TBR News May 7, 2018

May 07 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. May 7, 2018: “Trump as a businessman

Trump has said “I’m the best businessman in the world because I know how to negotiate!”

1.Trump built four casinos for three billion dollars.

They all went bankrupt and many contractors and employees lost huge money.

2.Trump bought the Trump Plaza Hotel for four hundred million dollars.

It was repossessed by the lending bank.

3.Trump bought a yacht for twenty nine million dollars.

It, too, was repossessed by the lending bank.

4.Trump created Trump Airlines for three hundred and sixty five million dollars

This, too, failed and the stock was repossessed by CitiBank

  1. Trump created Trump Mortgage, Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks.

All of these collapsed.

The following other Trump business creations also collapsed:

  1. GoTrump (online travel site)
  2. Trump: The Game
  3. Trump Magazine
  4. Trump University
  5. Trump Ice (bottled water)
  6. The New Jersey Generals (pro football team)
  7. Tour de Trump (bicycle race)
  8. Trump Network (nutritional supplements)
  9. Trumped! (syndicated radio spot)

Now Trump has embarked on his most ambitions business venture to date, running the United States government.

How long will it be before this, too, collapses?”



Table of Contents

  • Variations on a Theme of ‘The Revolution Betrayed’
  • As gentrification escalates in Calif., people wonder: Where can the homeless go?
  • Poland’s Holocaust law triggers tide of abuse against Auschwitz museum
  • Iran says could remain in nuclear deal if its interests guaranteed: TV
  • How Customs and Border Protection Illegally Tried to Unmask a Rogue Twitter Account
  • Face to Face: Saudi Arabia-Iran
  • Conversations with the Crow


Variations on a Theme of ‘The Revolution Betrayed

Isaac Deutscher, Donald Trump, and the end of the American empire

May 7, 2018

by Justin Raimondo


The anniversary of Karl Marx’s birthday 200 years ago has gifted us with dozens of polemics, both pro and con, debating the theoretical prognostications and real world consequences of the ideology that bears his name. I won’t add to this genre except to note that the revolutionary character of the regimes that claimed his legacy have either gone by the wayside, like the Soviet Union, or else abandoned all but a content-less formal allegiance to Marxist orthodoxy, like China. For those still-believing Marxists the world over, the revolution has been betrayed – to which one can only add: welcome to reality, comrade!

The theme of “the revolution betrayed” is an all-too-familiar one in human history: indeed, there hasn’t been a revolution anywhere on earth that hasn’t been betrayed in an important sense – or at least I can’t think of one. It is the title of one of Leon Trotsky’s polemics against Stalinism, and as a phrase it encapsulates the anti-Stalinist left’s critique of the Soviet Union and the Stalinized Communist parties worldwide. It also summarizes, less famously, the libertarian view of the American revolution and its aftermath: although there are no monsters of Stalin’s stature in this narrative, there are plenty of villains of lesser stature: neo-royalists, Federalists, the Republican party of the nineteenth century, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, etc. ad nauseam.

Although the essential nature of the Russian and American revolutions are quite different, to the extent that all revolutions share certain characteristics in common it is somewhat useful to look to the former for clues to the historical development of the latter. While the Marxists have a long history of discussing strategy and tactics – the means to conquer power – their adversaries (and especially libertarians) in the West have shown little interest in this topic aside from simply enunciating their ends. In this context, examining the left-wing critics of the Soviet Union can give us some perspective on why – and by whom – the American revolution was betrayed, and how the mutant Empire that arose in its place can be defeated and our old republic restored.

Isaac Deutscher (1907-67), the distinguished Marxist scholar and commentator on the Soviet Union, was unique among anti-Stalinist communists in that his view of Stalin and the Eastern bloc after the death of Lenin was marked by the one characteristic that the rest of the left was (and still is) sorely lacking: subtlety. As leader of a dissident faction in the Polish Communist Party, he was expelled in 1932 for criticizing Stalin and became sympathetic to Leon Trotsky’s critique of Soviet bureaucratism. However, Deutscher did not join Trotsky’s “Fourth International,” which never took root in any country. It was, he said, too early, the movement was too small, and the Fourth International, unlike the other three, was founded in the absence of a major revolutionary upsurge.

Deutscher was right about that, but his differences with Trotsky went much deeper than a mere tactical dispute. In his biography of Stalin, Deutscher makes clear that his view of the post-Leninist Soviet Union was fundamentally at odds with the Trotskyist stance, which was that the Stalinist leadership had gutted the Soviet Union of its revolutionary character and that therefore a “political revolution” was necessary to overthrow it by force. Deutscher, on the other hand, held that the Soviet leadership, in its crude, unthinking, nearly unconscious way, was forging a form of socialism in Russia that would eventually correct itself: Stalinism, he thought, was just a small blip on the large screen of history, which would inevitably end in the victory of authentic socialism.

As it turned out, the Soviet bureaucracy did reform itself – not into an “authentic” socialist leadership as envisioned by Marx, but into a capitalist class that dissolved the Soviet Union, seized the remaining assets of the country, and proceeded to dismantle the collectivized property relations established by the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Here we bump into the limitations of looking to the leftist-Communist tradition for lessons in history: since Marxism is an erroneous theory, based on an unworkable economics and “false consciousness” (as the Marxists would put it), Deutscher was wrong about the Soviet system’s ultimate fate. Yet he was right in a general sense that the Soviet empire, even with Stalin at the height of his power, was undergoing a systemic change, one that was largely invisible to facile observers.

