TBR News July 17, 2011

Jul 17 2011

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., July 17, 2011: “Keith Rupert Murdoch was born in Melbourne, Australia, on March 11, 1931. Rupert’s father, Sir Keith Murdoch, was an Australian  newspaper publisher, and his mother was  Elisabeth Joy Greene, daughter of Rupert Greene and she was an Orthodox  Jew, although Murdoch never offers that information in his biographies.

The young Murdoch was educated at Australia’s fashionable Geelong private school, and went on to the elitist and aristocratic Oxford University in England

While Murdoch has hidden his Jewish roots, he has been quite forthright about his support for extreme right-wing Zionists, such as Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon.

Netanyahu is a frequent commentator on Murdoch’s Fox News.

Murdoch’s support for Zionism extremists is well known and a matter of record. As former New York Governor George Pataki said, “There is no newspaper in the U.S. more supportive of Israel than the [Murdoch’s] New York Post.”

Murdoch belongs to, and has been honored by, a number of leading Zionist organizations in which Silverstein, Lowy, and Eisenberg all hold senior positions. These organizations include the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), and the New York-based Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

“I have always believed in the future of Israel and the goals of the international Jewish community,” Murdoch said at a spring fund-raiser for the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust on April 29, 2001.

From the beginning, News Corp., his global media company, “has been supportive of the Jewish national cause,” Murdoch said.

“Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch and Mortimer Zuckerman are on the [ADL] dinner committee,” according to a New York Times report on an ADL’s fund-raiser in which the controversial Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi received the ADL’s Distinguished Statesman Award.

Silverstein and Eisenberg have both held senior leadership positions with the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), a billion dollar Zionist “charity” organization, to which Murdoch and Lowy generously contribute. In 1997, Henry Kissinger presented Murdoch with the UJA’s award for “Humanitarian of the Year.”

Rupert Murdoch was listed three times in the Time 100 as among the most influential people in the world. He is ranked 13th most powerful person in the world in the 2010 Forbes The World’s Most Powerful People list. With a net worth of US$6.3 billion, he is ranked 117th wealthiest person in the world.”

Murdochs fight to stay afloat in US as sharks circle News Corp

Pressure is growing for the Murdoch family to provide an even greater sacrifice for the survival of media empire’s profits

July 16, 2011

by Paul Harris


Pundits were chatting in a television studio during a commercial break early this week on Fox News Watch, dedicated to hot topics in the media world. Believing themselves off-air, the three guests, conservative commentators James Pinkerton and Cal Thomas and former New York Times reporter Judy Miller, laughed and joked among themselves.

“Anybody want to bring up the subject we’re not talking about today?” Thomas asked. “Sure, go ahead, Cal!” said Pinkerton. “No, go ahead, Jim,” Thomas replied.

The joke, of course, was that no one wanted to be the first to bring up the crisis afflicting Rupert Murdoch on his own TV channel. Fox is owned by News Corp, the giant US-based media company which, inexorably – terrifyingly for its shareholders – is being drawn into the phone-hacking scandal that has dominated the headlines in Britain for a fortnight.

Such reticence on the part of the Fox pundits was perhaps born out of a desire and expectation that the troubles assailing Murdoch’s News International would remain firmly on the British side of the Atlantic and not infect its giant American parent company.

Many News Corp managers and investors saw what was happening in London as an outbreak of disease in a far-flung offshoot of the empire. The key thing for them was to insulate the rest of the body corporate from contagion. That was especially important in the US, where its lucrative TV, film and publishing properties bring in billions of dollars of profit and give it immense political influence.

But by the end of the week that mission was in tatters. Allegations and fears that phone hacking might have occurred in the US led to a series of calls from politicians for investigations into News Corp. The department of justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have been asked to examine the company’s work and the FBI has now started an investigation.

The scandal has also revealed a battle at the heart of News Corp, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, for the future of the US empire. That has exposed a corporate structure where the Murdoch family squabble among themselves but are also pitted against other factions. It is a fight that puts highly profitable TV interests against those of a declining print industry.

Rebel shareholders despair of family control of the company and a coterie of top corporate managers are fearful that one of 80-year-old Rupert Murdoch’s children may take over the firm and not be up to the job. The scandal has also opened up an unexpected opportunity for Murdoch’s US critics – especially those on the left who hate Fox News – to question the company’s suitability to own a good chunk of the US media.

The damage has already begun in the US. Within hours of Rebekah Brooks’s departure on Friday morning, any hope that the tide of outrage would ebb quickly faded. The American operation saw its first big casualty when Les Hinton resigned. Hinton, who was intimately involved with running News International when much of the phone hacking went on, dramatically quit on Friday afternoon, New York time, as head of the gleaming jewel of Murdoch’s US media empire: Dow Jones, which owns the Wall Street Journal.

The pain of Hinton’s loss to Murdoch cannot be overestimated. The two had worked together for more than half a century and, in his farewell email, Hinton spoke of his “sorrow”. Murdoch too said it was a matter of “much sadness”. Breaking the bond between two men who defined News Corp could not have been easy. Yet it showed the size of the stakes being played for. The crisis had crossed the Atlantic spectacularly.

There could be more drama to come. Possibly next in the line of fire is James Murdoch, son and heir presumptive to the News Corp crown. His fall would be shocking. But it may not even end there. If the FBI probe finds anything, all bets will be off. This crisis could perhaps even assail Murdoch himself. “If anything gets uncovered here in the US there will be a very, very high price to pay,” said Jack Lule, journalism professor at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania.

The American empire is vast. In print it runs the Journal and the feisty tabloid the New York Post. As well as Fox, it owns publishers HarperCollins and the DowJones financial newswire, and the 20th Century Fox film studio. But those are just the big names. It owns scores of other properties from the Fox Soccer Channel to the Daily iPad newspaper to a big stake in the TV website Hulu to a small group of New York community newspapers and many, many more.

Yet News Corp is not run like many normal companies. Instead it has a dual share structure whereby its stock is split into two classes: ‘A’ shares that carry with them voting powers and ‘B’ shares that do not. This structure, with Murdoch and his family owning the biggest stakes in the ‘A’ shares, allows Murdoch to run the firm tightly without actually owning the majority of it. To increasingly unnerved shareholders – who have seen the value of their investments lose hundreds of millions of dollars over the week – that no longer looks like a good idea. “This is a new climate. The largest shareholders of this company are not happy any more at how it is being run,” said Michael Wolff, a media expert who wrote a biography of Murdoch.

With Brooks and Hinton gone, many shareholders are concerned that they will not be the last senior figures to fall – or be pushed. The focus is now on James Murdoch. His position as deputy chief operating officer means the crisis has now reached the giddiest heights of News Corp and threatens the grip of the family itself. James, who has admitted misleading parliament over phone hacking and said he had not been given all the information he needed, has suffered a catastrophic loss of his reputation. The man who was once clearly next-in-line now faces an uncertain future. “One can safely rule out James taking over at this point. That’s not going to happen. Everybody in the company recognises that,” Wolff said.

But if not James, then who? Among other Murdoch children Elisabeth – whose TV production company Shine was recently bought by News Corp – might perhaps move up. But she is unknown at such a high corporate level. Or, perhaps, Lachlan Murdoch might return to the fold after years of seeing James favoured. But increasingly there is a belief that the Murdoch name is no longer the force within News Corp that it was. In order to placate restless shareholders Murdoch has poured billions of dollars into a share buyback scheme aimed at stabilising the plunging stock and sparing investors further pain. Some financial experts see that as a way of saving the current set-up. “A lot of it depends on the stock price. If it stabilises then the current management might survive,” said Rebecca Arbogast, a managing director at Stifel Financial.

But even if the buyback does halt the share slide the influence and power of non-family figures will still have been greatly strengthened. One man to watch is Chase Carey, the chief operating officer who was brought back into the company fold only in 2009 from satellite TV company DirectTv. Some have Carey acting as a sort of “prince regent”, running News Corp until a Murdoch is able to take over. Others go further and believe he will become the heir. This week Jason Subotky, a portfolio manager at News Corp’s eighth largest investor, The Yacktman Funds, broke cover and said he would be thrilled if Carey took over. Another non-family person to emerge strengthened is Roger Ailes, the liberal bete noire behind Fox News. While Murdoch’s UK newspapers have lost their political power amid allegations of illegal skulduggery, Ailes’s Fox News has won huge influence solely by the power of its opinions and the controversial style of its broadcasting. Ailes, Fox insiders say, is upset at the crisis in the UK and the potential blowback to Fox. Which could unnerve some of the Murdoch children. Ailes and the children have had their differences, especially after Matthew Freud – the husband of Elisabeth Murdoch – publicly said he was “ashamed” of Ailes’s journalistic standards.

Now a lawsuit has been filed against senior News Corp management by upset shareholders. It was placed on behalf of a group of investors, led by Amalgamated Bank, who were furious at Murdoch’s purchase of Elisabeth’s business for $675m. That suit alleged nepotism on behalf of News Corp. “Murdoch has treated News Corp like a family candy jar,” the lawyers said. It has now been updated to include outrage at the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal and an argument that News Corp’s handling of the crisis has been catastrophic for investors. “[It shows] a culture run amok within News Corp, and a board that provides no effective review or oversight,” the suit now reads. Experts expect more such cases to be filed as shareholders circle the floundering corporation.

“This is now fertile ground for shareholder lawsuits,” said Jeffrey Silva, a communications industry expert at Medley Global Advisers.

But the greatest legal threat to News Corp in America is likely not to come from courts where lawsuits are filed on behalf of investors. It is from the threat of investigation by top US law enforcement officials. In a sign of how quickly and dangerously things had spun out of control, a single report in the Daily Mirror about an alleged attempt to obtain the phone records of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks sparked a political firestorm in the US.

The report, which used an anonymous source and admitted no phone records had been passed on, provided the cover for a wave of politicians to demand investigations into News Corp. Democratic senators Jay Rockefeller and Barbara Boxer sent a joint letter to the justice department and the SEC calling for an investigation into whether News Corp had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which bans US firms from engaging in corruption abroad.

Some experts think payments made by News International to policemen and others in the UK could fit that bill. Two more Democratic senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, then joined the hunt and wrote to the SEC. Then, to the shock of many, a Republican stepped up too. New Yorker Peter King fired off a missive to FBI director Robert Mueller demanding a probe into the 9/11 allegations. “Any person guilty of this purported conduct should receive the harshest sanctions available under the law,” King said. That seemed to be enough for the FBI, which promptly began a preliminary investigation.

Two FBI units have been assigned to the task, one that specialises in white collar crime and corruption, and a cybercrimes unit. Though the public evidence of wrongdoing in the US – in the form of that Mirror report – is scant, experts believe that may not be the point. “This allows a fishing expedition for the FBI. They are able to probe and find out what else might be going on,” said Lule. If that expedition finds criminal evidence in the US then many believe that News Corp’s suitability to run TV stations in the US could be called into question. “If it turns out they did things here, then that would up the risk,” said Arbogast.

