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TBR News January 16, 2018

Jan 16 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. January 16, 2018:”In the Ukraine, the new Ukraine established by the machinations of the CIA, there exist a number of very unwholesome internet pornographic sites.

Among these are two really sick ones that deal with child pornography and child sado-machosim. These sites claim they have “protected use” devices which allow a viewer to remain anonymous.

Unfortunately for this concept, Russian computer hackers, working for Wikileaks, have cracked the barriers and fished around inside the sick sites, trolling for the real names and identities of the psychopathic viewers.

Perhaps it is not amazing to discover all manner of names of American legislators, politicians and prominent businessmen.

What do the Wikileaks people plan to do about this?


As Republican viewers seem to be in the distinct majority, it is assumed that the leaks will emerge  before the mid-term elections this coming November.

There has been all kinds of trash put into office in America but the public will certainly not accept lecherous child pornographic addicts. Look what happened to Tim Wiener, the beard of Hillary Clinton’s lady friend.”

Table of Contents

  • Bitcoin, rival cryptocurrencies plunge on crackdown fears
  • The Blight House: Trump’s Presidency Sinks Below Rock Bottom
  • European Foreign Ministers Are Being Forced to Side with Iran
  • Christian Fascism: The Seizure of Power in America
  • Strange Evangelical View of Cro-Magnon Man
  • Neoconning the Trump White House
  • U.S. healthcare uninsured rises most in near decade: Gallup
  • OnePlus phone company investigates card fraud claims

 Bitcoin, rival cryptocurrencies plunge on crackdown fears

by Jemima Kelly

January 16, 2018


LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin slid as much as 18 percent on Tuesday to a four-week low, as fears of a regulatory crackdown on the market spread after reports suggested it was still possible that South Korea could ban trading in cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin’s slide triggered a selloff across the broader cryptocurrency market, with biggest rival Ethereum down 23 percent on the day at one point, according to trade website Coinmarketcap, and the next-biggest, Ripple, plunging by as much as a third.

Bitcoin traded as low as $11,191.59 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange. By 1400 GMT it has edged up to $11,650, but that was still down more than 14 percent, leaving it on track for its biggest one-day fall since September.

Jamie Burke, chief executive of Outlier Ventures, a venture capital firm that is one of the biggest holders of top-10 cryptocurrency IOTA, said the belief the market was overdue a correction was making traders jittery and that was exacerbating the scale of the moves.

“Anybody that understands the technology knows there’s going to be a correction – it’s going to be a big correction and it’s going to be indiscriminate, because there are no established fundamentals for anybody to distinguish between where there is and isn’t value,” Burke said.

“There’s no way you can rationalise that there’s any value in the market at the moment; everything is significantly overpriced,” he added. Burke holds a number of top-20 cryptocurrencies in a personal capacity.

South Korean news website Yonhap reported that Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon had told a local radio station that the government would be coming up with a set of measures to clamp down on the “irrational” cryptocurrency investment craze.

South Korea said on Monday that its plans to ban virtual coin exchanges had not yet been finalised, as government agencies were still in talks to decide how to regulate the market.


That came amid news that a senior Chinese central banker had said authorities should ban centralised trading of virtual currencies and prohibit individuals and businesses from providing related services.

China shut down exchanges operating on the mainland last year – a move that also sparked a selloff, though the market later recovered.

“It’s mainly been regulatory issues which are haunting (bitcoin), with news around South Korea’s further crackdown on trading the driver today,” said Think Markets chief strategist Naeem Aslam, who holds what he described as “substantial” amounts of bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple.

“But we maintain our stance. We do not think that the complete banning of cryptocurrencies is possible,” he said.

Cryptocurrencies enjoyed a bumper year in 2017 as mainstream investors entered the market and as an explosion in so-called initial coin offerings (ICOs) – digital token-based fundraising rounds – drove demand for bitcoin and Ethereum.

The latest tumble leaves bitcoin down around 40 percent from a record high near $20,000 hit in mid-December, wiping about $130 billion off its total market value – the unit price multiplied by the number of bitcoins that have been released into the market.

A director at Germany’s central bank said on Monday that any attempt to regulate cryptocurrencies must be on a global scale as national or regional rules would be hard to enforce on a virtual, borderless community.

The latest plunge in the market came as wealth management firm deVere Group, which has $12 billion under advisement, said it was launching a cryptocurrency app that would allow users to store, transfer and exchange five of the biggest digital coins, citing “soaring global demand”.

Reporting by Jemima Kelly; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

The Blight House: Trump’s Presidency Sinks Below Rock Bottom

More controversy than usual has been swirling around the White House since the beginning of 2018, with Donald Trump losing his temper over a book accusing him of being an ignorant, TV-addicted narcissist. The bad news, though, is that he’s not going away anytime soon.

January 16, 2018

by Christoph Scheuermann


Stephen Miller is one of the people charged with convincing the world that everything is just fine, and nothing is out of the ordinary. The White House speechwriter went on CNN a week ago Sunday for a live interview to comment on “Fire and Fury,” the new book about U.S. President Donald Trump by the journalist Michael Wolff. The tome presents the president as psychologically unstable, as dumb, senile and dangerously erratic. “The book is best understood as a work of very poorly written fiction,” Miller said. “The author is a garbage author of a garbage book.”

Miller is 32 years old, but with his thinning hair and polished visage, he looks like he could be in his early 50s. During the election campaign, he flew back and forth across the country with Trump. “The reality is that the president is a political genius,” Miller said. The accusations leveled in the book, he went on, are grotesque, particularly the quotes attributed to Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, who Miller denounced as being “vindictive.” During the course of the interview, he got so worked up that the anchor, Jake Tapper, finally put an end to it, with security guards ultimately leading Miller out of the studio.

Miller’s appearance shows the absurd depths to which the debate over the Trump presidency has sunk. There was, though, at least one viewer who enjoyed the speechwriter’s fit of rage. “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller,” Trump tweeted. Just a few hours earlier, he had sent out a series of tweets seeking to assure the world of his excellent mental health. He accused the Democrats and their media “lapdogs” of only questioning his mental stability because, as he claimed in a tweet, suppositions of collusion with Russia have “proven to be a total hoax.”

“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” he tweeted on Sunday morning. He wrote that he went from being a “VERY successful” businessman to TV stardom and then to the presidency. “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”

Of course, that’s not how a healthy person talks — it is the voice of mania. And the patient, unfortunately, is the most powerful man in the world, a man who is resented even by his closest aids. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin called Triump an “idiot.” Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, said the president is “dumb as shit,” and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster described Trump as a “dope.” All of these quotes are from “Fire and Fury,” and there could hardly be better corroboration of their veracity than Trump’s outbursts on Twitter and elsewhere. Trump’s behavior is childish, and he has now become obsessed with a book that he hasn’t even read, nor is he likely to.

Incidence of Lunacy

Yet the real-life satire that Trump and his team are currently staging isn’t just another incidence of lunacy. It is a deeply problematic political headache that raises fundamental questions.

How powerful can a superpower be when its leader is beset by increasing calls for his dismissal? Such a thing is possible, in theory at least, either through impeachment or the application of the 25th amendment, which allows for the replacement of a president who is no longer in a position to fulfill his duties for reasons of physical or mental health.

