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TBR News May 23, 2019

May 23 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. May 23, 2019: “Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

His latest business is to re-institute a universal draft in America.

He wants to do this to remove tens of thousands of unemployed young Americans from the streets so they won’t come together and fight him.

Commentary for May 23;”Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy, but his hotel and casino businesses were declared bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009 in order to re-negotiate debt with banks and owners of stock and bonds. Because the businesses used Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they were allowed to operate while negotiations proceeded.

Mr. Trump was quoted by Newsweek magazine in 2011 saying, “I do play with the bankruptcy laws – they’re very good for me” as a tool for trimming debt.

The six bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009).

As president, Trump has frequently made false statements in public speeches and remarks. Trump uttered “at least one false or misleading claim per day on 91 of his first 99 days” in office according to The New York Times, and 1,318 total in his first 263 days in office. The Washington Post, also wrote, “President Trump is the most fact-challenged (read congenital liar here) politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered… the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Buttigieg accuses Trump of faking disability to avoid Vietnam
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • 15 Signs the Government Is Spying on You (and 5 Ways They’re Already Watching You Every Day)
  • We’ve Hit a New Low in Campaign Hit Pieces
  • Nord Stream 2 explained: What it is and why it’s proving controversial

 

Buttigieg accuses Trump of faking disability to avoid Vietnam draft

Veteran and 2020 candidate said Trump, who received a deferment for bone spurs, used ‘his privileged status to fake a disability’

May 23, 2019

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

Pete Buttigieg, a military veteran and Democratic candidate for US president, has accused Donald Trump of faking disability to avoid serving in the Vietnam war.

The US president received five deferments from the draft, four for university and one for the medical reason of bone spurs in his heels. Last year the New York Times reported claims that a doctor made the diagnosis as a favour to Trump’s father.

Buttigieg, who took a seven-month leave of absence from his job as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to serve in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the navy reserve, said: “I have a pretty dim view of his decision to use his privileged status to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam.”

Speaking at a Washington Post event on Thursday, the 37-year-old continued: “I mean, if he were a conscientious objector, I’d admire that, but this is somebody who, I think it is fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was a child of a multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place.

“I know that dredges up old wounds from a complicated time during a complicated war, but I am also old enough to remember when conservatives talked about character as something that mattered in the presidency, and so I think it deserves to be talked about.”

Buttigieg, a polyglot whose father was a Maltese immigrant, has shot from obscurity to become a leading contender in the Democratic primary, in part because of his potential appeal to voters in the industrial midwest. He is bidding to become the first openly gay US president and the first millennial president. His husband, Chasten, has gained an enthusiastic following on social media.

Asked whether Trump should be impeached, a question currently dividing Democrats, Buttigieg replied: “As a young Democrat, I’ve learned to think cautiously before offering advice to Nancy Pelosi. But what I’ll say is that it’s very clear that the president deserves impeachment and the case for impeachment is being built each passing day by the White House. What we have now is a steady process of taking away any semblance of respect for the rule of law.”

He added: “As to when and how the House goes about launching those procedural steps to get the inquiry up and running, I’m going to leave that to the House. Because I know that regardless of how that process unfolds, we’ve got a political job to do as well.”

In a packed room, Buttigieg was also asked how, as a military veteran, he felt about NFL players “taking the knee” during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. “I felt that I was watching Americans exercise a right that I had put my life on the line to defend,” he replied. “The point of defending free speech is not that you expect to be perfectly aligned with every speech act that is protected.

“It’s that that is a fundamental American freedom, it’s a huge part of what makes America America, and when that same flag was on my shoulder, I didn’t think of the flag as something that itself as an image was sacred, I thought of it as something that was sacred because of what it represented, and one of the very things it represented is the freedom of speech, and that’s one of the reasons I served.”

Later, interviewer Robert Costa asked him: “Is President Trump a racist?” Buttigieg replied: “I think so. If you do racist things and say racist things, the question of whether that makes you a racist is almost academic. The problem with the president is that he does and says racist things and gives cover to other racists.

“It’s not an accident that hate crimes rose disproportionately in places that his campaign visited … Without having to examine his heart, there’s no question that we have to respond to the racism that is emanating from this White House.”

Buttigieg also described the challenge of taking on Trump in a debate as “crazy uncle management”.

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Austin Ruse

The Center for Family and Human Rights (formerly the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute), also known as C-FAM, is a fundie wingnut organization devoted to all things wingnut, and (of course) particularly associated with anti-gay-rights campaigning. The organization likes to portray itself as a tiny David at war against a Goliath of “abortion lovers,” “radical homosexuals,” and “sexual revolutionaries” (to hell with the facts, as long as it gets paranoid fundies to send them their life savings). The president, Austin Ruse, is also a key member of Groundswell, a coalition of wingnut activists and journalists, and former contributor to Breitbart, and the kind of guy who readily declares that the “sexual revolution”, which has a higher “body count” than “Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, all tyrants combined,” is pushed by “enemies” who want to “undermine the morals of you, your family, your children, your grandchildren.”

In 2014, Ruse gained some notoriety for stating that “the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities” should “all be taken out and shot” (calling for the murder of his opponents is not an isolated incident for Ruse). The “toxic stew of the modern university” includes women’s studies programs and sex education, which Ruse apparently thinks are there only to teach students to be promiscuous and engage in pornography. When the comments were reported by RightWingWatch, Ruse countered by calling RightWingWatch “dumb” “pajama boys” with “their panties all in a twist,” which is as slamdunk a refutation of their accurate reporting of what he actually said as it is possible to give.

Anti-gay efforts

Fanatically anti-gay, Ruse has warned that “radical homosexuals” are “coming for your daughter and your son and your grandchildren. They don’t have any children of their own. They are deliberately barren. So, they have set their sights on yours, your innocent girls and boys.” Ruse is convinced (i.e. deluded) that “[m]ost people recognize that the homosexual lifestyle is harmful to public health and morals,” and, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that gay people/activism is a major cause of gay teen suicide, alcoholism, and early death.

