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TBR News March 12, 2019

Mar 12 2019

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

Washington, D.C. March 12, 2019:” “I really do not care what Myron T. Ginzberg self-proclaimed ‘brilliant Intelligence expert’ has to mumble on such subjects as ‘Remote Viewing,’ ‘the Tesla weather changing machines’ and other silliness. In point of fact, I make them into laughing stocks. I can’t make them into fools: God did that a long time ago.

You might want to Google such types as ‘Sorcha Fall,” Chris Bollyn and the redoubtable Tom Flocco. If you do, you will see the truth of the Biblical statement, ‘And slime had they for mortar.’ (Genesis 11)

Most of these brilliant savants self-publish their nonsense or find a so-called publishing house that prints books on demand and has dozens of clients, drooling in anticipation to discover that HAARP is causing cancer in geese and swelling waistlines throughout the world. Or that the Hidden Hand’s dread Dr. Melbourne Fong, caused Hurricane Katrina.

The French philosopher Blaise Pascal discusses such individuals in his essay on ‘Thoughts’ As I recall the passage, he says that men would be great but know that they are small, would be happy but are miserable, wish to be perfect but know that they are full of imperfections and wish to be honored and loved by others but know that their flaws merit only contempt. I believe the passage goes in that way.

And it continues to say that these persons become violently angry against these truths which so clearly expose their faults. This man becomes a Communist or a liberal as they call them in England.

He sees that only in reducing all men to a common state he can feel, if not superior, at least equal. These persons cannot achieve or create but can certainly destroy that which others have achieved or created. You find these creatures in the academic world filled with hatred that they cannot create that which they teach or in trade unions where they curse the man who has built a factory that they could not. And if they come to power, they only ruin what they touch.

They start out by demanding that you accept the idea that all men are equal and every man must be the equal to…but not the superior to his neighbor. In mathematics this is called a common denominator. Now these intellectual unemployed want all men to be equal and they, of course, are the natural leaders of these masses because of their superior, if previously unrecognized, brilliance.

They manipulate the masses to whom they condescend in order to overthrow an existing government and supplant it with… themselves!. And the tyranny of the market place, which is more or less natural, is replaced by the tyranny of the failed intellectual who knows with a certainty that he alone is right and wishes to force everyone not as brilliant as himself to worship him as a small clay God.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • A World without the West
  • American democracy is in crisis. A House bill could help it heal
  • Beto O’Rourke heading to Iowa, fueling speculation about White House bid
  • New York Prosecutors Have Some Questions for Trump’s Favorite Bank
  • NY attorney general subpoenas Deutsche Bank, Investors Bank for documents on Trump Organization projects
  • Mysterious triangle: Donald Trump, Deutsche Bank and the Kremlin ‘cookie jars’
  • President Donald Trump: An Analysis
  • Felicity Huffman among dozens charged over admissions fraud at top US schools
  • MPs ignore May’s pleas and defeat her Brexit deal by 149 votes
  • Flat Earthers: Belief, Skepticism, and Denialism

 

 

 

A World without the West

Learning to Live ‘without’ the Free World

March 5, 2019

by Andrew J. Bacevich

Commonweal

Does the West still exist? Most American politicians, journalists, and policy intellectuals seem to think so, or at least they pretend to. But what if, like the Baltimore Catechism and St. Joseph Missal of my boyhood, the West has surreptitiously vanished, without anyone taking much notice of its disappearance? As with the old church of incense, ritual, and mystery, we can argue about whether what has replaced it represents progress, but there’s no point in pretending that what once was still is. It’s not.

Some place names all but quiver with historical resonance: Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and not least of all, America. Yet during the second half of the twentieth century, the West merited a place on that roster.

In its heyday, the West—used more or less interchangeably with the phrase “free world”—was much more than a conglomeration of countries. The term itself conjured up a multiplicity of images: peoples sharing a devotion to freedom and democracy; nations mustering the political and cultural cohesion to stand firm in a common cause; sacrifice and steadfastness in the face of evil. The West was Rick and Ilsa, Winston and Franklin, Jack and Ron at the Berlin Wall. It was Greer Garson as Mrs. Miniver and Tom Hanks as army ranger Captain John Miller.

For several decades after 1945, the West imparted legitimacy to U.S. claims of global leadership. Nations said to make up the West endorsed, or played along with, the notion that the United States was exceptional and indispensable. Endlessly reiterated in stump speeches and newspaper editorials, this proposition came to seem self-evidently true—or at least expedient.

Today, it is neither. Seven decades after World War II and three decades after the end of the Cold War, to pretend that something called the West, taking its cues from Washington, continues to play an organizing role in international politics is to indulge in a vast self-deception.

‘It’s time to see the world as it is, not as we might wish to remember it’

The collapse of the Soviet Empire at the end of the 1980s robbed the West of its principal geopolitical rationale. Nominally, Western unity derived from common values; in reality, it derived from a common threat. Once the threat vanished, centrifugal forces were certain to make their appearance. From that point, the eventual unraveling of the West was probably inevitable. But one can credit President George W. Bush with hastening its end. His decision to invade Iraq in 2003, disregarding objections from key allies such as Germany and France, marked the West’s slide into complete irrelevance: Washington no longer valued it as a mechanism for validating the exercise of American power. Henceforth, temporary “coalitions of the willing” would suffice to disguise what was, in effect, American unilateralism.

Of course, the Brits loyally signed up and sent what remained of their once-formidable army to join in liberating Iraq. Given that the Anglo-American partnership had from the outset formed the West’s inner core, this amounted to much more than a mere gesture. Yet the ensuing war proved no happier for the United Kingdom than it did for the United States. Soon enough, the British people were deriding their prime minister for having played the role of Bush’s compliant “poodle.” As a consequence, the special relationship became little more than a quaint phrase, its significance extending no further than the fact that British costume dramas still have a privileged place on American television.

Events in 2013 confirmed that the special relationship had been severed. With President Barack Obama on the verge of ordering air attacks to punish the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons against its own people, he expressed hope that UK forces might join in. The British parliament took up the question. The vote: a resounding no.