More important, however, is the question as to how Trump — if he gets this upset because of a book — might react in a real crisis. What might he do if North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un lays down the gauntlet? Can Trump really be trusted with control of America’s nuclear arsenal?

The West, it is clear, finds itself in an extremely dangerous situation with this president at the helm in the United States. With his erratic style, Trump has destabilized the alliance with Europe and put wind in the sails of the West’s enemies, including autocrats in China, Russia and the Middle East.

His trips abroad have shown that he feels more comfortable in Riyadh than in Brussels, that he has more fun doing the sword dance with princes than having dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Trump has transformed the U.S. into a country without a leader. There is hardly a diplomat or head of government anymore who takes what the president says seriously. America can no longer be relied upon.

In just 12 months in office, Trump has made a nuclear war with North Korea conceivable and undermined the principle of international cooperation by terminating trade deals, weakening climate protection, cutting funding for UN organizations and questioning the nuclear deal with Iran. In doing so, he has not only endangered the Western model, but also liberal democracy itself.

And as Wolff’s book shows, it all comes out of a combination of ignorance, narcissism, hunger for power and a lack of compassion. The book’s publication marks a new low point in U.S. history — even for those who thought the country had already hit rock bottom.

Surrounded by Sycophants

Trump, of course, isn’t the first occupant of the White House who has been sick, complicated or difficult to tolerate. Richard Nixon was widely seen as short-tempered, as a liar and an alcoholic. Many questioned Ronald Reagan’s health even before he took the oath of office. And Bill Clinton used his power for sexual escapades.

It also isn’t a new phenomenon for presidents to surround themselves with sycophants who then speak poorly of their boss behind his back. What is new, though, is the cynicism with which Trump’s advisers serve a man who they see as incompetent, crazy and sick. Wolff writes that White House staff members discuss on a daily basis which statements uttered or actions taken by Trump might trigger the invocation of the 25th Amendment. Trump, he writes, isn’t mentally fit enough to carry out his duties, nor did he really want to win the election in the first place. He was, the author asserts, only interested in increasing the value of the Trump brand.

Wolff describes a dysfunctional White House that oscillates between hysteria and chaos. He speaks of bitter infighting between Bannon and “Jarvanka,” a reference to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. He writes of feuds, leaks and an uninterested president who retreats to his bedroom at 6:30 p.m., eats cheeseburgers, watches Fox News, talks to friends on the telephone and vents on Twitter.

Wolff’s main character and likely his most important source is Stephen Bannon, who was Trump’s chief strategist until last August and who was widely considered to be the most powerful man in the White House after the president himself. Trump’s Mephisto. Indeed, it is Bannon’s quotes in the book that have angered Trump the most. In an official White House statement, he wrote: “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Joshua Green says that Bannon simply wasn’t cautious enough in his conversations with Wolff. Green is a journalist with Bloomberg Businessweek and knows Bannon better than almost anyone else. Last July, he published “Devil’s Bargain,” a bestseller about the Trump-Bannon alliance. Bannon’s ego, says Green, is just as large as that of Trump — and he ultimately fell victim to his own narcissism.

Even former Bannon supporters have begun casting doubt upon the role he played as a Trump adviser. Trump’s agenda had long been established before Bannon came on board, Roger Stone, a long-time Trump adviser said in an interview with Fox News. From Fox News to the conspiracy-theory worlds of websites like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit, Bannon is now being portrayed as unstable and self-absorbed.

A Self-Proclaimed Revolutionary

Green, though, doesn’t believe that Bannon’s influence on Trump was overstated. The president, he says, has always been plagued by a fear of losing his connection to his base and Bannon, via Breitbart, provided an important link to his voters. “But Wolff’s book enraged Trump to the point where it didn’t matter to him anymore who Bannon was,” he says.

Bannon’s fall began last April, when Kushner and McMaster pushed him out of the National Security Council. In August, he was then forced to leave the White House. Even after that, though, Trump continued to maintain contact with Bannon. But now, the one-time presidential adviser has been excommunicated by the right wing, his half-hearted apology notwithstanding. The family of the arch-conservative hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, who holds a stake in Breitbart and who donated millions to the Trump campaign, withdrew his support for Bannon. Not only was Bannon forced to leave Breitbart (his “killing machine,” as he called it), he also lost his radio show.

The self-proclaimed revolutionary and destroyer of the establishment now finds himself without a platform for his ideas about withdrawing America from the international community and the greatness that allegedly grows out of isolation. But it doesn’t appear as though he is going to disappear entirely.

After being thrown out of the White House, Bannon went on a world tour, to Hong Kong, Tokyo and Abu Dhabi. Green says he can imagine Bannon taking a closer look at Europe with the intention of providing his services to populist parties there. “He closely followed the careers of Frauke Petry and the AfD,” he says, referring to the German right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany and its one-time leader. Green says Bannon has also kept an eye on Marine Le Pen in France and Beppe Grillo in Italy. Bannon, Green is certain, will land on his feet.

“Plus, there are always rich people looking for influence and for a way to get in,” he says.

The ideologue remaining from Bannon’s “nationalist revolution” is Stephen Miller, a man who, Wolff asserts, is unable to write in complete sentences, communicating instead in bullet points. According to an account in the book, Bannon used to refer to Miller as “my typist.” He is the opposite of an intellectual, as unlikely to read a book as the president.

Many of the problems Trump has can be traced back to his inability to recruit able advisers. And even those who do work hard on his behalf are treated as serfs.

His treatment of Reince Priebus, his former chief of staff, is symptomatic. Priebus knew that he was going to be fired, but he wanted to ensure a smooth succession rather than a sudden break. On the return flight from an appearance in New York on board Air Force One, the president urged Priebus to take his time. “You tell me what works for you,” Trump said, according to Wolff. “Let’s make it good.” But just a few minutes later, after they had landed, Priebus checked his mobile phone and found a tweet from Trump, saying that John Kelly had been named the new chief of staff.

The degree of carelessness Trump has displayed when choosing his closest advisers can best be seen in the recruitment of his national security adviser. It’s one of the most important jobs in the White House; the adviser is charged with presenting options to the commander-in-chief, many of them having to do with military strikes or secret operations.

Trump’s first candidate, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign after just 24 days because he had lied to the vice president about a meeting he had held with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. After Flynn’s departure, Trump invited the former diplomat John Bolton to an interview. Bolten is a hardliner with experience in both foreign and security policy; he was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for a time under George W. Bush. But there was something about Bolton that Trump didn’t like, Wolff writes: his moustache. “Trump doesn’t think he looks the part,” Bannon said, according to the author.

Kushner then proposed McMaster, a short, heavyset, bald veteran of the Gulf War, a man who wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the Vietnam War. McMaster’s weakness, though, is his fondness for lecturing and he held forth about global strategies during his interview with Trump. “That guy bores the shit out of me,” Trump allegedly said afterwards.

When the general showed up the next day wearing a rather loosely cut suit instead of his uniform, Trump noted that he looked “like a beer salesman,” according to Wolff. He was only convinced that McMaster had been the right choice after he cut a good figure on morning television a short time later.