Ruse has also described same-sex marriage as an “ideology” imposed on the US, and as an act of “revenge” on society by gay people: “Gay marriage was about imposing an ideology on the rest of the country. It was about changing the institution of marriage for everyone else. And it was also about getting even with a larger society gays felt had treated them badly,” said Ruse. And under the influence of Satan (“radical homosexuals” are among the devil’s “minions” who “want to win our children over for their nefarious causes that come from the very pits of hell”), activists for LGBT rights are “busy undermining all that is good and true and beautiful and it has been given to us to stop them.” Comprehensive sex ed, by the way, is also an idea “created in the pits of hell by wicked individuals who wanted to undermine family and ultimately to destroy any institution that stands between the family and the state.” Meanwhile, those who read his critics are “controlled by Satan”, and you should therefore send him money to help shut down those who are critical of him.

In 2016 C-Fam hosted a gathering at the UN for the “Group of Friends of the Family,” a group that includes many of the world’s most repressive regimes, and Ruse praised Islamist countries like Saudi Arabia and Sudan for helping to “save” U.N. documents from unwanted language. C-Fam also worked feverishly with Russia (Ruse has repeatedly praised Russia’s and various African countries’ draconian anti-gay legislations, lamenting how the Constitution prevents implementing similar measures in the US, and for good measure adding that “most Americans would agree with Russia’s anti-gay law”) and anti-LGBTQ African and Islamist countries to try to overturn the decision to investigate discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – a “wicked” plot “from the very pits of hell” designed to “impose the gay ideology on the whole world”. According to Ruse, who has been fighting the UN on these questions for a while, all countries should have laws discouraging homosexuality in order to “help society to teach what is good.” Such laws would also “prevent such truly harmful practices as homosexual marriage and adoption.” The signatories to the joint effort cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the statement that the family is the fundamental unit of society and “is entitled to protection by society and State” from exposure to homosexuals. “Human rights”, like “victim” and “oppressed” and “Marxist”, means whatever you want it to mean when it serves your purpose. Another hero of Ruse’s is Viktor Orbán, who crushes dissent while defending “Christian Civilization”; Ruse has an interesting track record of pointing out various regimes as models for the US

The UN is usually an enemy, however. In an actual 2013 email, Ruse claimed that the UN is “coming for your daughters and sons… WHO WANTS OUR DAUGHTERS? WHY DO THEY WANT OUR DAUGHTERS?” (capitalization in the original); “[t]he sexual radicals have your children, MY CHILDREN, in their crosshairs.” The trigger was apparently a United Nations Population Fund report on ways to address adolescent pregnancy, which to Ruse is proof that the UN wants to train kids on how to masturbate and get abortions. And in 2014, when the UN released a report that was heavily critical of the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of sex abuse cases, Ruse blamed Satan for the investigation that produced it: “Only the Devil could tell children they have a right to sex and abortion,” Ruse said in a message to C-FAM members, referring to the report’s worries about ideological stances toward sex in the Catholic church. “This Committee actually told the Church that its teaching on homosexuality has caused violence against the same-sex attracted,” continued a Ruse that was deeply shocked by the truth, concluding that “[w]hat these radicals need a good shaking.” One sometimes wonders whether he’s a parody.

In 2018 President Trump responded to the discussion by naming C-Fam’s executive vice president Lisa Correnti part of an official U.S. delegation to the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women to combat, as C-Fam put it, “the fiends of darkness”. C-Fam had at that point just called the session an “assault on life and family” in a fund-raising email where they portrayed themselves as a “small and relatively weak” organization pitted against the “rich and powerful” forces such as the U.N. human rights office.

In 2018 Ruse also critized (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pro-life-leader-father-james-martin-puts-young-people-at-risk-of-damnation) Catholics who aren’t as fervently opposed to homosexuality as he is, that helping people accept homosexuality puts Catholics at risk for “stepping into a life that will only lead to heartache, sometimes disease, sometimes death, even damnation.” Then he claimed to be the victim. Here is another example of the abuse he is exposed to: at one point he and his daughter was forced to see a lesbian woman on the Food Network: Ruse had noted from the start that one of the chefs appearing on the show Chopped “looked like a butch lesbian” and had put his finger on the remote just in case he got exposed to gayness, but he was unfortunately too slow and was abusively forced to live with the consequences.

Miscellaneous

Ruse is also the author of a couple of books, including “Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data,” which is notable for its skewed statistics, fuzzy facts and dodgy data (example here), in particular in service of Ruse’s climate change denialism. Ruse has a general and well documented problem distinguishing scientific studies from opinion pieces that agree with what he already believes.

There is a fine Austin Ruse resource here.

Diagnosis: An embodiment of Orwellian, wingnut, fundie tactics: rich, rightwing fundamentalists are really the victims of powerful, poor gay people, because said wingnut fundies support human rights as practiced by paragons of religious liberty and freedom like Sudan and Saudia Arabia. Angry, zealous and completely delusional.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

May 23, 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. 87

Date: Sunday, June 15, 1997

Commenced: 11:20 AM CST

Concluded: 11:45 AM CST

GD: Well, and a happy Father’s Day to you, Robert, although you aren’t my father.

RTC: Yes, Greg and his people will be coming by later but we have time for a little chat. If they come, I’ll have to get off but people are always about an hour late these days.

