TBR News March 29, 2016

Mar 29 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., March 29, 2016: “We will be out of the office until Wednesday, March 30”

Conversations with the Crow

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

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.           After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

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

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

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



Conversation No 20

Date: Sunday, June 30, 1996

Commenced: 2:11 PM CST

Concluded: 2:23 PM CST

GD: Good afternoon, Robert.

RTC: Gregory. How does it go with you?

GD: I got a nasty letter from my wife today. For some reason, she wants me to send her money. I haven’t seen her in eighteen years but she still feels I owe her something.

RTC: Are you divorced?

GD:L No She’s a fanatic Catholic and that is not to be discussed. I couldn’t take her so I left. Sorry about that. Mass three times a day, seven days a week. Her priest told me she was crazy. Her father told me, once he got to know me, that if he had known me better earlier, he would have warned me off.

RTC: He is with us?

GD: My father-in-law? No, the Admiral died seven years ago. I liked him but as pretty as his daughter was, I couldn’t stand the fanatic religious face she finally revealed to me. Wanted to bring the boy up as a priest but I talked him out of it. More reason to hate me. He wanted to be a police detective so I called up the local police commissioner, who was a friend of mine, and got him a job. Now he runs the biggest private law enforcement computer system in Germany. Ah, the stories he could tell. Well, he, at least, likes me. He told me he would have taken off the way I did and does not hold this against me. He told her to shove it and left. My God, the bitch ranted at me for a week about that. I mean I was over here but she got onto the phone and I finally had to change my number. Women, Robert, are either at your feet or at your throat. My first wife was very attractive but she married me for money and when I wouldn’t cut loose any of it for her worthless family, she made my life miserable and took off. I envy you your stable, peaceful domestic life, believe me. Moved her hippo mother in, cats shitting all over the kitchen, screaming, filthy underwear in the bathroom and so on. They were doing some insulation work on the apartment and I stuck a load of angel hair spun glass insulation into her bras and panties. There she was, scratching herself frantically in public. That stuff is wonderful. I put some in my dad’s golf socks once and his feet looked like cured hams after 18 holes in the hot sun. Anyway, after that, and the killing of the pussies, she left and I swore I would never marry again but I did. I thought with the little head and not the big one.

RTC: Yes, my life is placid and comforting, Gregory, but yours must have been something a psychiatrist would have delighted in.

GD: I should have taken her out on the boat and chunked her over somewhere. I didn’t but I should have. The second one was even better looking that the first but she was a religious nut. I have met Protestant nuts but not many Catholic ones. It was my luck to marry one. She hid it, of course, but once we were legally wed, the evil secret emerged. I was going to buy her knee pads to keep her from getting callous pads like a camel. Well, I really think I ought to be nicer to my hand. My latest one is just eighteen and very good looking. I am putting her through law school and she will probably leave me but for the time being, all is relative happiness. Unlike the others, this one is very intelligent so we can talk. Trying to get her interested in classical music. Not ‘A Weekend With Bach’ or ‘Couperin on the Jews’ Harp’ but the real thing. God knows, I have at least a thousand recordings to assuage me in my old age and she is actually beginning to listen to some of them. Well, one hopes but probably in vain.

RTC: This must be your day to confess your sins, Gregory.

GD: Not my sins but the sins of others. My current one started life in a trailer park but has moved outward and upward. Pretty soon, she’ll realize her potential and she will go on to better things but right now, all is fine.

RTC: Bring her with you back here, why not?

GD: This one could charm the socks off the statue of Lincoln. What a politician she would make. Well, enough domestic tranquility. I sent you the latest manuscript on Mueller so once you and Bill have read it, why not give me your comments. For better or worse. I would send it over to Langley but it would take those stone lawn dwarves a year to get past the second page. Well, the bell just went off on the oven so the roast baby is probably ready for the table.

RTC: I hope you are jesting, Gregory. If they are listening, you might have unexpected visitors.

GD: Oh yes, about a month after they hear this. At any rate, enjoy yourself and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.


(Concluded at 2:23 PM CST)



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 28

March 28, 2016


The Obama Administration has begun a systematic examination of its national security classification policies, known as the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR), in an effort to eliminate obsolete classification requirements and to reduce national security secrecy.

“The goal of the FCGR is to ensure agency classification guidance authorizes classification only in those specific instances necessary to protect national security,” wrote William A. Cira, Acting Director of the Information Security Oversight Office, in a March 17 memorandum to executive branch officials.

“A reasonable outcome of the review overall, though not necessarily in the case of each program or guide, is to expect a reduction in classification activity across government,” he wrote.

Indeed, the first FCGR that was conducted in 2010-12 led to the elimination of “approximately 20% of DoD’s non-compartmented SCGs [security classification guides],” according to a Department of Defense report, thereby removing them as authority for further classification.

And the first Review also appears to have contributed to a historic reduction in reported original classification activity (i.e. the creation of new national security secrets), which reached a record low in 2014.

Now, five years after the first Review, the exercise will be repeated. “The scope of this Review needs to be systematic, comprehensive and conducted with thoughtful scrutiny involving detailed data analysis,” Mr. Cira wrote in his memo to executive branch agencies.