Some, however, think huge damage has already been done to News Corp’s reputation: enough to cost many millions of dollars in the future. Even if the crisis in the US stops and the FBI investigation finds no evidence of illegality, the aftermath of the last two weeks has left a scar across the empire in the US. With the deal to buy the rest of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB off the table, News Corp suddenly has billions of dollars to spend and a desire to expand. But with its tainted brand, News Corp may not find its path to growth as easy as it has done in the past. There will be no special treatment from regulators in the future. Indeed, it is likely to be the reverse. “Murdoch is going to have to apply for permits and permissions and licences and this company has been tainted. It is going to be a problem. Their ability to expand has been hurt,” said Lule.

Murdoch Has Gamed American Politics Every Bit as Thoroughly as Britain’s

July 17, 2011

by John Nichols

The Nation

Australian-born billionaire Rupert Murdoch has manipulated not just the news but the news landscape of the United States for decades. He has done so by pressuring the Federal Communications Commission and Congress to alter the laws of the land and regulatory standards in order to give his media conglomerate an unfair advantage in “competition” with more locally focused, more engaged and more responsible media.

It’s an old story: while Murdoch’s Fox News hosts prattle on and on about their enthusiasm for the free market, they work for a firm that seeks to game the system so Murdoch’s “properties” are best positioned to monopolize the discourse.

Now, with Murdoch’s News Corp. empire in crisis—collapsing bit by bit under the weight of a steady stream of allegations about illegal phone hacking and influence peddling in Britain—there is an odd disconnect occurring in much of the major media of the United States. While there is some acknowledgement that Murdoch has interests in the United States (including not just his Fox News channel but the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post), the suggestion is that Murdoch was more manipulative, more influential, more controlling in Britain than here.

But that’s a fantasy. Just as Murdoch has had far too much control over politics and politicians in Britain during periods of conservative dominance—be it under an actual Tory such as former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major and current Prime Minister David Cameron or under a faux Tory such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair—he has had far too much control in the States. And that control, while ideological to some extent, is focused mainly on improving the bottom line for his media properties by securing for them unfair legal and regulatory advantages.

Over the past decade, as media reform groups have battled to prevent FCC and Congressional moves to undermine controls on media consolidation, Murdoch and his lobbyists been a constant presence—pushing from the other side for the lifting of limits on the amount and types of media that one corporation can own in particular communities and nationally.

The objection was never an ideological one. Media owners, editors, reporters and commentators have a right to take the positions they like. Where the trouble comes is when they seek to turn politicians and regulators into corporate handmaidens—and when they build their empires out to such an extent they can demand obedience even from those who do not share their partisan or ideological preferences.

And the corruptions of the process created by Murdoch’s manipulation are not merely a British phenomenon.

Murdoch’s political pawns in the United States have been every bit as faithful to the mogul and his media machine as the British pols.

When he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in May of 2003, at a point when he was the chief global cheerleader for George Bush’s war with Iraq (“We basically supported…I will say supported the Bush policy,” the media mogul would later admit), Murdoch was seeking to secure ownership of the nation’s largest satellite television company while pressing for FCC rule changes that would allow him to own newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same cities and for an easing of controls on the extent to which one corporation could dominate television viewership nationally.

Did Murdoch have a hard time of it?

Not hardly.

News reports at the time described the response to the Australian-born media mogul’s appearance as “just short of fawning.”

The then-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner, greeted Murdoch by thanking the media executive for developing the Fox News network. “When my wife doesn’t get a good dose of Fox News every day she gets grumpy,” chirped Sensenbrenner, “so there are some of us who appreciate what you are doing.”

Murdoch was invited to sing the praises of his various operations, and he did just that, claiming, “Innovation and consumer choice are built into our DNA.”

The whole point of Fox, Murdoch explained, was to “dethrone” more traditional media outlets—outlets that did actual news reporting (Fox is dominated by talking-head commentators) and that were not expressly ideological (in the sense that Fox places itself at the service of the corporate-dominated and militarist wing of the GOP).

That sat well with the Republicans on the committee. “Thank you for what you’ve done,” Utah Congressman Chris Cannon told Murdoch. “Thank you for your risk-taking.”

Sensenbrenner was so determined to create a favorable transcript of Murdoch’s visit—which he promised to forward to the Justice Department and the FCC, which were examining anti-trust and regulatory issues relating to the expansion of the News Corp. empire—that he prevented Democrats on the committee from asking basic questions.

The ranking Democrat, Michigan Congressman John Conyers, complained that he was prevented from questioning Murdoch about “the connections between [Fox News chairman and CEO] Roger Ailes and the White House. What the hell is that all about? It’s like there’s a direct line between the administration and Ailes. You can see it. There are plenty of political and policy implications in that.”

Conyers was absolutely right. So, too, were consumer groups that complained aggressively about the expansion of Murdoch’s media dominance and political reach. But News Corp. got the go-ahead to take over the largest satellite company (DirecTV) and the FCC (which Murdoch had personally lobbied) approved the ownership rule changes he sought.

Ultimately, the DirecTV deal turned out to be problematic for Murdoch, and the courts tripped up the FCC’s rule changes.

But Murdoch kept at the latter fight, continuing to push for the FCC to rewrite media ownership rules so that one corporation can own the daily newspapers, the weekly “alternative” newspaper, the city magazine, suburban publications, the eight largest radio stations, the dominant broadcast and cable television stations, popular Internet news and calendar sites, billboards and concert halls in even the largest American city.

This “company-town” scheme—a top goal of Murdoch and his lobbying team, as it complemented their US operations in cities such as New York—was again approved by the FCC in 2008, only to again be up-ended by United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit earlier this month.

Notably, while the Murdoch-friendly 2008 rule change was approved by a Republican-dominated FCC, it was defended this year by current FCC chair Julius Genachowski, an appointee of President Obama.

As in England, Murdoch and his managers have for many years had their way with the American regulators and political players who should have been holding the mogul and the multinational to account. Sometimes Murdoch has succeeded through aggressive personal lobbying, sometimes with generous campaign contributions (with Democrats and Republicans among the favored recipients), sometimes by hiring the likes of Newt Gingrich (who as the Speaker of the House consulted with Murdoch in the 1990s) and Rick Santorum (who as a senator from Pennsylvania was a frequent defender of big media companies), sometimes by making stars of previously marginal figures such as Michele Bachmann.

Former White House political czar Karl Rove, who prodded Fox News to declare George Bush the winner of the disputed 2000 presidential election and who remains a key player in Republican politics to this day, still works for Murdoch, as does former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a prospective GOP vice presidential candidate.

But Murdoch is not the rigid partisan some of his more casual critics imagines. He often discovers unexpected political heroes or heroines—such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former target whose 2000 US Senate run in New York and whose 2008 presidential run earned surprisingly generous coverage from the New York Post and Fox after Murdoch determined that she was on the rise politically. The Clinton embrace was classic Murdoch. He plays both sides of every political divide. But when he is not aiding and abetting the party of the right he looks for conservative and centrist figures (Britain’s Blair, America’s Clinton) within traditional parties of the left. The point, always, is to assure that those with power are pro-business in general and pro-Murdoch (or, at the least, indebted to Murdoch) in particular.

The strategy has been so successful that, even now, there is some debate about the extent to which Murdoch’s influence will diminish in the United States.

Criticism of the media Machiavelli has been muted, and not just from the Republican presidential contenders who are afraid of getting on the wrong side of the Fox team and the equally punitive Wall Street Journal editorial page. Democratic leaders had almost as much trouble finding anything bad to say about Murdoch’s alleged wrongdoing—let alone his manipulations of American political life.

After the current scandal began to unfold, a few Democrats with histories of questioning big-media companies, called for inquiries into News Corp. wrongdoing.

Senators Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, and Barbara Boxer asked for an investigation of whether News Corp’s extensive use of phone hacking could have violated US laws. “The reported hacking by News Corp. newspapers against a range of individuals—including children—is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics,” says Rockefeller said in a statement. “This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken U.S. law, and I encourage the appropriate agencies to investigate to ensure that Americans have not had their privacy violated.”

Similarly, Senator Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, asked Attorney General Eric Holder and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Mary Schapiro on Wednesday, to consider whether News Corp.’s allegedly bribery of foreign law enforcement officials violated US law.

“The limited information already reported in this case raises serious questions about the legality of the conduct of News Corp. and its subsidiaries under the [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act],” explained Lautenberg. “Further investigation may reveal that current reports only scratch the surface of the problem at News Corp. Accordingly, I am requesting that DOJ and the SEC examine these circumstances and determine whether U.S. laws have been violated.”

New York Congressman Peter King, who represents many families of 9/11 victims, was a lonely Republican advocate for an inquiry.

These requests prompted the US Department of Justice to pursue a limited investigation, with Attorney General Holder saying, “There have been members of Congress in the United States who have asked us to investigate those same allegations and we are progressing in that regard using the appropriate Federal law enforcement agencies,”

Holder, a frequent target of abuse from Murdoch media, has taken an appropriate if cautious first step.

An even more appropriate inquiry would go to the heart of the matter and ask: How did Murdoch get such favorable treatment from Congressional committees and regulatory agencies that are supposed to serve the public interest?

Such an inquiry would, undoubtedly, consider the unsettling tale of how former Senate minority leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, seemed to lose interest in challenging media consolidation—an issue on which he had been a good player—after Murdoch’s publishing house offered Lott a $250,000 book deal for the senator’s forgettable memoir, Herding Cats. It would also consider the strange case of then–Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s decision to take a break from her work at a critical early stage in the war on terror—on a day when a international outcry had stirred with regard to a failed attempt to assassinate a key Al Qaeda leader—to spend a leisurely afternoon briefing Murdoch’s editors from around the world.

But the most critical focus of any inquiry into Murdoch’s influence over US political and regulatory players would be on those figures, such as the slavishly devoted Congressman Sensenbrenner, who remain in positions where they can do the mogul’s bidding.

No doubt, Murdoch’s misdeeds deserve to be examined—thoroughly, and aggressively.

So, too, however, do the actions of those American politicians and regulators—Republicans and Democrats—who appear to have been every bit as obedient to Rupert Murdoch as their British counterparts.

British Police Arrest Rebekah Brooks in Phone Hacking

July 17, 2011

by Alan Cowell and Ravi Somaiya

New York Times

LONDON — The British police on Sunday arrested Rebekah Brooks, the former chief of Rupert Murdoch’s media operations in Britain, according to a former associate at News International, the newspaper group at the heart of a phone-hacking scandal that is convulsing the Murdoch empire, the British political elite and the police here.

The timing, two days before a separate parliamentary inquiry into the crisis, drew a skeptical response from opposition lawmakers who said the arrest might inhibit Ms. Brooks’s ability or readiness to testify before the panel while she is the subject of police inquiries.

