin works and all of these articles were graced with large photographs of Elsen himself in proximity to the Cantor gifts.

As Mr. Cantor, the generous benefactor, had also included a cash bequest of over $ 200 thousand so that the University could create the ‘Rodin Sculpture Garden,’ University publications produced articles lauding Mr. Cantor’s generosity and vision. Pictures accompanying the Stanford articles showed the beaming donor standing in proximity to several of his gifts.

Over the next three years, relative quiet descended on the subject of Rodin and his bronzes, broken only by occasional press releases generated by Elsen and the University about the progress of the ‘Rodin Sculpture Garden’ at Stanford’s aging and earthquake-damaged museum complex.

One article did appear in the San Francisco ‘Chronicle’ that did not laud the brilliance of Albert Edward Elsen, the great generosity of B. Gerald Cantor or the advantages to society in general of a Rodin sculpture garden.

This was a piece in a Sunday supplement by Alfred Frankenstein, also a published art historian, art critic for the ‘Chronicle’, lecturer on art at Stanford University and a personal friend of Albert Elsen.

In this article, Frankenstein made very pointed, though not specific, mention of the “recent appearance of four fake Rodin pieces in the Bay Area.”

Prior to the appearance of this article, on April 6, 1974, George Schattle kept an appointment he had made with Rodin expert Elsen at the latter’s home on Alvarado Row on the Stanford campus. Schattle brought two bronze works of art with him for this meeting.

Several years previously, in 1972, Schattle had bought four crated statues from the Ryan family of Newport Beach, California. One of the family members was acquainted with Schattle’s mother and as Mr. Schattle was a collector of old arms and armor, the Ryans felt that the old statues stored in their garage since the end of the Second World War might be of interest to him because of their connection with Hermann Goering. As they told Schattle at the time, one of their relatives had found the crates on Goering’s abandoned private train in Bavaria at the end of the war.

The custom-built crates and their markings appeared to be entirely authentic but it was not possible for Schattle to determine the value of the statues inside. As Professor Elsen was a well-publicized Bay Area expert and had appeared often, and at length, in the local media on the subject of Rodin, Schattle contacted him for his professional opinion of the pieces and their possible value for reasons of obtaining insurance.

Elsen, according to Schattle’s subsequent deposition, appeared to be very agitated when told that these pieces had once been the property of Hermann Goering and had, according to the labels on the crates, been acquired by the Germans in Poland in 1939. He stated that these pieces had been obviously stolen by the “evil Nazis and had to be returned at once.” Citing his credentials, Elsen offered to act as a disinterested party in returning what he called “Nazi loot.”

Initially, after Elsen had inspected the pieces, there was no talk about them being fake but when Schattle refused to discuss returning them to Polish custody, Elsen, again according to the deposition, became alarmingly angry and said in a loud voice that he now determined that both the pieces were very recent fakes and could not be sold by Schattle without his certainly being arrested for possession of stolen material.

Elsen then renewed his offer to take “protective custody” of the pieces and thereby relieve Schattle of any further possibility of prosecution. Schattle again declined and left Elsen in what he described, and what seems entirely believable considering Elsen’s behavior, as a “very loud, incoherent rage. He shouted at me that if I didn’t immediately give him all of these Rodin pieces, he would have me arrested that night by the FBI.”

It would seem that Albert Edward Elsen did not number an understanding of basic logic among his many virtues because if the pieces were recent fakes, as Elsen alleged, they could not at the same time be loot from 1939 Poland.

The next day, Elsen wrote a long letter to Schattle setting forth his own esthetic and very subjective reasons why all of the pieces were obvious fakes. Since the angry expert had only seen two of the four, this judgment could only be considered as faulty at best.

As example of his polished, professional writing, Elsen’s last sentence read:

“In neither sculpture is the finishing and patina up to Alexis Rudier (sic) standards. I gather from you that the Victor Hugo was repatined. It is a lousy job.”

As Schattle merely wanted approximate values of his pieces for insurance purposes, he then turned to Thomas Carr Howe, former director of the San Francisco Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum, an institution that possessed a large collection of original Rodin works that had been purchased prior to the sculptor’s death in 1917.

Mr. Howe had also been deeply involved with the recovery and identification of looted German art following the end of the war in Europe and was able to favorably address not only the originality of the four bronzes but also the distinctive, custom-made wooden crates in which they came.

He duly authenticated the pieces in writing and there the matter remained until the Frankenstein article.