Even under the best of circumstances, agency classification guidance tends to become stale over time. The threat environment changes, policy deliberations or international relations demand fuller disclosure, information leaks or documents are declassified in response to FOIA requests, congressional direction, or historical declassification programs. Yet too often, the guidance itself remains static and unresponsive to changes in the external environment.

Faced with this growing disconnect between a realistic threat appraisal and the information security response, the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review represents the secrecy system’s own attempt at self-correction.

*The FCGR was inspired by the Department of Energy Fundamental Classification Policy Review that was initiated by then-Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary in the mid-1990s, and which had notable success in updating DoE’s classification system. Following a year of deliberations, the DoE reviewers concluded that hundreds of categories of classified information should be declassified, and most of them were. (Some declassification actions proposed by the DoE FCPR — such as those involving historical nuclear weapons locations — were blocked at the time by the Department of Defense.) “Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this exercise was that it mobilized the DoE bureaucracy itself as an agent of secrecy reform,” I suggested in a 2009 paper on Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works that advocated broader application of this approach.

With the cooperation of William H. Leary at the National Security Council, a requirement to perform a Fundamental Classification Guidance Review throughout the executive branch every five years was incorporated in President Obama’s Executive Order 13526 (section 1.9) in December 2009. Over the coming year, its efficacy will be tested for a second time.

Mr. Cira’s memorandum directed agencies to “obtain the broadest possible range of perspectives” in their review of current classification guidance. He added significantly that “It is not sufficient to have a review conducted only by the pertinent original classification authority.”

But while the DoE Fundamental Review under Hazel O’Leary allowed for public input and feedback at the beginning and the end of the process, the FCGR does not explicitly provide for any public participation in the Review.


“From 2005 through 2014, China’s official military budget increased at an average rate of 9.5% per year in real terms, allowing the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] to improve its capabilities in many dimensions,” says a newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service based on open sources.

“The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort is a central issue in U.S. defense planning and foreign policy. Congress’ decisions on this issue could affect U.S. defense strategy, budgets, plans, and programs, and the U.S. defense industrial base,” the CRS report said. See The Chinese Military: Overview and Issues for Congress, March 24, 2016.

Other new and newly updated products from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following. What’s the Difference? — Comparing U.S. and Chinese Trade Data, updated March 24, 2016

Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 25, 2016:

President Obama’s Historic Visit to Cuba, CRS Insight, March 25, 2016

U.S. Trade Concepts, Performance, and Policy: Frequently Asked Questions, updated March 25, 2016

Commemorative Days, Weeks, and Months: Background and Current Practice, March 25, 2016

The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2017 and Beyond, March 24, 2016

Public Trust and Law Enforcement–A Brief Discussion for Policymakers, updated March 22, 2016

Navy Ship Names: Background for Congress, updated March 23, 2016

European Security and Islamist Terrorism, CRS Insight, March 23, 2016

Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons, updated March 23, 2016


Arctic sea ice extent breaks record low for winter

With the ice cover down to 14.52m sq km, scientists now believe the Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice

March 28, 2016

by Suzanne Goldenberg

The Guardian

A record expanse of Arctic sea never froze over this winter and remained open water as a season of freakishly high temperatures produced deep – and likely irreversible – changes on the far north.

Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre said on Monday that the sea ice cover attained an average maximum extent of 14.52m sq km (5.607m sq miles) on March 24, the lowest winter maximum since records began in 1979.

The low beats a record set only last year of 14.54m sq km (5.612m sq miles), reached on February 25 2015.

“I’ve never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze. “The heat was relentless.”

It was the third straight month of record lows in the sea ice cover, after extreme temperatures in January and February stunned scientists. The winter months of utter darkness and extreme cold are typically the time of maximum growth in the ice cap, until it begins its seasonal decline in spring.

With the ice cover down to 14.54m sq km, scientists now believe the Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice – and that is before the 2016 melt season gets underway.

“If we are starting out very low that gives a jump on the melt season,” said Rick Thoman, the climate science manager for the National Weather Service’s Alaska region.

“For the last few years, we have had extremely low ice cover in the summer. That means a lot more solar energy absorbed by the darker open water. That heat tends to carry over from year to year.”

After this winter’s record ice lows, scientists now expect more than ever that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in the summer months within 20 or 25 years.

“Sometime in the 2030s or 2040s time frame, at least for a few days, you won’t have ice out there in the dead of summer,” said Dr John Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Centre.

Those changes are already evident on the ground. In 1975, there were only a few days a year when ships could move from Barrow to Prudhoe Bay off the north coast of Alaska. Now that window lasts months.

The Arctic will always have ice in the winter months, Walsh said. But it will be thinner and more fragile than the multi-year ice, and less reliable for indigenous peoples who rely on the ice as winter transport routes or hunting platforms.

“It’s not just about how many hundreds of thousands of square kilometres covered by the ice. It’s about the quality of that ice,” Thoman said.

The extent of ice cover is a critical indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic – but the shrinking of the polar ice carries sweeping consequences for lower latitudes as well.

The bright white snow-covered ice reflects about 85% of sunlight back into the atmosphere, compared to the dark surfaces of the open water which absorb most of the heat energy.