GD: You must be lucky. People tell me they will call me back in a few minutes but it takes about a week. Of course the usual apologies about dinosaurs trampling around in their petunia beds or the sad fact that Grandmamma was attacked by a rabid lemur while in church. Otherwise, they would have gotten back to me sooner. I always tell them that this or that important person wanted to talk with them and I am so sorry they missed them or that I had found a buyer for their house but he got another place in the meantime. People are so rude these days. If you promise them something, you’d better come through but if they promise you something, forget about it. Unless, of course, it suits them to do something. And I get swamped by wrong numbers and often by bill collectors. I love to mess with their tiny minds. If come old lady calls at two in the morning,  looking for Maudy Mae, I tell them, in sadness, that Maudy passed last night and the viewing will be tomorrow. Or other such like. When bill collectors call for me, I put on a Slavic accent and tell them that this is a new phone number and I don’t know who they are talking about.

RTC: (Laughter) You are such a creative trouble-maker, Gregory.

GD: Well, they have it coming. Or telling some man who calls for Alice that she is up with a customer and I’ll have her call him back when she’s done.

RTC: (Laughter) Nasty.

GD: Oh, yes, but I do enjoy my fun. I don’t initiate bothering people but they had best not bother me.

RTC: Your antics must amuse the people who listen in on you.

GD: Yes, that’s no surprise. Do they listen to you, Robert?

RTC: No, they wouldn’t dare.

GD: But if they listen to me and I am talking to you, what then?

RTC: They shut down their system. At least until we stop talking. Of course they are concerned about my talking to you. I know that because I have been repeatedly warned against talking to you. You, Gregory, are a loose cannon and someone who not only does not respect our system but actively works against some of it. You gave Kimmel some very valuable documents that would materially assist his family in their quest to rehabilitate the reputation of Admiral Kimmel but Tom is not going to ever use them or allow them to be used by his family because if it ever became public that these came from you and that you got them from our friend Müller, the head of the Gestapo and a later Georgetown resident, all hell would break loose. Loyalty to his job takes precedence over loyalty to his family. No, Gregory, take it for granted that a close eye is kept on you at all times. They want to know what you have, where it is and what you plan to do with it.

GD: Yes, none of this surprises me but what is astonishing to me is how utterly stupid and predictable all of their approaches are. I mean we pay their salaries and for the money they get, they are a bunch of stupid sheep.

RTC: Unkind but no doubt true. But still, I caution you against saying anything on the phone about documents from Müller or myself, about what they might contain or, and most important, where you have them. We all know what you will eventually do with them but the first concepts are the most important. If they find out what you have, the next step is to either con you out of them or simply do a black bag job on them by breaking in and removing them. And if you leave home for any period of time, if you have incriminating or dangerous material on your computer  hard drive, take it with you or remove it from your home computer and hide it in a safe place.

GD: Now we have good advise. I assume they’ll get to my publisher and convince him to find other subjects and authors to deal with.

RTC: Oh yes, and perhaps they will assist him with sales by making his books prominent in various government-owned book shops. You know how it goes. We all think, Gregory, that there are three basic branches of government here. The executive, the legislative and the judicial. Correct?

GD: Yes, we all learned that in school, along with reams of useless propaganda.

RTC: But there is a fourth branch of our government, Gregory, one I am personally well acquainted with. I would call it the Power Elite after the Mills book. And they, not the first three, run this country. This Elite is comprised of big business like the automotive companies, the big banks and other private financial institutions like the Federal Reserve and, of course, the insurance business. Yes, the insurance business. The biggest casino in the world. Everything with them is betting. They bet you’ll live past a certain age and further enrich them with premium payments. They bet you won’t drive your car into the back of a school bus and further enrich them with premium payments. Now, some people think the media is part and parcel of this but I assure you, our media works for the Power Elite. Cross them and the vital advertising is cut off and the paper collapses. Cross them and the unions suddenly strike the paper or the price of their paper goes way up. Oh yes, the media are servants of the middle level.

GD: I have always had trouble with the insurance people. I made the mistake of using Allstate….

RTC: Jesus, you poor fellow.

GD: Oh yes, I know. Do they pay out? No, they use every excuse to avoid any payment. Your family was staying in a motel until the renovators had finished rewiring their insured house? The house caught fire? Too bad, dudes, Allstate said, you weren’t living in the house when it caught fire so we don’t pay. A real case, in Wisconsin as I recall. The courts didn’t see it Allstate’s way so after long and expensive litigation, Allstate had to pay. My lawyer hates them and has compiled a thick file of such crap. I assume the others are just as bad.

RTC: Not all of them so blatant but if you have health insurance and get cancer, they call it a pre existing condition and cancel you right in the middle of chemotherapy and you die. Too bad but they take comfort in all the money they saved.

GD: But how do these crooks, these bribe merchants, stay in power?

RTC: They have people like the CIA on their side, of course. And the NSA and the FBI. These people, and I know this from the inside, help the Power Elite stay in power by spying on their enemies, actual and possible, to warn them of danger and to avert it by destroying or neutralizing it. And there are benefits. Say that Company A is one of our boys. We, or the NSA or whatever, spies on Companies B and C, the big rivals of A and when we learn secrets that could benefit A, we quickly pass it back to them. They, in turn, write checks that can be so comforting on cold nights. And all of this applies to the stock market, often rigged by boom and bust cycles, who also pay like slot machines. No, Gregory, the conspiracy people like to take the crumbs we throw out and worry the bone of the Kennedy assassination or the sinking of the Maine while other, more serious, matters go ignored. I was the liaison between the Company and big business and I know very well whereof I speak. The murder of Allende is nothing compared with the enormity of the greed and corruption that saddles everyone in the country but Congressmen and preachers And the burden gets heavier by the day. They spy on all of you, to keep order, to prevent disorder, to discredit enemies, to steal money, to punish people like you. Yes, all of this. The NSA watches everyone in this country. If you make a phone call to your cousin in England, they NSA listens in. If you get a money transfer from a Swiss bank, they know about it before your bank does. If you take a trip to France to take in the sights, they know the flight numbers, the hotels and the car rentals. Go to Switzerland, and they know what you put into a bank account. Go to the local library and check out a book they don’t like and they know about it. Buy a car, rent a car, buy a house, rent a house and they can find out about it in seconds if they want to. They have direct contact and full cooperation with all the major credit agencies. They all swap information of all of you so every credit card purchase, every deposit or withdrawal, every overdue card payment, all of this they can find out in seconds. And they want, and will eventually get, more and more power until the public is sucked dry like a school child attending a convocation of vampires. They are very powerful Gregory, but so huge and so all encompassing that no one without inside information on them would ever believe any of it.