‘Cooperation between the United States and its so-called partners might occur on a case-by-case basis, but the West retained about as much practical salience as the Papal States or the Holy Roman Empire’

In the United States, critics chastised Obama for backing away from his self-declared “red line.” The real story was that the West was now fully defunct. Cooperation between the United States and its so-called partners might occur on a case-by-case basis, but the West retained about as much practical salience as the Papal States or the Holy Roman Empire.

In his influential essay on a looming “Clash of Civilizations,” published in 1993, political scientist Samuel P. Huntington foresaw the emergence of a world order centered on a competition pitting “the West versus the Rest.” In one camp would be members of a predominantly white, vaguely Christian, affluent, and largely European (if American-dominated) club. “The Rest” would be a motley conglomeration: black, brown, yellow, religiously heterodox, mostly underdeveloped, and rent with ancient divisions. Huntington summoned Western peoples to gird their loins and rally together against the threat posed by these alien hordes. Civilization itself was at risk.

Yet subsequent events made it abundantly clear that the nations that once made up the West no longer possess anything like the solidarity required to mount a successful resistance. In fact, the West’s demise has coincided with the emergence of an entirely new geopolitical order. Its chief characteristics are these: multipolarity, an Eastward shift of economic and military power, and the growing irrelevance of Europe—these plus a precipitous decline in America’s global standing. Huntington’s speculation included an imaginative discussion of what he called “torn countries,” with disintegrating Yugoslavia as a prime example.

Today, nations that once formed the West’s spine appear if not entirely torn, then at least starting to come apart at the seams. Examples include the emergence of illiberalism in European nations once assumed to be solidly democratic, a trend spurred by an inability to deal with mass migration from the global South. Then there is Brexit, which may yet see the United Kingdom disuniting. Of course, the most ominous divisions are those within the United States, stemming from the election of Donald Trump as president. Just now, it may be premature to characterize the United States as a torn country. Should Donald Trump be impeached or reelected to a second term, that judgment may require revision.

I remember my old Baltimore Catechism and my St. Joseph’s Missal fondly, but their day has passed. So, too, have the days when something called the West still mattered. It’s time to see the world as it is, not as we might wish to remember it.

 

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

March 12 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

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

 

Conversation No. 39

Date: Monday, September 30. 1996

Commenced: 12:23 PM CST

Concluded: 12:47 PM CST

RTC: Gregory?

GD: Yes, Robert. I am letting you know that I got a letter from Critchfield today.

RTC: Excellent! What did he say?

GD: If you know the score, a great deal and if you don’t, it’s still interesting. Shall I read it to you?

RTC: Not on the phone. Can you copy it and send it to me at home?

GD: He says that you spoke well of me and that you said I was a former intelligence employee, just as you said he would. He is very eager to get ahold of me to find out what I know about Mueller and who told me.

RTC: Oh, he’s a very alarmed person, Gregory. They all are.

GD: He did mention that his ex-CIA friends were all in a tizzy. Some believed me and other said that none of it could be true.

RTC: That’s typical, Gregory. We always had members who laughed at everything. You could tell them today was Monday and they would say, “Well, that remains to be seen.” How did he leave it?

GD: He is most insistent that I call him at home.

RTC: But be careful of that, Gregory. He’ll tape you. He wants to find out what you know about Mueller….have you mentioned Kronthal yet?

GD: I haven’t responded to the letter, Robert, but when we talk, I will.

RTC: He’ll ask you if Corson told you this. Say that he did not. Say that Mueller did. Also tell him that the Company terminated Kronthal because he was a faggot and was being blackmailed by the Russians. Got that?

GD: I do.

RTC: This might prove to be very interesting. Be sure you tape him. Do you have the equipment for that?

GD: I do indeed, Robert.

RTC: And be very accurate about Gehlen. No interesting stories.

GD: Robert, please give me some credit, won’t you? I’ve been doing this sort of crap for years now and I haven’t put my foot into it yet.

RTC: No, but I’ve never seen you in action.

GD: You will. I have had dealings with the CIA before. My God, what a bunch of idiots. They have two approaches, Robert and only two. They tell you that you’re in very serious trouble but they can help you or they say they want to be my friend. As far as the latter is concerned, I’d much rather try to fuck a rabid bulldog than trust one of them. They couldn’t talk a Mongoloid idiot out of a candy bar. Now, on the other hand, the Russians I know are far better. I’ve never had a bad word from any of them. I would say that the average Russian KGB person, but on a higher level, is far more intelligent and savvy than any CIA person I’ve ever met.

RTC: Ever been to Russia?

GD: Once. As a tourist, of course. I have a nice picture of myself sitting in their headquarters, reading a local paper under a picture of Lenin.

RTC: Are you serious?

GD: Certainly I am. I met one of their leaders when he and I were in Bern. He was a trade delegation person at their embassy of course. And they do know how to feed you. I got rather fond of smoked sturgeon and really good Beluga caviar, all washed down with a first class Crimean wine.

RTC: Who was your friend there?

GD: He’s in the First Directorate but somehow I seem to have forgotten his name. He was on the idiot tube during the Gorbachev problem a few years ago.

RTC: Stocky? Sandy hair? Thinning?

GD: I believe so.

RTC: My God. If I gave you a name would…

GD: No, I would not. Besides, I’m not a spy, Robert. Don’t forget, I’m an analyst, a scenario writer, not a spy. Besides the sturgeon, I enjoy dissecting a complex problem and arriving at a simple answer. It’s not popular with most people, Robert, but it’s almost always right.

RTC: Such vanity.

GD: I prefer to call it a realistic appraisal of facts, Robert.

RTC: Could I see the picture?

GD: I’ll show it to you in person but I would prefer not to send it to you by mail. It might get lost.

RTC: Yes, these things do happen.

GD: I will certainly speak with Critchfield and I will tape the conversation for you. Do you want a copy of the tape?