The ‘Billionaire Chorus’

Cable television is Trump’s window to the world and he installed a trio of TVs next to each other in his bedroom. Wolff describes how the president mutes the sound in the evening to talk on the phone with what the author calls the “billionaire chorus,” Trump’s superrich friends to whom he feels the closest link. Trump and his wife Melania sleep in separate bedrooms, which makes good sense given the amount of time Trump allegedly spends on the phone.

In fact, Wolff dedicates considerable space in his book to the bedroom. Trump, he writes, is fond of saying that one of the things that makes life worth living is getting your friends’ wives into bed. During his time as a businessman, he allegedly found immense pleasure in the sport. He would sound out friends about their sex lives in his office while their wives listened in on the speakerphone. It’s a pasttime that likely ruined more than one relationship, and Trump was then able to jump in to provide consolation.

Wolff writes that Trump’s brain seems “incapable” of performing some of the simplest of tasks. “He had no ability to plan and organize and pay attention and switch focus.” On a basic level, he writes, “he simply could not link cause and effect.” He also lacks all matter of empathy, which can at times lead to some comical scenes.

Once, Wolff writes, Bannon and Ivanka Trump were standing in the Oval Office when Bannon yelled at her, calling Ivanka a “fucking liar.” Instead of defending his daughter, the president quipped, “I told you this is a tough town, baby.” That was the end of the matter in his mind.

It’s scenes like that which make the book so juicy. “Fire and Fury” doesn’t deliver much in terms of surprises or new information, and politics is not the focus. Wolff seems to be most interested in intrigues, scandals and the question of who hates whom and why? The author himself is an odd beast in the New York media world, bald-headed, diminutive and with alert eyes. A journalist who abhors other journalists, particularly if they work for the New York Times.

Wolff despises what he sees as a moderate, leftist-liberal consensus among the political and journalism elite in New York and Washington. He has carved out a niche for himself with his columns, which range between polemical and toxic and are sometimes even directed at other journalists. He’s not known for balanced viewpoints or for maintaining confidentiality, thus violating the rules of the trade. Journalists in Washington detest him as a result.

Indeed, it didn’t take long before other journalists began sifting through his book on the hunt for mistakes, and they found quite a few. Still, the broad consensus among White House correspondents is that Wolff’s depiction of the inner workings of the Trump administration is accurate for the most part.

Wolff loves gossip, salacious stories about winners and losers. That’s what drew him to Rupert Murdoch, the media-shy media mogul, about whom he wrote a critical book in 2008. Murdoch opened up every door to Wolff, even granting him an interview with his mother, apparently believing he would be able to control the reporter. But when the book came out, Murdoch was outraged and he still harbors deep animosity toward Wolff to this day.

Fly on the Wall

That episode is particularly revealing because it shares a lot of parallels to the current controversy surrounding the Trump book. In this case, too, a billionaire thought the reporter would identify with him and he granted Wolff with access to the White House, where Wolff spent weeks as a fly on the wall, plopped down on a visitor’s sofa and soaking up all the gossip. No one asked him what he was doing there — assuming that the president was alright with his presence. For his part, Trump had probably already forgotten completely about Wolff.

Exposé books about the inner workings of power are a well-established genre. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, who uncovered the Watergate scandal, has filled many a book with West Wing indiscretions. Every president has suffered under the urge their confidantes and staffers have to spill the beans. Paul O’Neill, who served as treasury secretary under George W. Bush, described his former boss in a book as a “blind man in a room full of deaf people.” Former Bill Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos painted an unflattering picture of a president caught up in a maelstrom of extramarital affairs. And former CIA director Leon Panetta described Obama as “vacillating and overly cautious.”

No president likes it when advisers talk. But no other president has been as thin-skinned and overwrought in their reaction to those revelations as Trump. After publication of Wolff’s book, Trump announced he would take a “strong” look at U.S. libel laws. What he would probably prefer to do, though, would be to put his critics on trial and ban the publication of their work, just as his friends in Ankara and Moscow do.

Thinking Like an Autocrat

Trump thinks like an autocrat — he neither knows much nor cares much about the Constitution. Astoundingly, though, the Republican Party continues to stand behind him. Indeed, a bizarre wave of solidarity followed the publication of Wolff’s book.

As recently as this summer, Senator Lindsey Graham could still be heard describing Trump as a “xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot.” He has since become a full-fledged fan of the president. And his Senate colleague Bob Corker, who unleashed on Trump only a few months ago, decrying the president as “mentally unfit” for the job, smiled together with Trump last Monday as they boarded Air Force One.

The two flew to visit farmers in Tennessee — an attempt by Trump to generate headlines and get ahead of the news cycle. As is often the case, he wasn’t particularly adroit in his delivery. “Oh, are you happy you voted for me?” he asked. “You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.”

In recent days, Trump has been sending out contradictory messages. On the one hand, he’s pleading for the wall to be built along the border to Mexico and he wants to deport 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador. On the other, however, he says he is open for compromises on issues like the “Dreamers,” who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

Last Tuesday, he then invited Democrats and Republicans to the White House to negotiate the issue. Normally, those types of talks take place behind closed doors, but Trump invited the press to attend. A bizarre situation ensued in which the senators discussed the issue with the cameras running as Trump sat there with his arms crossed attempting to come across as a bipartisan leader.

That same day, he announced he would travel to the World Economic Forum in Davos, the meeting point for the global financial and political elite — a gathering that represents the root of all evil for people like Steve Bannon. And on Wednesday, it appeared suddenly as if Trump might actually reconsider his plan to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Then, in a Thursday tweet, he appeared to want to limit the power of the intelligence services, only to reverse that a half-day later. Shortly after, he asked why the U.S. had to take in so many immigrants from “shithole” countries.

It’s hard to tell these days what Trump wants and who he wants to be. A hardliner? A dealmaker who transcends the bickering among the parties? Or a softy who is liked by everyone?

It’s likely that he doesn’t have an answer to that question himself.

Impeachment More Unlikely Than Ever

But one thing is certain: At the moment at which it appears the president is most vulnerable, the idea of impeachment seems more unlikely than ever.

Despite the fact that Trump is disastrous for his country and the world, the fact that he is fulfilling many of their most heartfelt wishes has meant that Republicans lack the will to distance themselves from him. Trump supported tax reforms that would supposedly ease the burden on the middle class but are really the equivalent to writing a check worth billions to the wealtiest people in America. The U.S. economy is growing, and the Dow continues to break records. He has appointed officials who are hard at work dismantling environmental and climate protection measures — moves celebrated by Republicans who view such regulations as unnecessary, and rolling them back can help them attract campaign donors. The fact that Trump’s popularity ratings are terrible seems irrelevant.

If the Republicans were to oust Trump now, it’s likely they would lose the mid-term elections this November. They would no longer be able to push through any major policy initiatives and their prospects for re-electing a Republican president in 2020 would be deeply imperiled. So, it’s unlikely the party will move to trigger the 25th amendment. Besides, removing a president from office under that amendment requires the agreement of a majority of his cabinet or a vote in Congress, which also doesn’t appear likely.

The Democrats themselves don’t even appear to harbor such hopes. Even as the media spent days with blanket coverage of Wolff’s book and Trump’s outbursts over it, the Democrats showed odd restraint.