GD: Robert, since you were in with these people, do you have any supportive documents on this?

RTC: A footlocker full. Trento is far more interested in this than he is in the trivia like the revolution in Iran or our part in the killing of the Diem brothers. I am safe but you are not. Joe is safe because if he ever got his hands on any of this, believe that Langley would have the originals, uncopied, on the day he got them.

GD: And the pat on the pointy head?

RTC: And the pat on the pointy head and, don’t forget, the Presentation Pen Set. They love those pen sets.

GD: With such baubles men are led. Napoleon said that about the Legion of Honor.

RTC: I think the pen sets cost about twenty dollars each but my, what they can buy, Gregory. Such loyalty and, more important, such service.

GD: But such systems fall of their own hubris and their own weight. They fall, Robert, and great will be the fall thereof.

RT: Not on my watch, Gregory, not on mine. I served and got my rewards and now I am awaiting a not unexpected but hopefully natural death. I have my memories.

GD: And you also have your documents, Robert.

RTC: Yes, I do. Well, if Trento gets the really important ones, they will be accompanied by the Divine Plato on a one way trip to Langley and the burn bags. Plato gets jobs but Joe gets the pen set.

GD: Rather than go on about Müller, I think I would rather nut the Power Elite. Müller is dead but all of the rest of them ought to be either dead, or serving life sentences in a Mohave Desert work camp.

RTC: And if they went, they would be replaced by a legion of others just waiting in the wings, wetting their panties in anticipation.

GD: Of the spoils of peace.

RTC: No, of war against everyone else.

(Concluded at 11:45 AM CST)

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

 

15 Signs the Government Is Spying on You (and 5 Ways They’re Already Watching You Every Day)

by Lauren Weiler

With technology advancing each day, we’re all a bit concerned for our privacy. But you’d know if the government was keeping tabs on you, right? Scarily enough, the ACLU says the government is slicker than you think. Think someone is spying on you? Here are the bizarre signs to watch out for. Make sure you turn off one tech item ASAP on page 10.

  1. You own a ‘smart’ TV

All of your “smart” technology is cool — but it’s not doing your privacy any favors. USA Today reports WikiLeaks revealed the CIA can break into Samsung Smart TVs. While you may expect such a break-in to be possible on your phone or computer, this new information worries many.

Samsung told the news source that “protecting consumers’ privacy and the security of our devices is a top priority,” and they were “urgently looking into the matter.” For now, though, you may want to be careful about what you say when you watch your favorite show

Next: Do you keep ignoring that “update now” alert?

  1. You haven’t updated your devices

“You have to take care of basic cyber hygiene,” Michael Kaiser of the National Cyber Security Alliance told MarketWatch. One of the best ways to prevent security breaches: Keeping your devices updated. Outdated software is much more likely to be compromised. And more authorities are checking in than ever before.

One example occurred in 2015, when it was found that 95% of Androids could be hacked with one text message. Apple experienced a similar problem, and they pushed through an update remotely. It may seem pesky, but when you receive an update alert, do it ASAP.

Next: What happens at the airport can certainly tell a lot.

  1. You get flagged at the airport

You may get flagged at the airport once or twice, but take note if it happens often. HowStuffWorks explains if you’re repeatedly stopped at the airport, it’s a sign your name — whether it’s you or not — is on a government watch list. Mental Floss notes others have reportedly not been able to board their flight over controversial social media posts. While people can’t be blacklisted for “unreliable or not credible” information, social media posts aren’t automatically disregarded like you may think.

Next: These cookies aren’t so delicious.

  1. You’re sharing your cookies

Tiny bits of data stored in your browser track your online activity. These cookies hold on to everything from your passwords to something you considered purchasing on Amazon. The bad thing: Cookies enter gigantic databases, where companies can figure out your offline identity and sell that information. The Huffington Post explains, “There are two main groups who have access: the government (including the NSA and local police departments) and the private sector (i.e.: the advertising industry).”

Next: Free money and prizes are too good to be true.

  1. You’ve opened fishy emails

We’ve all received suspicious emails. The question is did you open one? Just by clicking on it, you invite the sender onto your device. Whether its the government or a spammer invading your personal privacy, the first thing you should do is delete the email without opening it. Whatever you do, don’t reply to the email. This confirms your account is active, which invites further espionage

Next: Your name might get you in trouble.

  1. You and someone on the government watch list have the same name

Even if you’ve done nothing to get yourself on the government watch list, someone with the same name as you may have. And that could put your privacy at risk, too.

HowStuffWorks reports in 2004, a man named John Lewis was on the government watch list. For years to come, every John Lewis had issues boarding a flight due to their names being the same. Check to see if your name is on the list of Specifically Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons published by the U.S. Treasury to ensure no unwelcome future surprises (or knocks on your door).

Next: Check your car every once in a while for one of these.

  1. You find a tracker on your car

It’s not just your technology that the government can keep tabs on. Ranker notes trackers are often hidden in the undercarriage of a car. Small enough to miss, they can also fit in the wheel well or exhaust system, so someone can track your car’s location at all times. Scary. If you feel like you’re being followed, give your car a look, especially in smaller crevices. Anyone can buy these trackers online nowadays.