“Basically the polar regions are the refrigerator for the Earth,” said Dr Donald Perovich, a researcher at Dartmouth University. “They are extremely important for being able to keep the Arctic colder, and in turn help keep the rest of the planet colder.”

Since 1980, however, the summer sea ice cover over the Arctic has gone into a drastic decline, from 7.8m sq km to 4.4m sq km in 2012, before rebounding slightly. “It would be as if the entire United States east of the Mississippi melted away plus the states from Minnesota down to Louisiana, past North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. It’s huge,” Perovich said.

This winter scientists said the Arctic freeze stalled early on, across the polar seas. The sea ice extent was exceptionally low both in the Barents and the Bering seas – which in past years has been one of the most prolific producers of ice. And it was thinner, especially in the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, scientists said.

There were a number of causes, in addition to the record high temperatures and carry-over effects of earlier ice loss.

The El Niño weather system produced more warming, and the Arctic saw influxes of exceptionally warm water from the Pacific as well as the Atlantic side.

In any event, Walsh said it was becoming increasingly clear the Arctic would never return to its previous frozen state, even if there are small gains in ice cover in a single year.

“The balance is shifting to the point where we are not going back to the old regime of the 1980s and 1990s,” he said. “Every year has had less ice cover than any summer since 2007. That is nine years in a row that you would call unprecedented. When that happens you have to start thinking that something is going on that is not letting the system go back to where it used to be.”


Polar ice sheets melting faster than ever

The polar ice caps have melted faster in last 20 years than in the last 10,000. A comprehensive satellite study confirms that the melting ice caps are raising sea levels at an accelerating rate.

February 9, 2016


The polar regions are important drivers of the world’s climate. When the “everlasting ice” melts at an increasing rate, the rest of the world is affected. Global sea levels are rising, dark meltwater pools absorb warmth from the sun which white ice would reflect back into space. Fresh water flows into the sea, changing ocean currents and the living conditions for marine organisms.

For 20 years satellites have been monitoring earth’s biggest ice shields on Greenland and in the Antarctic, using different technologies from radar to gravity measurements. In the past, the uncoordinated publication of individual one-off measurements led to confusion, especially with regard to the state of the Antarctic ice. A new study, supported by NASA and European Space Agency ESA combines the data from different satellite missions.

The Antarctic is difficult terrain for scientists to access

“It’s the first time all the people who have estimated changes in the size of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets using satellites over the past 20 years have got together to produce a single result,” Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds in the UK explained in an interview with DW.

Satellite monitoring ends confusion

“Thanks to the accuracy of our data set, we are now able to say with confidence that Antarctica has lost ice for the whole of the past 20 years. In addition to the relative proportions of ice that have been lost in the northern and southern hemispheres, we can also see there’s been a definitive acceleration of ice loss in last 20 years. So together Antarctica and Greenland are now contributing three times as much ice to sea levels as they were 20 years ago,” says the Professor of Earth Observation.

According to the study, melting ice from both poles has been responsible for a fifth of the global rise in sea levels since 1992, 11 millimeters in all. The rest was caused by the thermal expansion of the warming ocean, the melting of mountain glaciers, small Arctic ice caps and groundwater mining. The share of the polar ice melt, however, is rising.

Greenland is melting fastest

The pattern of change differs considerably between the Arctic and the Antarctic. Two thirds of the ice loss is happening in Greenland. “The rate of ice loss from Greenland has increased almost five-fold since the mid-1990s”, says Erik Ivins, who coordinated the project for NASA.

Although the Greenland ice sheet is only about one tenth the size of Antarctica, today it is contributing twice as much ice to sea levels, according to Shepherd: “It’s certainly the larger player, probably just because it is at a more equatorial latitude, further from the North Pole than Antarctica from the South pole.” The ice on Greenland is also melting on the surface, because of increasing air temperatures. Different conditions within the Antarctic

In the Antarctic, the situation is a more complex one. Scientists distinguish between the West and East, which are being affected differently by climate change. West Antarctica is losing ice at an accelerating rate. Many of the region’s glaciers are by the sea, which is warming. It is only to be expected that the ice is melting faster here, says Shepherd.

In the huge area of East Antarctica, the ice is mostly above sea level, Shepherd explains. The air temperature is also much lower, and the experts do not expect the ice to melt on account of rising temperatures. In this part of Antarctica, the ice sheet is actually growing as a consequence of increased snowfall. This has led some critics to question the global warming theory. However for Shepherd and his colleagues, the changes are all consistent with patterns of climate warming, which leads to more evaporation from the oceans and in turn more precipitation, which falls as snow on the ice sheets.

20 years of satellites – too short to tell?

“20 years is a very short time-scale to draw conclusions about climate change. “We are just beginning an observational record for ice,” said co-author of the study Ian Joughlin, a glaciologist at the University of Washington. “This creates a new long-term data set that will increase as new measurements are made.”

But the scientists are convinced the relatively new technology is the best way to keep track of climate change in inaccessible polar regions. Earth observation expert Shepherd is sure global warming is the only possible explanation for the accelerating polar ice melt. He sees especially the rapid melt in West Antarctica as a signal and a result of direct changes in the local balance between the ice sheet, the ocean and the atmosphere.