David Wilson, a lawyer representing Ms. Brooks, said she “maintains her innocence, absolutely.”

It was the latest twist in a series of events that has transformed Mr. Murdoch from a virtually untouchable force in the British media landscape to a mogul fighting for the survival of his power and influence.

Earlier on Sunday, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Ed Miliband, who has taken a lead in criticizing Mr. Murdoch’s operations, called for the breakup of News International, his British newspaper subsidiary. Mr. Miliband said the group’s influence was “dangerous.”

A police statement did not identify Ms. Brooks by name but said a 43-year-old woman had been detained for questioning by officers investigating both the phone-hacking scandal and payments made to corrupt police officers. A News International official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the woman detained was Ms. Brooks.

The British Press Association news agency said Ms. Brooks was arrested by appointment at a London police station around midday and remained in custody.

But Mr. Wilson said the arrest came as a complete surprise to Ms. Brooks, who believed she was attending a prearranged and voluntary sit-down session to aid police in their inquiries. When she showed up, she was arrested, he said.

News International executives expected Ms. Brooks would be answering police questions as a witness. “It was a surprise to all of us here that she was arrested today,” said a senior company official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “When she resigned on Friday, we were not aware that she would be arrested by the police. And we did not know on Friday that she had made voluntary arrangements to go in and see the police.”

Daisy Dunlop, a News International spokeswoman, declined to say whether News International was paying for Ms. Brooks’s legal and public relations teams.

The arrest came two days after Ms. Brooks quit as chief executive at News International, as the Murdoch family struggled to contain the fallout. And it came two days before Ms. Brooks was to join Rupert Murdoch and his son James in testifying before an parliamentary investigative panel. That committee is focusing on the phone-hacking scandal that has erupted in the two weeks since reports emerged that The News of the World, once the top-selling Sunday tabloid and a central part of the Murdoch operations in Britain, had ordered the hacking of the phone of a 13-year-old girl, Milly Dowler, who was abducted and murdered. The case provoked huge public outrage.

The arrest brought police scrutiny ever closer to the family that controls News International.

“The water is now lapping around the ankles of the Murdoch family,” said Chris Bryant, a Labour parliamentarian who has taken legal action against The News of the World because he suspects his phone has been hacked. On Sunday, for the second day in a row, News International placed full-page advertisements in major newspapers promising full cooperation with the police. “There are no excuses and should be no place to hide,” the advertisements said.

Ms. Brooks was editor of The News of the World at the time of Milly Dowler’s abduction but has denied knowledge of the phone hacking. In response to the crisis, the Murdoch family closed The News of the World and withdrew a $12 billion bid to assume control of Britain’s biggest satellite broadcaster, British Sky Broadcasting.

Mr. Murdoch and his family still own Britain’s top-selling daily tabloid, The Sun, as well as The Times of London and The Sunday Times. He also has a 39 percent stake in British Sky Broadcasting.

Referring to Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Miliband, the opposition leader, told The Observer newspaper on Sunday that the “amount of power in one person’s hands has clearly led to abuses of power in his organization.” He called the concentration of media ownership in Mr. Murdoch’s hands “unhealthy.” Since the scandal erupted, the British police — under fire for their close relationship with News International — has arrested five former editors from News International, including Ms. Brooks, whose high-flying career included spells as eIn 2003, she became the first woman to edit The Sun, which claimed its influence was so great that it could sway the outcome of national elections. Indeed, both Tony Blair in 1997 and the current prime minister, David Cameron, were backed by The Sun when they came to power.

Her arrest followed the earlier detention of Andy Coulson, another former editor of The News of the World. He later became Mr. Cameron’s director of communications — a job he quit in January as the hacking scandal grew more serious.

Both Ms. Brooks and Mr. Coulson enjoyed friendly relations with Mr. Cameron, leading the Labour Party to question his judgment. Ms. Brooks was also reported to be close to Mr. Blair during his time in office from 1997 to 2007.

Ms. Brooks is the most senior of former Murdoch employees to be arrested. She has been depicted as particularly close to Rupert Murdoch, who once described her as “a great campaigning editor who has worked her way up through the company with an energy and enthusiasm that reflects true passion for newspapers and an understanding of the crucial contribution that independence journalism makes to society.”

At a public hearing in 2003, however, Ms. Brooks seemed to admit to lawmakers that journalists on her staffs had paid the police for information. That statement — which she later sought to retract — is likely to offer the police a potentially rich seam of questioning.

Police officers themselves are under scrutiny, the most senior of them Sir Paul Stephenson, the chief of Scotland Yard, as London’s Metropolitan Police is known. According to news reports, Sir Paul hired a former News of the World executive, Neil Wallis, as a public relations adviser. Mr. Wallis was arrested for questioning last week.

Mr. Wallis also worked for a spa where Sir Paul was treated for five weeks while recovering from a fractured leg this year, the Press Association said. But Scotland Yard said Sir Paul did not know that Mr. Wallis worked there. Indeed, Scotland Yard said, Sir Paul’s stay at the spa, which totaled about $17,000, was arranged by a friend who was the managing director of the establishment.

Scotland Yard said the police paid for Sir Paul’s “intensive physiotherapy” to hasten his return to work.

Referring to Ms. Brooks’s arrest, Mr. Bryant, the Labour legislator, said in a telephone interview, “It looks as though the Metropolitan Police are now doing the investigation they should have been doing years ago.”

“Being of a suspicious mind,” he added, “I do find it odd that they should arrest her now by appointment,” suggesting that the timing might jeopardize parliamentary questioning scheduled for Tuesday.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs committee, which is scheduled to hear from Sir Paul at a separate hearing on Tuesday, said, “I am very surprised at this dramatic development as it comes only 48 hours after Rebekah Brooks resigned and 48 hours before she is scheduled to give evidence.”

Mr. Vaz said the arrest would make difficult, if not impossible, for Ms. Brooks to answer any substantive questions posed by lawmakers this week.

Jo Becker and Don Van Natta contributed reporting.

A Murdoch Note

A Word Or Two on What Isnt Being Said

July 13, 2011

by Gordon Duff, Senior Editor

Veterans Today

Today the British papers not owned by Rupert Murdoch rumored that he might be jailed.  Americans, even Brits, have little or no idea  what is at risk here.  There is simply no one who can report it when the individual who, not only controls the worlds largest news organization turns out to be, well, what?

Who is Rupert Murdoch?

What he is not is an Australian “right wing” billionaire.  Murdoch, though born in Australia is an Israeli citizen and Jewish.  Why is this important?

Murdoch is now admitted to have controlled the political systems in Britain and America for two decades.  He has had the power to choose national leaders, make policy, pass laws at will.  Where did the power come from?

We now know it came from spying, blackmail, bribery and propaganda.

What is his agenda?  Ah, there’s the rub.

Was it about selling newspapers using scandals or spying in the name of Israel to push Britain and the United States into wars for Israel?  There is a simple answer.

Murdoch’s primary motivation isn’t even that he is “for Israel.”  Murdoch is, perhaps, the most influential Israeli, more powerful than Netanyahu.  The problem with that is that his beliefs are what we call “ultra-nationalist.”

This makes him a threat.  Ultra-nationalists are known to support wars, plan terrorist acts, manipulate populations into strife and racism, foster fear and panic, even financial ruin.

What are we describing here?

If you aren’t totally brain dead, you realize I am describing Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Murdoch owns Fox News and so much else you may not have a time to look at the list.  If he doesn’t own it he doesn’t want it.

Fox is a network and Murdoch, owning so many newspapers across America and being a foreigner shouldn’t be able to control such a thing.  How did he do it?

Reagan “appointed” Murdoch an American citizen.  Murdoch promised to have Fox News support Republicans and say whatever was needed, no matter how false, how stupid or, as we  have seen now for decades, how genuinely evil.

What he really did, however, was use Fox as a base to allow Israel to run spy operations.

These went two ways:

1.  Israel got lots of military technology and secrets they could sell to America’s enemies for money.  This is good “Murdoch” business sense, as we all see now.

2.  Murdoch helped Israel gain control of congress.  They literally run the United States.  The tools?  As in Britain, bribery and blackmail, police, military and congress.

No surprises for anyone.

Murdoch has, in fact, engineered the last 20 plus years of American history, picking politicians, throwing elections, establishing policies.  Were the decisions his own?

I don’t think so.  I think Murdoch represents a group, mostly financial, making up the Rothschild family, the Federal Reserve Banks and organized crime.

There is an Israeli or Jewish aspect to some of this but not in the sense of being “pro” or “anti” Semitic.  The Murdoch empire, married to the “lily white” “no Jews allowed” Republican Party simply put their own very powerful spin on the good old “New World Order,” pushing it into drug running, arms and human trafficking, manipulated international currencies and debt on a massive scale, ran America and the European Union into economic collapse, worked with oil companies to set up price fixing schemes…

This is what Murdoch and his friends have done, all the while pointing their fingers at Osama bin Laden and the evil “liberals.”

They divided Britain, starting at first as “conservatives” and then changed to “liberals.”  What they did in Britain is undermine legal government, destroy the nation and the public’s trust in the government, Blair, Cameron, it doesn’t matter, Murdoch chose both and ran and runs both like hand puppets as he did with Bush and his friends.

The ideas are simple.  Bilk the countries out of every last cent, use a portion to bribe or blackmail politicians, buy police and get even more money.

Then you lie to the people, give them enemies to hate, arrange wars for them to fight and stand back and watch them destroy themselves.

Are there people really this evil?

Yes there are, Murdoch, the gang at his companies, the gang at Fox News, the folks in the US called “neocons,” the Israeli lobby in the US, the ADL, AIPAC and the Likudist faction in Israel run by Netanyahu.

These folks hate the United States.

A similar group hate Britain.  Australia has their own, he runs that place entirely, right into the ground.  He also runs Germany, Canada, he runs much of what was once the “free world.”

Am I describing Satan?

Pretty much.

His strongest advocates, those who have stood with his thieves and liars against all that is decent, all that is good, all that is right is the Evangelical and “Zionist” communities in the United States.  They were and are the “fertile ground” for his message of hate and deceit.

Who does Murdoch claim to hate?

Muslims for sure, they are all bad.  Everything he touches in his hundreds of publications and TV shows or the phony news his gang of cutthroats create, hate of Muslims is always on top.  This pleases his Israeli friends.  If things keep going as they are, he may need to hide out there and Israel will always protect him, maybe plow down a few Palestinian homes to give him a grand estate.  After all, Muslims are an easy target, living in petty dictatorships run by thieves who we have now learned have always run to Washington and Tel Aviv for orders.

Take out a second.  Think the word “Palestinian.”  Do you also think “terrorist?”  Do you see a child being killed by an Israeli helicopter or innocent people killed by a TV villain, almost invariably played by Jewish actors, perhaps a sick “inside joke” of Murdoch’s.