Suspicious that an unmarked automobile has been following you for days? Well, you may want to double check your car for GPS trackers. A tracker could be hidden in the undercarriage, wheel well, or around the exhaust system of your car, pinging the Global Positioning Satellites and alerting “the man” to your whereabouts at any given moment.

These sneaky devices were once exclusive to government agencies, but these days you can pick one up at Amazon. In fact, all modern cell phones in the US are required to have GPS trackers, so if you are being followed by the CIA, they’re probably just using your iPhone.

Next: Data is a strong way to measure security.

  1. Your data usage is higher than what you really use

You’re a dedicated Wi-Fi user, yet your data’s creeping up. The National Security Agency could be using your data to spy on your whereabouts, USA Today suggests. And local police are starting to use the same practice, too. Ranker notes rising data could be from spyware that tracks your daily life. Hackers can use this technology to steal your personal information, too.

Next: Your favorite crime TV show isn’t the only place you could see this.

  1. An unmarked van is parked outside your house.

No, it’s not just a cheesy prop from spy movies. The government really does use unmarked vehicles for surveillance. Not every van parked outside your house is cause for concern, but a few key indicators could mean it’s a surveillance van. Look for unmarked vans with tinted windows that are parked for several days without any sign of people entering or exiting the vehicle.

Next: Turn off your technology ASAP if you notice this terrifying sign.

  1. The light on your webcam is on — even when you’re not using it

You know your webcam is on when the light next to it illuminates. And if your webcam light is on even if it’s not in use, don’t assume it’s just a computer glitch. It could be the FBI watching you through your camera.

Here’s something even scarier: Daily Mail Online reports the government has the technology to trigger your webcam without even turning the light on. Knowing this, you could be spied on without having any idea. If you are worried, then turn your webcam off. If you’re unsure or unable to turn it off, then cover it with a piece of opaque tape. Covering the lens will prevent any potential spies from seeing anything, but remember your microphone will likely still be on.

Next: Do you feel crazy sometimes?

  1. You hear weird noises during your phone calls

Yes, wiretapping happens. Toolbox explains if you hear noises while on the phone, such as clicking, popping, scratching, or static, then someone could be listening to your conversation. These sounds are common when a wiretap connects with a phone. Also, pay attention to noises your phone makes when you’re not using it — another sign someone’s messing with your line.

Next: Take note when things seem strange in your home.

  1. Something seems amiss in your home

Feel like you’re being watched in your own home? You might not be terribly off the mark. Business Insider notes in certain instances, police are allowed to install hidden surveillance cameras on private property without telling you and without any sort of warrant. This doesn’t mean the government will pick just anyone, but if they have reason to believe you’re a threat to society, you may find your whole home bugged.

Next: If you remember the same faces around you, it may be more than a coincidence.

  1. You see the same people around you all day

NPR interviewed FBI agents and found they’re experts at blending into a crowd. The agents said they have clothing ready for all types of events — from jogging to hopping on the subway — to best blend in around the person they’re watching. And there’s usually an entire team surrounding you when you’re being followed, though you likely won’t notice. Now that you know, it’s important to remember faces instead of clothing if you think you’re being trailed. Most of this is performed by the FBI’s Special Surveillance Group, the “Super Gs.” They are trained in surveillance, long-range photography and following a susject undetected by car and on foot.

Next: Have you been on a bad trip?

  1. You’ve been drugged with LSD

Okay, this one seems a little odd. But in the ’50s, the CIA secretly dosed U.S. citizens with LSD to conduct research on psychedelics. The covert organization wanted to consider using drugs within Cold War espionage. However, the CIA broke the law when it drugged San Franciscans. “I was paranoid,” an affected American told SF Weekly. “I got down to where I thought everyone was against me. The whole world was against me.”

The public is unaware of any further CIA research on drugs, but you never know concerning this secretive organization.

Next: Follow any extreme groups with extreme caution.

  1. You’re an active member of an extremist group

You may think your online activity isn’t monitored closely, but the government sees more than you think. And if you’re part of any extremist groups, they know about it, too. Ranker notes the FBI’s definition of extremism involves “encouraging, condoning, justifying, or supporting the commission of a violent act to achieve political, ideological, religious, social, or economic goals.” So, pursue your interests with caution if they involve researching extremist groups.

Next: This is one way the government is surveilling you without you knowing it.

  1. How they’re watching: You’re sending emails

Ever discussed a product or service in an email and then saw 10 advertisements for it after the fact? The Huffington Post notes you shouldn’t be too surprised by this, as Yahoo and Google have the right to scan your emails to give you more targeted ads. And your email service may not be the only one reading. The FBI can also take a look at any emails, pictures, files and social media posts you’ve saved or shared.

Next: Be aware of how you’re using the internet.

  1. How they’re watching: You allow websites to track you using cookies

You’ve probably allowed websites to track you using cookies without realizing it. The Huffington Post reminds us cookies remember your passwords and items you view, so in a way, they can be convenient. But if you’re worried about anyone tracking your movements, you’ll want to disable them. The information from these cookies gets sold to companies to learn more about you.

The government has access to this information as well. Though the advertising industry and private sector can collect more about you than the government can — and they’re totally profiting off of it, too.

Next: Even your car is giving a lot of info about you away.

  1. How they’re watching: You’re driving

Even when you leave the house without your phone, there are ways of keeping tabs on you. The ACLU notes police cars and road signs can have automatic license plate readers to use as surveillance. The readers scan your license plate number, date, time, and location. This information is then potentially being pooled into large databases for authorities. And some of the info doesn’t disappear for years — or ever.

Next: Be careful of this the next time you sign up for a new credit card.

  1. How they’re watching: You sign up for loyalty cards and programs

Everyone loves a good deal, and that’s why loyalty cards are so popular. You probably have been suckered into signing up for a few yourself — and they probably saved you money. You may not realize, however, that certain loyalty cards, credit cards, and similar programs could be used as a way to watch you.