RTC: No, just play it for me so I can hear what the shit has to say. I’d like you to get him to talk about the Nazis who worked for him. You know Jim liked the Nazis and hired a fair number of them. Grombach made out a list after the war so they could track some of the war crimes boys who might be in POW cages. They called it the Crowcrass List. Jim got his hands on it and used it to recruit from. I told him once this could come back to haunt him if the Jews ever found out about it but Jim just said the Jews were loud-mouthed assholes, his exact words, and Hitler missed the boat when he left any alive.

GD: Do you want me to get him to say that?

RTC: Now that’s an interesting idea, Gregory. Would you?

GD: Why not? I really knew Gehlen, as I’ve said, in ’51. He told me once that his famous report that the Russians were planning to attack western Europe in ’48 was made up because the U.S. Army, who were paying him, wanted him to do this. He said he lied like a rug and that no German intelligence officer would ever believe a word of it. He said the Russians had torn up all the rail lines in their zone and they could no more move troops up to the border than crap sideways. He said that this was designed to scare the shit out of the politicians in Washington so the Army, which was being sharply reduced in size, would be able to rebuild. That meant more money from Congress and more Generals got to keep their jobs. He said it worked like a charm and even Truman was terrified. I assume that’s the real beginning of the Cold War, isn’t it?

RTC: That’s a very good and accurate assessment. Jim told me that Gehlen was a pompous ass whom Hitler had sacked for being a champion bullshit artist but he was very useful to our side in frightening everyone with the Russian boogeyman. It’s all business, isn’t it?

GD: Marx said that. The basis of all wars is economic.

RTC: Absolutely, Gregory, absolutely. But talk about the Nazi SS men he hired, if you can. My God, they say it was like a party rally up at Pullach. If we can get him to admit that he, and others, knew what they were hiring, I’ll have him over the proverbial barrel and then I can have some leverage over him. Why, you don’t need to know.

GD: I don’t care, Robert. From his letter, I would agree he is a gasbag with a bloated opinion of himself. He should never have written that letter because I can see right through it. He’s afraid I know too much and if I knew Mueller, he’s even more frightened Mueller might have said things about him. You know, Robert, if you dance to the tune, you have to pay the piper eventually.

RTC: Do keep the letter and try to get him to put more down on paper.

GD: I will try but I don’t think he’s that stupid. We’ll try the tape and see what I can pry out of him. Mueller got me a list of names working for Gehlen and some background on them. I agree that they hired some people who are going to haunt them if it ever gets out.

RTC: Well, you have a problem there. Your publisher is not big enough to reach too many people and a bigger one would be told right off not to talk to you. I also might suggest several things to you. If anyone tries to come to visit you, and they want to bring a friend, don’t go for it.

GD: Are they planning to shoot me?

RTC: No. The so-called friend would be a government expert. They would examine any documents you had and if there was the slightest hint that you were sitting on something you had no business having, they would go straight into federal court, testify that these papers were highly sensitive and classified and get a friendly judge to issue a replevin order. That means they would send the FBI crashing into your house and grab everything sight. If you had a Rolex it would vanish along with any loose cash and, naturally, all the papers. And one other thing, if you get a very nice offer from some publisher you never heard of, just begging you to let them publish, be warned that they would take the manuscript, send it to Langley and if Langley thought it was dangerous, give you a contract to publish it along with a token payment. Of course they would never publish it but since they paid you and had a contract to publish, you could never find another publisher. They’d get a court order in record time, blocking it. Just some advice.

GD: Thank you. But I never let these morons into my house. Oh, and I have had such invites but once you talk to these jokers, you can see in a few minutes that they know nothing about Mueller, the Gestapo or anything else. They read a book and think they are an expert but most post war books are bullshit written by the far left or by Jews and are completely worthless from a factual point of view. No, it takes me only a few minutes to figure them out and then, suddenly, my dog is tearing the throats out of the Seventh Day Adventists on the front porch and I have to ring off. I don’t know why these Mongoloids don’t find someone with an IQ larger than their neck size. That is a chronic disappointment. There’s no challenge there, Robert. It’s a little like reading Kant to a Mongoloid. Such a waste of my time and so unrewarding when you find they pissed on the rug.

RTC: That should do it for now, Gregory. Keep me posted.

GD: I’m going out of town for a few days but will get back with you next week.

 

(Concluded at 12:47 PM CST)

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

American democracy is in crisis. A House bill could help it heal

HR 1, passed by House lawmakers, is a weapon against gerrymandering and racially driven voter suppression tactics

March 12, 2019

by Carol Anderson

The Guardian

The US House of Representatives just passed HR 1, a bill designed to remove the dagger that the US Supreme Court and the Republicans have plunged into the heart of American democracy. For years, the Republican party has exploited three ill-conceived court decisions that exposed citizens to extreme partisan gerrymandering, virtually untraceable billions funneled into political campaigns, and an array of voter suppression tactics. Each has compromised the viability of the United States by compromising the viability of democracy.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed.

As of late 2018, a poll showed that “half of Americans have either lost faith in democracy or never had faith in it to begin with”. Yet, a nation with a population convinced that its foundational system – democracy – does not have the ability to solve the challenges of climate change, unaffordable healthcare, staggering student loan debt, historic levels of wealth and income inequality, criminal justice reform, and rampant gun violence is a nation in crisis.

Five justices on the US supreme court were instrumental in creating this crisis. They carelessly removed the guardrails that had protected democracy from partisanship, greed, and racism. With the barriers lowered, the Republican party rushed in.

In 2004, after the census reduced by two the number of congressional seats in Pennsylvania, the court looked at the legislative redistricting work of the Republicans in the state, and, despite the egregious results, said there was nothing the courts could do about it. The Republican party had taken what was an 11-Republicans-to-10-Democrats balance and transformed that to 13-to-six. That new configuration obliterated the “one person, one vote” constitutional standard set in 1962 and 1964 by placing inordinate political strength in the sparsely populated rural areas in Pennsylvania and diminishing the representation for residents in the much larger cities. In the new map, Republican districts remained intact while those previously held by Democrats were sliced and diced. That sleight of hand allowed the Republican party, which was nearly 90% white, to make the political party a proxy for race, while avoiding the tag of racial gerrymandering, which would have drawn the highest level of judicial review, “strict scrutiny”, and would have had similar results. Under Republican redistricting, white people, who comprised 95% of the state’s rural population, were now endowed with overwhelming political power.