Former Obama foreign policy adviser Dan Restrepo argues this is the best strategy for dealing with populists. “The Democrats are focusing on things that really matter to people in the country,” he says in a phone interview. “They don’t participate in the daily political theater of Washington and that’s the best solution, both strategically and tactically.” In any case, he says the entire country has been aware for a year now that Donald Trump is no normal president.

But it’s still too early to preclude the possibility that Trump will, at some point, be forced to leave office. Special counsel Robert Mueller, a former head of the FBI, wants to interrogate the president soon, but Trump has vehemently fought to keep that from happening. Mueller’s investigation is primarily looking into whether Trump or his staff are guilty of collusion with the Russian government. Even if those allegations aren’t proven, the investigation could still be dangerous for the president.

One suspicion is that Trump actively sought to intervene in the Russia investigation a year ago, with some believing he may be guilty of obstruction of justice. Were charges to be brought, it is unlikely Trump would survive politically. One of the pillars of the obstruction of justice suspicions is a television interview Trump gave last May in which he openly admitted he had fired FBI head James Comey because of the Russia scandal. Initially, he had claimed that he had only fired Comey based on the Justice Department’s advice.

Mueller is also investigating possible money laundering deals by Trump and his family.

Ten years ago, Trump’s son courted investors from Russia to secure project financing. And money did, in fact, pour in, but not always from reputable sources. In 2008, Trump also sold a mansion in Palm Beach for just under $100 million to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and owned one of the country’s biggest potash businesses at the time. It also happens that Rybolovlev’s name popped up in the “Panama Papers” in the context of offshore bank accounts.

Mueller assembled a team of money laundering experts in order to find out if Trump has made himself vulnerable to blackmail as a result of his ties to Russia. German-owned Deutsche Bank, whose clients include Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, is also the subject of the investigations.

The probes into the family’s business affairs could damage the president’s image and, as such, also the Trump brand given that their company lives largely from the sale of property, perfume and clothing bearing the Trump label. He could quickly lose any interest in the office he holds.

Already, Trump is spending more time in front of the three televisions in his bedroom than he used to. His work day often doesn’t begin until 11 a.m. Before that, his private schedule tends to be filled with “executive time.” The news website Axios has reported that those hours are usually spent watching talk shows, making phone calls and tweeting.

Things probably won’t get any quieter in the coming months, either, given that further books are coming out soon. One of them is Comey’s tell-all, “A Higher Loyalty,” which is due out at the beginning of May. Washington is greedily awaiting the next scandal.


European Foreign Ministers Are Being Forced to Side with Iran

January 12, 2018

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent/UK

President Trump is trying to kill off the nuclear deal with Iran, but at the same time make the Iranians take the blame. Once again today he is expected to waiver re-imposing strict sanctions on Iran, but will threaten to pull out next time round unless Congress and European countries improve the terms of the agreement from the US point of view. He will also announce sanctions against individual Iranian officials for alleged corruption and human rights abuses during the recent street protests in Iran.

But the real aim of US opponents of the nuclear deal signed by President Obama and others in 2015 is to make sure that Iran gets no “peace dividend” out of the agreement and is provoked into walking away from it. Probably, Iranian leaders are too clever to fall into the trap, but Iranian policy is the product of competing power centres in Tehran so what they will decide is neither certain nor necessarily very smart.

The hostility to the deal expressed by Trump already means that foreign banks and companies are deterred from doing business in Iran for fear that sanctions might be slapped back on at any moment. Whatever benefit ordinary Iranians thought they would get out of the deal by way of jobs and an improved standard of living has never happened.

Nor is it likely to: having denounced the deal so often since the presidential election campaign as “the worst in history” Trump is boxed in by his own rhetoric – not that he has ever shown the slightest discomfort at this. He is seeking unilateral changes in the terms of the deal on the US side and a radical re-negotiation on the part of the Iranians and Europeans, neither of which he is likely to get.

Whatever happens in the short term, the Iranian nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action (JCPOA) as it is called, is beginning to resemble the stricken Iranian oil tanker currently adrift and blazing between China and Japan, which will sink or become a burnt-out hulk of no use to anyone.

But, just as Iran looks as if it is going to draw less and less economic benefit from the JCPOA, its political gains from agreement are increasing at home and abroad. President Hassan Rouhani can blame austerity, rising prices and unemployment squarely on Trump and the US. Spontaneous protests inspired by economic grievances that erupted across Iran in the days after 28 December can be demonised as plotted by or playing into the hands of foreign foes since the chief foe, in the shape of Trump, is cheering them on.

Another potential political benefit for Iran has become more evident in the last few days as the issue of the Iranian nuclear deal returns to the top of the news agenda. European states had put a lot of effort since Trump won the presidential election in 2016 into pretending that he was not “the mad woman in the attic” who had somehow taken control of the White House. There were hopes that Trump would simmer down or the great American ship of state would sail on under its own momentum, regardless of the weirdness of the new man at the helm. Foreign governments half-convinced themselves that if you held your nose and pretended that Trump was like other American presidents then he might become like one or else people would not notice that he was not.

But the pretence is getting pretty thin. Just how thin was visible this week as European foreign ministers met with their Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Brussels with the supposed purpose of persuading Iran to curtail its destabilising activities in the Middle East that impact on the nuclear deal. But it did not look like that: if Zarif was indeed being held to account, he was showing no sign of discomfort as he sat beaming at the British, French and German foreign ministers and they beamed back at him. It looked much more as if Iran and the powerful European states, aside from Russia, which is already in the Iranian corner, were presenting a common front against the US in defence of the nuclear deal. “Strong consensus in Brussels today,” tweeted Zarif cheerfully. “Iran is complying with JCPOA.”

Trump may eventually sabotage the nuclear deal, but the US will pay a heavy political price. The Europeans are embarrassed by being pushed into the Iranian corner along with Russia and China, but they do not have a lot of choice on the JCPOA and, increasingly, on other issues. Reluctantly, they are deciding that Trump is the great destabiliser and a far more potent threat to the international order than any danger posed by Iran.

Remember that all those officials gathered in Brussels will all have spent part of their time in recent days reading in full, or in serialised excerpts, Michael Wolff’s devastating book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which cites Trump’s senior aides as saying that he has the all-embracing egotism of a child seeking immediate gratification of its wishes and is incapable of doing his job as president of the US. It may be that the book, based on interviews with Trump’s intimates, will have less influence than it should in the US because the country is already so divided into pro and anti-Trump camps. But in the rest of the world, where there were still waverers who detected some method in Trump’s madness, the conviction is gelling that, as a spreader of chaos, Trump is unsurpassed and is more dangerous to the international peace than anything to be found in Tehran, Moscow or Beijing.

Some optimists hold that Trump may be just as much of a crackpot as his detractors believe, but the silver lining is that he is too chaotic and episodic to impact the world as much as he would like. They claim that, for all the foaming rhetoric coming out of the White House in 2017, the real damage done by Trump was less than many feared. This is a risky argument and, in the Middle East, neglects the fact that powerful people and countries who do not know what they are doing are manipulated and generally led up the garden path by others who know just what they want. For instance, Wolff says that “the president, ignoring if not defying foreign policy advice, gave a nod to the Saudis’ plan to bully Qatar.”

