TBR News January 28, 2016

Jan 28 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. January 28, 2016: ”Now that the back has been broken of the Oregon occupiers movement, trust that all across America, the bloggers will be screeching that the FBI murdered one of the leaders in cold blood. No doubt we will hear how the poor man, kneeling in prayer with his arms raised in surrended, was filled with  lead by the evil FBI. Actually, accurate reporting indicates the dead man was trying to crash his truck through a police road block and then drove at other agents in an attempt to run them down. The FBI and local law enforcement showed remarkable restraint in dealing with the illegal occupiers but the bloggers never take facts into account when lies will suffice.”

Conversations with the Crow

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, 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 his Washington 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

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.



Conversation No. 58

Date: Thursday, January 9, 1997

Commenced: 9:47 AM CST

Concluded: 10:28 AM CST


RTC: Ah, good morning, Gregory. Did you talk to Bill yesterday?

GD: Yes, he actually called me. He was discussing Kronthal with me mostly, but I think he was on a fishing trip. Was asking me about the new Mueller book…what was in it and such like.

RTC: Did you tell him anything?

GD: No, not in specific. I find him entertaining and sometimes truthful, but I don’t trust him. And I don’t trust Kimmel, either.

RTC: Probably a good idea. I rarely hear from Kimmel these days.

GD: I wonder why?

RTC: I think you’re the reason. Bill was cautioning me against talking too much to you because it might hurt my reputation.

GD: I think it must be the fact that I’m a practicing vampire. You know, Robert, it’ll be tough sledding this winter.

RTC: Why is that?

GD: No snow.

RTC: I walked right into that one, didn’t I? Has anyone discussed the Kennedy business with you?

GD: Corson did, once. Said he had the real story in his safe deposit box, and Plato or Aristotle would get it when he was called to Jesus.

RTC: Plato. That’s the fix lawyer around here. Little favors for this person or that one, little jobs for the Company and so on.

GD: They probably deserve each other.

RTC: Probably. And how is the Mueller book doing?

GD: Well enough. I’m starting to block out the Kennedy book and, yes, I know not to talk about it…

RTC: Or even write something up about it. If Tom thought you were into this, he’d have his boys do a black bag job on you and get into your hard drive.

GD: I could put a bomb in it… When they turned it on, somebody later would be carrying a white cane and being nice to his German Shepherd guide dog.

RTC: Now, now, Gregory, not to make jokes about things like that.

GD: If people don’t want me to punt them in their fat ass, they shouldn’t bend over. On the other hand, it might be an invite for something more romantic.

RTC: I can see you’re in a good mood today.

GD: Foul mouthed as ever.

RTC: Sometimes, but always entertaining.

GD: I know Kimmel doesn’t find me entertaining. I make fun of the establishment and he is so obviously a dedicated and vocal part of it.

RTC: Everyone has to have something to cling to.

GD: What a waste of time. People are so predictable and so pathetic. You know, Robert, it’s like visiting your ant farm every morning and watching the ants leading their programmed lives.

RTC: Isn’t that a bit arrogant, Gregory?

GD: It’s not that I’m so smart, Robert, although I am, but it’s because so many are so stupid. Anyway, enough Weltschmertz.

RTC: Pardon?

GD: Pain with the world. Burned out. Bored. Frustrated.

RTC: I see. When you get to my age, that’s the whole thing.

GD: Well, if youth knew and age could, Robert. I think that’s from Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who invented aspirin. You know, God is Love, there is no pain. They ought to put that up in the terminal cancer wards. It would be such a comfort. I understand Mary was buried with a telephone in her coffin. High hopes and impossibilities sums it up, and have an aspirin.

RTC: That’s Christian Science, isn’t it? You heard about the Christian Scientist? He had a very bad cold and pretty soon, the cold was gone and so was the Christian Scientist.

GD: That’s how it goes, I guess. Now let me get serious about this ZIPPER business. If you want me to do a treatment on this that will be to your benefit, I need to get from you, on the phone is fine, some kind of a rationale for what happened. I mean, that’s what you want, isn’t it? To let those who come after you fully understand the reasons for your actions.

RTC: Yes, that’s it exactly. If that ever got out, though by now, it probably won’t, I don’t want my son and my grandchildren thinking I was just a common or garden variety assassin. They should know the reasons for why we acted as we did.

GD: Fine. Go ahead.

RTC: You must understand that we took our duties very seriously. Angleton was a first class counter intelligence man and very dedicated. And he discovers that the most important intelligence reports, the President’s daily briefings from the CIA, are ending up in Moscow. Within a week of them being given to the President. A week. And this was not a one-time incident but had been going on for some time. We then tried to find out how this was happening. A major intelligence disaster, Gregory, major. Now there were several copies of this report disseminated, never mind to whom, so in each one, a little spice was put in. An identifier as you will. Nothing that changed the thrust of the report but a little bit of spice, as Jim used to say. Jim’s contact in Moscow was a diplomat, never mind which country, because we don’t need to make trouble for him. So from him, we got copies of what Nikita was getting. So can you imagine how stunned we all were to learn that it was the President’s copy that was being leaked? My God! So we couldn’t just walk up to him and ask him how come Khrushchev was reading his briefings a week after we gave them to him. Jim couldn’t find a way how this was done, but then we had a report that Bobby, his brother, was known to be friendly with a prominent KGB fellow, Bolshakov. No question of who he was. The TASS man here. Top level. Bobby was known to have had at least one meeting with him. Hoover was having Bobby watched day and night because Hoover hated him and wanted to catch him doing something bad so he could leak it to the Post and get him sacked. Anyway, they found out that Bobby was talking to the Commie on the phone from his home so we, and Hoover, tapped his phone. Hoover didn’t know we were doing it, too, but that’s Washington politics for you. And we heard, for sure, that Bobby was sending thermofax copies of this report to him. I mean, there was no question. And, we learned, too, that Kennedy was keeping in direct contact with Khrushchev by Bobby and the Russian. I mean they were subverting the entire diplomatic system and God alone knows what Kennedy was talking about. We had to make sure of this, and really sure. It was explosive, believe me. Jim and a few of us sat down, listened to tapes and agent reports and tried to decide what to do. I mean, Gregory, here we had our President giving, actually giving, the most secret documents to our worst enemy, a man who swore in public he would destroy us. So, what to do? Make it public? Who would dare to do this? Of course we had strong media contacts but we all decided this was just too mind-boggling and negative to let outside that room. And that is where the decision was made to simply get rid of Kennedy. He was too independent, he had sacked Dulles and Bissel over the Cuban thing and threatened to Mansfield to break the Agency up. And here he was giving our worse enemy top secret inside information. I mean it really wasn’t open to discussion. You can see this all, can’t you?

GD: I can see your point of view very clearly.

RTC: What would you have done?

GD: I’m not an important person like those people, so what difference does my opinion make in all this? I’m just trying to find the rationale.

RTC: Well, do you have it?

GD: Yes, very clearly.