The Islamic people of the world have been played, exploited and crushed since 1919.  History will show it carefully planned and financed by a certain European banking family, one that 6 years earlier had established an illegal banking system in the US.

Learn about the real Balfour Declaration and how it was gotten through blackmail, learn who wrote it and to whom it was sent.

The story reads exactly like the things that are coming out in Britain day after day.

Murdoch tells his followers to hate “smart people.”  There has to be fear of the educated, the “elites.”  You can’t have rampant racism and blind ignorance until you destroy public trust in the natural leaders, until you destroy real culture and replace it with mechanized music, scandal mongering, dirty sex and endless conspiracies.

Murdoch is the real king of conspiracy theories.

Look at the endless list of wild accusations that came from Fox alone.  Then look at the others, the accusations, the wild and insane things that were written into history but likely planned by Murdoch.

9/11 probably had Murdoch’s hand in it as did the London bombings on 7/7.

There could be no great conspiracy without control of the news.

Now we find the news itself controlled the governments and may well have written the scripts to the wars, the rigged elections, the acts of terror and the misdirection that sent America into a decade of cruel and useless bloodletting after terror groups that never existed in the first place.

Now, today, as our British cousins are reeling in the revelations that their government for decades has not been their own, a diseased hybrid of crazy old man, Israeli spies and the paid stooges that the people thought were serving them….

And it goes on in America, full blast, Murdoch and his creatures, planning the future of America.

One of his creatures is Boehner.

Another is Palin.

Then there is Gingrich.

There was the entire Bush administration.

But, to get to the dark heart of evil, first you look at Fox News.

The Chosen One

Summer, 2011

July 13, 2011

by Angelo M. Codevilla

The Claremont Institute

Only [the popes] have states, and they do not defend them; subjects, and they do not govern them; and the states are not taken from them though undefended, and the subjects though not governed, do not concern themselves about it…. But since they are upheld by superior cause, to which the human mind does not reach, I will leave off speaking of them; since because they are exalted and maintained by God, discussing them would be the doing of a presumptuous and daring man. Nonetheless, if someone were to inquire of me….”

—Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince
Presumptuous and daring, flouting politically correct prohibitions against looking too closely at his time’s Establishment, Niccolò Machiavelli went on to detail who did what to whom to establish the papacy’s temporal power. Cesare Borgia’s cruel triangulation between Rome’s Orsini and Colonnesi factions, not miracles, had made the papal states into a major power.

In our time, asking how a young man of scarce achievement got into position to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president courts the contemporary synonyms for “impious”: “birther,” “conspiracy theorist,” and, of course, “racist.” Granted, to inquire into what formed a president is not as important as to understand what he does. Nevertheless, because fully to know where anyone is going requires grasping whence he comes, let us open ourselves to wonder how, minus miracles, a 10-year-old boy without obvious talent who had lived in Indonesia since age six ends up with an eight-year scholarship to Hawaii’s most exclusive school; a scholarship to Occidental College; a transfer into Columbia University; acceptance into Harvard Law School, and editorship of its law review; and how he goes from job to prestigious job without apparently mastering any of the previous ones. No wonder some of Barack Obama’s supporters treat him as if he were anointed by an extraterrestrial power.

No less an object of awe and curiosity is the seamlessness of Obama’s mentality. Without marbling or inconsistency, it is serviceable as a definition of contemporary American leftism, and leads one to wonder what earthly environment could have produced such a pure specimen.

Intellectually, Obama has always been a consumer, having left no record of formulating new ideas or of penetrating old ones. Politically, he is a follower and figurehead: having grown up in the ever branching stream of socialist voluntary organizations, he surfed its leftward eddies, never forming or leading a faction. He was handed a safe seat in the Illinois state senate, a nearly safe one in the U.S. Senate, and was surprised when Harry Reid informed him that influential Democrats wanted to run him for president. The Democratic campaign of 2008 pushed against an open door. As president, he rides his party’s center of gravity.

In short, Barack Obama himself is not that remarkable. He can give a rousing political speech, of course, but that is usually not sufficient to get oneself elected president. So, since he seems to have been reading from a teleprompter all his life, and since words certifiably his own are both few and opaque, it is most fruitful as well as relevant for us to focus on whom and what he has been following.

What accounts for his smooth, unlikely ascent? Both his advancement and his character seem most likely attributable to the network into which he was born, and out of which he never stepped for an instant. That network’s privileges, wealth, and intellectual-social proclivities always depended to some extent—and nowadays depend more than ever—on its connection with the U.S. government. Its intellectual and moral character, like that of modern government itself, has always been on the left side of American life and, as such, has undergone splits and transmogrifications surely the most important of which in our time combines upscale social norms with radical disdain for the rest of America. Barack Obama came of age through these.

Unfortunately, that liberal Establishment has placed key facts about itself beyond public scrutiny—more in the fashion of Chicago Sicilians than of Roman pontiffs. Here we examine some of the books and other research that shed light on Obama’s origins, note at least as many questions as answers, and try to distinguish between facts and spin. The results are necessarily conjectural, because of the nature of the available evidence.
To the Manner Born
At the White House, on April 27, 2011, Barack Obama announced the release of a “long form” birth certificate showing that he was born in Hawaii’s Kapiolani hospital. There seems to be no reason to question its validity any more than that of any dollar bill—except that Obama has played an as yet unexplained shell game with this bill since 2008. Obama had refused to release not only the birth certificate but his academic and medical records. He indirectly, and his partisans most directly, vilified as “birthers” those who asked for this personal information (a term made-to-order, implying racism, stupidity, and lower-class odors).

Nonetheless, by the spring of 2011, several state legislatures, including Indiana’s and Louisiana’s, had passed or were about to pass bills requiring any candidate for federal office to show the original or original copy of his birth certificate, and providing for forensic analyses of the documents. Obama’s April 27 release amounts to what John Ehrlichman called a “modified limited hang out”—some information let out to relieve pressure for the release of more. Had Obama done nothing he might have been banned from the ballot in any number of states; had he delayed too long, any certificate he produced would have been subject to close scrutiny. After the disclosure, however, Democrats argued that any and all requests for Obama’s personal information had now been shown to be, in the president’s words, “a silly distraction.”

But there was never anything silly, nor light-hearted, nor casual, about Barack Obama’s efforts to keep the public’s eyes from the basic facts of his life, from birth to his candidacy for president. On the contrary, this opacity is a deliberate policy. Why? The presumptive answer, absent testimony from those involved, is to ensure that real facts interfere as little as possible with the image and narrative that he and his associates have carefully crafted for him. Distinguishing between reality and that narrative would require above all a skeptical attitude, sure to be characterized by Democrats and the media in the most derogatory terms.

According to hagiography, Barack Obama was born to a hippy girl from an insignificant family and raised in poor circumstances, out of which he rose through brilliance. Yet his haughty demeanor, his stilted language when off the teleprompter, his cultural likes and dislikes, bespeak an upbringing in an environment at once so upscale and so leftist that it makes him almost a foreigner to ordinary Americans. No one raised in ordinary American circumstances, much less straitened ones, would cite with a straight face, as Obama did, the price of arugula at Whole Foods, the yuppie boutique, as an example of the cost of living. No one at home in American culture could refer to a U.S. Marine medical corpsman as a “corpse-man.” Nor do ordinary folk talk about (or even understand) the need to “change the rules of power” in America. “Rules of power” belongs to the argot of doctrinaire nouveau socialists. How many American college kids would describe, as did Obama, his studying with Marxist professors as an attempt not to look like a “sell out”? No. Obama’s official story is counterintuitive.

Consistent with the Barack Obama we know, however, are his real family, his real upbringing, and his real choices of profession and associates. His mother’s parents, who raised him, seem to have been cogs in the U.S. government’s well-heeled, well-connected machine for influencing the world, whether openly (“gray influence”) or covertly (“black operations”). His mother spent her life and marriages, and birthed her children, working in that machine. For paradigms of young Barack’s demeanor, proclivities, opinions, language, and attitudes one need look no further than the persons who ran the institutions that his mother and grandparents served—e.g., the Ford Foundation, the United States Information Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency—as well as his chosen mentors and colleagues. It is here, with these people and institutions, that one should begin to unravel the unknowns surrounding him.
Two new books deal with Barack Obama’s paternal and maternal families. British journalist Peter Firstbrook’s The Obamas takes us all the way from the origins of East Africa’s Luo tribe to Barack’s father’s relationship with Barack’s mother. Generally fact-filled, it gives vivid portraits especially of Barack, Sr.’s, father, Onyango, who tried to raise a son as upright as he and was deadly disappointed when that son turned out to be a wastrel in the train of Tom Mboya, political leader of Kenya’s Luo. The closer the book gets to the present, however, the less trustworthy it becomes. For example, it tells us that Mboya organized the 1959 airlift of 280 Africans to study in America, bypassing the U.S. State Department. Nonsense. This was high U.S. policy and touted as such at the time. The CIA considered Mboya one of its most important covert action agents. The people chosen by him and the CIA to go to America were his flunkies. But the book is irrelevant to understanding the current president of the United States because his African family had only a biological influence on him. Indeed, Barack Obama’s African-ness is, as we shall see, strictly the product of his imagination.

The maternal family that raised Barack Obama, which is highly relevant to our understanding, is the subject of New York Times reporter Janny Scott’s A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother. But though this book tells us that grandmother Madelyn Dunham’s favorite color was beige, that Stanley Dunham and daughter Ann (Barack, Jr.’s, mother) shared a certain impulsiveness, and contains interviews with and personal information on countless of Ann’s high school friends, it sheds no light on what the Dunhams were doing with their lives that led their daughter to take a practical interest in international affairs. Magically, Ann Dunham goes from peeking her shy 17-year-old head out of Mercer Island, Washington (“a young virgin,” writes Janny Scott), to intimacy with a very foreign person, and a few years later with another, and then to work in one of the Cold War’s key battlegrounds. Meanwhile her mother, about whose professional activities the book says nothing, becomes a bank executive. Did Ann speak any foreign language? Had the Dunhams ever taken any trips abroad? The book does not say. A Singular Woman gives the impression that Ann’s Indonesian husband, Lolo Soetoro, was just a geographer drafted into the army, a minor, unwitting part of the bloody campaign that wrested Indonesia from the Communists; and that Ann’s work in that country was anthropological-humanitarian, as if for her U.S. policy were irrelevant. It certainly was not for her employers—the U.S. government and contractors thereof.