Sins of omission as well as commission have had a disastrous impact, such as the US failing to pressure Saudi Arabia to end the war in Yemen. All these ill-considered actions and inactions by Trump and his coterie pale in significance compared to the prospect of stoking a military confrontation with Iran. This would be a more serious war than the US and British invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. Trump may not want a war with Iran or anybody else, but nobody is more likely than he to flounder into one through ignorance and wishful thinking.


Christian Fascism: The Seizure of Power in America

January 16, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Rush Limbaugh: “Some people are self-starters, and some people are born lazy. Some people are born victims. Some people are just born to be slaves. Some people are born to put up with somebody else making every decision for them.”

Glenn Beck: Slavery wasn’t that bad until government fouled it up

The neo-Confederate libertarianism that Ron Paul is associated with believes in the re-establishment of the Confederacy as a Bible-based republic opposed to all laws, rights, or behaviors that cannot be justified according to the Bible.  Its leading theologians have written justifications of slavery as Biblically-based and have described it as a benign social institution.  On theological grounds, neo-Confederates believe the Civil War was a struggle between orthodox Christianity and a heretical Union.  In the mid-twentieth century, many Christian nationalists became politically involved because they opposed the desegregation of white schools and attempts by the federal government to remove their tax exempt status from white private school created to escape the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision.

Pro-family issues in the Scorecard include:

  • Taxpayer funding of abortion
  • Protecting free exercise of religion at publicly supported colleges
  • Passage of national health care reform (ObamaCare)
  • Restricting free speech in elections
  • Confirmation of two controversial Supreme Court justices

Today’s hard ‘Christian’ right seeks total social, economic and political dominion. It has been very busy, engaged in packing the courts with their supporters, flooding the Internet with their dogmas and infiltrating the American legislative system with their members and fellow travelers. In essence, the Christian right has virtually captured both the legislative and judicial branches of government and is now determined to capture the executive.  The target of the ‘Christian’ right is not the Democratic Party but democracy itself.

To expand its views and demands, the ‘Christian’ right has formed a political movement; the so-called ‘Tea Party’ movement with which they fully intend to complete their take-over plots.

As these people represent a serious internal danger to American democracy, they have been under strong surveillance for the past fifteen years and very little that they have planned, or executed or hope to execute is not known to the agencies tasked with domestic surveillance.

Firstly, let us consider the overall leadership and goals of the ‘Christian’ right.

The Dominonist Plot

‘Dominion Theology’ is a grouping of extreme theoretical  theological systems with the common belief that society should be governed exclusively by the law of God as codified in the Christian Bible, to the total exclusion of any and all secular law, and any other religion, regardless of its public acceptance or world-wide membership. The two main streams of Dominion Theology are Christian Reconstructionism and ‘Kingdom Now’ theology. Though these two differ greatly in their general theological orientation (the first is strongly Reformed and Neo-Calvinistic, the second is Charismatic), they share a postmillenial vision in which the kingdom of God must be established on Earth through political and even military means, implying force.

All strains of ‘Dominion Theology’ are small minorities, and are rejected by all mainstream Christians as quite radical. However, Dominion Theology is seen by some as a subset of Dominionism, a term used by some social scientists and journalists to describe a theological form of political ideology, which they claim has broadly influenced the Christian Right in the United States, Canada, and Europe, within Protestant Christian evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

The Basics of Dominionism and the Christian right

‘Dominionism’ is based eintirely on the Biblical  text in Genesis 1:26:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (King James Version).

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'” (New International Version).

And God blessed [ Adam and Eve ] and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” —Genesis 1:28 (King James Version).

The ‘Dominionists’ firmly and even fanatically believe that God has appointed them, and only them,  stewards and caretakers of Earth. ;”that Christians alone are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.” That belief is the basis of   “Dominionism.” ‘

The fanatical ‘Christian’ right has one firm goal that that is  to establish dominion, or absolute physical control over America society in the name of God. A high priest of the far-right religious militant movement, D. James Kennedy, formerly head of the Coral Ridge Ministries, demanded that his followers exercise “godly dominion … over every aspect … of human society,.”

And in February, 2005, Kennedy said:

“Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors — in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.”

In 1985, the ‘Dominionists’ took clear aim at the Republican Party as the means by which they could best achieve real power in the United States. They were aided by a small but powerful group of Republican leaders who, in turn, had targeted the far-right of the more extreme of the Christian branch cults, both fundamentalist, Pentecostal and charismatic.

They were completely successful in their effort to gain a firm political control over Congress and prior to the 2006 mid-term elections, the Christian right, led by the ‘Domionists’ had taken control of both houses of Congress, the White House (George W. Bush) and were only one seat away from control of the United States Supreme Court.

The American voters were not, and never were, any sort of adherents to the fanatic right-wing ‘Christian’ political movements and after January 1, 2007, they had effectively lost control of both houses of Congress and the White House.

Five of the Republican Senators who were unseated had earlier received top opinion scores of 100% from the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family voter scorecards.  Those Senators were: Conrad Burns (R-MT), George Allen (R-VA), Rick Santorum (R-PA), James Talent (R-MO), and Mike DeWine (R-OH). Rick Santorum was the number three ranking Republican in the party. Santorum and Allen both had Presidential ambitions. (FRC and FOF are the most politically influential of ‘Dominionist’ organizations

Christian Reconstructionism is a form of theocratic dominion theology. Its leaders challenged evangelicals across a wide swath of theological beliefs to engage in a more muscular and activist form of political participation. The core theme of dominion theology is that the Bible mandates Christians to take over and “occupy” secular institutions.

A number of Christian Right leaders read what the Christian Reconstructionists were writing, and they adopted the idea of taking dominion over the secular institutions of the United States as the “central unifying ideology” of their social movement. They decided to gain political power through the Republican Party.

This does not mean most Christian Right leaders became Christian Reconstructionists. It does mean they were influenced by dominion theology. But they were influenced in a number of different ways, and some promote the theocratic aspects more militantly than others.

It helps to see the terms dominionism, dominion theology, and Christian Reconstructionism as distinct and not interchangeable. While all Christian Reconstructionists are dominionists, not all dominionists are Christian Reconstructionists.

Dominionists were very close to controlling all three branches of the federal government from which they could impose their narrow interpretation of scripture on the rest of society. People so close to full political power are not going to go away. The American people need to maintain vigilance and understand the history of how dominionists came to political power. And we need to embrace democracy with a passion — for it was voter apathy that allowed leaders like Pat Robertson to get so many dominionists elected to Congress in the first place

  1. Dominionists celebrate Christian nationalism, in that they believe that the United States once was, and should once again be, a Christian nation. In this way, they deny the Enlightenment roots of American democracy.
  2. Dominionists promote religious supremacy, insofar as they generally do not respect the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.
  3. Dominionists endorse theocratic visions, insofar as they believe that the Ten Commandments, or “biblical law,” should be the foundation of American law, and that the U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principle Since its inception in February 2009, the Tea Party movement—with the help of viral videos and social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter—almost instantly found a large and loyal following that has gained traction and supporters.