The Huffington Post says there’s stored data on whatever you buy using those credit and loyalty cards, and that data, along with stats on your online activity, is sold to give more information about you to advertisers. And of course, the law can also access your credit card history.

Next: Do you know where the cameras are on the streets you walk on?

  1.  How they’re watching: You’re walking in view of public cameras

David Bakke, a Money Crashers tech expert, explains to The Huffington Post that “The Department of Homeland Security has spent millions of dollars on high-tech video cameras that can monitor you as you walk down the street.” In 2012, an ACLU report found in Chicago alone, there were 10,000 publicly and privately-owned cameras in the city. And yes, in your local city, there are certainly plenty as well.

Surveillance isn’t always a bad thing, as these cameras can catch criminals and ensure justice is served when necessary. But keep in mind you may be watched outside of your home without knowing it.

 

INTERNET

The government intelligence agencies and their allied private contractors now regularly accesses all emails, chats, searches, events, locations, videos, photos, log-ins and any information people post online with a warrant, which the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court always  grants secretly and without being ever made public.

And the revelation of Prism, a secret government program for mining major Internet companies, states that the government now has direct access to Internet companies’ data without a warrant.

Every company impacted – Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype, PalTalk and AOL – publically deny knowing about the program or giving any direct access to their servers. These denials are intented to bolster public confidence in their services because in reality, all of these entities cooperate fully with requests for customer information.

Google is the supplier of the customized core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secure online system where 37,000 U.S. domestic and foreign area spies and related personnel share information and collaborate on investigative missions.

And there is absolutely nothing one can commit to the Internet that is private in any sense of the word

In addition, Google is linked to the U.S. spy and military systems through its Google Earth software venture. The technology behind this software was originally developed by Keyhole Inc., a company funded by Q-Tel http://www.iqt.org/ , a venture capital firm which is in turn openly funded and operated on behalf of the CIA.

Google acquired Keyhole Inc. in 2004. The same base technology is currently employed by U.S. military and intelligence systems in their quest, in their own words, for “full-spectrum dominance” of the American, and foreign, political, social and economic spheres.

However, Internet Service Providers and the entertainment industry are now taking Internet monitoring to a whole new level….

If someone downloads copyrighted software, videos or music, all Internet service providers (ISP) have the ability to detect this downloading.

The vast majority of computer surveillance involves the monitoring of data and traffic on the Internet. In the United States for example, under the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, all phone calls and broadband Internet traffic (emails, web traffic, instant messaging, etc.) are required to be available for unimpeded real-time monitoring by Federal law enforcement agencies., to include the FBI, NSA, the CIA and the DHS.

There is far too much data on the Internet for human investigators to manually search through all of it and so automated Internet surveillance computers sift through the vast amount of intercepted Internet traffic and identify and report to human investigators traffic considered interesting by using certain “trigger” words or phrases, visiting certain types of web sites, or communicating via email or chat with suspicious individuals or groups. Billions of dollars per year are spent, by agencies such as the Information Awareness Office, NSA, and the FBI, to develop, purchase, implement, and operate systems such as Carnivore, NarusInsight, and ECHELON to intercept and analyze all of this data, and extract only the information which is useful to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. One flaw with NSA claims that the government needs to be able to suck up Internet data from services such as Skype and Gmail to fight terrorists: Studies show that would-be terrorists don’t use those services. The NSA has to collect the metadata from all of our phone calls because terrorists, right? And the spy agency absolutely must intercept Skypes you conduct with folks out-of-state, or else terrorism. It must sift through your iCloud data and Facebook status updates too, because Al Qaeda.Terrorists are everywhere, they are legion, they are dangerous, and, unfortunately, they don’t really do any of the stuff described above.

Even though the still-growing surveillance state that sprung up in the wake of 9/11 was enacted almost entirely to “fight terrorism,” reports show that the modes of communication that agencies like the NSA are targeting are scarcely used by terrorists at all.

Computers can be a surveillance target because of the personal data stored on them. If someone is able to install software, such as the FBI’s Magic Lantern and CIPAV, on a computer system, they can easily gain unauthorized access to this data. Such software can be, and is   installed physically or remotely. Another form of computer surveillance, known as van Eck phreaking, involves reading electromagnetic emanations from computing devices in order to extract data from them at distances of hundreds of meters. The NSA runs a database known as “Pinwale”, which stores and indexes large numbers of emails of both American citizens and foreigners.

 

We’ve Hit a New Low in Campaign Hit Pieces

Recent efforts to sandbag Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are crude repeats of behaviors that helped elect Trump in 2016

May 21, 2019

by  Matt Taibbi

Rolling Stone

Last week, the Daily Beast ran this headline: “Tulsi Gabbard’s Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists”

That was followed by the sub headline: “The Hawaii congresswoman is quickly becoming the top candidate for Democrats who think the Russian leader is misunderstood.”

The Gabbard campaign has received 75,000 individual donations. This crazy Beast article is based on (maybe) three of them.

The three names are professor Stephen Cohen, activist Sharon Tennison and someone using the name “Goofy Grapes,” who may or may not have once worked for comedian Lee Camp, currently employed by Russia Today.

This vicious little article might have died a quiet death, except ABC’s George Stephanopoulos regurgitated it in an interview with Gabbard days later. The This Week host put up the Beast headline in a question about whether or not Gabbard was “softer” on Putin than other candidates.

Gabbard responded: “It’s unfortunate that you’re citing that article, George, because it’s a whole lot of fake news.”