If the west Antarctic ice sheet should become unstable, it could trigger abrupt changes globally. Joughlin sees the recent ice activity in the region as a reason to pay attention, but not to panic.

Key data for the IPCC

In the last report by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the development of the ice sheets was regarded as the major unknown factor with regard to predicting future sea level rises. “The results of this study will be invaluable in informing the IPCC as it completes the writing of its Fifth Assessment Report next year,” according to Tom Wagner, NASA’s cryosphere program manager in Washington.

The question of how the satellite data will influence predictions of sea level rise is not easy to answer, says Andrew Shepherd: Any model is only as reliable as its data. He hopes the more accurate satellite measurements will help improve the models. He does, however, have one reservation. The main uncertainty in climate projections is not to do with the physics or processes, the scientist says. It is the uncertainty as to what emissions scenarios nations will adopt in the future.


Georgia governor vows to veto religious freedom bill

Critics say bill condones discrimination against LGBT people

‘I do not think we have to discriminate to protect the faith-based community’

March 28, 2016

by Amanda Holpuch

The Guardian

Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia said on Monday he will veto a religious freedom bill that critics say condones discrimination against LGBT people.

The proposed law would allow individuals and groups to refuse to conduct business with anyone whose marriage they believe violates their religious beliefs. It would also overrule existing anti-discrimination protections in local governments.

“I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia,” Deal said on Monday, saying it was a community he and his family “have been a part of for all of our lives”.

Deal, a Republican, rejected the proposal amid criticism from the public and prominent Georgia businesses.

“I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith-based community and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state,” he said.

The announcement came on the same day a coalition of civil liberties groups announced they had filed a federal lawsuit against North Carolina because of a sweeping new law enacted last week that blocks local governments from introducing anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

Lawmakers in Georgia passed the bill in February. As people waited for Deal to make the final ruling on whether it would become law more than 400 companies condemned the legislation, including Coca-Cola, Delta and Home Depot. Film companies including Disney threatened to boycott the state and the NFL indicated that the law could jeopardize Atlanta’s chances of hosting the Super Bowl in 2019.

The Georgia bill is one of several to emerge from a state legislature as same-sex marriage bans fell across the US in the last several years – culminating with a nationwide lifting of all remaining bans last year.

In anticipation of the June 2015 Supreme Court decision that led to marriage equality, supporters pushed for anti-discrimination legislation and opponents prepared to block it, primarily with religious freedom bills.

The most notable case was in Indiana, drawing a nationwide backlash for a religious freedom bill that critics said effectively legalized discrimination against LGBT people.

The Indiana state government, like Georgia, faced considerable pressure from businesses. Governor Mike Pence approved changes to the bill’s language that said it would not authorize discrimination against anyone.

Deal said his decision to reject the Georgia bill was “about the character of our state and the character of our people”.

“Georgia is a welcoming state,” he said. “It is full of loving, kind and generous people.”


The Culture That Created Donald Trump Was Liberal, Not Conservative

March 28, 2016

by Jim Lewis

The Intercept

Who created Donald Trump?

Now that Donald Trump, the candidate, has become both widely popular and deeply loathsome, we’re seeing a cataract of editorials and commentary aimed at explaining how it happened and who’s to blame. The predictable suspects are trotted out: the Republican Party, which had been too opportunistic and fearful to stand up to its own candidate, Fox News, which inflamed the jingoes, and white working-class voters, unhinged by class envy and racial resentment.

The predictable bewilderment and outrage are professed. But absent from all these ashen-faced accounts is any examination of the people who put Trump in a position to run for president in the first place. The man didn’t emerge, all at once and fully formed, from some hidden and benighted hollow in the American psyche. He’s been kicking around for 30 years or more, and he was promoted and schooled, made famous and made wealthy, by the same culture and economy that now reviles him, and finds his success so vexing.

After all, it wasn’t some Klan newsletter that first brought Trump to our attention: It was Time and Esquire and Spy. The Westboro Baptist Church didn’t give him his own TV show: NBC did. And his boasts and lies weren’t posted on Breitbart, they were published by Random House. He was created by people who learned from Andy Warhol, not Jerry Falwell, who knew him from galas at the Met, not fundraisers at Karl Rove’s house, and his original audience was presented to him by Condé Nast, not Guns & Ammo. He owes his celebrity, his money, his arrogance, and his skill at drawing attention to those coastal cultural gatekeepers — presumably mostly liberal — who first elevated him out of general obscurity, making him famous and rewarding him (and, not at all incidentally, themselves) for his idiocies.

Sure, he was a nasty man and a blowhard even then, a rich clown playing the media for publicity, a quintessential type: the eternal hustler, too nasty and vulgar to be entirely respectable, but too successful to be ignored. We’ve seen thousands like him and we’ll see thousands more. But he’d built a bunch of buildings, and real estate is to Manhattan what oil is to Texas: a toxic and destabilizing commodity, and a universal excuse for almost any bad behavior. So he wasn’t a liberal man, but he’d spent his life surrounded by them. How bad could he be?