Here is a short list of far-right pseudo-Christian groups active behind the scenes in American politics:

Family Research Council, the American Family Association, Focus on the Family Action, American Values, and the Heritage Foundation; and, the How to Take Back America conference sponsored by Eagle Forum, WorldNetDaily, the American Family Association, Vision America, Liberty Council, WallBuilders, the Judicial Action Group, the Home School Legal Defense Association, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform ,the American Spectator and the Bott Radio Network.


Strange Evangelical View of Cro-Magnon Man

The Tales of the Easter Bunny with a Halo

January 16, 2018

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

The Bible recounts, in humorous error, the sweep of human history, from the first man, Adam, to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and finally, Jesus Christ. In this panoply of amazing people, places, and events, where do the fossils and artifacts of “early man” belong?

When a couple of German quarry workers stumbled upon a Neanderthal fossil in a cave in the Neander Valley, back in 1856, paleoanthropology (the study of early humans) vaulted into the limelight. And popular interest has never died down.

As the findings of early human fossils and artifacts continue to pile up, the story has become even more interesting and complicated. Remains from hundreds of different individuals have been discovered so far. They range from the southern tip of Africa to Russia’s frigid Siberian mountains and the tropical islands of Indonesia.

The chart shows the sequence that these human remains are found in today’s post-Flood surface layers, and the following pages have maps showing where these remains occur. Most paleoanthropology books show charts and maps similar to these. So how do creationists explain the timing and location of these early human remains from a biblical perspective?

The earliest human remains are found in Ice Age deposits near Babel. (Babylon) By the middle of the Ice Age, however, human remains were scattered over three continents. New variations eventually appeared in different regions, such as Neanderthals in Europe. But by the end of the Ice Age, most of these variations disappeared. It is only at this late stage in the Ice Age that we find human remains in the Americas.

Time of “Cavemen

Let’s first consider the timetable of these early fossils. The Bible gives invaluable clues.

First Cavemen After Babel

First, we know that the entire human race consisted of eight individuals at the end of the Flood, around 2350 BC. This was one “family,” but four were women who married into Noah’s line. So the maximum number of family lines who brought their genes onto the Ark was five (four potentially unrelated women, and one line of men).

Furthermore, we know that all humans who settled the planet after the Flood were descended from Noah’s three sons: “These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated” (Genesis 9:19). According to Genesis 11, they had many sons and daughters, including Canaan, whose descendants eventually founded the Canaanite cities where Abraham later sojourned.

Noah’s growing family eventually moved en masse to the plain of Shinar (in modern Iraq), where they decided to build a city.

No cavemen yet.

The dispersion from this first city, Babel, sets the oldest time limit for the humans whose remains occasionally appear in caves. The Bible does not give a specific date for this event; but it does say that the earth was “divided” in the days of Peleg, five generations after Noah; and presumably this is a reference to Babel. If the dispersion from Babel occurred at Peleg’s birth, the earliest date would be one century after the Flood, around 2250 BC according to the Masoretic text.

Last Cavemen Before Abraham

The dispersion from Babel explains when humans first spread over the continents. But at what point in biblical history did the men and women known as Neanderthals and their kin disappear?

Solving that mystery is a little more complicated.

An important clue is that all these humans are found in surface deposits associated with the post-Flood Ice Age (conventionally labeled as the Pleistocene). Their bones appear buried alongside extinct Ice Age animals, such as mammoths and stegodons.

The book of Genesis does not specifically mention this relatively brief era of worldwide climate change, but glaciers left grim reminders of their destructive power throughout northern Europe, Asia, and North America, as well as the mountainous highlands of Africa, South America, and South Asia.

The Ice Age began after the Flood and eventually came to an end. Again, the Bible provides us with important clues to establish rough dates. By Abraham’s day, around 2000 BC, cities had cropped up throughout the Middle East. None of the Neanderthals and their Ice Age cousins are found associated with any of these cities. Nor do we find any remains of Ice Age animals associated with these settlements.

In fact, any charcoal from Ice Age deposits consistently dates earlier than anything from the cities. For instance, ten Neanderthals were found in an Iraqi cave north of Babel (Shanidar Cave), dating before any city in this region. Similarly, Neanderthal fossils are found in caves of Israel, such as Skuhl Cave at Mount Carmel, but the remains date before the earliest Canaanite cities, such as Jericho.

One basic relative sequence in the successive post-Flood surface layers is not disputed: the Ice Age preceded the warmer period we are in today. Since the remains in all known cities postdate the Ice Age and have no Ice Age remains, it appears the effects of the Ice Age had waned before the establishment of the cities where Abraham sojourned.

Location of Human Fossils

The Bible gives the timeframe for the spread of early humans. But what about the location of their remains?

Genesis does not give many details about the geography immediately after Babel, but it is not hard to fill in some of the gaps. At the height of the Ice Age, so much water was bound up in ice that the ocean level plummeted 330 feet (100 m) below today’s level. The earth’s landscape was very different from today. The best spots for raising a family were much different than they are now!

Compounding the problem of establishing permanent settlements was the shifting climate, heavy rains, and unstable earth in the years after the global Flood cataclysm. The geology from this era indicates that massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions still rocked parts of the earth, dwarfing any local catastrophes we observe today.

It is easy to imagine why the early human populations kept migrating.

As Noah’s children overspread the earth, they needed temporary shelter. We can see why they might have sometimes needed to stay in caves for convenience.4 Caves would also be an excellent place for them to preserve the bodies of their loved ones.

Early Fossils Near Babel

Yet the families survived, as we can see in the record of Genesis 11. So we would not expect to find a trail of bodies from Babel to their new destinations. Instead, we would expect to find humans and artifacts suddenly cropping up at destinations all around Babel.

And that’s what we find in the fossil record. Except for a few stone tools and some footprints left in volcanic ash in East Africa, we do not find human remains in any post-Flood deposits until suddenly they appear in multiple regions in the same relative level of the Lower Pleistocene

The earliest human fossils are found in regions around Babel. They are similar in appearance, often labeled Homo erectus.

By the middle of the Ice Age, families were scattered across Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Fossils and stone tools in East Africa and Central Asia have been dated from the same general time period. In fact, these fossils are so close in time that experts debate which came first. Specifically, human fossils were discovered in the mountainous region north of Babel (the Republic of Georgia) and appear to be as old as anything found in East Africa.

These human fossils—and their stone tools—are strikingly similar everywhere they are found in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene layers5 These people had large brow ridges, small chins, and receding foreheads. Although experts sometimes give the fossils different names in different regions, they recognize the similarities and agree they could be called by one name.(They usually call them Homo erectus.)

Later Variation Among Fossils

In upper deposits (Upper Pleistocene), a fascinating variety appears among Noah’s descendants. These human remains are located in a much greater range of places at the very farthest reaches of Europe, South Africa, and East Asia .

The fossils also show a great variety of physical features. The Bible hints that God created the human body capable of a wider variety of forms than we see today. The giant Goliath, for instance, stood over 9 feet (3 m) tall. But these Ice Age deposits show us still other possibilities in God’s design, such as the 3-foot-tall (1 m) “hobbit” (Homo floresiensis) humans found on the Indonesian island of Flores.