Self-styled investigative journalist Wayne Madsen reports that Madelyn Dunham, the mother of Barack’s mother, Ann Dunham, who became vice president of the Bank of Hawaii soon after her arrival there, was in charge of escrow accounts. Madsen’s credibility is certainly checkered. But if he is correct about which department she headed, Madelyn Dunham must have supervised the accounts that the U.S. government used to funnel money to its “gray” and “black” activities throughout Asia. Among the conduits of the CIA money through these accounts to secret CIA proprietaries was a company—Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dillingham & Wong—some of whose officers were serving CIA officers. This is a company whose 1983 IRS audit the CIA stopped. Vice President Madelyn Dunham, in charge of these very matters and hence necessarily “witting” (as they say at Langley), would have had to be more than a small cog in the machine. People do not rise to such stations from one day to the next.

Again, if Madsen is correct, two photos belie the portrait of her husband Stanley Dunham, Barack’s grandfather, whom young Barry called father, as an insignificant furniture salesman. One, in the early 1950s, shows Stanley with his daughter, Ann, wearing the insignia of Beirut’s elite French language school, Notre Dame de Jamhour. Was the family ever in Lebanon? How did Dad get the sweater? U.S. government influence operations are a likelier explanation than the furniture business for any Lebanese connection in the 1950s. Another photo, published in a Honolulu newspaper in 1959, shows Stanley Dunham escorted by uniformed U.S. Navy officers, greeting Barack Obama, Sr., as he arrived in Hawaii from Kenya. Because Obama was among 80 other Kenyans whom CIA had chosen for sojourns in the U.S. to influence them, it is logical that he and others like him would have been placed around the country in the hands of trusted handlers. The greeting photo suggests that Dunham may well have been one of these, and hence that the Kenyan did not meet Dunham’s daughter, Ann, in a classroom. This would fit the chronology: Classes started on September 26. Ann was pregnant by early November. Obama was housed at the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center facility funded by the Asia Foundation, itself funded by CIA.

Anyone and everyone knew that Barack Obama, Sr., and others like him had been brought to America to be influenced. How big a part of his attractiveness to her, and hence how big a reason for the pregnancy that produced Barack, Jr., was the foreign affairs angle? The hagiographies, including A Singular Woman, suggest that foreign affairs were the farthest thing from her mind. Yet Ann’s second child was born in a marriage to another such person at the East-West Center. The Indonesian government had sent Lolo Soetoro to the East-West Center as a “civilian employee of the Army.” But when the shooting started, Soetoro went on active duty, it seems as a colonel. This was arguably the CIA’s most significant covert operation, the replacement (between 1965 and 1967) of Indonesia’s dictator Sukarno with the Suharto regime that lasted until 1999. Few people on the face of the earth did not realize how important a struggle this was. Suggesting as does A Singular Woman that a very intelligent, very married Ann Soetoro was innocent of and indifferent to the political implications of the struggle she was involved in is incredible.

After the overthrow, Ann ran a “micro-financing” project, financed by the Ford Foundation, in Indonesia’s most vulnerable areas. Supervising the funding at Ford in the late ’60s was Peter Geithner, whose son would eventually serve hers as U.S. secretary of the treasury. In addition to the Ford Foundation, the list of her employers is a directory of America’s official, semi-official, and clandestine organs of influence: the United States Information Agency, the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank. While running a project for five years in Pakistan, she lived in Lahore’s Hilton International. Nothing small time, never mind hippyish.

In sum, though the only evidence available is circumstantial, Barack Obama, Jr.’s mother, father, stepfather, grandmother, and grandfather seem to have been well connected, body and soul, with the U.S. government’s then extensive and well-financed trans-public-private influence operations.
All in the Family
In the 1950s and ’60s few cared where, say, the State Department or foundations such as Ford ended and the CIA began. The leading members of the U.S. government’s influence network moved easily from public to private stations and vice versa. Here are a few examples. Howard P. Jones, U.S. ambassador to Indonesia between 1958 and 1965—arguably the chief planner of the coup that removed the Sukarno regime—became chancellor of the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center. Ann Dunham’s second husband, Lolo Soetoro, returned from the East-West Center to Jakarta to help in the struggle that the coup had begun. Another of Ann’s employers, the Ford Foundation’s international affairs division, was led by Stephen Cohen, who had come to Ford from the directorship of the International Association of Cultural Freedom, previously known as the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), which organized countless left-leaning American academics into a corps (lavishly financed by the CIA) to promote social democracy around the world, and to staff many of the councils on foreign relations that spread around America in the 1950s. Among the participants were countless actual and future college presidents, including Richard C. Gilman, who ran Occidental when young Barack Obama enrolled there in 1979. In those years, any number of companies were CIA fronts, including Business International Corporation, which gave young Obama his first job after graduation from college. Perhaps these are only coicidences. More importantly, U.S. international corporations in general had countless officers who were proud cooperators with U.S. covert activities abroad. Any serious attempt to sketch this network would result in something like an x-ray of the American ruling class’s skeleton.

The point here is that this network was formed precisely to help the careers of kindred folk, while ruining those of others, and to move the requisite money and influence unaccountably, erasing evidence that it had done so. Exercising influence abroad on America’s behalf—the network’s founding purpose—never got in the way of playing a partisan role in American life and, of course, of taking care of its own.

As I pointed out in my book Informing Statecraft (1992), when Congress first authorized the U.S. government’s various influence activities abroad it worried loudly and mostly sincerely that these activities might “blow back” onto American political life: The U.S. government, so went the widely accepted argument, might have to say and do all sorts of things abroad, train and deploy any number of operatives in black arts on the whole country’s behalf, knowing that these activities and operatives might well be distasteful to any number of Americans at home. Because the U.S. government must not take a partisan part in U.S. domestic life—so went the argument of an era more honest than our own—it must somehow isolate its foreign influence network from domestic life. But preventing blowback was destined to be a pious, futile wish, especially since many of those in the influence network were at least as interested in pressing their vision of social democracy on America as they were in doing it to other countries. Foremost among these was Cord Meyer, who ran CIA’s covert activities in “international organizations” beginning in 1954. Between 1962 and 1975 he directed or supervised all CIA covert action. Meyer explained what he was about in his book Facing Reality (1980).

Meyer and his upscale CIA colleagues considered themselves family members of the domestic and international Left. They believed that America’s competition with Soviet Communism was to be waged by, for, and among the Left. Their strategy was to fight the Soviet fire by lighting and feeding socio-political counter-fires as close to it as possible. This meant clandestinely giving money and every imaginable form of U.S. government support to persons as far to the political and cultural left as possible, so long as they were outside Soviet operational control. American leftists were best fit to influence their foreign counterparts this way. Paradigmatic was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which spawned and fed many “voluntary” organizations at home and abroad with U.S. influence and money. Its director, Michael Josselson, was so little distinguishable from the Communists, his leftism so anti-American, that the U.S. chapter of CCF disaffiliated in protest. Alas, CIA’s fires eventually went out of control and singed American life.

Among the many U.S. organizations founded and fed by Meyer’s Covert Action staff were the National Students’ Association (NSA) and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In the late 1950s the CIA and foundation executives like Meyer (and below them operatives like the Dunham family) were surprised when these groups were taken over by the radical elements within them and became the so-called New Left. By 1961, when Barack Obama, Jr., was born, these organizations’ connections or lack thereof with Communist parties had already become irrelevant. That is because whereas old-line liberals like Meyer felt only mild disdain for what they supposed to be the American people’s ignorance, whereas their vision for America was only a more complete Rooseveltian New Deal, these New Leftists had adopted, more virulently than the Communists, the Marxist analysis that American society as it exists is based on “power relationships” (economic, racial, and sexual) that they believe must be overturned entirely. In short, the New Left saw America as a cancer upon the globe and themselves as the surgeons. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this attitude.

Not all government-sponsored leftists adopted this attitude about America. Already in 1962, before the Vietnam War, Michael Harrington felt conscience—bound to lead people who called themselves “Democratic Socialists of America” out of SDS, NSA, and other organizations that had become thoroughly anti-American. By the mid-1960s these organizations, into which CIA had poured so much money, which it had sustained so energetically with its network of influence, had come entirely into the hands of upscale activists like William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who called themselves “Weathermen.” These children of Meyer’s rich, well-connected friends worked to defeat America in the Vietnam War, planted terrorist bombs, and murdered police. Other CIA-funded organizations underwent similar radicalization and internecine splits. In 1967, Ramparts magazine’s revelation of many leftist groups’ dependence on CIA caused the U.S. government to shift its funding of such organizations or their leaders to other agencies—primarily those waging the so-called “war on poverty.” By the 1970s, the people whom CIA had endowed with money and prominence in American domestic life as part of its covert action abroad were grinding their ideological distinctions against one another while engaging in “community organizing” here in America.

These factions and organizations, personifying leftisms of varying virulence, bid for recruits. Young Barry Obama was one of those who affiliated pretty much with the leftward-most among them.
Racial Identity
Obama writes in Dreams from my Father (2005) that when his mother and half sister (Maya Soetoro) visited him at Columbia in 1982, “I instructed my mother on the various ways that foreign donors and international development organizations like the one she was working for bred dependence in the Third World.” Thus by age 21 he had already chosen (emphatically enough to instruct his own mother) against the image of America and the world personified by the Dunham family and Cord Meyer, never mind by moderate socialist Michael Harrington, in favor of a complex of radical ideas of which “dependency theory” was probably the mildest.

The lack of first-hand material for a proper intellectual portrait of Barack Obama forces any who approach the subject to note, first, what information we do not have: not even a senior thesis (or any other paper) from his college days, nor even a single signed article in the law review which he formally edited. He simply never produced stuff that qualified for that academic level. All we have is a signed screed in the Columbia student paper Sundial imputing America’s refusal to embrace nuclear disarmament to structural social flaws, and a six-page fragment in the Harvard Law Review attributed to him by researchers but unsigned and unacknowledged by him, which asserts an absolute right to abortion. Neither bespeaks a serious mind. We have no academic records. His “autobiographies” are of uncertain parentage.

The point here is that literally nothing we know to have been written by Barack Obama, or anything imputed to him, makes plausible the argument of James T. Kloppenberg’s pretend intellectual biography, Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition (2010), according to which Obama is a follower of William James’s and John Dewey’s philosophy of “pragmatism.” Whatever private thoughts Obama might have on either philosopher’s arguments, neither Kloppenberg nor anyone else can cite any Obamian exegesis of them. Moreover, Kloppenberg takes Obama’s statement in The Audacity of Hope (2006) that the U.S. Constitution is merely “the way by which we argue about our future,” as sufficient basis for asserting that the president is a disciple of the American Founders who, says Kloppenberg, valued liberty less than the unfettered power to do good. Of course, neither Kloppenberg nor Obama has cited, or can cite, any founder to that effect. In short, only frivolous or insincere people can take this sort of thing seriously.

What Barack Obama, mature as well as young, does give us is a set of attitudes, statements, and actions by which he identifies with some people and ideas with which he came in contact, rather than others. By default, he leaves us no choice but to understand him through these, and to treat his partial/limited/stilted/first-or-second-hand disclosures about himself as points of departure toward understandings he does not want us fully to have.