If you think that sounds stupid and smug, imagine how it sounds to people out in the rest of the country. Liberals were sure the devil would come slouching out of Alabama or Texas, beating a bible and shouting about sodomy and sin. They didn’t expect him to be a businessman who lives on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. Rick Santorum was a threat, but your run-of-the-mill New York tycoon just couldn’t be, not in the same way — because even if the latter was unlikable, he was known, he was covered, he fell within a spectrum that the morning shows and entertainment press are comfortable with, much more so, anyway, than they are with what the slow learners among liberals still blithely call “rednecks.” When, a few years ago, Trump started going on about Obama’s birth certificate, no one said, “Hey, maybe we don’t want to associate with this guy anymore.” Instead, the Washington Post invited him to be its guest at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Its editors wouldn’t have extended the same backslapping generosity to David Duke or Alex Jones or any of the other rustic zealots with whom Trump is now, unquestionably, on all fours.

The culture that first made Trump wasn’t the one that goes hunting on weekends, or the one that’s been reborn in Christ. It was the culture of celebrity for its own sake, of kidding-but-not-kidding-but-maybe-really-kidding, a culture of materialism and greed, too forgiving of fame and too prone to taking nauseating crassness as just another act; a culture with delusions of its own moral faultlessness and its ability to control whatever conversation it’s begun, ever-tempted by the idea that absolutely everybody must see irony where we see it, that it’s all politics as usual, and whatever happens, Vanity Fair will cover it all with the same, slightly distanced knowingness, in between the ads for expensive watches and luxury cars.

Before you object, let me be clear about what I’m not saying: I’m not saying America’s newest love affair with fascism is a sign of some systematic decadence, foisted upon us by Jews and homosexuals who’ve been too busy gawping at some 21st-century Sally Bowles to notice the rest of the country out stocking up on brown shirts. That’s a miserable, false, and dangerous argument; and left-wing puritanism is as joyless and life-denying as its right-wing counterpart. I love Warhol and the games he and people like him taught us to play. Sometimes those games get out of hand, and then it’s not fun anymore, but pleasure is not the problem, and dourness is not the remedy.

Nor am I suggesting that we should excuse the GOP or the bigoted thugs who have now made this man the imminent threat that he is. Not for a second do they get a pass. But there’s plenty of blame to go around for Trump, so before we turn to the usual denouncements, let’s take a moment to remember who helped create this monster. It wasn’t them.


Lahore bombing: What’s wrong with Pakistan?

Pakistan has been shaken by a suicide blast in the eastern city of Lahore and a violent right-wing protest in the capital Islamabad. Where is country headed? Analysts say this is likely just a taste of what’s to come.

March 28, 2016


The two events simultaneously unfolded in Pakistan on Sunday, March 27. A suicide bomber belonging to a Pakistani Taliban group targeted a public park in the eastern city of Lahore killing at least 65 people, mostly women and children. The militant Jamaat-ul-Ahrar organization said its target was Christians who were celebrating Easter in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park. It was not the first time the South Asian country’s minority community has been attacked.

On the same day, thousands of supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, an extremist who was hanged last month for killing a former provincial governor, stormed the capital Islamabad and clashed with police outside of parliament. They were protesting against Qadri’s execution and demanding the imposition of the Shariah law in the capital. The situation became so volatile that the government had to seek the military’s help to control right-wing extremists, who have now staged a sit-in outside the parliament.

The two events are inextricably linked, say observers. The nuclear-armed Pakistani state is increasingly falling into the hands of Islamist extremists. Efforts by the Pakistani government and military to eradicate home-grown terrorism have so far failed, despite claims that an ongoing military operation has defeated the Taliban and other militant groups.

No city is safe

The Islamists’ attack on Lahore was a strategic one. The city is a political stronghold of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and one of the most secure in the country.

“We want to send this message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that we have entered Lahore,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesperson for the militant group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, said in a statement on Sunday.

By attacking Lahore and Islamabad – which are not situated in the country’s volatile northwestern areas – the militants are trying to send a strong signal that they can attack anywhere in the country, at any time, and there is nothing the government can do to stop them.

Meanwhile, observers say there is growing public support for militant Islam.

“You cannot separate what happened in Lahore and what is unfolding in Islamabad,” Khalid Hameed Farooqi, a Brussels-based Pakistani analyst and Geo TV journalist, told DW. “The extremism in Pakistan has two faces: militant and civilian. The Lahore attack was carried out by militant Islamists, and the riots in Islamabad are being unleashed by civilian Islamists. Both are extremely powerful in Pakistan.”

Is Sharif’s government a target?

Farooqi believes the latest onslaught is well-planned. Islamic extremists are outraged by PM Sharif’s India-friendly policies and a number of liberal legislations that the Pakistani government has introduced, he said.

“It is obvious that Islamists want to destabilize Sharif’s government. He was brave enough to hang Mumtaz Qadri despite immense right-wing opposition, and passed pro-women legislation in parliament. Also, his closeness to India is irking Islamic extremists,” Farooqi underlined.

It is likely that the army generals want to weaken Sharif’s government by supporting Islamists, some analysts claim. The military does not want cordial Indo-Pakistani ties.

“Sharif has understood that liberal economic policies and good relations with neighboring countries is the only way forward for Pakistan. But there are institutions and groups in Pakistan which do not agree with this approach,” said Farooqi.