This was the extreme partisan gerrymandering that, according to Justice Antonin Scalia in Vieth v Jubelir, the court lacked any viable standard to identify and assess.

Ohio Republicans heard the message loud and clear. Following years of planning, after the 2010 election, they sequestered themselves in a hotel room with mapping consultants and created districts that guaranteed Republican dominance for a decade. Republicans consistently walked away with 75% of the Congressional seats despite earning only 51% to 59% of the votes in a series of statewide congressional elections. Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, and other states adopted similar strategies with similar results. Those efforts piled up an additional 16 to 26 unwarranted seats in Congress that helped thwart the will of the people on tax laws, the Affordable Care Act, and background checks for gun sales.

Democrats, to be clear, have gerrymandered as well. Yet, when New Jersey Democrats tried to implement an extreme partisan districting scheme in late 2018, a phalanx of engaged and outraged politicians and progressive citizens stopped that maneuver dead in its tracks. There is, however, no comparable viable force on the Republican side that can provide the same kind of check on policies that undermine democracy.

Thus, in 2010, in the Citizens United case – when the supreme court allowed corporations, not-for-profit groups, and labor unions to hide the full extent of their campaign contributions – it spelled disaster. By the time the 2016 election had rolled around, $1.4bn in dark money, an increase from $338m just eight years earlier, had funneled into the campaigns. Barack Obama had raised the alarm shortly after the court’s decision that Citizens United would provide an unhealthy opportunity for elections to “be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities”.

He was prescient.

In the 2016 campaign, apparently tens of millions came from foreign sources determined to have a say in who the next president would be. And, today, most Americans are convinced that Russia helped put Trump in the White House. His compromised ascension into the presidency means that there are questions over whether his announcements about troop withdrawals in Syria, disagreements with Nato and summits with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un are driven by US national security interests or Russian ones. In addition, despite the stream of school shootings and massacres, outsized funding from the National Rifle Association, some of which may have also come from the Kremlin, appears to have kept gun safety laws locked down in the bowels of the legislature.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in his dissent in Citizens United, had warned: “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

Nor can a democracy function when American citizens are systematically denied the right to vote “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. In 2013, the US supreme court ignored voluminous evidence that since Ronald Reagan’s first term, states had tried more than 700 times to craft laws to block minorities from voting and were only stopped by the Department of Justice wielding the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Yet, by ignoring one attempt after the next to disfranchise millions of American citizens, the supreme court, in Shelby County v Holder, gutted pre-clearance and unleashed a whirlwind of legislation that “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision”, according to federal judges. Republicans from North Carolina, Wisconsin, Georgia, and 30 other states, were virtually “giddy” about crafting racially discriminatory voter ID laws, closing polling stations in minority communities, and purging millions from voter rolls. In their more candid moments, the Republican stalwarts admitted that the point of their efforts was to keep African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics, as well as the poor and young adults, from voting.

The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, rightfully noted that the Republican party is “a party that says they don’t believe in democracy. The less democracy the better.” It’s not surprising, then, that Republicans have resorted to fearmongering and blasted HR 1 as a “power grab” and an attempt to flood the voting booths with “illegal immigrants”.

HR 1, however, with its provisions for ending extreme partisan gerrymandering, cleaning up campaign finance, and restoring the pre-clearance provision in the Voting Rights Act, is designed to restore some integrity to a democratic system that the supreme court and Republicans have severely wounded. Or, as LaTosha Brown, co-founder of BlackVotersMatter, asked in 2018, “Why is it a struggle for us to cast our damn vote?”

 

Beto O’Rourke heading to Iowa, fueling speculation about White House bid

March 11, 2019

by Tim Reid

Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke is heading to the early presidential voting state of Iowa this weekend, fuelling speculation that the Democrat is poised to enter the White House race.

O’Rourke said last week he had made a decision about whether to seek the Democratic nomination for president. A trip to Iowa on Saturday, where the first votes in the nominating contest will be cast in February, suggests his entry into the race is imminent.

In an announcement posted on Twitter, Eric Giddens, an Iowa Democrat who is running in a special election for a state senate seat, said his campaign workers and O’Rourke will be urging students this Saturday at the University of Northern Iowa to vote in his election race.

The tweet by Giddens was accompanied by a video of O’Rourke speaking from his home city of El Paso, Texas, wearing a University of Northern Iowa baseball cap and urging UNI students to vote for Giddens.

“Supporting him for state Senate is the way that we get Iowa, and by extension, this country, back on the right track,” O’Rourke says. “UNI, we’re counting on you, and we’re looking forward to seeing you soon. Adios.”

Chris Evans, a spokesman for O’Rourke, confirmed in an email to Reuters that O’Rourke will be in Waterloo, Iowa, campaigning for Giddens on Saturday afternoon. He did not respond to requests about whether O’Rourke was planning to run for president.

With its position as first in the nation status when it comes to presidential nominating battles, Iowa can sometimes make or break candidacies and is an early and frequent destination for White House hopefuls.

Other Democratic presidential candidates have already visited Iowa ahead of O’Rourke’s visit.

O’Rourke, 46, rose to national prominence last year when he narrowly lost his bid to defeat Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke had previously said he would decide by the end of February if he would launch a White House campaign, and speculation around his plans mounted after several high-profile public appearances.

He sat for an interview with Oprah Winfrey in New York and held a rival rally last month to decry Trump’s immigration policy as the president promoted his planned border wall in El Paso. He has also visited the general election battleground state of Wisconsin.

Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Robert Birsel

 

New York Prosecutors Have Some Questions for Trump’s Favorite Bank

The New York Attorney General’s office subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records related to its dealings with the president.