When Mr. Schattle called the editorial department of the ‘Chronicle’ to complain about the implications of fraud contained in the article, he was informed by legal counsel for the paper that since the Schattle name had not appeared in the article nor the pieces specifically identified, no actual damages had occurred and therefore no retraction of any kind would issue.

When later called by Schattle, Alfred Frankenstein refused to speak with him other than to inform him, very emotionally, as Schattle reported in his deposition, “gangs of Nazis were behind this and have been attacking poor Al Elsen.”

Schattle said later when interviewed for this article, that he had visions of very elderly SS men, armed with walkers and canes, throwing refuse on Elsen’s crabgrass-infested front lawn on Alvarado Row.

Subsequent to the publication of the Frankenstein article, Elsen had learned of Howe’s authentication of the questioned pieces and bombarded the retired museum head with numerous, aggressive telephone calls, urging him to withdraw his opinion. Howe eventually did so in a formal letter to Schattle but without questioning their authenticity. He merely withdrew permission to use his name but did not state that the bronzes in question were fake.

In an interview with a member of the media, the notes of the reporter who later spoke with Howe quoted him as saying, “I am too old and I do not want to get into a pissing match with Al Elsen.”

It was shortly after this that the Basilisk Press sent out its momentous flyer.

Subsequently, a Ms. Gay Morris, art critic for the Palo Alto Times, a small paper in the town adjacent to Stanford University, wrote a letter to the Press and was at once contacted by a Mr. MacGregor who claimed to be a director of the firm. It was subsequently disclosed that Ms Morris was a former pupil of the great Rodin expert.

Mr. MacGregor told the art critic a good deal about the book, its author and the new Rodin collection at Stanford. Somehow in the conversation, MacGregor intimated that Mr. Jerry Jensen, a well-known local television personality, was interested in the pieces at Stanford and he implied, according to Elsen’s letter to Jensen, that there was some question about the authenticity of this collection.

This information was obviously given to Elsen by his former pupil and this resulted in the disastrous letter.

As if this imputation of chicanery was not enough of a provocation to Elsen, he then received in the mail from an unknown source, a copy of what was purported to be a news article from an undated and unidentified.

“And more news of local travelers…. Harvey and Joan Kildrup (he’s head of the Ardeth Grange) have returned from three weeks in Palm Springs with beautiful tans and four unique works of art by famed French artist August (sic) Rodin. A previous owner was the infamous Nazi bigwig Herman Goring (sic). The Kildrups will be entertaining Dr. Frederick Hasek, Rodin authority who arranged the sale, this summer. Also included in their purchases is a painting by Claude Monet which once hung in Goring’s (sic) office.”

Upon receipt of this undated, unidentified and anonymous item, Elsen immediately contacted various local offices of both state and federal law enforcement agencies, including a futile attempt to speak personally with the Attorney General of the United States. Elsen also contacted as many members of the local media as he could find.

Several reporters later indicated in their articles, most of which were written tongue in cheek, that Albert Elsen was verging on hysteria and extremely difficult to understand.

An article appearing in the Palo Alto ‘Times’ of August 19, 1977, disclosed that there was no municipality by the name of Ardeth in the continental United States and when the FBI attempted to locate an Ardeth Grange at Elsen’s repeated insistence, they found that no such farmer’s organization chapter ever existed.

At this point, it could be quite reasonably assumed that Professor Elsen had certainly overreacted to provocation that was transparently false. His verbal explosions could well be ascribed to territorialism for Elsen was, by his own oft-repeated statements, the leading American expert on Rodin, but his injudicious letter to Jensen appeared to be far more concerned with the contents of the alleged forthcoming book on Rodin fakes than in exposing art work he felt was not original.

The basic thrust of the letter, which had obviously been triggered by the anonymous clipping that appeared to be the creative and malicious work of persons still unknown, appeared to be far more of a frantic and insistent demand to know what had been written about the faking of Rodin statues than to address Mr. Schattle’s Polish pieces, though Elsen did manage to attack them with his usual disconnected venom as well.

Perhaps Professor Elsen had been further provoked by Mr. Jensen’s probing into the art circles of the Bay Area.

On June 7 of that year, nearly a month before Elsen wrote his letter, Jensen contacted a number of institutions and experts to verify certain controversial matters that were contained in his copy of the Hasek manuscript.

Jensen’s notes of the contacts contain considerable information not generally in the public domain nor highly unlikely to ever be so.