He believes that the government is already on the edge and has conceded much of its power to the army. Despite that, most people are not blaming the military for the current situation but the civilian government.

Military’s upper hand

Pakistan has been the target of militant attacks for years, especially in the restive tribal region along the Afghan border. The government has stepped up operations against militants following a Taliban attack on a military-run school in Peshawar in December 2014 that killed 134 children.

Sharif, who once had close ties with Islamist groups, has distanced himself from Islamic extremists over the years. The same thing cannot be said about the country’s army. Analysts say the military still considers Islamist organizations a strong ally in relation to its anti-India policies and its need to create a “strategic depth” in neighboring Afghanistan.

For that reason, the Pakistani military believes that operations against militants should be selective. Certain groups, which are thought to be against the state, are targeted, but the rest of the groups are pretty much pardoned. Observers say that if the authorities continue to undertake selective operations and distinguish between the “good Taliban and the bad Taliban,” terrorist attacks will not halt.

However, the chairperson of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission (HRCP), Zohra Yusuf, blames the political leadership for not taking advantage of the political consensus against Islamist militancy and surrendering their powers to the army. “It is unfortunate that the nationwide resolve against the Taliban and other extremist groups did not translate into political action. It remained a military affair,” Yusuf told DW.

Existential threat

Apart from the threat from the Taliban, the Middle-Eastern Islamist group “Islamic State” (IS) is expanding in Afghanistan and is also increasing its presence in Pakistan. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which claimed the responsibility for the Lahore attack, swore allegiance to IS in September 2014. A number of other Taliban splinter groups have also joined the IS ranks.

“IS and the Taliban are very different ideologically and culturally. In Pakistan, however, they could find some supporters, and they already have,” Wahid Mazhda, an expert on the Taliban in Kabul, told DW.

If this is the case, Pakistani authorities need to immediately revise their policies regarding militant Islamism. The Lahore bombing could just be the beginning of an Islamist takeover of the country, say observers.

But Amin Mughal, a Pakistani journalist and scholar in London, believes it is high time that Pakistani rulers changed the game. He said that the policy of supporting Islamist groups had backfired and that the Pakistani state is no longer in a position to control the situation.

“It is a logical consequence of state policies which are based on religion,” Mughal told DW, adding that the only way out of the crisis was for “true secular parties” to come to power and change the course of state affairs.


Lessons of Brussels

Europe’s problem is internal

March 28, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


The vicious attack on the Brussels airport and metro underscores the futility of focusing on the Syrian “Caliphate” as the epicenter of terrorism: as I’ve been saying in this space since 2001, the snake has no head. Both al-Qaeda and now ISIS are protean entities with a vast geographical spread, and what the Brussels attack – and, before it, the Paris attack – show is that they have successfully colonized Europe.

If the “Islamic State” proclaimed by ISIS was defeated and eliminated tomorrow, the terrorist and criminal networks that pulled off the Brussels attacks would still exist.

The population of Brussels is nearly 25 percent immigrants from Muslim countries, primarily Morocco and Algeria. And as it turns out the two brothers who were the core of the ISIS cell were habitués of the now notorious Molenbeek neighborhood, which consists primarily of the descendants of immigrants who settled there decades ago. Poor, and beset by petty crime, it is a pool in which terrorist recruiters fish with much success. The Syrian civil war has become a cause that attracts young toughs with no prospects, who are looking for some sense of meaning – and a way to express their alienation from the larger society in which they live. Molenbeek was also the base for those who planned and carried out the Paris attacks – it is, in effect, a general headquarters for ISIS to carry out its European operations. Salah Abdeslam, the chief planner of the Paris attacks, fled there and found sanctuary for four months before being caught.

In short, the problem of terrorism in Europe is an internal phenomenon, not something that comes from the outside. The Europeans imported it – and, as Germany’s welcoming of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the war-torn Middle East dramatizes, they are continuing to import it. Now they are living with the consequences.

In response, various right-wing populist parties have emerged in Europe that focus on stopping immigration from Muslim countries: in France, Britain, and Germany the rise of the anti-immigration movement has liberal elites in a panic. And yet these movements are for the most part exercises in futility, because that horse is already out of the barn. France, for example, is not going to deport the millions of North African Muslims who have lived in the country for a generation and more: they are French citizens. The same goes for Britain, and all the former empires of Europe whose colonial adventures brought in large numbers of the colonized. Now they are learning – too late – that colonialism is a two-way street.

What Brussels also showed is that the universal surveillance championed by the War Party as a necessary corollary of the “war on terrorism” would not have stopped the attacks: the ISIS cell consisted of two brothers, which not only ensured against infiltration but also made it next to impossible for any but the most intrusive surveillance to have had any effect. Indeed, the key to stopping the attacks was intelligence – which the Belgian authorities ignored. It turns out that Brahim el-Bakraoui had been deported from Turkey and the Belgians had been warned he was dangerous. They ignored the warning.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz claims that the Belgian authorities had “advance and precise intelligence warnings” about the attack on the airport and the subway but failed to take sufficient action to prevent them. This highlights another lesson of the Brussels attacks: the European authorities are utterly incompetent and unprepared for the challenge they face.