RTC: Well, the rest was lining up the players. Jim did his part, McCone did his part and he talked to Hoover to get his cooperation. We never went directly to him, but we used Bill Sullivan, his right hand trouble-shooter. That’s how it was done. Hoover hated the Kennedys, especially Bobby, and we had to have him on our side because it was his people that would investigate any killing that had to be done. It took about a week of back and forth but finally it was agreed on. Johnson was no problem. He was a real rat; a wheeler-dealer whom you couldn’t trust to the corner for a pound of soft soap. The Kennedy bunch were treating him like shit and planned to dump him as VP, so of course he went for the wink and the nod. Fortas was his bagman, just like Sullivan was Hoover’s. These are people who know the value of silence from long experience. And it went on from there. I have a phone conference record which I will dig out, when the time comes, and send to you. At this point are you clear on the motivations? I mean, this was not just some spur of the moment thing, Gregory. We felt it had to be done to stop what we could only call high treason. Hoover and Johnson both went along on those grounds. A matter of treason. And it had to be stopped. I don’t see this as heroic but a vital necessity. For the country.

GD: I remember reading somewhere that treason doth never prosper for if it prospers, none dare call it treason.

RTC: Something like that.

GD: Very like.

RTC: But if you look at it carefully, and I hope you will, Gregory, you will see that Kennedy was committing the treason, not us. It was he and his vile brother who were passing our most sensitive and secret documents to our enemies. What were we to do? Confront him? We’d all be fired, or worse. What choice was there? Tell me that.

GD: From that point of view, none.

RTC: We are making progress. One thing…Jim was thinking about blowing up Kennedy’s yacht while and was sailing around off Cape Cod but since there certainly would be children on board, I put a stop to that. Kennedy is one thing but not the children.

GD: And the wife? Our American saint.

RTC: Oh that one. Don’t be fooled, Gregory. Jackie claims descent from French nobility but in fact, her French ancestor wasn’t a nobleman, but an immigrant cabinetmaker. And crap about her being related to Robert E. Lee is more crap. That part of her family were lace curtain micks from the old sod. The woman is a fraud. She married Kennedy for his father’s money, that’s all. Wonderful backgrounds here, Gregory. Old Joe was as crooked as they come. He was an associate of Al Capone, a bootlegger, and worse, and in 1960, he and the mob rigged the election so Jack could get in. Yes, I know all about that. They did their work in Chicago with the Daley machine and the local mob. That’s right, vote early and vote often. They even voted the cemeteries. I never really liked Nixon but they connived and stole the election from him slicker than snot off a glass-handled door knob.

GD: Ain’t it nice living in a democracy? So Kennedy wasn’t a saint by any stretch.

RTC:We can overlook all the women and the wild drug and sex orgies in the White House, but, Gregory, passing our top secrets to the enemy was too damned much. I would like you to show that very clearly if and when you get into this.

GD: Well, from a pragmatic view, Robert, it is the very best and clearest reason for the killing. A question here.

RTC: Certainly.

GD: A plot. Good, but then how do you keep it quiet? Someone might talk.

RTC: Remove them, Gregory.

GD: But what about those who remove those who know too much? Then they know too much.

RTC: Oswald knew a little too much, just a little but enough. And he could prove he never shot Kennedy. So he had to go before he started to talk. Oswald knew some of our people and he worked directly for ONI, so there were dangers there. On the other hand, the man who shot King, Ray, knew nothing so he got to live and end up in jail until he died. He knew there was something wrong, but, and this is important to note, Gregory, he had no proof.

GD: You did King?

RTC: No Hoover did King. He hated him with a visceral passion. Hoover was a nut, Gregory, but a very powerful and very dangerous nut. There is a long-standing rumor here that Hoover had passed the color line and that he was part black. Hoover was a homosexual and there we have two reasons to hate yourself. King was black and he was a womanizer. And Bobby was AG and loathed Hoover. He used to go into Hoover’s office while he was taking his after-lunch nap and wake him up. And he laughed at him and called him a faggot behind his back. Not to do that to Hoover. He stayed in absolute power because he had enough real dirt on Congress to put most of them away in the cooler or the loonie bin. No, Bobby signed his death warrant when he did those things. No, Hoover did King and Hoover did Bobby. Not himself, but he got Bill Sullivan to do it. Sullivan was his hatchet man and we worked directly with Bill. But then Bill got old and was starting to babble like old people do, and he was hinting about Hoover, who had sacked him after he had used him. No, that doesn’t make it, so some kid shot Bill right through the head. He thought he was a deer. My, my.

GD: And Bobby?

RTC: That was Hoover too. It was an agreement. We did John and Edgar did the others. We had one of our men there when they did Bobby, just to observe. We got George the Greek to keep an eye open. They got one of Kennedy’s people to steer him into the kitchen after a speech and the raghead was waiting. One of the Kennedy bodyguards did him from behind while all the shooting and screaming was going on. Much better than John. They had a real shooter in front of real people. None of the questions like we had in Dallas. No loose ends, so to speak. And King was another clean job. Sullivan was very good.

GD: And that’s why he turned into a deer.

RTC: Yes, he turned into a very dead deer.

GD: And you got Cord’s wife on top of it.

RTC: Jim said she was hanging around with hippies and arty-farty people and running her mouth.

GD: Did she know anything?

RTC: No, but she was well-connected and some people might believe her. She’d been humping Kennedy and they apparently really got along with each other. She was a lot more of a woman than Jackie and she never nagged Jack or acted so superior like Jackie loved to do. Her brother in law worked for us and we all agonized over this but in the end, Jim had his way. Of course Cord thought it was peachy-keen. He hated her, but then Cord hated everybody. The vicious Cyclops!

GD: One eye.

RTC: Yes. Oh, and like Jim, he, too, was a profound poet. God, spare me from the poets of the world. You don’t write poetry, do you, Gregory.

GD: No, but really filthy limericks, Robert. Would you like to hear some?

RTC: Oh, not now. Maybe later.

GD: Probably just as well. Once I get started on those, I’ll be going strong an hour later. But let me tell you just one. Not a dirty one, but after about an hour of limericks, I love to end the night with this one. Can I proceed?

RTC: Just one?

GD: Yes, just one.

RTC: Go on.

GD: ‘There was an old man of St. Bees,

Who was stung on the arm by a wasp.

When asked if it hurt,

      He replied ‘No, it didn’t,

    ‘I’m so glad that it wasn’t a hornet.’


(Concluded at 10:28 AM CST)


Murder by Decree

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

The CIA has been responsible for the murders of a number of foreign, and American, personalities that they disapproved of. Here is a partial listing of their activities in the assassination business. In a further study, we will discuss régime changes, and related murders, engineered by the CIA to include the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, the Guatemala affair, the US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrad on May 7, 1999 and, more recently, the Kiev coup and the aircraft crash killing the top leadership of Poland at Smolensk, Russia on April 11,2010.

1. The CIA was behind the attempt to kill Chou En-Lai of China in 1955. An Air India flight that took off from Hong Kong crashed under mysterious circumstances on its way to the Bandung Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. Press reports indicated that a clockwork mechanism was found in the wreckage of the airliner, and that the cause of the crash was two time-bombs that had been planted on the airplane. John Discoe Smith, who was employed at the US Embassy in India from 1954 to 1959, later wrote about having delivered a package to a Chinese nationalist which he later discovered contained the two time-bombs.