That is why Stanley Kurtz’s Radical-In-Chief (2010, reviewed in the Winter 2010—Spring 2011 CRB) is so valuable. Careful to distinguish between the little we know for sure about Obama and the considerably greater amount we know about his chosen mentors and associates, the book is primarily a social-intellectual history of the left wing of the New Left, born out of old-line (poor Cord Meyer) liberalism’s crack-up in the 1960s.

Young Obama identified with the extreme Left under his very first mentor, to whom he refers in Dreams merely as “Frank,” to avoid dealing with the fact that Frank Marshall Davis was an unrepentant Communist. Davis led the young Barry, privileged from birth by American power and raised in a white/Asian/liberal environment, to identify with his father, Barack, an anti-American, corrupt, minor African intriguer of whom his own father, Onyango, was deeply ashamed. That identification was not with a real person, nor with any African family as it really was, but rather with a combination of anti-Westernism and his own ideas about African-ness. In Dreams he writes: “It was into my father’s image, the black man, son of Africa, that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself.” By the time Barry got to Occidental College in 1979, he had taken to calling himself Barack, and was working hard to adopt a “black” identity, but one very different from that of Africans. He was trying to make himself into an American black. But that identity was no more real than the African one.

Obama’s identity as a “black” American is artificial. Neither genes nor experience equips him for the role. Yet he practiced the speech cadence, the walk, and the aggrieved-but-proudly-restrained attitude well enough to pass for one if you don’t look too closely. (He described the process in Dreams from my Father.) Above all, he adopted the Marxist understanding of American black resentments. In short, young Barack Obama manufactured himself into a facsimile of a very peculiar black American, whose racial identity is at the service of an essentially trans-racial, anti-American ideology.

Years later, as a presidential candidate, he shielded his extensive involvement with Marxist ideas and organizations by saying: “By the end of the week [my opponent] will be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” None of 2008’s wise men had the wit to note that neither the toys nor sandwiches were being shared any more than Communist Party cards, but rather self-understandings defined by hopes and dreams both Marxist and anti-American.

In the same way, he shielded his multi-year collaboration with radical trust-fund baby Bill Ayers on the boards of the Chicago money organizations on which Ayers worked and by which he lived quite well, by stating the true but irrelevant fact that the former terrorist had committed his terrorist acts when Barack Obama was a child in Indonesia. But the Ayers with whom the adult Obama worked, of whose upscale social circle he was part, never ceased being proud of those bombings, and the adult Obama never minded that. That is because Ayers and the like-minded people with whom Obama chose to work had become a family for him, and participation in their struggles as they understood them was, he wrote, “a form of prayer for me.” Prayer to what, and for what, one wonders.

“Community organizing” was the immediate family in which Obama practiced his faith. Obama tells us that he came into contact with it at the Socialist Scholars’ Conference of 1983 at New York’s Cooper Union, during the second semester of his senior year at Columbia. We know that afterwards he wanted nothing more than to be a community organizer. What did that mean? Stanley Kurtz details for us, panel by panel, the presenters at the conference that turned out to be Obama’s life-defining experience. He also gives the full names and describes the ideas and activities of the organizers under whom Obama learned to practice his faith. Harry Boyte, who organized the New American Movement (NAM), and authored The Backyard Revolution (1980) and Community is Possible (1984), ended up as an adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign. The argument between Boyte’s books and Robert Fisher’s Let The People Decide (1984) was the degree to which community organizers should conceal their commitment to transcend America’s capitalist system, with Boyte arguing for greater concealment. Presenters also included James Cone, the fountainhead of black liberation theology and teacher of Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for 20 years. Cone and Wright agreed that American society as constituted is inherently fascist, oppressive of black people, and argued that Martin Luther King had come around to that point of view by the end of his life.

Obama’s Dreams mentions a “Marty Kaufman” as his principal mentor in community organizing. This, Kurtz shows, is a composite of two real people: Greg Galluzzo, an ex-priest who ran Chicago’s violent United Neighborhood Organization as well as the Gamaliel Foundation, and his subordinate Jerry Kellman, who hired Obama in 1985. Both of these proud socialists were stalwarts in the Midwest Academy network that trained probably a majority of America’s “community organizers.” Together with Bill Ayers, Obama funded many of the network’s activities through the Woods and Annenberg foundations on whose boards they served. This is also the network that produced State Senator Alice Palmer, who later gave her safe seat in the Illinois Senate to Barack Obama.
Contempt for the Common Man
In sum, Barack Obama grew intertwined with the narrow, self-referential left side of the American Left. They helped one another believe they had come up the hard way, as underprivileged but brilliant, square-jawed tribunes of the common man. Their common problem, however, is that their agendas are antagonistic to people unlike themselves, and that they cannot keep from showing their contempt for the common folk in whose name they would ride to power.

Since the days of Karl Marx’s First International a century and a half ago, this very human opposition between socialist theory (egalitarianism) and socialist reality (oligarchic oppression) has bedeviled the Left. Marx laid the problem bare in his “Critique of the Gotha Program” (1875). Lenin dealt with it honestly and brutally in What Is to Be Done? (1902)—the foundational document of Communism. By acknowledging that the Communist Party is not the common people’s representative, but rather its “vanguard,” Leninists were comfortable with a party responsible only to itself and to history, a party that openly demanded deference from the humans whose habits it forcibly reshaped. Communism’s undeniable horrors forced the New Left to disassociate itself from What Is to Be Done? and once again to pretend that its socialism was neither oligarchic nor coercive, that somehow it was on the side of ordinary folks. This is a much tougher sell in the 21st century than it was in the 19th. Contemporary socialists try to explain away the common man’s suspicion of them as harbingers of oligarchy, corruption, and coercion by resorting to jargon (e.g., “false consciousness” and “socio-economic anxiety”). But that is ever less convincing. This is why the movement argues so strenuously with itself about whether and how much it should dissimulate its agenda.

Which is one reason why it plays the “race card” and seizes on recruits like Barack Obama: because many black Americans’ ancestors were slaves, must not any black American be, ipso facto, unquestionably, a member and true representative of the downtrodden? And if a skeptic should argue that this or that black man is really a representative of old, white, nasty socialism, of the Corporate State, of upscale parasites who prey on working people, it is easy enough to re-focus the argument on the skeptic’s “racism.” If blacks inclined to play this role did not exist, the Socialist movement would have every incentive to invent them. And in a sense it tries to invent them, through the “black studies” programs that now divert so many young Americans from useful lives into partisan service.

Obama is as close as one could imagine to a made-to-order front man for contemporary, upscale, shy-about-itself, nouveau socialism. From his earliest age, he shaped his dreams about himself to act out a character wholly fictitious, namely a black American from a humble background who rose up out of brilliance and merit, and who yearns to draw all of America’s low-born (plus the rest of mankind) up through the same paths. But he is none of that. Equally imaginary is his vaunted understanding of and sympathy for foreign cultures. A typical multiculturalist, Obama speaks no language other than a peculiar version of English. His native language, loves, and hates are common to some of the most leftist elements of the current American ruling class.

That class knows about America only that it must be changed, and looks at the vast majority of Americans the way carpenters look at warped pieces of lumber. Barack Obama is neither more nor less than its product and agent.

Books discussed in this essay:
The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family, by Peter Firstbrook

A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother, by Janny Scott

Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, by Barack Obama

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, by Barack Obama

Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition, by James T. Kloppenberg

Radical-In-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism, by Stanley Kurtz

Michele Bachmann officially leaves her church

July 17, 2011

by Eric Marrapodi,


Washington (CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has long been a darling of conservative evangelicals, but shortly before announcing her White House bid, she officially quit a church she’d belonged to for years.

Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman, and her husband, Marcus, withdrew their membership from Salem Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, last month, according to church officials.

The Bachmanns had been members of the church for more than 10 years, according to Joel Hochmuth, director of communications for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the broader denominational body of which Bachmann’s former church is a member.

The church council granted the Bachmanns’ request to be released from their membership on June 21, Hochmuth said.

After declaring at the CNN/WMUR/New Hampshire Union Leader presidential debate that she would seek the nomination, Bachmann formally announced her presidential bid June 27 in Waterloo, Iowa.

The Bachmanns approached their pastor and verbally made the request “a few weeks before the church council granted the request,” Hochmuth said. He added, “they had not been attending that congregation in over two years. They were still on the books as members, but then the church council acted on their request and released them from membership.”

Bachmann had listed her membership in the church on her campaign site for congress in 2006. She lists no church affiliation on her campaign website or her official congressional website.

Hochmuth said that a change in membership is not out of the ordinary. “You have people who are on the books as members, but they may have gone on to another church; they may not be attending a church anywhere. There’s all sorts of circumstances.”

A similar request for membership is to transfer membership from one church to another within the denomination. But that does not appear to be the case with the Bachmanns, according to Hochmuth, who said that to his knowledge, the couple was no longer attending a church within the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Pastor Marcus Birkholz has been at the helm of Salem Lutheran Church for nearly three decades. When asked about the Bachmanns leaving the church, he said, “I’ve been asked to make no comments regarding them and their family.”

Bachmann was asked about her status with the church on Thursday at Reagan National Airport as she headed to catch a flight. When asked about her pastor, she asked, “Which one?” An aide quickly hustled her away, noting that they were late for a flight.

The Bachmann campaign declined to immediately respond to a request for further comment Friday.

Becky Rogness, a spokesperson in Bachmann’s congressional office, said the Congresswoman now attends a nondenominational church in the Stillwater area but did not know the name of the church or how long she had been attending.

Hochmuth said that, “My understanding of the situation was the timing of the request for release was far more coincidental than strategic.”

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has come under criticism from some Catholics for its views on the papacy, an institution that the denomination calls the Antichrist.

“We identify the Antichrist as the Papacy,” the denomination’s website says. “This is an historical judgment based on Scripture.”

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued a statement Thursday about Bachmann’s denomination, saying it’s “regrettable that there are still strains of anti-Catholicism in some Protestant circles.”

“But we find no evidence of any bigotry on the part of Rep. Michele Bachmann,” the statement continued. “Indeed, she has condemned anti-Catholicism. Just as President Barack Obama is not responsible for the views of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rep. Bachmann must be judged on the basis of her own record.”

The debate over the legitimacy of the papacy goes back to the Protestant Reformation. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s namesake is Martin Luther, who led the 16th century Reformation and who opposed the papacy.

“The issue of the papacy as the Antichrist does go back to Luther – he did use that terminology,” said Professor George C. Heider, theology chair at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran school in Indiana.

“Luther’s point was, that in his view, the pope was so obstructing the gospel of God’s free love in Jesus, even though he wore all the trappings of a leader in the church,” Heider said. “He was functioning as the New Testament describes it as the Antichrist.”

Still, Heider notes that Roman Catholics and Lutherans have close ties today. They recognize each other’s baptisms, a point of contention in relations between the Catholic Church and other Protestant denominations.