From a Ms. Cameron of the staff of the De Young Museum in San Francisco, he learned concerning Rodin bronzes that a “Paris factory is churning them out and selling them world wide.”

His next call, according to his notes, was to Ian White of the Palace of the Legion of Honor Museum, also in San Francisco, who, upon being read quotations from the manuscript, said they were “essentially true” but referred Jensen to Elsen for any further comment.

Jensen also contacted fellow Bohemian Club member, Thomas Carr Howe who acknowledged seeing the Schattle Rodins and indicated that they appeared original but that Elsen had disagreed with him. Among other remarks about Elsen, Howe also added that art fakery was “the most lucrative pastime in the world…if you can get away with it.”

Jensen’s last call was to Alfred Frankenstein, a personal friend of both himself and Albert Elsen. Frankenstein had apparently been well-briefed on the subject by Elsen so when Jensen asked him about the allegations in the manuscript, Frankenstein cut him off and claimed that he was well aware of the book and stated that it was written by someone trying to make money by “spreading lies about the art world.” He flatly refused to discuss the matter until Jensen supplied him with a full copy of the manuscript.

Jensen did not do so and the immediate result of his refusal was a quick chilling of his relationship with Frankenstein.

Apparently, there was considerable activity behind the scenes following these calls because Jensen received a personal telephone call on September 15, 1977 from Dr. Wallace Sterling, President Emeritus of Stanford and an old friend. It deserves to be quoted from Jensen’s notes in full.

“Received a call this AM from W. Sterling, former Pres of Stanford. Old Friend. Ster. sez ‘What’s all this about the Rodins?’ When told about findings, sez, ‘Isn’t all of this just a matter of opinion?’ Understood someone is putting out slanderous statements about the originality of the Cantor donation and poss. income tax fraud. ‘I don’t think we need this.’ Rep, tax angle not in question but only originality of Stanford pieces/gifts. St. sez ‘We have chance of becoming Rodin study center…good PI.’ Mentioned letter from Elsen. St. sez ‘Al Elsen is an asset to the University’ but admits’ he beats his own drum too much.’ Asked if Elsen gets fees from outside appraisals, sez ‘We are very liberal in our policy about outside income.’ Also wants complete copy of book, sez ‘Al Frankenstein beating my ear about this one.’ Sez he knows nothing about Schattle but also ‘Al thinks he owns Rodin, lock, stock and barrel and gets upset when challenged. No crime though, just a personality problem.’ Sez ‘Hope we can resolve this without any further media coverage.’

In the event, Dr. Sterling’s apprehensions did not materialize because Mr. Jensen decided against airing any of his findings.

His notes indicated that he felt the story was on the verge of getting out of control and causing acute problems for many people who were personal friends.

He also mentioned that Sterling had offered him the possibility of a lucrative public relations job at the University, obviously to assist him in his decision about any airing of the entire matter.

No further comments from Dr. Sterling, who died shortly afterwards, appear in Jensen’s notes.

When asked about the matter later by a student reporter for the Stanford Daily, Jensen stated that he had no contact with Elsen prior to receiving the letter that led to the lawsuit and concluded his interview of March 1, 1979 by saying:

“I have no idea, in God’s name, what led him to write that letter. He might have heard from other sources that I may have done research that could lead to something embarrassing.”

The question of the originality of the Schattle Rodins is basically a difference of subjective opinion between art experts but the matter of the Hasek manuscript is not as clear cut.

Basilisk Press, which claimed to be bringing forth a book on fake Rodin bronzes as well as the simple technical means by which such fakes could be detected by possible purchasers or even owners, was housed in a commercial building that hosted a telephone answering service and mail drop concern. Investigation has disclosed that Basilisk Press was not licensed to operate in the city or county of Santa Clara or any other county of the State of California.

A search of the records of the Library of Congress and other public sources does not show any publication entitled Rodin: The Anatomy of a Fraud by Frederick Hasek. Basilisk Press has apparently never published any books at all and yet a manuscript obviously did exist because Mr. Jensen read parts of it to various individuals.

The only known copy of the work was located in Mr. Jensen’s files after his death in 1984. It was in a file filled with typed notes on the subject of fake Rodin pieces and the activities of Albert Elsen. Some of these notes have been reprinted here.