2. The 1975 Senate Committee investigating the CIA reported that it had “received some evidence” of CIA involvement in plans to assassinate President Sukarno of Indonesia.

3. In the 1950s, the Dulles brothers misinterpreted a remark by President Eisenhower that “the Nasser problem could be eliminated,” to mean that he wanted President Nasser of Egypt to be assassinated. Secretary Dulles cancelled the operation once the mistake had been discovered.

4. The CIA and the opposition forces of the Khmer Serei attempted to assassinate Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia in 1959. The assassin was spotted in a crowd minutes before he was planning to take Sihanouk’s life.

5. The CIA unsuccessfully tried to kill Costa Rican President Jose Figueres twice from 1955 to 1970. Figueres boasted that he worked with the CIA very often, especially in the overthrow of Dominican Republic President Rafael Trujillo.

6. In 1975, the Senate’s Church Committee went on record with the conclusion that Allen Dulles had ordered the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s prime minister. In September of 1960 the CIA sent the late Dr. Sidney Gottlieb to the Congo with a virus intended for use in an assassination attempt against Lumumba. A CIA cable in November of that year revealed that the CIA had been aiding Mobutu Sese Seko’s search for Lumumba, who was captured by Mobutu on December 1, 1961. Lumumba was then handed over to his bitter enemy, Moise Tshombe, in Katanga province. Lumumba was assassinated the same day.

7. As early as 1958, the then-CIA Chief of Station in the Dominican Republic, Lear Reed, along with several Dominicans, had plotted the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, which never came to fruition. The CIA armed several opponents of his regime for assassination attempts, which also were never carried out.

8. The CIA had been involved in several plots to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

9. In 1975, the Chicago Tribune ran a front page story that told of CIA involvement in a plot to kill French President Charles de Gaulle in the late 1960s after de Gaulle ousted American military bases from French soil.

10. The CIA aided Bolivian efforts to capture and kill Che Guevera, who in the late 1960s was leading a miniscule guerrilla movement there.

11. The CIA was directly involved in a failed plot to assassinate Jamaican President Michael Manley in 1976.

12. The CIA proposed a plan to assassinate Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi in 1986, which resulted in the bombing of Libya by the United States, leading to the death of 40 to 100 civilians and the destruction of the French Embassy.

13. In 1982 and 1983, the CIA was involved in the murder of General Ahmed Dlimi, a Moroccan officer who sought to overthrow the Moroccan monarchy.

      1. In 1983, the Nicaraguan government accused the CIA twice of hatching a plot to kill Foreign Minister Miguel d’Escoto, of which the CIA aborted both attempts.

         15. William Colby, 76, disappeared April 27, 1996. He was purported to have gone out on the Potomic River during a storm, and in a canoe but without a lifebelt. His body was  was recovered eight days later. Colby, a former director of the CIA, had angered that agency when he testified against them in Congressional hearings.




People can’t keep secrets: Oxford study uses math to show most conspiracy theories untrue

January 27, 2016


An Oxford scientist has used mathematics to make the claim that certain conspiracy theories – like that the manned moon-landing was faked – would have been exposed by now, owing simply to the number of people believing in them.

This has to do with the simple fact that a certain number of people can only keep a secret for a set amount of time.

Dr. David Grimes believes his formula for figuring this out works, and is basically this: a secret that would last over a century can be kept by no more than 125 people. By contrast, one involving 2,521 people would hardly last longer than five years.

By these calculations, the US moon landing of 1969 would long have been exposed, as it involved a whopping 411,000 NASA employees. And given that all it took was one Edward Snowden to expose NSA’s worldwide data-mining practices, the math doesn’t look to be far off.

Grimes assures that his interest is in giving conspiracy theorists a fighting chance against the naysayers who readily dismiss anything offered up as an alternative to the official truth.

“It is common to dismiss conspiracy theories and their proponents out of hand, but I wanted to take the opposite approach, to see how these conspiracies might be possible. To do that, I looked at the vital requirement for a viable conspiracy-secrecy,” he says.

His work begins with an equation to test the probability of a conspiracy being either deliberately revealed by a whistleblower, or inadvertently, as a result of a mistake. The length of time and number of conspirators are entered, including various other factors, such as the conspirators being reduced in number due to things like death – both, accidental and intended. Grimes even ensured a best-case scenario for the conspirators

For his study he took four alleged conspiracies with a more or less predictable number of conspirators and timeframes: the moon landing, with its 411,000 NASA employees; the Climate Change ‘truthers’, with 405,000 people; the anti-vaccination movement, comprising some 22,000 if only the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control are accounted for – a figure that grows to 736,000 if you include Big Pharma. And finally, there are an estimated 711,000 people who believe the cure for cancer is being covered up.

The results were as follows: three years and eight months for the moon landing; three years and nine months for climate change to be proven a hoax; three years and two months to reveal the conspiracy that the US public is being duped on the benefits of vaccinations; and three years and three months for the cancer cure to be revealed to the world.

So the math is clear on the issue. But don’t fret, Grimes says.

Not everyone who believes in a conspiracy is unreasonable or unthinking. I hope that by showing how eye-wateringly unlikely some alleged conspiracies are, some people will reconsider their anti-science beliefs,” he says.

He wants to urge the reader to consider looking at what we are as a species more responsibly, because embracing reality could be obscured by “ideologically-motivated fictions. To this end, we need to better understand how and why some ideas are entrenched and persistent among certain groups despite the evidence, and how we might counteract this.”

Grimes used two other US-based conspiracies to assist baseline date.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The conman who pulled off history’s most audacious scam

January 28, 2016

by Maria Konnikova


In October 1822, Gregor MacGregor, a native of Glengyle, Scotland, made a striking announcement. He was, he said, not only a local banker’s son, but the Cazique, or prince, of the land of Poyais along Honduras’s Black River.

A little larger than Wales, the country was so fertile it could yield three maize harvests a year. The water, so pure and refreshing it could quench any thirst – and as if that weren’t enough, chunks of gold lined the riverbeds. The trees overflowed with fruit, and the forest teemed with game. Painting an exotic, Edenic vision of a new life abroad, his proposal offered quite the contrast with the rainy darkness and rocky soils of Scotland.

What Poyais lacked, he said, was willing investors and settlers to develop and leverage its resources to the fullest. At the time, investments in Central and South America were gaining in popularity, and Poyais appeared to be a particularly appealing proposition.

Scotland didn’t have any colonies of her own, after all. Could this not be a corner of the new world for her own use?

Would you have fallen for the scam? MacGregor was a master salesman – and when you consider the psychological underpinnings behind con artistry, it is little wonder that many people were indeed fooled.

Con artists have long recognised that persuasion must appeal to two very particular aspects of human motivation – the drive that will get people to do something, and the inertia that prevents them from wanting to do it. In 2003, two social psychologists, Eric Knowles at the University of Arkansas and Jay Linn at Widener University, formalised this idea by naming two types of persuasive tactics.