While it is difficult to distinguish family resemblances just from bones, some seem pretty clear among the later Ice Age fossils of each region. In European sites we find the first human families with Neanderthal features, while in Africa we find another family variation with high foreheads and protruding chins (like us today). Meanwhile in Asia, the fossils generally have the pronounced brow ridges and other features associated with the earlier Homo erectus fossils.

Neanderthals’ compact body shape would have made them well suited for cold weather, similar to the Inuits (sometimes called Eskimos) of North America’s Arctic regions today. As hunting ranges in Europe were covered in ice, it would have made sense for the Neanderthals to move south into the Middle East, even if it meant displacing other people there. That might explain why Neanderthals are found buried at certain soil levels in caves in Israel, with other people found in layers before and after them.

Interestingly, the human remains at the end the Ice Age display only one variation of the human physique: people with protruding chins and high foreheads like ours. In Europe, these people are known as Cro-Magnon, but the difference between them and us is inconsequential.

End of the Ice Age

Not a single Neanderthal, Homo erectus, or hobbit fossil has ever been found in the topmost layers. They only appear with Ice Age plants and animals, which are now extinct.

The last Neanderthal fossils are found in locations in southern France and Gibraltar, while Cro-Magnons appear in the more recent layers, above them. The same pattern is repeated elsewhere. Apparently, Neanderthals and their cousins died off about the same time that the Ice Age ended.

Genesis then picks up the human narrative with Abraham. Even in his day, caves still were in use. Genesis mentions that Lot fled to a cave to avoid God’s judgment (Genesis 19:30), and Abraham bought a cave to bury his dead (Genesis 23:8–20). Their function may give us a clue about the role of caves among post-Babel migrants. Caves were temporary hiding places or convenient places to preserve the bodies of loved ones, but they were not normal living spaces.

By Job’s day, cave dwellers had earned a bad reputation. “Civilized” folk did not live in caves. “Cavemen” tended to be oppressed people who had lost their homes (Job 24:4–8) or bandits and loners who had left civilized society and behaved like wild animals (Job 30:3–8).

While we still have a lot to explain and understand, the overall picture is clear. The two hundred years or so after Babel (over 300 years after the Flood) was a chaotic transition in world history. The Bible gives us only a brief glimpse into that time and place, but the fossils hint at a grim tale.

Thankfully the human story does not end there. Indeed, the Bible passes over this transitional period with only a brief mention, and then picks up with God’s promise to Abraham—to bless all peoples, who are religiously correct, through His promised seed, the Savior Jesus Christ. And that promise includes every sinner and outcast—ultimately every one of us.

Neoconning the Trump White House

Washington’s well-funded web of interventionist elites is quietly populating the president’s national security circle, again.

January 16, 2018

by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

The American Conservative

Over the last year critics have warned of the returning neoconservative influence on the executive branch’s national security apparatus, each day a little less confident that President Donald Trump will keep to the seeming anti-interventionist impulses he demonstrated during the 2016 campaign.

News flash: We’re already there.

Of course the most garish of the pro-war set—Sebastian Gorka, K.T. McFarland, John Bolton—are easy to identify in or on the periphery of Trump’s orbit (in Gorka’s case, he was cast out of the White House, only to flak away in any media outlet that will pay attention). Meanwhile, elite neoconservative voices like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have become darlings of the “Never Trump” cadre, finding new life as conservative tokens on “Resistance” media like MSNBC.

What has been less obvious, but has become much clearer in these last few months, is these neocons are quietly filling the vacuum left by Obama’s cadre of liberal interventionists. Many of them had taken a pass on “Never Trumping” publicly, and are now popping up at the elbows of top cabinet officials.

Take Nadia Schadlow, for instance. Never heard of her? Unless you’ve been navigating the rice paddies of Washington’s post-9/11 national security enterprise for the last several years, there’s no reason you would have. But she has been at the National Security Council since last winter, and is set to replace Dina Powell as deputy national security advisor, at the right hand of NSC chief H.R. McMaster. She was also the lead on the White House National Security Strategy, released last month.

This was Schadlow’s first position in government. Her résumé includes doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) under the tutelage of vocal Never Trumper and Iraq war promoter Eliot Cohen, who runs the largely neoconservative Strategic Studies program there, and whose last book, The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power, argued that the U.S., backed by a more robust military, must be the “guardian of a stable world order.” In that vein, Schadlow published a book last year, War and the Art of Governance, that extols the virtues of long-term military intervention for “achieving sustainable political outcomes,” requiring “the consolidation of combat gains through the establishment of stable environments.” Schadlow has repeated this for years as a mantra for reordering military strategy in the wake of the disastrous wars she and her contemporaries helped sustain, in Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere. Call it nation-building by another name.

In a 2012 Weekly Standard commentary, she criticized the Obama administration for saying “the tide of war is receding,” and exclaimed “the line of thinking that now pervades the Pentagon avoids recognizing that combat and the restoration of political order go hand and hand.” While she gives a nod to “civil-military operational planning and execution,” she never utters the words “State Department.” No surprise there, either, since her neocon friends were responsible for the long slide of Foggy Bottom’s resources and influence in favor of military leadership, beginning with the “political reconciliation” and reconstruction of Iraq, and then Afghanistan.

What is significant about Schadlow’s role in the White House—she’s reportedly a “trusted confidant” of General McMaster, who was lionized in the New Yorker for his T.E. Lawrence approach to counterinsurgency in Tal Afar in 2006—is not her bibliography, but her vast connections to Washington’s foreign policy and national security clique, especially its neoconservative elite. If one were using the metaphor of chain migration, she would have plenty of friends on either side of the Potomac to tap for high-level placement, consulting, and advice.

Why? As recent senior program director for the expansive, multi-million dollar International Security and Foreign Policy Program under the Smith Richardson Foundation, she has helped to fund and facilitate countless authors, conferences, think tanks, and university programs since 9/11, most of which hew to the doctrine of sustained military intervention towards the goal of U.S. global power and influence. That includes preemptive war strategy, counterinsurgency, democracy promotion, and the continued push for bigger military budgets and solutions to regional conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine. If there was a prominent player in the U.S. security community over the last 20 years, you can bet Schadlow and Smith Richardson were more often than not connected to him.

But it goes back so much further than that. The foundation has a rich history cleaved to neoconservative pioneers such as Irving Kristol, father of Bill, who in his own memoirs credits the philanthropic institution and its then-director Randall Richardson (heir to the Vicks fortune) with helping him jumpstart the Public Interest, known as the premier neoconservative organ, a label Irving fully embraced. The foundation also served as a key backer of Commentary magazine after Norman Podhoretz took the helm in 1960.

It is in international affairs that Smith Richardson has made some of its biggest impacts, during the anti-communist Reagan era and into the Middle East conflicts under Presidents Clinton, Bushes, Obama, and Trump. To say the foundation was involved at every level in the lobbying for and crafting of the so-called global war on terror after 9/11 would be an understatement. Example: Former Smith Richardson research director Devon Gaffney Cross became a director of the Project for a New American Century, the intellectual vehicle that drove the removal of Saddam Hussein and shaped George W. Bush’s foreign policy. In 2000, Cross was listed as one of the participants in PNAC’s seminal treatise, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.” The rest of the contributors are a who’s who of Washington’s war theocracy, most of whom have benefitted from Smith Richardson support.