This in turn spurred another round of denunciations, this time in the form of articles finding fault not with the McCarthyite questioning, but with Gabbard’s answer. As Politico wrote: “’Fake news’ is a favorite phrase of President Donald Trump…”

Soon CNN was writing a similar piece, saying Gabbard was using a term Trump used to “attack the credibility of negative coverage.” CNN even said Gabbard “did not specify what in the article was ‘fake,’” as if the deceptive and insidious nature of this kind of guilt-by-association report needs explaining.

“Stephanopoulos shamelessly implied that because I oppose going to war with Russia, I’m not a loyal American, but a Putin puppet,” Gabbard told Rolling Stone. “It just shows what absurd lengths warmongers in the media will go, to try to destroy the reputation of anyone who dares oppose their warmongering.”

Gabbard has had some “controversial” views, having been raised in a conservative religious home, the daughter of a right-wing radio personality in Hawaii who once described homosexuality as “not normal” and “morally wrong.” She later wrote of a political conversion on issues like LGBT rights, but still angered Democrats in the Obama years by invoking an infamous Republican criticism, i.e. that the president refused to use the term “radical Islam.”

Frankly, all the Democratic presidential candidates have controversial statements in their pasts, in some cases boatloads of them (see here, for example). The difference with Gabbard is her most outspoken positions cross party orthodoxy on foreign policy, particularly on war – she is staunchly anti-intervention, informed by experience seeing a failed occupation in Iraq up close — and are therefore seen as disqualifying.

She’s Exhibit A of a disturbing new media phenomenon that paints people with the wrong opinions as not merely “controversial,” but vehicles of foreign influence.

“This is how they control self-serving politicians whose only concern is their career,” Gabbard says. “Unfortunately for them, I am a soldier — not a career politician.”

A transparent hit piece came out as Gabbard was announcing her run. NBC reported “the Russian propaganda machine” is “now promoting the presidential aspirations of a controversial Hawaii Democrat.” The article among things was sourced to New Knowledge, a cyber-analysis firm claiming it had caught Russian “chatter” about Gabbard’s “usefulness.”

This was after the New York Times did a piece outing New Knowledge as having faked exactly this kind of activity in an Alabama Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore. In that incident, the paper got hold of a memo in which the firm admitted it had “orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.”

For NBC to use New Knowledge as a source after this was bad enough. The Daily Beast piece is something beyond, rhetorically. Even during the depths of War on Terror hysteria, we didn’t see Fox headlines stating: “JOHN KERRY: TOP CANDIDATE OF PEOPLE WHO THINK BIN LADEN IS MISUNDERSTOOD.”

The tactic of making lists of thought criminals first reappeared a few years ago, when the shadowy PropOrNot group was profiled in the Washington Post. In this case, the definition of what the Daily Beast calls people pushing “the Russian government line” overlaps with views that are merely anti-interventionist or antiwar in general.

“They smear anyone who is against regime change wars,” says Gabbard.

This applies really to all of the people mentioned in the Beast piece, even Camp, whose inclusion is also ridiculous because it’s not 100% clear “Goofy Grapes” even has a connection to him (and if he does, are we in guilt-by-association-by-association land now?).

Tennison belongs to a type I saw a lot of in Russia, i.e. people who grew up under the shadow of nuclear conflict and perceived bad relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to be the world’s biggest threat to security. This was a big progressive craze in the Reagan/Bush years, when people like CNN founder Ted Turner were creating the “made for détente” Goodwill Games. Tennison has a long history of such “friendship” activities and is said to have brought AA to Russia.

Re Cohen: if accepting a check from him is now a treasonous offense, a lot of Democrats are going to have to send money back. I’ve known Steve a long time and though we’ve had disagreements, outlets like The Beast have frequently villainized him for saying things any Russia expert would know are true, like that the U.S. did meddle in Russian affairs after the Soviet collapse (particularly in 1996).

The other anti-interventionist candidate, Bernie Sanders, had his own gross press misadventure of late.

Sanders joins Gabbard in having been tabbed a Kremlin project countless times since 2016. The latest New York Times piece, about the “left-wing activism” of Sanders, hovers around this dreary foreign-subversion theme. The headline revelation was about a trip Sanders made to Managua in the eighties, where he may have attended a rally. The Times explains: “At the anniversary celebration, a wire report described a chant rising up: ‘Here, there, everywhere, the Yankee will die.’”

In a subsequent interview with Times writer Sydney Ember, Sanders responded, when asked about this, “They were fighting against American — huh, huh — yes, what is your point?” He then noted he didn’t remember that particular chant.

This is really silly gotcha journalism (especially since it’s not clear what language the chant was in). Ember asked Sanders if he would have “stayed at the rally” if he’d “heard that directly.” Elsewhere, she asked why Sanders once said the Soviets had a good public transportation system and free health care, and if he believed he had an “accurate” view of Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega.

Sanders at first didn’t respond, then spoke and was short with the reporter, seeming exasperated as he explained the context of decades of American interventions in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil and other South and Central American countries. He tried to explain that his “view” of Ortega was irrelevant because he was really protesting the policy of intervention, not supporting the foreign leader.

The whole episode was a Back to the Future version of the same criticisms leveled at anyone who opposes regime change in Venezuela today — if you protest the policy, you’re not antiwar, you must support the targeted foreign leader.

“This was not about Ortega,” Sanders said. “Do you understand?”

His curt response inspired author and Times columnist Jill Filipovic to write that Sanders was “shockingly rude,” adding: “We already have a president who attacks the press, condescends and refuses to answer questions he deems stupid.”

Bernie Sanders is not Trump. Neither is Tulsi Gabbard, nor anyone else but Trump, for that matter. It’s a preposterous take. It’s worse than fake-news: It’s self-fulfilling news.

In 2004, Howard Dean was asked repeatedly if he was “too left” or “too liberal” in campaign stops. You would see lines like, “addressing concerns that he is too liberal to be president…” in coverage. It was nearly a mandatory preamble to Dean stories.