The Hasek manuscript is basically a work concerned with an overview of art frauds, most especially frauds concerning Auguste Rodin, a history of the French sculptor and a fascinating section on the manufacture of bronze works of art and how fakes or copies of known famous bronzes can be easily detected.

Portions of the Hasek manuscript are set forth here to provide the reader with a strong and highly reasonable explanation for the furious and intemperate actions of Professor Albert Elsen and others who shared a strong vested interest in avoiding any controversy whatsoever concerning Auguste Rodin and his works.

“Fakery, fraud and deceit have long been handmaidens to the Muse of the Fine Arts and the marketplace for sculpture and paintings is no place for the uninitiated. Yet every day, thousands of dollars worth of allegedly original and rare pieces change hands, enriching the few and deluding the many.”

This is the opening of the work and the author goes on to be far more specific.

“An original piece by any artist, be it Rodin or Da Vinci, is one that the artist conceived and at least partially executed in his lifetime. Anything else, regardless of whatever euphonious title be applied to it: ‘authorized,’ ‘post-mortem work,’ or ‘posthumous casting’ is nothing more nor less than a modern copy, worth only a small fraction of the price of an original. Further, a modern piece taken from an unsigned original plaster study and carrying a copy of the signature of the purported artist is nothing less than a forgery and of even less worth than a replica which originally bore the artist’s name.”

Examining the career of Rodin, the author continues:

“…. in November of 1913, Rodin angrily demanded that a work, ‘The Earth’ attributed to him and on display at the gallery of a Parisian dealer be seized as a forgery. Shortly thereafter, it was conclusively proved that the piece had in fact been done by Rodin himself in 1898 and displayed by him at the Exposition Rodin. Confronted with this evidence, Rodin freely admitted that he had been in error. This episode is an excellent example of why ‘absolute’ statements must be viewed with great caution.”

There follows a technical discussion of the preparation of molds of sculpture and the techniques for the casting of bronze works. It concludes with the passage:

“The general impression that ‘original molds’ of plaster exist into which molten bronze is poured is completely incorrect in point of fact and if used, would prove to be dangerous in the extreme, the plaster exploding on contact with the hot metal.

“The rubber mold may be used time and time again to produce more wax pieces but every bronze must be hand done and is not poured into a mold like a lead soldier.”

And further:

“The statement, so often heard, that ‘Rodin pieces are cast with his consent from original molds’ is completely false and a deliberate attempt to mislead prospective purchasers. What does exist in Paris at the Museé Rodin are original plasters…and bronzes…and it is from these that new molds are made and from these new molds, new copies. This is called surmoulage and the resulting pieces are replicas, to be more than generous, not ‘authorized pieces from original patterns.'”

This section ends with specifics that need no comment:

“How is it possible, then, to detect a fake Rodin made in this manner if it is made up from original bronzes or an original plaster?

“Firstly, if the piece is taken from an original bronze, it should be noted that bronze shrinks as it cools from the molten state and therefore a copy will always be smaller than the original. In the case of bronze, the shrinkage amounts to 5%. Attempts have been made to offset this shrinkage by adding small amounts of wax to the base of the waxen form prior to casting. This will serve to bring the height up to the correct size but the width cannot be altered.

“Secondly, the foundry markings on copy Rodin pieces are of great importance. In Rodin’s time, he very often used the famous Parisian firm of Alexis Rudier. This gentleman did not use the lost-wax process described here but instead, cast his pieces in fine sand.

“This is called sand casting as opposed to lost-wax casting and the interiors of the pieces show very clearly what process was used. Lost-wax pieces show details of the painting or pouring of the wax while sand cast pieces have an even, slightly gritty inner surface (which can be smoothed out but is still very uniform.)

“Original Rodin pieces show the foundry marks, ‘Alexis Rudier/Fondeur, Paris’ on the outer surface of the bronze, generally at the base near the artist’s signature.

“In 1954, the Museé Rodin began to use the services of one Georges Rudier, nephew of Eugiene, the son of the original Alexis. Georges Rudier, unlike his ancestor, uses the lost-wax casting process and it should become painfully obvious, therefore, that a piece marked ‘Georges Rudier/Fondeur, Paris’ must of necessity be a very modern replica and, of course, not made from ‘the original mold under authority from Rodin himself.’

“Most of these modern surmoulage replicas are badly produced and instead of being carefully patined by hand with heat and chemicals, are painted with a brown lacquer.