The first, alpha, was far more frequent: increasing the appeal of something. The second, omega, decreased the resistance surrounding something. In the one, you do what you can to make your proposition, whatever it may be, more attractive. You rev up the backstory – why this is such a wonderful opportunity, why you are the perfect person to do it, how much everyone will gain, and the like. In the other, you make a request or offer seem so easy as to be a no-brainer – why wouldn’t I do this? What do I have to lose?

They called the juxtaposition the approach-avoidance model of persuasion: you can convince me of something by making me want to approach it and decreasing any reasons I might have to avoid it. According to Columbia University psychologist Tory Higgins, people are usually more likely to be swayed by one or other of the two motivational lines: some people are promotion-focused (they think of possible positive gains), and some, prevention-focused (they focus on losses and avoiding mistakes). An approach that unites the alpha with the omega appeals to both mindsets, however, giving it universal appeal – and it is easy to see how MacGregor’s proposition offered this potent combination

He published interviews in national papers, for instance, touting the perks that would come from investing or settling in Poyais. He highlighted the bravery and fortitude that such a gesture would demonstrate: you wouldn’t just be smart; you would be a real man. The Scottish Highlanders were known for their hardiness and adventurous spirit, he wrote; Poyais would be the ultimate testing ground, a challenge and gift, all in one. He pointed those who needed more convincing to a book on the virtues of the small island nation, by the elusive Thomas Strangeways (actually MacGregor himself). His prospectuses enticed the public with their masterful promises, their lure of opportunity, their appeal to scarcity, their admonitions not to let this perfect moment pass by.

Alone, this powerful mix of alpha and omega can already start to explain the allure of MacGregor’s idea – but his fine-tuned approach also incorporates further tactics that must have multiplied its attractiveness. Psychologist Robert Cialdini, one of the leading experts on persuasion, argues that six principles govern most persuasive relationships: reciprocity (I rub your back, you rub mine), consistency (I believe the same thing today as I did yesterday), social validation (doing this will make me belong), friendship or liking (exactly what it sounds like), scarcity (quick! there isn’t much to go around), and authority (you seem like you know what you’re talking about).

Consider how many of those MacGregor used instinctively. Reciprocity: you invest with me, and I give you the opportunity of a lifetime – a life so wonderful that no one else can give you something comparable. Social validation: you will be the most Scottish of Scotsmen, the most respected of people, a pioneer and role model. Scarcity: act now, for this is not an opening that will remain. If Scotland doesn’t sweep Poyais up, someone else will – and there goes the nation’s one chance at colonial greatness. Authority: Dr. Strangeways surely knows that of which he speaks. If you don’t trust me, then at least trust him – though why wouldn’t you trust me? After all, I’ve published in the best media of the time.

The tactics worked precisely as anticipated. They were beyond successful. Not only did MacGregor raise £200,000 directly – the bond market value over his life ran to £1.3 million, or about £3.6 billion today – but he convinced seven ships’ worth of eager settlers to make their way across the Atlantic. In September 1822 and January 1823, the first two, the Honduras Packet and the Kennersley Castle, left for the mythical land, carrying some 250 passengers. The mood was high; MacGregor’s salesmanship had been unparalleled. But when the settlers arrived just under two months later, they found the reality to be a stark departure from the allure of MacGregor’s brochures. No ports, no developments, no nothing. It was a wasteland.

For Poyais had never existed. It was a figment of MacGregor’s fertile mind. He had drawn his investors and colonisers to a desolate part of Honduras – and soon, the hardy Scotsmen began dying. The remaining settlers – only one third would survive – were rescued by a passing ship and taken to Belize. The British Navy recalled the remaining five ships before they reached their destination. MacGregor escaped to France.

If he was at all remorseful, he had a strange way of showing it: not long after his arrival he started the Poyais pitch all over again. His initial investment may have evaporated, but his mastery of the art of persuasion was undiminished. In a matter of months, he had a new group of settlers and investors ready to go. France, though, was a bit more stringent than England in its passport requirements: when the government saw a flood of applications to a country no one had heard of, a commission was set to investigate the matter. MacGregor was thrown in jail. After a brief return to Edinburgh, he was forced to flee once more, pursued by the wrath of the original Poyais bondholders. He died in 1845, in Caracas. To this day, the land that was Poyais remains a desolate and undeveloped wilderness—a testament to the power of the rope in able hands.

Hands up or charging? Conflicting reports on shooting of Oregon militia spokesman

January 27, 2016


Conflicting information is emerging over what happened after a well-known member of the militia group occupying a nature preserve in Oregon died in a shootout with federal agents. The group’s spokesman had tried to run a roadblock before he was killed.

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a member of the group occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since January 2, died Tuesday evening after a confrontation with federal law enforcement at a roadblock north of Burns, Oregon

According to Victoria Sharps, a young woman who was in Finicum’s truck, the rancher had his hands in the air when he was shot.

He was just walking, with his hands in the air, and they shot him dead,” Sharps said, adding, “His hands were still up after he was dead.”

Finicum was shot at least six times, and three more times after he fell, she said, in an account posted on Youtube and shared by the Bundy Ranch Facebook page.

Mark McConnell, the driver of the second vehicle in the militia convoy, described claims that Finicum was gunned down as “nonsense.”

He was not on his knees. None of that nonsense,” McConnell said in a video posted on Facebook early on Wednesday.

After the two vehicles were stopped, Finicum “took off” towards another roadblock, about a mile down the road, where he stalled in a snow bank, according to McConnell. While the federal agents were detaining militia leader Ammon Bundy and his bodyguard, Brian ‘Buddha’ Cavalier, Finicum got out of his truck and “charged” the roadblock.

He went after them. He charged them,” McConnell said, citing the account of events given by Shawna Cox and Ryan Payne, both passengers in Finicum’s truck. It is unclear how he heard the accounts, however, since both Payne and Cox were detained by the authorities, while McConnell was let go.

His account could not be confirmed, but “several details matched accounts from law enforcement sources,” according to the Oregonian.

In a statement about the incident, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did not name Finicum, saying only that “one individual who was a subject of a federal probable cause arrest is deceased.”

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, federal and local law enforcement officials blamed the occupiers for the incident.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Greg Bretzing blamed the “actions and choices of the armed occupiers” for the current situation, adding that law enforcement demonstrated on Tuesday that “actions are not without consequences.”

We all make choices in life. Sometimes our choices go bad,” said Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward. The authorities were prepared to wait the militia out, but their presence and agitation was “tearing our community apart,” he added.

If Americans have issues with the government, “we don’t arm up and rebel. We work through the appropriate channels,” Ward concluded.

The eight members of the militia arrested Tuesday will be charged with “conspiracy to impede officers of the US from discharging official duties through the use of force, intimidation or threats,” according to Bill Williams, US attorney for the District of Oregon.


Remaining members of Oregon militia standoff debating whether to surrender

Hours after law enforcement officials fatally shot a militiaman and arrested eight people, police set up blockades around the Malheur national wildlife refuge

January 27, 2016

by Carol J Williams and Lauren Dake in Burns, Oregon, and Sam Levin in San Francisco

The Guardian

The remaining members of the armed militia occupying a wildlife refuge in rural Oregon were deciding whether to surrender or stand their ground on Wednesday after officials killed one of their spokesmen and arrested the main leaders of the protest on a remote highway.