Meanwhile, since 1998, the foundation has given over $10 million to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI was built, literally, on Smith Richardson money), which fielded many of the Iraq war architects and promoters, including Frederick Kagan, John Bolton, former vice president Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Cohen, Michael Ledeen, Joshua Muravchik, David Frum, and Danielle Pletka.

Just as telling is Smith Richardson’s continued backing of the Institute for the Study of War, headed by Kimberly Kagan, wife of Frederick, with whom she was a “de facto advisor” to General Petraeus for a year as he set about his then-vaunted COIN strategy in Afghanistan. ISW, chaired by retired General Jack Keane, known as the “godfather of the surge,” was founded in part by the generosity of Smith Richardson in 2007. It not only promoted more troops, but an extended occupation in Afghanistan, regime change in Syria, and ongoing hostilities with Iran. No surprise, then, that ISW has numerous intertwining relationships with the military and the defense industry. It received $895,000 for program work from Smith Richardson between 2014 and 2016 alone.

According to Philip Rojc of Inside Philanthropy, other recipients of Smith Richardson grants since 1998 include the the Hudson Institute ($6,032,230), the Jamestown Institute ($5,779,475), the Hoover Institution ($3,645,314), and the Center for a New American Security ($1,595,000). Totals have been adjusted to include 2016 numbers.

The last one—CNAS—is more indicative of Smith Richardson’s broader strategy, in that it doesn’t only give to hardline neoconservative outfits like, say, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (which has received no less than $500,000 since 2014 and says it helped write Trump’s new Iran policy). On the contrary, Smith Richardson has been a major patron of the conventional establishment, too, even largely Democratic think tanks like CNAS, Brookings Institute, and the Carnegie Endowment—all of which invariably host scholars and programs that promote America’s military-driven global influence, counterinsurgency doctrine (CNAS was a virtual hothouse for COIN early in Obama’s presidency), and democracy promotion in places like Russia and Ukraine, a major yet failed project of humanitarian interventionists in the Obama administration.

No surprise, then, that the worldview of people like Nadia Schadlow is no different from the wider Washington policy orbit that has enjoyed a pipeline of patronage from her former employer. She is not only affiliated with the Foreign Policy Institute, but is a full member of the Council on Foreign Relations. When she was named to the NSC staff in March 2017, along with “Kremlinologist” and former Eurasian Foundation strategist Fiona Hill, national security establishment courtier Thomas Ricks called them both “well-educated, skeptical, and informed. In other words, the opposite of the president they serve.”

You know the “right” kind of operator has arrived in the White House when establishment commentariat like Ricks and Josh Rogin get all gushy about their calming, “soft power” influence over Trump, which sounds like a lot of bunk when you consider their well-documented points of view.

Simply put, after years of cross-pollination brought on by a slush fund of wealthy private donors like Smith Richardson and an even more eager defense industry, neoconservative views are no longer distinguishable from the sanctioned goals of the Washington policy establishment. They are all working, really, as proper stewards of the military-industrial complex, which is essential for advancing their (sometimes competing) visions of world power politics and American exceptionalism. There is little room for realism and restraint, as voiced by this magazine and other critics.

That is why there seemed to be such relief upon the recent release of the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy, with Washington scribblers lauding it as “well within the bipartisan mainstream of American foreign policy” and “a well crafted document that should reassure allies and partners.”

What it actually does is to reinforce Trump’s turn towards a harder line against Iran, as evidenced in McMaster’s recent speeches. Nikki Haley, ambassador to the UN, is threatening fellow members on the Security Council, and the Trump administration is seen as taking sides with Israel in the fragile Middle East peace process (or what’s left if it). Meanwhile, the White House has just given a green light to arming Ukraine against Russia.

Call it the new “adults in the room,” if you want, or peg it as the neoconservative influence that it is. Strikingly, Dan Drezner writes that the NSS is “Straussian” in that its “subtext matters at least as much as the text.” The preeminent scholar Leo Strauss is considered one of the key founders of the neoconservative movement, a fact the Washington Post columnist should be well aware of. Like most of the elites here in Washington, however, Drezner is trying to have it both ways—calling it neocon without have the guts to say it outright.


U.S. healthcare uninsured rises most in near decade: Gallup

January 16, 2018

by Yasmeen Abutaleb


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The number of Americans without healthcare insurance rose by 3.2 million people between 2016 and 2017, or 1.3 percentage points to 12.2 percent, according to a Gallup poll released on Tuesday, the biggest jump in the uninsured rate in nearly a decade.

Several factors likely contributed to the jump, Gallup said, including attempts by Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House, to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. The law extended health insurance to 20 million Americans.

Republicans have so far failed to make good on President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to end Obamacare, but they repealed the so-called individual mandate, or requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance or else pay a fine, in a tax bill that passed in December.

The jump in uninsured followed a consistent decline between 2014 and 2016, the time period when much of Obamacare was being implemented, after peaking at 18 percent in 2013, Gallup said. With the repeal of the individual mandate and insurance premiums that are likely to continue rising, the uninsured rate will likely increase further in coming years, the pollster said.

The Trump administration has said it was wrong to force Americans to sign up for healthcare, as Obamacare did. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The uninsured rate rose among all demographic groups in 2017, except those 65 and older, who qualify for Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly. But young adults, blacks, Hispanics and low-income Americans saw the biggest rise in the uninsured rate, Gallup found. Young and healthy consumers, in particular, are needed to help offset the costs of older, sicker and more expensive patients.

The overall jump in uninsured was the biggest since Gallup began the poll in 2008.

Gallup said media coverage of repeated attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, may have caused confusion among consumers. It also pointed to health insurers who pulled out of the Obamacare individual market due to uncertainty, leaving consumers with fewer and more expensive choices, which may have prompted some to forego coverage.

Trump administration decisions to slash the Obamacare advertising budget by 90 percent and cut the sign-up period in half also likely played a role in the rise of uninsured Americans, Gallup said.

Reporting By Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Andrew Hay


OnePlus phone company investigates card fraud claims

January 16, 2018

BBC News

Android phone company OnePlus is investigating claims that customers’ credit card numbers have been stolen after they used its online shop.

The company has stopped taking credit card payments while it investigates.

It was alerted to the issue by a customer message on its support site which linked a purchase on the site to fraudulent activity on their account.

Then, that message prompted a flurry of replies from other customers reporting similar experiences.

OnePlus said it was auditing its site as it investigated.

In a statement, OnePlus said the fraud reports had come from customers who had bought phones directly from its oneplus.net website.

“This is a serious issue and we are investigating around the clock,” it added.

A poll on the support site suggests more than 200 people, across many different countries, have seen fraudulent charges, ranging from $50 (£36) to $3,000, appear on cards used on the site.

In some cases, banks and card processors flagged the transactions as fraudulent and stopped the payments.

OnePlus said it did not do any card processing itself nor did it save any payment information surrendered when people purchased its phones.

Instead, it said, it passed all data to a partner who handled the payment process.

It said information security was a priority and it would update customers once its investigation was complete.

During the suspension, customers could still buy phones and peripherals using Paypal, said OnePlus. It was also exploring other secure ways to pay.


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