“One should note that the collection of the Museé Rodin contains all of the pieces found in Rodin’s studio at the time the collection was taken over by the French government; including many pieces made by Rodin’s students. Also in the collection are many plaster maquettes or small studies for larger pieces. Some of these crude and unsigned plaster studies have appeared on the art market in bronze, signed ‘A.Rodin’ and with the Georges Rudier foundry signature. The original studies were never signed and as examples of the artist’s work in progress (if they were even done by Rodin and not an eager pupil) have some small value but small value indeed when compared with the selling prices of known originals.”

The final comment on the subject of copies is:

“A general rule of thumb in measuring a casting to determine its pedigree is the 5% figure. A work which approximates 5% less in size than a known prime copy is a secondhand work without question and most certainly neither original nor of any value whatsoever other than a decorative piece with which to impress visitors.”

In a published interview with a student reporter from the Stanford ‘Daily’ on February 16, 1979, Charles Hawkins, Schattle’s attorney said he believed the case would hold “some surprises” and felt that it would be quickly resolved but that it if wasn’t concluded within a month, it could open up a whole new issue.

“What we might get into in this case is that Stanford might be holding $3 million in fakes.”

This admonition must have had some effect because Elsen suddenly stopped preparing regular press releases attesting to the absolute authenticity of the Cantor bequest and two months later, with no press coverage whatsoever, quietly settled the case out of court. The terms of the settlement were never made public and are not a part of the official records now located in the courthouse annex in San Jose.

Mr. Jensen’s notes indicate that after the settlement, Professor Elsen made repeated and very vocal attempts to contact him to discover how Elsen’s letter had ended up in the hands of George Schattle. Jensen declined to speak with Elsen and after the furious Rodin expert made a number of additional but equally fruitless calls on the same subject to other staff members at KGO-TV in San Francisco, he gave up his quest.

Jensen made one final note on the case before he closed his files. This dealt with the sale of the Hasek manuscript on Rodin fakes to parties whom Jensen called “concerned, interested and very influential parties from the higher reaches of the art world” for an undisclosed but apparently impressive sum of money. Jensen was requested by the purchasers, whom Jensen listed by name, title and occupation, to surrender his copy of the manuscript. He claimed that he had disposed of it by giving it to his former friend, Alfred Frankenstein. As the latter had very recently died as the result of a massive heart attack, the purchasers abandoned their pursuit.

Jensen obviously did not dispose of the manuscript and it was subsequently found in his papers, quite intact and covered with the late newsman’s notes.

Jensen’s last note said:

“Al Frankenstein was wrong after all. If someone wrote a book telling lies about the art world, the autor managed to convince the big boys otherwise.”

The four Rodin statues that began the controversy were reported in the media as having been sold by Mr. Schattle for an undisclosed but substantial sum.

There were no further public comments from Professor Albert Edward Elsen when news of this sale became public.

Rodin: The Anatomy of a Fraud was written in 1977 and one statement made at the conclusion of the manuscript is now in error.

“There is another use to which replica art may be put besides merely merchandising it to the trusting and innocent. Wealthy individuals are known to buy up quantities of replicas and then make some kind of arrangement with a willing expert whereby the latter will supply an appraisal attesting to the high intrinsic value of the items.

“Armed with this, and often with the further assistance of the expert, the owner of the pieces now poses as a philanthropist and distinguished patron of the arts and in this role, donates the replicas to a public, non-profit institution such as a museum or public gallery. He is then able to declare this gift on his income tax return and take a massive deduction based, not on the purchase price, but the appraisal value.”

In 1986, the tax laws were altered to specifically to prevent this from happening. From that year onwards, the only sum a donor of art objects to a tax-free entity cam claim is the actual purchase price of the piece or pieces, not an inflated valuation supplied by a potentially venial expert.

Perhaps this aspect of the manuscript was what Mr. Jensen meant when he spoke of “something embarrassing.”

The chronicle of the four Rodin pieces is such an interesting microcosm of the more negative aspects of the human condition in general and the fine art market in specific that its study has proven to be well worth the research involved.

There seems to be no question that it is relatively easy to make fake copies of original bronze works of art. Merchandising them, one can clearly see, calls for the cooperation of a willing expert. but in reading through the thick files of official documents, letters, notes, records of depositions and yellowing newspaper clippings, the reader is struck by what most certainly appears to be a pattern of very malicious manipulation of individuals and establishments.

The chronology of events would seem to indicate that the elusive but quite deadly manuscript that caused so much trouble appeared after Mr. Schattle had his personal encounter with Professor Elsen.