Hours after news broke on Tuesday night that law enforcement officials had fatally shot militiaman LaVoy Finicum, an Arizona rancher, and arrested leader Ammon Bundy and seven others, police began setting up blockades around the Malheur national wildlife refuge

By early Wednesday, heavily armed law enforcement officials were blocking access to the refuge, preventing reporters and some Harney County residents from passing through.

Within the wildlife sanctuary, protesters were debating what to do next, according to militia members and supporters in direct communication with the holdouts.

They arrested all of the leadership,” occupier Corey Lequieu said on Wednesday. “It’s all up in the air.” Lequieu, a Nevada resident who has been at the occupation for weeks, said the protesters who were still at the refuge became increasingly angry and sad as news spread on Tuesday that Finicum had been killed and that the main militia leaders were behind bars.

There are some pretty pissed off people,” said Lequieu, who said he was at the refuge on Tuesday night but was driving away on Wednesday morning. He declined to say where he was headed or if he planned to return.

Lequieu said the militiamen have not yet decided if they plan to turn themselves in but noted that many are devastated by Finicum’s death, which might motivate their next steps. “It was a setup,” he said of the arrests and fatal shooting. “They were waiting to murder him.”

On Wednesday, Jerry DeLemus, a 61-year-old New Hampshire activist who previously spent time at the refuge but is now back home, said he talked to several of the militia members who remain at the refuge.

They are debating how to approach the growing number of law enforcement officials surrounding the area, but they do not want to see any more bloodshed, DeLemus said. “They are not looking for a gunfight. They want it to end peacefully.”

Jason Patrick, one of the remaining militiamen, spoke by phone to FBI officials on Tuesday night, according to reporters who were stationed at the refuge. The Oregonian reported that Patrick has become the de facto leader of the militia after the arrest of Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy, Bryan Cavalier, Shawna Cox and Ryan Payne.

In a brief phone interview on Wednesday, Patrick offered few details about his plans, saying the militia wanted law enforcement to explain how Finicum ended up dead.

Patrick added that he was dismayed police decided to confront Bundy and the other occupiers, noting that officials had previously encouraged the protesters to leave the refuge. “They said people could leave, so people left and they were incarcerated.”

Throughout the occupation, officials have insisted that they were taking a cautious approach and that their main priority was to avoid a violent confrontation.

Bundy, Finicum and other high-profile members of the militia had repeatedly exited and returned to the refuge and on Tuesday had publicized a community meeting in John Day, north of the refuge. The occupiers were reportedly on their way to that event when the FBI and Oregon state troopers stopped them, resulting in gunfire.

Outside the refuge on Wednesday morning, Jon Burri, a 43-year-old local construction worker, said he was unable to get to his job due to the blockades. “It’s been terrible,” he said. “I hope they get them out quick. It’s divided our community.”

At a news conference in the nearby town of Burns on Wednesday morning, federal and local officials provided few details about the fatal shooting and urged the remaining occupiers at the refuge to surrender.

I’m disappointed that the traffic stop yesterday that was supposed to bring a peaceful resolution to this ended badly,” said a visibly emotional Harney County sheriff, Dave Ward, who met Bundy weeks earlier and had offered to escort the militia out of Oregon. “It’s time for everybody in this illegal occupation to move on. There doesn’t have to be bloodshed in our community.”

Ward noted that the occupiers have frequently left the refuge and spent time in Burns – causing a lot of stress among local residents. “This has been tearing our community apart.”

Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge for the FBI, said that the occupiers could leave the wildlife sanctuary through official “checkpoints” where officers would identify them. He said that officials had also invited militia members to call “negotiators” if they had “questions or concerns”.

The armed occupiers have been given ample opportunities to leave the refuge peacefully,” Bretzing added.

Local residents who showed up to the news conference said they were eager for the standoff to end.

Jim Ward, father of the Harney County sheriff, said that over the past month he and his wife had faced harassment from people associated with the occupation.

When a bunch of people roll into town with guns and make threats, they are terrorists – just terrorists,” he said.


German Jews fear rising antisemitism during Mideast refugee influx

January 26, 2016

byTina Bellon


Berlin-When Judith G. helped out at a refugee center near Frankfurt last October and identified herself as Jewish, she was spat on and insulted.

German Jews say the case of Judith G., a 33-year-old optician who asked not to be fully named, isn’t isolated and underlines concerns many have about the record arrivals of asylum seekers, largely from Muslim countries in the Middle East.

Official figures show German-born far-right supporters commit the vast majority of antisemitic crimes in the country, and Muslim leaders say nearly all asylum seekers – who can be targets of hate crime themselves – are trying to escape conflict, not stir it up.

Nevertheless, Jews across Germany are hiding their identity when volunteering at refugee shelters for fear of reprisals, adding another layer of complexity to a social, economic and logistical challenge that is stretching the fabric of German society.

“Among the refugees, there are a great many people who grew up with hostility toward Israel and conflate these prejudices with hatred toward Jews in general,” Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews, told Reuters in an interview conducted in October.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed last week that antisemitic attitudes among some young people arriving from countries where “hatred toward Israel and Jews is commonplace” needed to be dealt with.

The safety of Jewish communities is particularly sensitive in Germany due to the murder of over 6 million Jews by Hitler’s Third Reich, which is marked on Wednesday by the international Holocaust Memorial Day. Today, the German Jewish community numbers around 100,500.

According to a 2013 study by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, 64 percent of German Jews avoid the public display of symbols that would identify them as Jewish. It also found that only 28 percent of them report antisemitic incidents.

Such incidents, as recorded by the Interior Ministry, dropped in 2015 but Jews still remember chants by young Muslims proclaiming “Jews to the gas” on German streets in protests against the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian Gaza War.

Concerns rose earlier this year when two suspected asylum seekers from Syria and Afghanistan attacked and robbed a man wearing a skullcap on the northern island of Fehmarn, a crime the local prosecutor treats as antisemitic.

“We don’t approach the issue of refugees with negative expectations in general,” said Walter Blender, head of the Jewish community in Bad Segeberg, a town on the mainland about 100 km (60 miles) from Fehmarn. “But we are very worried and skeptical, and anecdotal evidence so far showed that we have reason to be scared.”

Preliminary Interior Ministry figures show that far-right supporters were responsible for well over 90 percent of the antisemitic crimes recorded last year up to the end of November. People with a foreign background were blamed for little more than four percent, although this category does not reveal their country of origin or immigration status.

Starting from this month, however, the ministry will produce a breakdown that includes a refugee category.


Germany, which took in 1.1 million asylum seekers from mainly Middle Eastern countries last year, saw crimes against refugee shelters quadruple to 924 incidents in 2015 and Muslim advocacy groups warn against finger-pointing.

“The vast majority of people coming here are fleeing war and terror themselves,” said Aiman Mazyek, president of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims. “All they want is peace and quiet.”

There is little research on the scale of antisemitism in Arab countries, but a Pew poll from 2011 shows a large majority of people there hold unfavorable opinions of Jews.

Researchers say too little effort is put into teaching Western and German values to asylum seekers, including the country’s relationship with Jewish communities.