Beyond that, however, is a larger problem: the ISIS phenomenon is largely a creation of the Western powers and its allies in the Gulf. The Saudis, the Qataris, and the Kuwaitis have long been funding Wahabist extremism, and they are the real progenitors of the ideology that inspired the creation of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Furthermore, regime change in Syria has long been on the American-European agenda, with funding for ‘moderate” Islamist head-choppers flowing from the US Treasury directly into the pockets of extremist gangs in the region. The same enabling action took place in Libya, where – led by Hillary Clinton – the Obama administration sided with “pro-democracy” rebels who turned out to be terrorists.

With the Syrian civil war as their training ground, the ISIS recruits of Molenbeek and other similar ghettos underwent the transformation from petty criminals to battle-hardened jihadists. And now they are swarming all over Europe, with reportedly thousands of them traveling back to Belgium, France, Britain, and elsewhere to wreak havoc in the name of their newfound cause.

For us here in America, the lessons of the European tragedy are there to be learned. There is only one solution to the problem of terrorism and it doesn’t involve going abroad in search of monsters to destroy. The point is to make sure those monsters never reach our shores.

Furthermore, we must withdraw from the Middle East – a possibility that doesn’t bear the economic consequences it once did, given the creation of new technologies that make domestic oil production far easier.

We are spending billions defending and sustaining the Saudi monarchy and the Gulf states – some of the most repressive regimes in the world. And for what? The interventionists declare that America’s role as a “global leader” represents the defense of our values. But does a regime that beheads “infidels” represent American values? Indeed, there is no operative difference between the internal rule of the ISIS “caliphate” and the Saudi Kingdom. Yet we are obsessed with destroying the former and cuddling up to the latter.

It’s too late for the Europeans, who are now forced to sleep in the bed they so assiduously made. It isn’t too late for America: we can learn the lesson of Brussels if only we have the will to do so.


Communities, not crime: Attorney General recommends less jail time, more community service

March 29, 2016


The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, two of the results of which have been overcrowded prisons and damaged communities. Now Attorney General Loretta Lynch is pushing courts to decriminalize petty crimes and assign community service.

In a nine page letter from the Civil Rights Division, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) advised changing how courts handle the sentencing of “individuals accused of misdemeanors, quasi-criminal ordinance violations, or civil infractions.” The DOJ is using more than words to encourage courts to follow their advice. For court systems that receive federal funds, a failure to heed their words could result in being cut off.

The letter not only pleads the case that jailing or fining individuals for minor crimes does more damage than good, but that the fees and fines accrued through the judicial system are cause for distrust from citizens, saying, “these practices are geared not toward addressing public safety, but rather toward raising revenue, they can cast doubt on the impartiality of the tribunal and erode trust between local governments and their constituents.”

The DOJ outlines a set of seven guidelines to help the justice system protect individuals’ rights. To summarize, it advises:

  • Not jailing individuals who don’t pay fees or fines, unless it can be proven that the fees were not paid intentionally.
  • Considering alternatives – such as community service – in lieu of jail time or fines
  • Courts cannot demand prepaying fines before having a judicial hearing
  • Courts must provide notice and council before enforcing fines
  • Warrants cannot be used as a debt collection service for the courts, same for suspending licenses
  • Bail or bond practices cannot be used in situations where the individual does not have the money to pay for their release
  • Courts are responsible for their staff and contractors and any unconstitutional practices they use

This is just the latest in a recent effort by the government to reform the criminal justice system. Earlier this month, Minnesota lawmakers revealed plans to overhaul drug sentencing and build new private prisons in order to reduce prison overcrowding, the Star Tribune reports.

One Indiana jail reported spending an extra $3,000 due to overcrowding. The Vigo County Jail in Terre Haute is always overcrowded, according to Sheriff Greg Ewing. He told the Tristate Homepage that shipping the surplus criminals to other jails costs the taxpayers $35 for each inmate per day.


Most Israelis Say Army Medic Who Killed Wounded Suspect Is Not a Murderer

March 28, 2016

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

While Human rights activists and defense officials in Israel were quick to condemn an army medic caught on video last week shooting a wounded Palestinian suspect in the head, the soldier was defended over the weekend, and even celebrated, by many on the far-right of the country’s political spectrum.

Video released on Sunday by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, which provides cameras to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, showed far-right activists in the city of Hebron praised the medic’s actions just minutes after the incident.

The new footage showed Israeli settlers, including Baruch Marzel, the former leader of a banned extremist group, shaking the hand of the medic as the body of his victim was carried away.

According to the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz, which published the video with the medic’s face blurred out, the soldier smiled as he was congratulated by Marzel, who offers free pizza to soldiers who kill Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis.

Marzel announced on Sunday that his political party, Jewish Power, would be holding a rally in support of the medic on Tuesday at a military court in Jaffa, where a ruling to extend his detention is expected. A poster for the rally he shared on Twitter declared: “The state is stabbing the soldier from Hebron in the back. We won’t!” Beneath a crudely Photoshopped image of an Israeli soldier with a bloody knife sticking from his back, the message concluded: “Israel Needs Jewish Power.”