March 12, 2019

by Eric Lutz

Vanity Fair

New York Attorney General Letitia James entered office with a vow to “use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions, and that of his family as well,” and she seems to be making good on that promise. On Monday, the A.G.’s office hit Deutsche Bank, one of the only lenders willing to do business with Trump in recent years, with a subpoena for records related to its dealings with the president. Specifically, James is seeking information from Deutsche and another lender, Investors Bank, related to four Trump Organization projects, along with Trump’s failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills (a venture that reportedly included a bizarre effort by the now-president to smear Jon Bon Jovi). The Trump Organization did not respond to The New York Times’s request for comment, and both Deutsche and Investors declined to comment.

The new probe is a sign that scrutiny of the German bank is ramping up; the lender is already the subject of a pair of congressional probes. People briefed on the matter told the Times that James’s subpoenas were motivated by the testimony of Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, who told the House Oversight Committee that the president habitually “inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed amongst the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.” Cohen, whose credibility has been called into question, provided Congress with copies of financial statements that he said were submitted to Deutsche, which Trump leaned on heavily in the years after high-profile bankruptcies turned off other Wall Street lenders. Democrats, and now James, are interested in the nature of that relationship, which seemingly allowed the future president to “[pay] cash” for development projects “at a time when he wasn’t supposed to have money,” as Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, put it last month.

We’re going to have to find out why,” he added.

The involvement of James’s office compounds the questions that Deutsche, and by extension the president, could face. The New York attorney general’s office has been a consistent thorn in Trump’s side, and James herself has promised a number of probes into the president, including his son’s meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who purportedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton; possible emoluments violations; fraud and tax evasion at the Trump Organization; and Trump’s apparent use of his charity as a piggy bank for himself and his kids. Her position has already seemed to rattle Trump who, in a Twitter rant after James’s election last year, accused her of doing “little else but rant, rave & and politic against me.”

James’s probe is civil, not criminal, though the Times points out that the scope of the probe is “unclear.” If Trump’s business is found to have engaged in illegal activity, James has the power to fine it, or move to dissolve it altogether.

 

NY attorney general subpoenas Deutsche Bank, Investors Bank for documents on Trump Organization projects

March 11, 2019

by Diana Stancy Correll

Washington Examiner

Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank were subpoenaed by the New York attorney general’s office, prompted by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s public testimony to Congress last month.

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office issued the subpoenas late Monday pressing for documents related to the financing of four Trump Organization projects, along with an attempt to purchase the Buffalo Bills of the NFL in 2014, according to the New York Times.

The inquiry, which is a civil investigation, seeks records from Deutsche Bank regarding loan applications, mortgages, lines of credit, and other transactions related to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., the Trump National Doral near Miami, and the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago.

Trump conducted business with a small U.S.-based branch of Deutsche Bank, which loaned Trump more than $100 million for the Doral golf resort, and $170 million for the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

The subpoena also requested Deutsche Bank provide documents from President Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to purchase the Buffalo Bills, where he provided the bank with basic personal financial statements.

Separately, investigators asked Investors Bank for documents related to Trump Park Avenue, a project Investors Bank backed.

The impetus for the moves stems back to Cohen’s testimony last month before the House Oversight Committee in which he said Trump exaggerated his assets in financial statements. Cohen, who is set to serve a three-year sentence for campaign finance crimes and lying to Congress, shared copies of statements he said were sent to Deutsche Bank.

Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank declined to comment to the Times, and the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.

James has signaled on multiple occasions that she intended to delve into Trump’s business dealings. “I will be shining a bright light into every dark corner of his real estate dealings, and every dealing, demanding truthfulness at every turn,” she said when she was elected in November.

 

Mysterious triangle: Donald Trump, Deutsche Bank and the Kremlin ‘cookie jars’

December 29, 2017

by Luke Harding

The Sydney Morning Hearld

The tone was weary exasperation. The sort of exasperation you might deploy when faced with a capricious and badly behaved child. One who agrees to do something but who then reneges and blames everyone else, while screaming and throwing toys from his pram.

The man-child in this case was Trump. The fed-up reproving parent was Deutsche Bank, Trump’s New York creditor.

At issue was a very large sum of money that Trump borrowed from the German bank in 2005 to fund the construction of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. Trump had personally guaranteed to repay the $US640 million ($828.7 million) debt.

Since then, a global financial crash had arrived. Trump had defaulted on payment, with $US330 million still outstanding. In late November 2008, Deutsche was seeking an immediate $US40 million from the tycoon, plus interest, legal fees and costs.

One had to be a little awed by Trump’s nose-thumbing response. Instead of paying up, he counter-sued.

He argued that Deutsche Bank had co-created the financial downturn. Or as he put it: “Deutsche Bank is one of the banks primarily responsible for the economic dysfunction we are currently facing.”

Therefore, he was not obliged to pay back any money.

Therefore, Deutsche Bank owed him money. He wanted $US3 billion in damages.

The same day he argued that the depression meant he was off the hook, Trump gave an interview to The Scotsman newspaper. After a two-year fight, he had succeeded in getting approval from the Scottish government for a new Trump golf resort near Balmedie in Aberdeenshire.

“The world has changed financially and the banks are all in such trouble, but the good news is that we are doing very well as a company and we are in a very, very strong cash position,” Trump told the newspaper.

Trump’s outrageous behaviour vis-a-vis Deutsche Bank might have been anticipated. He was, after all, someone who had been through a slew of corporate bankruptcies. His Taj Mahal casino, his other casinos in Atlantic City, his Plaza Hotel in NYC all filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the early 1990s.

After those failures, US banks that had previously advanced the capital to Trump for building projects, believing them to be sound investments, stopped lending. Chase Manhattan, Citibank, and other burned Wall Street houses declined further credit and refused his calls.

The one institution willing to advance him loans in the new century was Deutsche Bank.

In 2010 Trump settled his feud with Deutsche. This was done, extraordinarily, by borrowing more money from … Deutsche Bank.