Salem Lutheran Church still maintains some ties with the Bachmann family. It lists a Christian counseling center operated by Bachmann’s husband on its website under special member services for confidential counseling.

Hochmuth said there are no formal ties between the counseling center and the denomination but added that it is not uncommon for churches to link off to members’ websites as in this case.

Bachmann and Associates has faced accusations that it uses a controversial therapy that encourages gay and lesbian patients to change their sexual orientation.

In an interview with the Minnesota Star Tribune published Friday, Marcus Bachmann did not deny that he or other counselors at his clinic used the technique but said they did so only at the request of a patient.

“Is it a remedy form that I typically would use?” he said. “It is at the client’s discretion.”

Salem Lutheran Church has about 800 members and holds three services each weekend. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is often referred to as theologically conservative. The denomination opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, both positions Bachmann has long endorsed politically.

The denomination has approximately 390,000 members in 48 states and 1,300 congregations in the United States and Canada.

Presidential candidates’ affiliation with churches and pastors played a dramatic role in the 2008 campaign for president.

Then-candidate Barack Obama resigned from his Chicago church in May 2008 after videos surfaced of his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, delivering fiery sermons that criticized certain U.S. policies.

In the speeches, Wright suggested that the U.S. government may be responsible for the spread of AIDS in the black community and equated some American wartime activities to terrorism.

Wright officiated the Obama’s wedding and baptized his children, and the Obamas were members at Wright’s church for years. After a sustained attention on Wright, Obama distanced himself from his former pastor.

During the same election cycle, Republican presidential nominee John McCain rejected endorsements from two prominent pastors, John Hagee and Rod Parsley, for controversial statements from the pastors’ pasts.

Actually, that’s not in the Bible

by John Blake,


NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.

“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season.  “This, too, shall pass.

Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.

Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches – all types of people  – quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say.

These phantom passages include:

God helps those who help themselves.

Spare the rod, spoil the child.

And there is this often-cited paraphrase: Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden.

None of those passages appear in the Bible, and one is actually anti-biblical, scholars say.

But people rarely challenge them because biblical ignorance is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better, says Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

“In my college religion classes, I sometimes quote 2 Hesitations 4:3 (‘There are no internal combustion engines in heaven’),” Bouma-Prediger says. “I wait to see if anyone realizes that there is no such book in the Bible and therefore no such verse.

“Only a few catch on.”

Few catch on because they don’t want to – people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, a Bible professor says.

“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,” says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying “this dog won’t hunt” doesn’t appear in the Book of Proverbs.

“They have memorized parts of texts that they can string together to prove the biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in,” he says, “but they ignore the vast majority of the text.”

Phantom biblical passages work in mysterious ways

Ignorance isn’t the only cause for phantom Bible verses. Confusion is another.

Some of the most popular faux verses are pithy paraphrases of biblical concepts or bits of folk wisdom.

Consider these two:

God works in mysterious ways.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

Both sound as if they are taken from the Bible, but they’re not. The first is a paraphrase of a 19th century hymn by the English poet William Cowper (“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform).

The “cleanliness” passage was coined by John Wesley, the 18th century evangelist who founded Methodism,  says Thomas Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University in Texas.

“No matter if John Wesley or someone else came up with a wise saying – if it sounds proverbish, people figure it must come from the Bible,” Kidd says.

Our fondness for the short and tweet-worthy may also explain our fondness for phantom biblical phrases. The pseudo-verses function like theological tweets: They’re pithy summarizations of biblical concepts.

Spare the rod, spoil the child” falls into that category. It’s a popular verse – and painful for many kids. Could some enterprising kid avoid the rod by pointing out to his mother that it’s not in the Bible?

It’s doubtful. Her possible retort: The popular saying is a distillation of Proverbs 13:24: “The one who withholds [or spares] the rod is one who hates his son.”

Another saying that sounds Bible-worthy: Pride goes before a fall.” But its approximation, Proverbs 16:18, is actually written: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

There are some phantom biblical verses for which no excuse can be offered. The speaker goofed.

That’s what Bruce Wells, a theology professor, thinks happened to Ditka, the former NFL coach, when he strayed from the gridiron to biblical commentary during his 1993 press conference in Chicago.

Wells watched Ditka’s biblical blunder on local television when he lived in Chicago. After Ditka cited the mysterious passage, reporters scrambled unsuccessfully the next day to find the biblical source.

They should have consulted Wells, who is now director of the ancient studies program at Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania. Wells says Ditka’s error probably came from a peculiar feature of the King James Bible.

“My hunch on the Ditka quote is that it comes from a quirk of the King James translation,” Wells says. “Ancient Hebrew had a particular way of saying things like, ‘and the next thing that happened was…’ The King James translators of the Old Testament consistently rendered this as ‘and it came to pass.’ ’’

When phantom Bible passages turn dangerous

People may get verses wrong, but they also mangle plenty of well-known biblical stories as well.

Two examples: The scripture never says a whale swallowed Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, nor did any New Testament passages say that three wise men visited baby Jesus, scholars say.

Those details may seem minor, but scholars say one popular phantom Bible story stands above the rest: The Genesis story about the fall of humanity.

Most people know the popular version – Satan in the guise of a serpent tempts Eve to pick the forbidden apple from the Tree of Life. It’s been downhill ever since.

But the story in the book of Genesis never places Satan in the Garden of Eden.

“Genesis mentions nothing but a serpent,” says Kevin Dunn, chair of the department of religion at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

“Not only does the text not mention Satan, the very idea of Satan as a devilish tempter postdates the composition of the Garden of Eden story by at least 500 years,” Dunn says.

Getting biblical scriptures and stories wrong may not seem significant, but it can become dangerous, one scholar says.

Most people have heard this one: “God helps those that help themselves. It’s another phantom scripture that appears nowhere in the Bible, but many people think it does. It’s actually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of the nation’s founding fathers.

The passage is popular in part because it is a reflection of cherished American values: individual liberty and self-reliance, says Sidnie White Crawford, a religious studies scholar at the University of Nebraska.

Yet that passage contradicts the biblical definition of goodness: defining one’s worth by what one does for others, like the poor and the outcast, Crawford says.

Crawford cites a scripture from Leviticus that tells people that when they harvest the land, they should leave some “for the poor and the alien” (Leviticus 19:9-10), and another passage from Deuteronomy that declares that people should not be “tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor.”

“We often infect the Bible with our own values and morals, not asking what the Bible’s values and morals really are,” Crawford says.

Where do these phantom passages come from?

It’s easy to blame the spread of phantom biblical passages on pervasive biblical illiteracy. But the causes are varied and go back centuries.

Some of the guilty parties are anonymous, lost to history. They are artists and storytellers who over the years embellished biblical stories and passages with their own twists.

If, say, you were an anonymous artist painting the Garden of Eden during the Renaissance, why not portray the serpent as the devil to give some punch to your creation? And if you’re a preacher telling a story about Jonah, doesn’t it just sound better to say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, not a “great fish”?

Others blame the spread of phantom Bible passages on King James, or more specifically the declining popularity of the King James translation of the Bible.

That translation, which marks 400 years of existence this year, had a near monopoly on the Bible market as recently as 50 years ago, says Douglas Jacobsen, a professor of church history and theology at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

“If you quoted the Bible and got it wrong then, people were more likely to notice because there was only one text,” he says. “Today, so many different translations are used that almost no one can tell for sure if something supposedly from the Bible is being quoted accurately or not.”

Others blame the spread of phantom biblical verses on Martin Luther, the German monk who ignited the Protestant Reformation, the massive “protest” against the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church that led to the formation of Protestant church denominations.

“It is a great Protestant tradition for anyone – milkmaid, cobbler, or innkeeper – to be able to pick up the Bible and read for herself. No need for a highly trained scholar or cleric to walk a lay person through the text,” says Craig Hazen, director of the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University in Southern California.

But often the milkmaid, the cobbler – and the NFL coach – start creating biblical passages without the guidance of biblical experts, he says.

“You can see this manifest today in living room Bible studies across North America where lovely Christian people, with no training whatsoever, drink decaf, eat brownies and ask each other, ‘What does this text mean to you?’’’ Hazen says.

“Not only do they get the interpretation wrong, but very often end up quoting verses that really aren’t there.”

Comment: We understand a Tel Aviv firm, with offices in New York and Los Angeles, are promoting new condoms with “an appropriate Christian message” on them. The message? ‘My rod and my staff shall comfort thee.They plan to market these under the lable ‘Bachmann Bangers.’

Poll: 3 In 10 Americans Take The Bible Literally

July 8, 2011

Huffington Post

A new Gallup poll reveals that three out of ten Americans believe the Bible to be the actual word of God, to be interpreted literally, word for word. These results are relatively consistent with recent results, but down from the peak levels in 1980 and 1984 when 40 percent of Americans said they took the Bible literally.

Respondents to the poll were given three options as responses to the poll:

The Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.

The Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it should be taken literally.

The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts.

While 30 percent responded that the Bible is the actual word of God, a clear plurality of 49 percent preferred the second interpretation, and 17 percent believe the Bible to be a book of fables and legends.

A further breakdown of the poll’s numbers reveals a few potential correlations, most of them probably predictable to many.

A majority (54 percent) of those who attend church on a weekly basis said they believe the Bible to be the literal word of God. This compares with only 16 percent of those who say they seldom or never attend church services.

Responses to the poll also shifted drastically when sorted by levels of education. Of those with a high school diploma or less, 46 percent say they take the Bible literally, while only 16 percent of those with a postgraduate degree align with this view.

Also of note may be the clear majority of Catholics (65 percent) who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God but should not be taken literally word for word, and the clear disparity between the percentages of Republicans (6 percent) and Democrats (24 percent) who believe the Bible is a book of fables, legends and history.

Federal Court Rules That TSA Naked Scans Are Constitutional

July 15, 2011

by Kashmir Hill


Last weekend, a Tennessee woman was arrested at the Nashville airport for disorderly conduct after she refused TSA security measures for her children. The woman didn’t want her two children to have to go through a whole-body-imaging scanner. When a Transportation Security Administration officer told her the machines were safe, she said,  “I still don’t want someone to see our bodies naked.”

She won’t be pleased with a ruling then out of the D.C. Circuit today. This morning, the federal court ruled that the “naked scans” of air travelers do not violate Americans’ constitutional rights. Privacy rights group EPIC had sued the Department of Homeland Security, alleging violations of innocent passengers’ Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches. The court says that argument doesn’t fly.