“There is a lack of a deeper understanding of the culture in many Middle Eastern countries and this results in Western stakeholders being taken by surprise over the fervent antisemitism there,” said Wolfgang Bock, an expert in Islamism and Middle Eastern politics.

In Germany, refugees with recognized asylum claims learn about the country’s history and values alongside language tuition. But some experts say there is nothing about contemporary political issues, such as relations with Israel.

“Education can’t just be about the Holocaust and the Third Reich. Schools also need to talk about the Middle East conflict, antisemitism based on religious argumentation and conspiracy theories,” said Ahmad Mansour, an Arab-Israeli researcher with the European Foundation of Democracy.

But communities across Germany are overwhelmed with processing the hundreds of thousands of asylum applications and are struggling to provide shelter and food to the arrivals.

Some Jewish groups, such as the Berlin-based “Friends of the Fraenkleufer Synagogue”, have taken the cultural exchange issue into their own hands with around 40 volunteers helping out at a local refugee center.

“We want to send a message to all the Jews who sit at home and build big fences around their synagogues that it’s possible and necessary to approach one another, because if we don’t try, things can only turn for the worse,” said Nina Peretz, head of the initiative.

(Editing by David Stamp)


Can US election polls be trusted?

Not a day goes by without pundits and the media scrutinizing a new US election poll tracking candidates’ performances. But a look at past election surveys suggests it is better to take polls with a grain of salt.

January 27, 2016


Political polls haven’t been very good at predicting the winners of key elections lately.

Recent polls predicting the outcome of parliamentary elections in Britain, Israel and the Greek referendum have one thing in common. They were wrong.

In the UK, polls suggested a tight race between the Conservatives and Labour that could end up in a hung parliament. Instead, David Cameron’s Conservative Party won a clear majority.

In Israel, polls predicted a neck-to-neck finish between the Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu’s Likud Party and the Zionist Party. Instead, Netanyahu ended up the undisputed winner.

In Greece, polls suggested the Greek bailout referendum would be a close call. Instead, Greeks rejected the proposed bailout conditions by a whopping 22 percent margin.

Mixed record

What then do pollsters’ failures around the world mean for predictions being made concerning the US presidential primaries and general election?

The recent record in the United States is mixed, explained Charles Franklin, co-founder of pollster.com and the director of the Marquette Law School Poll. “In 2012, the average across all polls indicated the correct winner in every state except Florida, which was very, very close.”

But last year, he added, “all the polls were wrong in the Kentucky governor’s race, indicating the wrong winner. Yet a few weeks later, the polls were correct in the Louisiana governor’s race and very close to the actual vote split.”

Low participation

Polls in the United States and elsewhere increasingly face a technological problem that can affect their reliability: The decline of landline phones in favor of mobiles. Traditionally, polls had been conducted mostly via landline phones, particularly in the United States where the person receiving a call also often has to pay part of the call’s charges.

With people increasingly switching from landline to mobile phones they become harder to reach as they usually don’t show up in pollsters’ databases, said Donald F. Kettl, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland. “Moreover, it’s gotten increasingly easy to screen calls, and that’s especially the case for mobile phones.”

This technological switch, coupled with a growing reluctance to participate in polls, has dramatically reduced the number of people willing to answer pollsters’ questions. As a result, according to a 2012 Pew study, the average response or completion rate has fallen to just 9 percent.

“A poll with a 10 percent response rate and no use of follow-up technology is worthless,” said Michael Steele, a statistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Charles Franklin who runs the Marquette Law School Poll does not think that a low response rate on its own invalidates a poll. “Low response rate alone does not matter, as long as the reason for non-response is unrelated to political preferences,” he said.

What worries Franklin is that polls could be biased against younger and less educated people who tend to be more difficult to reach. That potential bias, he said, can be addressed statistically. But Franklin acknowledged that it would be preferable to have more people from those groups participate in polls.

Not all polls are created equally

These factors make clear that not all polls are created equal when it comes to evaluating the current horse-race nature of US elections.

“To understand a poll, you have to know the exact questions and the exact way in which the sample was drawn,” said Steele. “The most useful polls are those that are repeated, so despite whatever ambiguity there may be in the question, one gets some information by comparing time T to T+1.”

Predictions of the current presidential primary races face an additional problem, especially on the Republican side, said Kettl.

“Large numbers of candidates running in small states with polls having small numbers of respondents and many candidates clustered within the range of error,” he added.

Asked whether he still trusts polls, Kettl said: “I don’t trust the polls. But like everyone else, I follow every one I can find.”


Putin’s top security adviser says U.S. is after Russia’s minerals

January 26, 2016


Moscow-The head of Russia’s Security Council said in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday that the United States wanted a weakened Russia so as to gain access to its vast mineral resources.

The attack on the United States by Nikolai Patrushev came against a background of anti-Western rhetoric by Moscow following imposition of sanctions by Washington and the European Union over Moscow’s role in Ukraine’s crisis.

In an interview with BBC Panorama aired on Monday night, Adam Szubin, acting U.S. Treasury secretary for terrorism and financial crimes, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of amassing secret wealth by corrupt practices over “many, many years”.

“The United States’ leadership has set a goal of global dominance,” Patrushev, a former head of Russia’s FSB state security service and a long-standing ally of Putin, told the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper in an interview on its website.

“They don’t need a strong Russia. On the contrary, they need to weaken our country as much as possible. To achieve this goal, the Russian Federation’s disintegration is not ruled out as well,” Patrushev said.

“This will open access to the richest resources for the United States, which believes that Russia possesses them undeservingly.”

Russia is the world’s sixth-largest holder of crude oil resources and its natural gas reserves are the second biggest, marginally lower than those of Iran, according to BP data, one of the most respected in the industry.

Patrushev repeated Moscow’s concern that NATO’s expansion represents a threat to Russia’s national security.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Richard Balmforth)


Out of Bounds, Off-Limits, or Just Plain Ignored

Six National Security Questions Hillary, Donald, Ted, Marco, et al., Don’t Want to Answer and Won’t Even Be Asked

by Andrew J. Bacevich


To judge by the early returns, the presidential race of 2016 is shaping up as the most disheartening in recent memory. Other than as a form of low entertainment, the speeches, debates, campaign events, and slick TV ads already inundating the public sphere offer little of value. Rather than exhibiting the vitality of American democracy, they testify to its hollowness.

Present-day Iranian politics may actually possess considerably more substance than our own. There, the parties involved, whether favoring change or opposing it, understand that the issues at stake have momentous implications. Here, what passes for national politics is a form of exhibitionism about as genuine as pro wrestling.

A presidential election campaign ought to involve more than competing coalitions of interest groups or bevies of investment banks and billionaires vying to install their preferred candidate in the White House.  It should engage and educate citizens, illuminating issues and subjecting alternative solutions to careful scrutiny.

That this one won’t even come close we can ascribe as much to the media as to those running for office, something the recent set of “debates” and the accompanying commentary have made painfully clear.  With certain honorable exceptions such as NBC’s estimable Lester Holt, representatives of the press are less interested in fulfilling their civic duty than promoting themselves as active participants in the spectacle.  They bait, tease, and strut.  Then they subject the candidates’ statements and misstatements to minute deconstruction. The effect is to inflate their own importance while trivializing the proceedings they are purportedly covering.