It also seems reasonably certain that someone, perhaps Mr. Schattle but more probably someone else, had taken the measure of both the art world and one of its more emotional spokesmen and played on all of them like an out of tune piano.

Two decades after the final settlement was made, the questioned pieces sold and Elsen retired to his classroom to lick his wounds, most of the participants are dead and rapidly forgotten.

Mr. Howe, Jerry Jensen, Dr. Sterling, Alfred Frankenstein and a number of others have left the stage. B. Gerald Cantor gave more of his interesting pieces to Stanford’s Rodin Sculpture Garden, which resulted in a small article in the local press, and then joined the others in their very long silence. Only Albert Edward Elsen and George Schattle remain and somewhere, there are four Rodin bronze statues, which produced a great deal of entertaining sound and fury, signifying absolutely nothing.


At the beginning of February, 1995, a copy of this commentary was sent to Professor Albert Elsen, by an academic colleague, for his comments and observations.

On February 5, 1995, a news story came over the Associated Press wire concerning the progenitor of the Rodin Sculpture Garden.

“Stanford-AP  Albert Elsen, a Stanford University art professor and expert on the sculptor Auguste Rodin, has died. He was 67. Mr. Elsen died Thursday of an apparent heart attack.”

$9 million Rodins: Police help get them back to their owner

by Andrea Gemmet

Almanac Staff Writer

April 10, 2001

Four small bronze statues worth $9 million were recently returned to their owner after a disappearance of nearly nine years following a soured business deal with a Menlo Park man.

The story of the statues — which were bought at a Menlo Park garage sale 30 years ago, went missing, and were finally returned to their lucky owner — sounds more like an exciting episode of Antiques Roadshow than a case handled by Menlo Park police detectives.

George Schattle, a Bay Area antique gun collector, discovered four statues by eminent French sculptor Auguste Rodin at a garage sale in 1972. The sculptures are 25 inches tall and weigh 30 pounds each; they are signed and have been authenticated, with an appraised value of $9 million, according to Menlo Park police detective Sgt. Larry Shannon.

In 1992, after Mr. Schattle retired and moved to Mexico, he decided to sell the statues and entered into a sale agreement with Menlo Park resident Robert Devlin, whose girlfriend owned an antique store, said Sgt. Shannon.

Mr. Schattle contacted Menlo Park police in 1996 after repeatedly trying to get back either his statues or the money from their sale from Mr. Devlin, said Sgt. Shannon.

Menlo Park detectives could find no proof of the sale agreement between Mr. Schattle and Mr. Devlin, and handed the matter over to the civil courts.

But, in 1999, Mr. Schattle’s attorney came back to Menlo Park police detectives to ask for their help, and left the entire case file with them, said Sgt. Shannon. In it, detectives discovered the original signed agreement between Mr. Schattle and Mr. Devlin, setting into motion a court battle that landed Mr. Devlin in jail, Sgt. Shannon said.

Mr. Devlin was ordered by a judge to return the statues, and when he failed to do so, was ordered to pay Mr. Schattle $9 million, according to Sgt. Shannon.

When he failed to come up with the money, Mr. Devlin was hauled into court on contempt charges and Menlo Park police were again asked to step in.

Menlo Park police detective Paul Kunkel was one of the detectives who escorted Mr. Devlin from a courtroom to his house and back last August, after a judge ordered him to produce documents showing the statues’ whereabouts. Mr. Devlin refused to and was jailed, said Det. Kunkel.

“The judge went out of his way to give (Mr. Devlin) as much time and latitude as possible, but he was just not doing it,” said Det. Kunkel. “If you don’t follow a judge’s orders, you can end up in lot of trouble and he did. He got put in jail.”

The missing statues showed up less than two weeks later and Mr. Devlin was released from jail, according to Sgt. Shannon. After several postponed court dates, the statues were finally returned to Mr. Schattle in January, and his attorney reports that a prospective buyer has been found in England.

Detective Kunkel said the case is one of the most unusual he has ever been involved in.

“It was really interesting. We don’t deal with a lot of art theft,” he said. “And all of the personalities involved were very interesting.”


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

February 24, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication


Conversation No. 54

Date: Thursday, December 19, 1996

Commenced: 12:12 PM CST

Concluded: 12:38 PM CST


GD: Mrs. Crowley? This is Gregory. Is Robert able to come to the phone?