Comment: It has long been rumored in the American financial world that Deutsche Bank had very strong ties to the CIA and many very large loans from that bank were motivated by CIA needs. Ed

 

President Donald Trump: An Analysis

Psychology Today

Since the campaign that led to his 2016 election, Donald J. Trump has defiantly flipped the presidential script, with chaos and deliberate combativeness a new mark of White House operations, manifest in hostile briefings, high rates of staff turnover, and in cultural exchanges that appear aimed at dividing the nation. The U.S. is even divided about the degree to which Trump is directly or indirectly accountable for changes in civil discourse, with some citing his rhetoric and policies as a spur to hate crimes and others claiming he is being unfairly demonized by the press. Millions of people around the globe (not to mention many Americans) express bafflement at the nature of the personality at the center of it all, and many are alarmed by tactics and policies that are not only erratic and often retrogressive but that undermine democratic practices. A large segment of the population seeks to quell emotional reactivity to the chaos of the presidency and to navigate the civic, legal and ideological battles that play out daily, from Twitter to the federal courts.

A President’s Personality

Trump’s manifest grandiosity and disregard for facts, beginning with failure to accept clear evidence about the size of the crowd attending his inauguration, put mental health professionals in the spotlight from Day One of his presidency. Mental health professionals and commentators from all ideological camps early converged on a label of narcissistic personality disorder as the condition that clearly “explains” Trump’s behavior. Many mental health professionals have came forward to make this assertion, including more than 70,000 who signed a petition warning of Trump’s potential dangerousness, despite longstanding professional injunctions against “diagnosing”  public figures whom experts have not personally examined. Americans remain divided as to how authoritarian or grandiose Trump may or may not be, and who has the authority to make clinical pronouncements or draw historical parallels.

What Psychological Terms Characterize This Presidency?

Trump’s presidency has given rise to heated discussion about a range of psychological phenomena, well beyond the debate about his own personality. The term “gaslighting” refers to the manipulative attempt to make people question their own perceptions or memory, and it is now often invoked to describe Trump’s behavior, especially his statements about “fake news.” The question of whether or not Trump’s style should be characterized as authoritarian has also led to an analysis of world leaders past and present. Whatever one’s position on Trump and his policies, a narrow area of agreement for most Americans is that the political climate has never been more corrosive and it reflects, to more or less degree, Trump’s contrarian approach to leadership.

 

Felicity Huffman among dozens charged over admissions fraud at top US schools

  • Scheme helped wealthy Americans buy their children’s way into elite universities including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford
  • How did the scheme work and who was charged?

March 12, 2019

by Jamiles Lartey in New Orleans and agencies

The Guardian

US federal prosecutors have charged Hollywood actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, along with almost 50 other people, over a $25m scheme to help wealthy Americans buy their children’s way into elite universities including Yale, Georgetown, Stanford and the University of Southern California.

Huffman was due to appear in court in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon. Her husband, actor William H Macy, showed up at court ahead of his wife’s appearance to face a charge of bribery.

Two hundred FBI agents were involved in the investigation, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues”, which exposed how parents bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centers to get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.

William “Rick” Singer, 58, was charged by federal prosecutors in Boston with running the racketeering scheme through his Edge College & Career Network, which served a roster of clients including chief executives and Hollywood actors.

Thirty-three parents, including Huffman and Loughlin, were charged, as well as 13 college sports coaches and associates of Singer’s business. Dozens, including Huffman, were arrested by midday in what authorities called a “conspiracy nationwide in scope”.

“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” Andrew Lelling, the US attorney for the district of Massachusetts, said in a press conference on Tuesday morning. “Based on the charges unsealed today, all of them knowingly conspired with Singer and others to … buy their children’s admission to elite schools through fraud.”

Lelling said the parents included CEOs, successful securities and real estate traders, a fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm.

Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5m to guarantee their children’s admission, officials said.

Huffman and Macy are accused of making a $15,000 payment disguised as a charitable donation as part of a scheme to allow their daughter to take part in the college entrance-exam cheating scam. Macy is not named in the filings and has not been indicted.

According to charging documents, Singer’s operation arranged for examiners to take college admissions exams in place of his clients’ children, advise them of correct answers, or change their test answers after they had been completed. Lelling said that in cases where the test was being administered for the second time, scores were raised in a calculated way so as not to raise suspicion.

“What Singer was good at doing was calibrating the fake credentials to appear realistic and not so impressive as to invite suspicion or additional scrutiny,” said Lelling.

A lawyer for Singer said on Tuesday evening his client intends to cooperate fully with federal prosecutors.

Attorney Donald Heller told reporters that Singer is “remorseful and contrite and wants to move on with his life”. Heller says Singer is “relieved that this part is over”.

In the charging documents, prosecutors produced a handwriting sample a student was asked to submit so that a fraudulent test-taker could try to match it.

Huffman and Macy are accused of making a $15,000 payment disguised as a charitable donation as part of a scheme to allow their daughter to take part in the college entrance-exam cheating scam. Macy is not named in the filings and has not been indicted.

According to charging documents, Singer’s operation arranged for examiners to take college admissions exams in place of his clients’ children, advise them of correct answers, or change their test answers after they had been completed. Lelling said that in cases where the test was being administered for the second time, scores were raised in a calculated way so as not to raise suspicion.

“What singer was good at doing was calibrating the fake credentials to appear realistic and not so impressive as to invite suspicion or additional scrutiny,” said Lelling.

A lawyer for Singer said on Tuesday evening his client intends to cooperate fully with federal prosecutors.

Attorney Donald Heller told reporters that Singer is “remorseful and contrite and wants to move on with his life”. Heller says Singer is “relieved that this part is over”.

In the charging documents, prosecutors produced a handwriting sample a student was asked to submit so that a fraudulent test-taker could try to match it.

In other cases, Singer allegedly conspired with college athletic coaches for applicants to be listed as recruited athletes, even if, as in several cases, they had never even played the sport in question. Pictures of students’ heads were even Photoshopped on to the bodies of athletes to create fake image profiles.

The coaches worked at such schools as Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles.

In one exchange captured in the complaint, a parent is asked for a photo of his son “a little bit in action” so he could be photoshopped onto a football player in an attempt to be admitted at USC.