Marzel’s choice of imagery was no doubt inspired by the fact that the Palestinian the medic killed, Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif, was one of two young men suspected of stabbing an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint in Hebron just before the incident. The metaphor of a nation’s army being stabbed in the back by its civilian political leaders has a dark historical resonance, since it was used by the Nazis to blame Germany’s defeat in the First World War on Jewish politicians.

Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli rights activist, pointed out that the local government of Beit Shemesh, a city outside Jerusalem run by far-right members of the ultra-Orthodox community, not only staged a rally in defense of the medic on Monday, it ignored an injunction against identifying him by using his name and face on a poster that called him a “national hero.”

A wave of support for the medic seemed to build over the weekend. Haaretz reported on Friday that about half the comments on the incident posted online in the first 24 hours after the shooting were critical of the medic. By Saturday, a poll conducted for Israel’s Channel 2 News found that 57 percent of the public said that there was no need to arrest and investigate the soldier, while just 32 percent supported his detention.

As Dahlia Scheindlin explained on the Israeli news site +972, when asked by the pollsters to consider the possibility that the wounded man might have had a bomb, “A plurality of respondents, 42 percent, described his action as ‘responsible,’ while another 24 percent said it was the natural response to the situation.”

Just 19 percent of those surveyed agreed that the medic had deviated from the army’s rules of engagement. Only 5 percent defined the shooting of the wounded suspect as murder, the crime that military police suspect him of committing.

Uri Blau, an investigative journalist who examined the medic’s Facebook page, noted with disgust that supporters of the soldier even launched a social media campaign on his behalf.

Gregg Carlstrom, a journalist in Tel Aviv, reported on Sunday that tens of thousands of Israelis had signed a petition calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give the medic a medal for shooting the wounded suspect.

The text of that petition cited the excuse reportedly offered by the medic to investigators — that he was concerned the wounded suspect might have been wearing a suicide vest he was about to set off. That explanation seems at odds, however, with what can be seen in video of the minutes before the shooting recorded by a Palestinian bystander. In that footage, several soldiers, civilians, and medical workers walk very close to the wounded suspect on the pavement without showing any sign that he might be a threat to them. One soldier could even be seen nudging the suspect from his side onto his back

As Israel’s Walla News reported, Sharif, who had already been shot and incapacitated, was so unthreatening that one soldier paused next to him to tie his shoes.

The soldier’s case was taken up by Israel’s far-right education minister, Naftali Bennett, who echoed many of the soldier’s defenders by calling the Palestinian suspect a “terrorist” in an outraged Facebook update.


Rebuilding the Temple

by Harry von Johnston PhD


There is more serious trouble brewing in Jerusalem as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has assured Jewish religious leaders that he will give the “necessary instructions” to permit the levelling of Muslim Mosques for the purpose of rebuilding a Jewish Temple.

For political and safety reasons, rebuilding a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem has been seen as a political impossibility. This is because Islam currently controls the Temple Mount and for Jews to destroy the Dome on the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque so as to build the Jewish Temple would likely provoke an immediate and highly destructive jihad aimed not only at Israel but also at the United States, which is seen as Israel’s sole financial and military support.

Al-Aqsa Mosque also known as Al-Aqsa and Bayt al-Muqaddas, is the third holiest site in Islam and is located in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The site on which the mosque sits, along with the Dome of the Rock, is referred to as al-Haram ash-Sharif or the Temple Mount, which Jews view today as the holiest site in Judaism. The Temple Mount is currently administered by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, and the Al-Asqa Mosque occupies the site of the Temple Mount.

Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey. Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad led prayers towards this site until the seventeenth month after the emigration, when God directed him to turn towards the Kaaba.

In 2015, the Temple Institute successfully raised over $100,000 which will be used to develop architectural plans for the building of the Jewish Holy Temple. The Temple Institute, known in Hebrew as Machon HaMikdash, is an organization in Israel focusing on the controversial endeavor of establishing the Third Temple.

The Temple Institute has already made many of the sacred artifacts needed for use in the Temple itself. The Temple Institute has prefabricated large sections of the Temple structure, as well as having drawn up comprehensive and complete architectural plans, so that when the Muslim Mosques have been cleared off the land, these pre-made sections will be taken to the site and built into the superstructure of the new Temple itself.

Battles over access to the mosque and attempts by religious Jews to visit the site are also a continuing source of controversy. Still, the Temple Institute is now assured by Netanyahu that the Muslim “intruders on sacred Jewish land” will be cleared off, by force if necessary and the building of the “holy Temple” may commence.

Muslims will never allow the Jews to rebuild the Temple, the deputy leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel has said forcefully. Israel, he asserted, has taken advantage of the situation in the Arab region, coordinating security with the Palestinian Authority to advance its “malaria-riddled, mad plans” to rebuild the Temple on the ruins of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the space currently occupied by the Dome of the Rock.

American State Department officials have privately expressed extreme concerns that the aggressive Israeli action will lead directly and immediately to a “stupendous Muslim reaction” and the probability of violent and very destructive world-wide Muslim violence. Netanyahu is seen as a “psychotic trouble-maker” and that the United States would do well to disassociate themselves from his manic and ill-conceived agitations.





No responses yet

Leave a Reply