EC: Yes, dear, he’s much better now. I’ll get him for you. He’s trying to take it easy.

GD: If it’s any problem…

EC: No, no, I’m sure he’ll want to talk to you. Just a moment.

RTC: Gregory? Good to hear from you. I’m really sorry I couldn’t make it to the lunch. Pneumonia got me at the last minute. Did everything go OK? I haven’t heard a word from Kimmel and Bill’s wife is having some kind of medical problems of her own.

GD: It went off fine. A little bizarre if you ask me. By the way, I got the books and I have been going through them. I can certainly use some of your comments later on. Such a compilation of feces.

RTC: Welcome to Washington. Had you ever met Kimmel? I know you never met Bill before.

GD: No, I never had. He’s physically impressive and I’m sure he knows it. Bill looked like I expected him to. I was sitting in the lobby waiting for three people I had never seen and finally in came those two. They walked right by me and were standing in the center of the hallway, you know, the one with the library door on the right?

RTC: Right.

GD: I didn’t see a third person, a tall man with a cane, so I walked up to them and introduced myself. That’s when I learned you had gone to hospital. We stood there making small talk and then went in to lunch. I had crab cakes, which I am very fond of, and they proceeded to impress everyone the table with their knowledge. We had just gotten past Pearl Harbor Day and that was the main theme. Kimmel on my left and Corson on my right, talking back and forth like two Irish maids over the back fence. Corson telling Kimmel about some secret person he met who knew all about the Roosevelt conversations with Churchill and Kimmel all rapt attention. I have to say I didn’t believe a word of it, but Kimmel certainly did. These people do love to go on.

RTC: Did they ask you anything?

GD: Not that I recall. I think they talked more to the waiter than they did to me.

RTC: That’s unfortunate. Again, I’m sorry I missed you. I’m sure we can get together sometime in the future. Was the food good?

GD: Certainly it was. Of course, if you had come, it might have been a little awkward if we wanted to talk. Then, they would both have shut up and turned on their tape recorders. Kimmel did ask me if I spoke very much with you, how often and what did we talk about?

RTC: What did you say? Bill will be asking me.

GD: Trust is wonderful, Robert. I just said that we spoke on and off and my, how good the crab cakes were and how was the campaign going to get the Admiral back his stars? Kimmel went off on that subject but I can’t remember much of it. They have has much chance of rehabilitating Grandpa as they do of finding the Lost Dutchman Mine, but I was not asked for any kind of opinion. I have a feeling that they were greatly honoring me with their presences and I could just sit there, basking in the warm glow from two, count them Robert, two suns. And eating crab cakes while getting a psychic tan.

RTC: No mention of Kennedy?

GD: Now that you mention it, yes there was. Corson asked me if we ever talked about that subject and I managed to look surprised. I said that it had never come up and then Corson said, with a really superior smirk, that when he died, the real truth would come out. It seems he had it in his deposit box. Before I could fall on the floor in awe, he smiled, held up his hand and told me that it was just too sensitive to talk about. He likes people to know that he is conversant with very significant information, given in confidence to him by very important, but unnamed people. I acted awed and they went back to impressing each other. I don’t remember the dessert. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, Robert.

RTC: I understand from one of my friends that Langley is getting quite annoyed with your book. Tell me, have…or rather has, anyone contacted you about this? About any proof about this you might have?

GD: Oh, God yes, Robert. Some weasel is always calling me on my unlisted number. It’s the same silly crap every time. ‘Oh Mr. Douglas, my name is Roger Tinkle and I was really thrilled by your book on Heinrich Muller. A friend of mine is working on another book on him too. He is so excited. Do you think we might come and visit with you? Timmy can bring some documents he has that might be of use to you…by the way, are you going to write another book? When can we come?’

RTC: Pitiful. The staff there has gotten much worse than when I was working. And what do you do?

GD: I would like to invite them over, receive a box of cheap candy as a token of their esteem, whack them over the heads with a croquet mallet, drag them into the garden and shove them into a wood chipper, one at a time, of course, and mulch the garden. Of course, I can’t do any of this, but one can dream. What do I do with these idiot approaches? Tell them to bend over and I’ll drive them home? That would be very rude. No, I act thrilled and I always say that I’m expecting a Russian journalist any day and he, too, wants to see the documents so perhaps we can wait until after he and his photographer leave.

RTC: (Laughter) My, my, that ought to pop the pucker string.