On the trail, I watched Dean take in these questions. Over time, you could almost hear his teeth grind at words like “left” or “liberal.” Eventually he did start to flip out.

When he did, suddenly his “testy” demeanor and “combative,” “finger-thrusting” style earned write-ups of their own, culminating in the campaign-ending “Dean Scream” story. Reporters once reveled in the power to make or break candidates with these circular, quasi-invented narratives.

These smear jobs don’t work the same way they once did. Trump in 2016 clearly used impatience with media tactics as part of his strategy. The more he brought trail reporters into stump speeches by calling us things like “bloodsuckers” (“enemy of the people” didn’t come until later), the better he did with crowds.

Reporters refuse to see it, but the national media now lives on the unpopularity spectrum somewhere between botulism and congress. While some of that is undeserved, some of it isn’t. Voters especially resent being told who is and isn’t an acceptable choice, by a press corps increasingly seen as part of a corrupt and condescending political establishment.

Stories like “Tulsi Gabbard Is the Top Candidate of Traitors” represent exactly the kind of thing people hate about the commercial press as an institution. This scarlet lettering backfired badly in 2016, but we’re doing more of it this time around, not less. Don’t be surprised if it ends badly again.

 

Nord Stream 2 explained: What it is and why it’s proving controversial

  • Estimated to become operational in early 2020, the pipeline is intended to provide Europe with a sustainable gas supply while providing Russia with more direct access to the European gas market.
  • But as tensions between Russia and the West reach their highest in decades, many are skeptical of the purely economic reasoning attributed to the project.

May 21, 2019

by Jordan Stevens

CNBC

Depending on who you ask, Nord Stream 2 is either a sustainable way to ensure European energy security or a proxy for Russian hybrid warfare.

With construction underway and as Germany attempts to downplay criticism of the project, concerns over security and geopolitics remain.

United States Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Tuesday that a sanctions bill putting restrictions on companies involved in the project would come in the “not too distant future.”

What is Nord Stream 2?

Nord Stream 2 is a pipeline currently under construction from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The new pipeline will run alongside the already constructed Nord Stream and will double the amount of gas being funneled through the Baltics to 110 billion cubic meters per year.

Estimated to become operational in early 2020, the pipeline is intended to provide Europe with a sustainable gas supply while providing Russia with more direct access to the European gas market. But as tensions between Russia and the West reach their highest in decades, many are skeptical of the purely economic reasoning attributed to the project.

German dependence

Germany finds itself in a precarious position. Oil and gas are the lifeblood of Germany’s manufacturing economy, but the country produces very little energy domestically and is dependent on imports for 98% of its oil and 92% of its gas supply. As of 2015, Russia already supplied the plurality of its oil and gas (40% and 35% respectively), so it was with no great surprise that plans to increase Russia’s presence were met with hostility on both sides of the Atlantic.

The core concern centers around Germany’s dependence on Russian energy which could make it susceptible to exploitation and more vulnerable to interference.

In an interview with CNBC’s Brian Sullivan in March, Perry spoke on behalf of the United States when warning that “Russian gas has strings attached.” In fact, U.S. Congress and the European Parliament passed resolutions calling for an end to construction of the pipeline, citing Russian dependence as a threat to the common market and the EU’s strategic interests.

Germany, Europe’s biggest natural gas consumer, has made efforts to downplay the relevance of Russian energy on the nation’s security. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has previously told CNBC that the country is not too concerned over security risks, arguing that it will sufficiently diversify their imports.

Ukrainian isolation

Since gaining its independence at the end of the Cold War, Ukraine has been Russia’s gatekeeper to the European gas market. As of 2017, some 40% of Europe’s total gas supply was fed by Russian companies through Ukrainian soil, with transit fees providing Kiev with roughly $2 billion to $3 billion annually.

This “middle-man” status provides Ukraine with substantial geopolitical leverage, so attempts to bypass the ex-soviet state with this new pipeline in the Baltic Sea have raised alarm bells.

Many fear that Russia is deliberately attempting to weaken the country for its own strategic advantage. Ending gas transit could reduce Ukraine’s GDP (gross domestic product) by up to 3%. Meanwhile, the annexation of Crimea in 2014 provides a stark reminder as to the potential consequences of isolation from Europe.

While German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others have insisted that gas must continue to flow through Ukraine, no arrangements have been made and Russia remains unreserved about its intentions to restrict gas supplies once the new pipeline is complete. Speaking to Russian television in April 2018, the CEO of Russian oil giant Gazprom revealed that gas will continue to flow via Ukraine, “but the volumes of such transit will be much lower, probably, 10 to 15 billion cubic meters a year.” That’s just 15% of the gas currently in transit, and this comes amid speculation that Russia intends to eventually reduce this number to zero.

As it stands, Nord Stream 2 is to become operational in early 2020, just after the current contract expires between Ukrainian and Russian-owned energy giants, Naftogaz and Gazprom.

Nordic security

The 1,200 kilometer pipeline travels from Russia to Germany, but its proposed route enters the territorial waters and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) of three other countries: Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

National governments and local authorities are set to benefit economically from investment and employment in the pipeline, but politicians and military experts have raised issues related to European security. Namely that plans to allow Nord Stream workers to use Swedish ports, including their main navy base in Karlskrona, could provide Russia with an opportunity to gain intelligence and plot espionage activities.

Experts including Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz have warned that the pipeline gives Russia the pretext to increase their military presence in the Baltic Sea, even using it as a means to transmit military information on the movements of naval vessels.

Despite these concerns, Denmark remains the only country yet to approve construction through its waters. On March 25, Danish authorities requested alternative routes be investigated as the country mulls over the decision. Yet even if the Danish were to reject construction in its territory, the pipeline would simply be altered to pass through international waters. In other words, Danish refusal would only delay the project, not kill it entirely.

 

 

 

 

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