Above all in the realm of national security, election 2016 promises to be not just a missed opportunity but a complete bust.  Recent efforts to exercise what people in Washington like to call “global leadership” have met with many more failures and disappointments than clearcut successes.  So you might imagine that reviewing the scorecard would give the current raft of candidates, Republican and Democratic alike, plenty to talk about.

But if you thought that, you’d be mistaken.  Instead of considered discussion of first-order security concerns, the candidates have regularly opted for bluff and bluster, their chief aim being to remove all doubts regarding their hawkish bona fides.

In that regard, nothing tops rhetorically beating up on the so-called Islamic State.  So, for example, Hillary Clinton promises to “smash the would-be caliphate,” Jeb Bush to “defeat ISIS for good,” Ted Cruz to “carpet bomb them into oblivion,” and Donald Trump to “bomb the shit out of them.”  For his part, having recently acquired a gun as the “last line of defense between ISIS and my family,” Marco Rubio insists that when he becomes president, “The most powerful intelligence agency in the world is going to tell us where [ISIS militants] are; the most powerful military in the world is going to destroy them; and if we capture any of them alive, they are getting a one-way ticket to Guantanamo Bay.”

These carefully scripted lines perform their intended twofold function. First, they elicit applause and certify the candidate as plenty tough.  Second, they spare the candidate from having to address matters far more deserving of presidential attention than managing the fight against the Islamic State.

In the hierarchy of challenges facing the United States today, ISIS ranks about on a par with Sicily back in 1943.  While liberating that island was a necessary prelude to liberating Europe more generally, the German occupation of Sicily did not pose a direct threat to the Allied cause.  So with far weightier matters to attend to — handling Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, for example — President Franklin Roosevelt wisely left the problem of Sicily to subordinates.  FDR thereby demonstrated an aptitude for distinguishing between the genuinely essential and the merely important.

By comparison, today’s crop of presidential candidates either are unable to grasp, cannot articulate, or choose to ignore those matters that should rightfully fall under a commander-in-chief’s purview. Instead, they compete with one another in vowing to liberate the twenty-first-century equivalent of Sicily, as if doing so demonstrates their qualifications for the office.

What sort of national security concerns should be front and center in the current election cycle?  While conceding that a reasoned discussion of heavily politicized matters like climate change, immigration, or anything to do with Israel is probably impossible, other issues of demonstrable significance deserve attention.  What follows are six of them — by no means an exhaustive list — that I’ve framed as questions a debate moderator might ask of anyone seeking the presidency, along with brief commentaries explaining why neither the posing nor the answering of such questions is likely to happen anytime soon.

1. The War on Terror: Nearly 15 years after this “war” was launched by George W. Bush, why hasn’t “the most powerful military in the world,” “the finest fighting force in the history of the world” won it?  Why isn’t victory anywhere in sight?

As if by informal agreement, the candidates and the journalists covering the race have chosen to ignore the military enterprise inaugurated in 2001, initially called the Global War on Terrorism and continuing today without an agreed-upon name.  Since 9/11, the United States has invaded, occupied, bombed, raided, or otherwise established a military presence in numerous countries across much of the Islamic world.  How are we doing?

Given the resources expended and the lives lost or ruined, not particularly well it would seem.  Intending to promote stability, reduce the incidence of jihadism, and reverse the tide of anti-Americanism among many Muslims, that “war” has done just the opposite.  Advance the cause of democracy and human rights?  Make that zero-for-four.

Amazingly, this disappointing record has been almost entirely overlooked in the campaign.  The reasons why are not difficult to discern.  First and foremost, both parties share in the serial failures of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere in the region. Pinning the entire mess on George W. Bush is no more persuasive than pinning it all on Barack Obama.  An intellectually honest accounting would require explanations that look beyond reflexive partisanship. Among the matters deserving critical scrutiny is Washington’s persistent bipartisan belief in military might as an all-purpose problem solver.  Not far behind should come questions about simple military competence that no American political figure of note or mainstream media outlet has the gumption to address.

The politically expedient position indulged by the media is to sidestep such concerns in favor of offering endless testimonials to the bravery and virtue of the troops, while calling for yet more of the same or even further escalation.  Making a show of supporting the troops takes precedence over serious consideration of what they are continually being asked to do.

2. Nuclear Weapons: Today, more than 70 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, what purpose do nukes serve?  How many nuclear weapons and delivery systems does the United States actually need?

In an initiative that has attracted remarkably little public attention, the Obama administration has announced plans to modernize and upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  Estimated costs of this program reach as high as $1 trillion over the next three decades.  Once finished — probably just in time for the 100th anniversary of Hiroshima — the United States will possess more flexible, precise, survivable, and therefore usable nuclear capabilities than anything hitherto imagined.  In effect, the country will have acquired a first-strike capability — even as U.S. officials continue to affirm their earnest hope of removing the scourge of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth (other powers being the first to disarm, of course).

Whether, in the process, the United States will become more secure or whether there might be far wiser ways to spend that kind of money — shoring up cyber defenses, for example — would seem like questions those who could soon have their finger on the nuclear button might want to consider.

Yet we all know that isn’t going to happen.  Having departed from the sphere of politics or strategy, nuclear policy has long since moved into the realm of theology.  Much as the Christian faith derives from a belief in a Trinity consisting of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, so nuclear theology has its own Triad, comprised of manned bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched missiles.  To question the existence of such a holy threesome constitutes rank heresy.  It’s just not done — especially when there’s all that money about to be dropped into the collection plate.

3. Energy Security: Given the availability of abundant oil and natural gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere and the potential future abundance of alternative energy systems, why should the Persian Gulf continue to qualify as a vital U.S. national security interest?

Back in 1980, two factors prompted President Jimmy Carter to announce that the United States viewed the Persian Gulf as worth fighting for.  The first was a growing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and a belief that American consumers were guzzling gas at a rate that would rapidly deplete domestic reserves.  The second was a concern that, having just invaded Afghanistan, the Soviet Union might next have an appetite for going after those giant gas stations in the Gulf, Iran, or even Saudi Arabia.

Today we know that the Western Hemisphere contains more than ample supplies of oil and natural gas to sustain the American way of life (while also heating up the planet).  As for the Soviet Union, it no longer exists — a decade spent chewing on Afghanistan having produced a fatal case of indigestion.

No doubt ensuring U.S. energy security should remain a major priority. Yet in that regard, protecting Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela is far more relevant to the nation’s well-being than protecting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq, while being far easier and cheaper to accomplish.  So who will be the first presidential candidate to call for abrogating the Carter Doctrine?  Show of hands, please?

4. Assassination: Now that the United States has normalized assassination as an instrument of policy, how well is it working? What are its benefits and costs?

George W. Bush’s administration pioneered the practice of using missile-armed drones as a method of extrajudicial killing.  Barack Obama’s administration greatly expanded and routinized the practice.