“The way the world works these days is unbelievable,” the father replied, while agreeing to look for a suitable image.

In another case, a family paid about $1.2m in multiple installments, including approximately $900,000 “as a purported charitable donation” for a falsified athletic profile in an attempt to get a student accepted to Yale through the soccer team “despite the fact that … she did not play competitive soccer”.

Former Yale women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith was among those caught up in the investigation, which prosecutors said took over a year to complete. Meredith is accused of accepting a $400,000 check from the family of a Yale applicant, and facilitating her admission to the university as part of the women’s soccer team, according to filings.

Meredith left his position with the team last year. He pleaded guilty and helped prosecutors build the case against others. John Vandemoer, the former head sailing coach at Stanford, also pleaded guilty on Tuesday to racketeering conspiracy. Stanford said Vandemoer has been fired.

Singer admitted on Tuesday in Boston federal court to charges including racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice, according to court papers.

Loughlin, who was charged along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, appeared in the ABC sitcom Full House, while Huffman starred in ABC’s Desperate Housewives. Both were charged with fraud and conspiracy.

Court papers said a cooperating witness met with Huffman and Macy at their Los Angeles home and explained to them that he “controlled” a testing center and could have somebody secretly change her daughter’s answers in a college entrance exam. The person told investigators that the couple agreed to the plan.

Representatives for Huffman, Loughlin and Macy also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among the parents charged were Gordon Caplan of Greenwich, Connecticut, a co-chairman of an international law firm based in New York; Jane Buckingham, CEO of a boutique marketing company in Los Angeles; Gregory Abbott of New York, founder and chairman of a packaging company; and Manuel Henriquez, CEO of a finance company based in Palo Alto, California.

Lelling said it “remains to be seen if we charge any students” and that the colleges themselves “are not considered co-conspirators”. Authorities said in many cases the teenagers were not aware of the fraud.

 

MPs ignore May’s pleas and defeat her Brexit deal by 149 votes

Despite late concessions in Strasbourg, PM’s plan voted down for second time

March 12, 2019

by Heather Stewart, Political editor

The Guardian

Theresa May has suffered a second humiliating defeat on her Brexit deal, as MPs rejected the last-minute reassurances she won from the EU27 on Monday and voted it down by a crushing majority of 149.With just 17 days to go until the UK is due to leave the EU, MPs ignored the prime minister’s pleas to “get the deal done”, after the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) said it could not support the agreement.

The prime minister immediately gave a statement, saying she was “profoundly disappointed” that her deal had been rejected again.

She said the government would table a motion, so that MPs can debate on Wednesday whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal on 29 March, and that she would offer her MPs a free vote on that decision.

There will then be another vote on Thursday, on whether to request an extension to article 50.

But May insisted: “Voting against leaving without a deal, and for an extension, does not solve the problems we face. The EU will want to know what use we want to make of that extension. The house will have to answer that question.”

With her voice cracked and fading, the prime minister had earlier pleaded with the House of Commons: “This is the moment and this is the time – time for us to come together, back this motion and get the deal done. Because only then can we can get on with what we need to do, what we were sent here to do.”

Some Conservatives who rejected the deal in January, when May lost by a record majority of 230, did switch sides; many feared Brexit would be delayed or reversed if they didn’t support the agreement.

But most Labour MPs trooped through the voting lobbies with the DUP, the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), and remain-supporting Tories, to sink the deal.

Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would now press for a softer Brexit. “I believe there is a majority in this house for the sort of sensible, credible and negotiable deal that Labour has set out. I look forward to parliament taking back control so that we can succeed where this government has so blatantly failed,” he said.

The former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the vote should mark “the end of the road” for May’s deal.

May’s defeat came despite her late-night dash to Strasbourg on Monday, during which Jean-Claude Juncker signed off on three additions to the agreement struck in November.

These included a joint interpretative instrument fleshing out both sides’ obligations to negotiate in good faith, a joint statement that they would work on alternative arrangements, and a unilateral statement by the UK that there would be nothing to stop Britain seeking to “disapply” the backstop if negotiations broke down.

Earlier, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, had called on his colleagues to treat the vote as a “political judgment”, after his much-anticipated legal advice offered little comfort to those concerned about the backstop.

In his statement, he suggested the changes reduced the risk of the UK being trapped indefinitely in the Northern Ireland backstop – but did not eliminate it.

Cox’s verdict was echoed in a statement published by a self-styled “star chamber” of leave-supporting lawyers, assembled by the ERG and including the DUP’s Nigel Dodds and the former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab.

They said the changes offered only “faint and remote prospects of escaping” from the backstop, and “do not materially change the position the UK would find itself in if it were to ratify the withdrawal agreement”.

 

Flat Earthers: Belief, Skepticism, and Denialism

When people reject facts, what do they really believe?

February 19, 2017

by J. Pierre M.D

Psychology Today

You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.”

― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star Kyrie Irving has apparently joined the dubious celebrity ranks of former The View host Sherri Shepherd, rapper B.o.B., and reality TV personality Tila Tequila by coming out in public to declare that the world is flat.

In a recent podcast leading up to the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend, Irving said:

“For what I’ve known for many years and what I’ve been taught is that the Earth is round, but if you really think about it from a landscape of the way we travel, the way we move and the fact that — can you really think of us rotating around the sun, and all planets align, rotating in specific dates, being perpendicular with what’s going on with these planets and stuff like this.”

With this quotation, Deadspin magazine ran the headline, “Kyrie Irving Really, Actually, Earnestly Believes The Earth Is Flat.”

But does Irving, who spent his freshman year at Duke University before leaving for professional basketball, really, actually, and earnestly believe the earth is flat? Does anyone?