GD: (Laughter) No doubt it does. But think about that for a moment, Robert. The pucker string pops in their office, not my living room. Then it becomes their janitor’s problem, not mine. Listen, while you were incapacitated, I came across a book by someone named Peter Dale Scott. Is he one of yours?

RTC: Why do you ask?

GD: Well, he drags in every silly story I have ever heard. He takes a placid, clear pond and dumps two garbage cans of trash into it. You can’t see the bottom of the pond anymore and the flies are buzzing all over the place. By the garbage I mean the silly stories about men with umbrellas, the grassy knoll, Ruby’s dog, mysterious men in black underwear meeting in a pub in Philly, sabot shells and all the rest of the idiot crap. And by the flies, I mean the airheads who call themselves ‘researchers’ who swarm around like blowflies on pig shit with about as many brains. But what is really funny about this book…it’s on the table here…’Deep Politics and the Death of JFK’ published…oh here we go, the University of California. My, my, and I always thought they put out worthwhile books. But what is really funny is that the author solemnly talks about Occam’s Razor. He said, Occam did,‘entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem,’ which translates into: “Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” Are you into Latin, Robert?

RTC: Not really but you seem to be.

GD: I’m fluent in ten languages, Robert. My sister knows twelve, but she can’t say ‘no’ in any of them. The original good time that’s been had by everybody. Anyway, Occam is dead on. If you take a complex subject like the Kennedy killing, strip away all the silly shit, you will find the answers you need. I think this Scott fellow stuck that in to impress people. Of course he went right on to violate the concept, so I doubt if he had any idea what he was talking about. So few of them really do. I had to stop reading about every third page because I was laughing so loud. He, in essence, covers himself with his own confusion, as with a mantle.

RTC: Is that Occam?

GD: No, Psalm 109, verse 29. There are so many nice things in the Bible. Nice to quote, but as history, as worthless as most of the Kennedy books. Apropos of nothing, speaking of worthlessness, do read some of James Montgomery Burns’ books sometime. He thinks the sun radiated out of Roosevelt’s raddled anus. Burns must have taught Posner his tricks. And if you want to read a really important book, read ‘The True Believer’ by Hoffer. A wonderful book, Robert. I met the man at a book signing at Paul Elder’s in the City once and paid him several visits later. It’s about fanatics and I highly recommend it. Or, if you want to go to sleep, read Hermann Hesse. He could put a speed freak to sleep.

RTC: Well, the body of literature on Kennedy is, as you said, full of yesterday’s dinner, but we like it that way and, in point of fact, we have paid for some of it. We got Posner to whore for us and a number more, but this Scott is not a name I recognize.

GD: But he, his wife and his cousin do. I am certain of that. You know, Robert, I like the outdoors because there are so few people around. I love the forest and every time I read these essays in mendacity, sired by broke-backed academics, I think of all the beautiful trees that were sacrificed for such a worthless cause. That’s a terrible cross for the CIA to bear, along with, naturally, all the killings and disruptions they fathered. No offence meant to you, of course.

RTC: Sometimes you are not kind, Gregory.

GD: Sometimes? Always. Emily said you were resting. Am I keeping you up?

RTC: Not at all. I’m just a little worn out, that’s all. You did get the books? Good. I think you’ll find some interesting notes scattered around in it. And speaking of idiots calling you, I’m going to send you a computer printout with the names of thousands of people like the ones you are talking about. Thousands. Alphabetically listed. I used my own lists and the AFIO lists to put it together. And if someone rings you up and pulls that silly crap on you, you can look them up in the list immediately.

GD: I appreciate that, Robert. Can I publish that?

RTC: I would rather you did not, Gregory. It might stunt a career or two, especially in the media.

GD: They’re stunted to begin with. My late Grandfather, of blessed memory, once said that ‘once a newspaperman always a whore.’

RTC: That’s hardly a constructive thing to say to an impressionable child, do you think?

GD: I told my son that once and now he’s working for a newspaper. They always defy the father, don’t they?

RTC: Not always.

GD: Well, listen, Robert, I am sorry I missed you but I am happy I can talk with you still.

RTC: Oh yes. I still have my case with all the Kennedy material in it. I will have it sent to you when I can find the right person to do it for me.

GD: Thank you very much, Robert, and in advance. If it’s as interesting as the annotated Warren Report, I can write a best-seller.


(Concluded at 12:38 PM CST)





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