The technique is clearly “effective” in the narrow sense of liquidating leaders and “lieutenants” of terror groups that policymakers want done away with.  What’s less clear is whether the benefits of state-sponsored assassination outweigh the costs, which are considerable.  The incidental killing of noncombatants provokes ire directed against the United States and provides terror groups with an excellent recruiting tool.  The removal of Mr. Bad Actor from the field adversely affects the organization he leads for no longer than it takes for a successor to emerge.  As often as not, the successor turns out to be nastier than Mr. Bad Actor himself.

It would be naïve to expect presidential candidates to interest themselves in the moral implications of assassination as now practiced on a regular basis from the White House.  Still, shouldn’t they at least wonder whether it actually works as advertised?  And as drone technology proliferates, shouldn’t they also contemplate the prospect of others — say, Russians, Chinese, and Iranians — following America’s lead and turning assassination into a global practice?

5. Europe: Seventy years after World War II and a quarter-century after the Cold War ended, why does European security remain an American responsibility?  Given that Europeans are rich enough to defend themselves, why shouldn’t they?

Americans love Europe: old castles, excellent cuisine, and cultural attractions galore.  Once upon a time, the parts of Europe that Americans love best needed protection.  Devastated by World War II, Western Europe faced in the Soviet Union a threat that it could not handle alone. In a singular act of generosity laced with self-interest, Washington came to the rescue.  By forming NATO, the United States committed itself to defend its impoverished and vulnerable European allies. Over time this commitment enabled France, Great Britain, West Germany, and other nearby countries to recover from the global war and become strong, prosperous, and democratic countries.

Today Europe is “whole and free,” incorporating not only most of the former Soviet empire, but even parts of the old Soviet Union itself. In place of the former Soviet threat, there is Vladimir Putin, a bully governing a rickety energy state that, media hype notwithstanding, poses no more than a modest danger to Europe itself. Collectively, the European Union’s economy, at $18 trillion, equals that of the United States and exceeds Russia’s, even in sunnier times, by a factor of nine.  Its total population, easily outnumbering our own, is more than triple Russia’s.  What these numbers tell us is that Europe is entirely capable of funding and organizing its own defense if it chooses to do so.

It chooses otherwise, in effect opting for something approximating disarmament.  As a percentage of the gross domestic product, European nations spend a fraction of what the United States does on defense. When it comes to armaments, they prefer to be free riders and Washington indulges that choice.  So even today, seven decades after World War II ended, U.S. forces continue to garrison Europe and America’s obligation to defend 26 countries on the far side of the Atlantic remains intact.

The persistence of this anomalous situation deserves election-year attention for one very important reason.  It gets to the question of whether the United States can ever declare mission accomplished. Since the end of World War II, Washington has extended its security umbrella to cover not only Europe, but also virtually all of Latin America and large parts of East Asia.  More recently, the Middle East, Central Asia, and now Africa have come in for increased attention.  Today, U.S. forces alone maintain an active presence in 147 countries.

Do our troops ever really get to “come home”?  The question is more than theoretical in nature.  To answer it is to expose the real purpose of American globalism, which means, of course, that none of the candidates will touch it with a 10-foot pole.

6. Debt: Does the national debt constitute a threat to national security?  If so, what are some politically plausible ways of reining it in?

Together, the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama can take credit for tripling the national debt since 2000.  Well before Election Day this coming November, the total debt, now exceeding the entire gross domestic product, will breach the $19 trillion mark.

In 2010, Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described that debt as “the most significant threat to our national security.”  Although in doing so he wandered a bit out of his lane, he performed a rare and useful service by drawing a link between long-term security and fiscal responsibility.  Ever so briefly, a senior military officer allowed consideration of the national interest to take precedence over the care and feeding of the military-industrial complex.  It didn’t last long.

Mullen’s comment garnered a bit of attention, but failed to spur any serious congressional action.  Again, we can see why, since Congress functions as an unindicted co-conspirator in the workings of that lucrative collaboration.  Returning to anything like a balanced budget would require legislators to make precisely the sorts of choices that they are especially loathe to make — cutting military programs that line the pockets of donors and provide jobs for constituents.  (Although the F-35 fighter may be one of the most bloated and expensive weapons programs in history, even Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders has left no stone unturned in lobbying to get those planes stationed in his hometown of Burlington.)

Recently, the role of Congress in authorizing an increase in the debt ceiling has provided Republicans with an excuse for political posturing, laying responsibility for all that red ink entirely at the feet of President Obama — this despite the fact that he has reduced the annual deficit by two-thirds, from $1.3 trillion the year he took office to $439 billion last year.

This much is certain: regardless of who takes the prize in November, the United States will continue to accumulate debt at a non-trivial rate. If a Democrat occupies the White House, Republicans will pretend to care.  If our next president is a Republican, they will keep mum.  In either case, the approach to national security that does so much to keep the books out of balance will remain intact.

Come to think of it, averting real change might just be the one point on which the candidates generally agree.


Sweden to deport nearly 80,000 asylum seekers amid migrant-linked violence

January 28, 2016


Sweden is planning to expel nearly 80,000 refugees and migrants who arrived in the country in 2015, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said, adding that their applications for asylum had been rejected.

We are talking about 60,000 people, but the number could climb to 80,000,” Swedish media quoted Ygeman as saying.

Police and local authorities have been tasked with organizing the departures by charter flights. The countries of origin of the rejected asylum seekers have not been disclosed.

Sweden, which has the population of 9.8 million people, is one of the EU countries that took in the largest share of refugees per head of population. In 2015, it accepted over 160,000 refugees and migrants.

However, the level of new arrivals has plunged since the beginning of January, when Sweden introduced systematic photo ID border checks, after stating that it has hit its limit in terms of receiving asylum seekers.

Swedish officials have been calling for greater security at asylum centers amid a surge in reports of violence.

Police officers have requested up to 4,100 new employees after a deadly stabbing attack in a refugee facility.

The attack happened at a center for underage, unaccompanied refugees in Mölndal, southern Sweden on Monday, where a 22-year-old female staff member was killed by a 15-year-old boy.

The victim was psychology graduate Alexandra Mezher. She was reportedly working the night shift alone when she was attacked. A motive for the attack was not immediately known.

She worked at the center for about four months. She wanted to continue with her studies, but wanted to have a job to get experience first,” Mezher’s friend Lejla Filipovic told RT.

On Tuesday, over 40 asylum seekers were reportedly involved in a brawl at a refugee center in the Dutch city of Rosmalen, according to police. Twelve police cars were dispatched to the shelter.

In another incident last week, a police patrol consisting of 10 officers was forced to flee the Västerås refugee center in Sweden after being surrounded by a group of asylum seekers. The police were there to relocate a 10-year-old boy, after reports that he had been subject to repeated rape.

Tougher security measures have also been implemented in Sweden’s neighboring countries. Denmark approved a new law this week, making it legal to seize refugees’ belongings. Critics of the legislation have compared the new law to the Nazis’ confiscation of gold and other valuables from Jews during the Holocaust.

Meanwhile, the number of refugees trying to make their way to Europe across the Mediterranean is not subsiding. The UN revealed that already over 46,000 people have arrived in Greece since the beginning of the year, with more than 170 people killed trying to cross the sea.



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