While it’s often said that human beings believed that the Earth was flat through the Middle Ages until Christopher Columbus set us straight in 1492, a more historically accurate account tells us that civilization had abandoned flat Earth theories at least a century before that. Educated people have therefore accepted that the world is round for more than half a millennium, with modern claims to the contrary only developing as an organizational creed when Samuel Shenton founded the International Flat Earth Research Society in 1956. Despite NASA astronauts returning with photographs of the Earth taken from the moon in 1969, the membership of the International Flat Earth Research Society peaked to 3500 members in the 1990s and now, with like-minded individuals finding each other on the internet, a number of different online “Flat Earth Societies” have gained modest followings. Armed as we are with common sense, a little bit of scientific knowledge, and the ability to fly around the Earth in an airplane and to view images taken from satellites and the International Space Station, how is this possible? How can people really believe that the Earth isn’t round?

To understand Flat Earthers, and other people who hold unconventional beliefs, we need to first consider what it means to “believe.” A belief is a cognitive representation of the nature of reality, encompassing our inner experiences, the world around us, and the world beyond. In 1965, Oxford philosophy professor H.H. Price distinguished between “believing in” and “believing that.”1 As summarized by John Byrne, author of the website Skeptical Medicine, “believing that” something is true is a relatively straightforward matter of looking at the evidence. “Seeing is believing” is one kind of “believing that.” In contrast, we “believe in” something when there’s no evidence and the belief isn’t falsifiable. Religious faith is a kind of “believing in.” Both types of believing are normal cognitive capacities, but can run amok when conflated, resulting in beliefs that are poor models of reality.

Just so, Flat Earthers often talk about planetary geometry in terms of “belief in” rather than “belief that,” as if the evidence for a spherical Earth is lacking. But that claim isn’t really so much about believing. It’s denialism.

When Kyrie Irving was challenged about his flat earth beliefs, he replied:

“Is the world flat or round? — I think you need to do research on it. It’s right in front of our faces. I’m telling you it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us… Everything that was put in front of me, I had to be like, ‘Oh, this is all a facade.’ Like, this is all something that they ultimately want me to believe in… Question things, but even if an answer doesn’t come back, you’re perfectly fine with that, because you were never living in that particular truth. There’s a falseness in stories and things that people want you to believe and ultimately what they throw in front of us.”

With those words, Irving seems to be defending a denialist position that has the potential to give way to a slippery slope of rejecting all facts. According to that extreme version of denialism, nothing can be trusted, not even scientific evidence. Or maybe, as the physician and writer Atul Gawande wrote last year, it’s not so much about mistrust of science, as it is about mistrusting scientists:

“Today, we have multiple factions putting themselves forward as what Gauchat describes as their own cultural domains, “generating their own knowledge base that is often in conflict with the cultural authority of the scientific community.” Some are religious groups (challenging evolution, for instance). Some are industry groups (as with climate skepticism). Others tilt more to the left (such as those that reject the medical establishment). As varied as these groups are, they are all alike in one way. They all harbor sacred beliefs that they do not consider open to question.

To defend those beliefs, few dismiss the authority of science. They dismiss the authority of the scientific community. People don’t argue back by claiming divine authority anymore. They argue back by claiming to have the truer scientific authority. It can make matters incredibly confusing.”

Sure enough, in a follow-up interview in which a reporter asked Irving if he’d seen photographs of the Earth from space, he replied, “I’ve seen a lot of things that my educational system said was real, but turned out to be completely fake.”

That kind of conspiratorial mistrust of established dogma was mirrored in a Paste magazine interview last year with John Davis, President of the American Flat Earth Society. When asked why he believed the world to be flat, Davis instead explained how he’d arrived at that belief:

“One day while walking in the woods as a young man I had a notable experience that lead me to question everything I’ve taken for granted as true over the years; all those things we simply accept without properly examining their logical and rational basis and foundations. One could say like many today that up to this point I was standing on the shoulders of giants, but I had a deaf ear to both what they had to say about the matter as well as what assumptions they had to take to lead them to their position. This led me to a lengthy study into various ways we view the world, both orthodox and unorthodox, and their rational consequences and foundations. During this period of study and examination I came to some literature from the Flat Earth Society.

Something about it just resonated with me—not only on a personal level, but also on a strictly logical level.

On another level, it seemed to me that some of the method used by this supposedly ridiculous group was far closer to the method of the aforementioned giants than what we see today from science as a whole. I remember thinking, ‘These are people who truly value knowledge, and they do so at a real cost—social stigma.’”

This account suggests that Flat Earthers often see themselves as approaching questions about reality like scientists do, from a philosophical perspective of skepticism. But while superficially related, scientific skepticism and denialism aren’t the same thing at all.2 The former teaches that evidence is worthy of belief when an observation is repeated under properly controlled conditions, while the latter teaches that evidence, no matter how reproducible, can always be rejected out of hand as a matter of principle (for more on the distinction, check out Michael Shermer’s Living in Denial: When a Sceptic Isn’t a Sceptic and Steven Novella’s Skepticism and Denial).

When B.o.B. and Tila Tequila defended their flat earth beliefs, both fell back on the claim that the Earth can’t be round because it appears flat on the horizon. While this position could be dismissed as mere ignorance grounded in the natural but error-prone tendency of the brain to treat perception as reality, the simultaneous rejection of the mountain of objective evidence to the contrary may further reflect a modern democratization of opinion, with personal belief placed on a equal footing with expertise. That kind of narcissism emboldened B.o.B. to feel qualified to debate physicist Neil Degrasse Tyson and for many others seems to be an increasingly adopted epistemology in today’s “post-truth” world.

So, does Kyrie Irving really, actually, and earnestly believe that if he kept going in a straight line, he would eventually run smack into the end of the Earth? I doubt it.

Instead, he seems to have chosen a provocative example of scientific consensus to argue, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that we should seek truth and question authority along the way. That’s reasonable advice, so long as we maintain a clear boundary between scientific skepticism and nihilistic denialism.

In terms of psychological and social health, we would all do well to be more flexible with our personal belief convictions, keeping an open mind to the possibility that we might be wrong. But at the same time, we would also do well to “believe in” the process of “believing that.” According to that advice, denialism holds us back, tethering us to false beliefs that are inconsistent with the facts and worthy of ridicule.

 

 

 

 

 

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