In the opinion [pdf] from the D.C. Circuit Court (the Volokh Conspiracy), Judge Douglas Ginsburg writes that the advance imaging technology is not unreasonable given the security concerns on airplanes, and that people have the option to opt out for a pleasurable patdown. The court notes that some “have complained that the resulting patdown was unnecessarily aggressive,” but the judges don’t seem overly concerned about that. Ginsburg writes:

On the other side of the balance, we must acknowledge the steps the TSA has already taken to protect passenger privacy, in particular distorting the image created using AIT and deleting it as soon as the passenger has been cleared. More telling, any passenger may opt-out of AIT screening in favor of a patdown, which allows him to decide which of the two options for detecting a concealed, nonmetallic weapon or explosive is least invasive.

Good news for body scanner manufacturers Rapiscan and L-3. Bad news for those who don’t like having to choose between digital nudity and frisking. Legal scholar Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy expresses mild surprise at how easily the court dismissed privacy concerns with the TSA screens, as he regards the court as a Fourth-Amendment-friendly one.

There was a small rebuke in the opinion for the TSA. The judges ruled that the TSA had violated an administrative law requiring public comment before issuing a new rule making the body scanners their primary tool for airport security. It would be too disruptive to have the TSA stop using the scanners, writes Judge Ginsburg, but they do expect that the TSA will now take comments. In this case, “better late than never” doesn’t really mean much.

Privacy Advocates Fear Immigration ID System


July 7, 2011

by Paul Bedard , Mallie Jane Kim

US News

Privacy advocates are growing increasingly worried that a system meant to identify illegal immigrants will morph into a Big Brother-style high-tech ID database of all Americans.

This “is part of a historical pattern in our country: We erode the civil and privacy rights of the most disadvantaged thinking there will be less push back,” says Angela Chan, an attorney with San Francisco civil rights organization the Asian Law Caucus. “The next thing you know, though, those same rights are then taken away from all of us.”

At issue is Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities program, which involves the FBI sharing fingerprints with the Department of Homeland Security in keeping with a post-September 11 congressional mandate for data sharing among agencies charged with stopping terrorism. The program makes sense to proponents of illegal immigration control, but some privacy advocates are worried this is only the first step toward a comingling of personal information of everybody in the United States.

A joint FBI-DHS PowerPoint presentation—provided to Whispers by groups involved in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against DHS—indicates Secure Communities is a test case for a larger FBI biometric database initiative called “Next Generation Identification,” or NGI. It is being built to replace the FBI’s current fingerprint database with more robust records like palm prints, photos of tattoos and scars, iris scans, and facial imaging. [See a gallery of immigration cartoons.]

Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, worries about a lack of transparency and oversight in implementing such a broad database. “It’s not just about what it is that is private,” Coney says. “It’s the rules that are out there to protect the individual and the society from abuse and misuse of that information. We just don’t have that.”

‘Ice Wars’ heating up the Arctic

July 15, 2011

by Kaj Larsen,


On a small, floating piece of ice in the Beaufort Sea, several hundred miles north of Alaska, a group of scientists are documenting what some dub an “Arctic meltdown.”

According to climate scientists, the warming of the region is shrinking the polar ice cap at an alarming rate, reducing the permafrost layer and wreaking havoc on polar bears, arctic foxes and other indigenous wildlife in the region.

What is bad for the animals, though, has been good for commerce.

The recession of the sea ice and the reduction in permafrost — combined with advances in technology — have allowed access to oil, mineral and natural gas deposits that were previously trapped in the ice.

The abundance of these valuable resources and the opportunity to exploit them has created a gold rush-like scramble in the high north, with fierce competition to determine which countries have the right to access the riches of the Arctic.

This competition has brought in its wake a host of naval and military activities that the Arctic hasn’t seen since the end of the Cold War.

Now, one of the coldest places on Earth is heating up as nuclear submarines, Aegis-class frigates, strategic bombers and a new generation of icebreakers are resuming operations there.

Just how much oil and natural gas is under the Arctic ice?

The Arctic is home to approximately 90 billion barrels of undiscovered but recoverable oil, according to a 2008 study by the U.S. Geological Survey. And preliminary estimates are that one-third of the world’s natural gas may be harbored in the Arctic ice.

But that’s not all that’s up for grabs. The Arctic also contains rich mineral deposits. Canada, which was not historically a diamond-producing nation, is now the third-largest diamond producer in the world.

If the global warming trend continues as many scientists project it to, it is likely that more and more resources will be discovered as the ice melts further.

Who are the countries competing for resources?

The United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Finland all stake a claim to a portion of the Arctic. These countries make up the Arctic Council, a diplomatic forum designed to mediate disputes on Arctic issues

Lawson Brigham, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and an Arctic expert, says “cooperation in the Arctic has never been higher.”

But like the oil trapped on the Arctic sea floor, much of the activity of the Arctic Council is happening below the surface.

In secret diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stieg Moeller was quoted as saying to the United States, “If you stay out, the rest of us will have more to carve up the Arctic.”

At the root of Moeller’s statement is a dispute over control of territories that is pitting friend against foe and against friend. Canada and the U.S., strategic allies in NATO and Afghanistan, are in a diplomatic dispute over the Northwest Passage. Canada and Russia have recently signed development agreements together.

In the same way a compass goes awry approaching the North Pole, traditional strategic alliances are impacted at the top of the world.

Who owns the rights to the resources?

Right now, the most far-reaching legal document is the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. All of the Arctic states are using its language to assert their claims.

The Law of the Sea was initially designed to govern issues like fishing rights, granting nations an exclusive economic zone 200 miles off their coasts. But in the undefined, changing and overlapping territory of the Arctic, the Law of the Sea becomes an imperfect guide, and there are disputes over who owns what.

One example is the Lomonosov Ridge, which Canada, Denmark and Russia all claim is within their territory, based on their cartographic interpretations.

Also complicating matters is the fact that the U.S. has never ratified the Law of the Sea. That has given other Arctic Council nations more muscle to assert territorial rights.

So what’s next?

With murky international agreements and an absence of clear legal authority, countries are preaching cooperation but preparing for conflict.

There has been a flurry of new military activity reminiscent of days past.

Two U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarines, the SSN Connecticut and the SSN New Hampshire, recently finished conducting ice exercises in the Arctic. Secretary of the Navy Richard Mabus said the purpose of the recent naval exercises was “to do operational and war-fighting capabilities. Places are becoming open that have been ice-bound for literally millennia. You’re going to see more and more of the world’s attention pointed towards the Arctic.”

Other Arctic nations are ramping up their military capabilities as well. Just this month, Russia announced that it is deploying two brigades to the Arctic, including a special forces unit. The Russian air force has recently resumed strategic bomber flights over the Pole. Canada, Denmark and Norway are also rapidly rebuilding their military presence.

But despite the buildup, almost all of the activity in the Arctic has been within the scope of normal military operations or research.

Have we seen this before?

There is a long precedent for countries using the Arctic to demonstrate military primacy.

On April 25, 1958, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine — the USS Nautilus (SSN 571) — began Operation Sunshine, the first undersea transpolar crossing.

Done on the heels of the Sputnik satellite launch, it was a demonstration that the U.S. could go places that its Cold War nemesis could not. For the next three decades, U.S. and Soviet submarines would continue to use the Arctic as a proving ground for military prowess.

With the end of the Cold War, that activity waned. But in 2007, a Russian expedition planted a flag on the bottom of the polar sea floor, almost 14,000 feet below the surface. This “neo-Sputnik” has brought renewed interest to the Arctic and launched a flurry of activity — scientific, economic and military — that is eerily parallel to the decades of tension between the superpowers.

The Cold War may be over, but the dethawing of military activity means that the frigid Arctic is once again becoming a hot spot.


Conversations with the Crow

When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert  T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.

Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:


Here is the ninetieth  chapter

Conversation No. 90

Date: Tuesday, July 1, 1997

Commenced: 9:10 AM CST

Concluded: 9:22  AM CST

RTC: Good day to you, Gregory. I’m happy the package arrived safely.

GD: Well, I had you send it to the alternative address so no one intercepted it and considering its contents, it is just as well that they did not or I would be calling you from jail. Jesus, what a horrible thing that is. I am very cynical, Robert, but I have a really hard time accepting all of that. Murdering a Pope and a President is one thing but killing the children of a head of state and sending him the bits and pieces in a box is really outrageous. I take it your people did not do this.

RTC: Actually, they did but I am sad to say they got the wrong children.

GD: That’s even worse.

RTC: I agree but then it was after my time. Things have gone downhill since my time, Gregory. The new breed of people in the field are scarcely human but then I am out of it entirely. Are you planning to include any of that in the Müller book?

GD: No one would believe it, Robert. And when you told me that you’re people decided not to blow up Kennedy when he was sailing because of the children, I can see that your new breed, as you call them, ought to be exterminated. Still, who will bell the cat? There was that smallish file on the Allende business as well. As I rerad it, Nixon told Kissinger to get rid of the man and Henry got your people to blow him away during a convenient civic outbreak. Can I publish the letter?
RTC: I would rather you didn’t. Henry is still around and he might get nasty. Allende was a nuisance and Allende is dead. Why not leave it at that? I thought you might enjoy seeing the activities of the mighty. I mean, the hit order came from Nixon, not some adventurous person at Langley. I admit we stirred up terrible trouble down there what with the unions, whom we bribed, and the strikes but the kill order came right from the top. Of course Tricky Dick would deny it and so would Henry and aside from the letter, where is the proof/ That’s how it’s done but mostly a private conversation somewhere. A very important person says to our DCI that the President would like….you know the drill. If it happens, why so much the better and the President has plausible deniability as Reagan loved to say. Most of the dirty work is done that way and then when the President retires, he hires someone to write a book that a few people read. It’s filled with lies and self-justifications and the New York Times raves about it. I mean, my God, we got the Times to rave and drool over the Posner book on Kennedy. It should have been called ‘Why I love the Warren Report and look what the CIA paid me!” Ah well, not on my watch, Gregory.

GD: One of these days, Robert, the string will run out.

RTC: Surely will, lad, but by that time, I will be comfortably dead. Why I’m forgotten even before I am dead. Ah, when I think about the special limousines, the bowing and scraping, the ass kissing while I was in harness and now, the utter silence.

GD: Yes, how soon they all forget.

RTC: Well, I always have you.

GD: Ah, I recall the old song about that subject. A sheepherder heard it once and hanged himself.

RTC: And it was….?

GD: ‘They’ll never be another you.’ Of course if you spell the last word ‘ewe’…

RTC: Now, Gregory. Don’t beat a subject. I can spell, after all. And yes, I would imagine he would much rather hear a song of my time, ‘My sweet embraceable you.’

GD: God, these puns will be the death of us all, Robert. I’ll cut up my overweight niece and send the parts to you by UPS.

RTC: What will I tell Emily?

GD: A little loving from your friends at the Company?

(Concluded 9:22 AM CST)

Dramatis personae:

James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy

James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.

William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.

John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.

James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.

Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.

Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.

Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organizaion eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.

Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”

Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.

Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.

Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.

Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarians and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.

Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers specializing in creative writing. Although he prefers to be called ‘Dr,’ in reality he has no PhD.

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