In writing about the United States, and specifically about domestic politics and the “Trumpist” phenomenon, I have taken a leaf from Deutscher’s book. In its stumbling, contradictory, vulgar, and occasionally completely retrograde way, the populist movement that put Donald J. Trump in the White House represents a “political revolution” (to borrow the Trotskyist lingo) against a bureaucratic caste, Washington’s bipartisan “permanent government” that is now trying desperately to reverse its historic defeat and overthrow him.

It is hard to see this through the confusing twists and turns of this administration, and its rather unruly reign: but then again, what revolutions aren’t unruly, disorganized, and often quite ugly when you get too close to them? Yet if you step back from the day-to-day scandals, machinations, and meaningless brouhahas, it’s possible to get an overview of the general direction in which the country is headed – and where the present leadership wants to take us.

Trump campaigned on an openly “isolationist” platform, even to the extent of reviving “America First” – the name and slogan of the biggest anti-interventionist movement in our history, long reviled by warmongers right and left. Once in office, however, and subject to the pressures that every White House is assaulted by, he appeared to pull back, out of necessity rather than preference: indeed, he often seems at war with his own White House staff over foreign policy, and particularly when it comes to policy toward Russia.

Yet if you look at his actions, rather than the rhetoric emitted by Nikki Haley, what is immediately noticeable is that for every typically interventionist move and pronouncement – e.g., the air strikes against Syrian government facilities – there is a counter-move taking us in the opposite direction. The latest example is the abrupt defunding of the “White Helmets,” the pro-jihadist “rescue squad” working in Syria that has done so much to target the government of Bashar al-Assad and promote regime change. It was this group which reported the false flag “gas attack” on Douma that resulted in a US air strike at Syrian military bases: they have been the source of similar hoaxes for years in the region. The White Helmets received about a third of their funding from the US State Department, and the rest from the Saudis and other supporters of Sunni terrorism worldwide.

To cut off this primary source of the War Party’s propaganda is a huge blow to them, and the howling has already started.

The significance of this cannot be overstated: our involvement in Syria was meant to be the spark that sets off a regional conflagration, pitting the US and Israel against Iran, Assad, Hezbollah, and – standing behind them – Russia. With the White Helmets out of the picture, and Trump intent on getting us out of Syria, a major tripwire has been pulled up and the danger of war with Iran recedes. This contradicts the panic over the supposedly imminent withdrawal of the US from the Iran deal negotiated by President Obama – but even that is in some doubt, despite the rhetoric of this administration and the expectations of the pundits.

And so we see that, on the one hand, we have the Nikki Haley/John Bolton/Rudy Giuliani  types bloviating about “regime change,” while the actions of this White House cut in the opposite direction.

Another major blow to the War Party is the President’s Korean peace initiative, which has the entire Washington Establishment is a tizzy. So much money, so many reputations, and such a long stretch of absolute folly is at stake that the Beltway mandarins can hardly contain their panic as Trump threatens the ever-so-delicate architecture of their beloved “liberal international order.”

No, he isn’t consistent. No, his administration is not peopled exclusively by advocates of a more peaceful, less interventionist foreign policy. And, no, he isn’t the ideal leader of a movement – and that’s a definite understatement. Yet he grasped what no political leader with more experience and less personal baggage has understood: that our political class has not only failed, but has plunged the country into a crisis on account of its insufferable hubris – and that a key consequence of this has been a series of unnecessary, unwinnable, and expensive foreign wars that have all but bankrupted the country.

The scenarios imagined by intellectuals and ideologues of all shapes and sizes invariably have a narrative unity about them: they unfold in logical and predictable ways along neat little pathways, as straight and narrow as the imagination that conjures them. Yet real  history doesn’t happen in this way: it is messy, contradictory, hesitant, impulsive – and utterly unpredictable. Contra Deutscher and the Marxists, nothing is “inevitable” – history has no direction or predetermined “end” in a socialist utopia (or a neoconservative  “universal homogenous state”).

This messiness is confusing: it can hide the real trends behind the detritus of outlived conditions and controversies, which persist long after they have ceased to have any meaning or relevance to the way people actually live. That’s a good part of the reason why the Trump phenomenon has been so misunderstood by all too many of the very people who ought to welcome it. They want to see straight lines and a logical progression: the “two steps forward, one step back” pattern of events disorients them. They retreat into familiar formulas, as did Trotsky’s followers even as history proved the founder of the Red Army wrong – or, worse, they fall for the propaganda of the Deep State, which is reacting to Trump’s populist revolution with a counter-revolutionary strike at the White House.

Change doesn’t come easily or predictably: and it often comes in a form that is difficult to recognize at first or even second or third glance. That’s why, for one example, only a few farsighted individuals foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union and the death of the international communist movement when our own CIA – funded in the billions of dollars and top-heavy with “expert” analysts – missed it. Today the same “experts” are telling us the post-cold war order represents the apex of human history and that Trump’s efforts to reform it are impossible – or else all too possible and therefore entirely disastrous.

I have said this from the beginning, and I stand by my view that change is coming in the long run. Trump’s unlikely election victory is only the beginning of a sea-change in our domestic politics, one that has the potential to bring about a revolution in our foreign policy – that is, a reversal of our globalist policies, and the restoration of the noninterventionist policy of the Founders. Despite his maddening inconsistencies, the President of the United States was elected on a platform of peace with Russia, and less intervention abroad, while taking as his campaign theme the slogan of “America First” – the battle cry of the Old Right.

That he doesn’t apply these principles consistently, or with his usual combativeness, is largely irrelevant when measuring the depth and significance of the movement that made his presidency possible. Indeed, his inconsistencies will provoke – and are provoking – the development of a fairly consistent anti-interventionist tendency among his followers, who are up in arms whenever he caves to the War Party. Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson, as well as many lesser known pundits and foot-soldiers of the Right, are now firmly ensconced in the anti-interventionist camp – and are among Antiwar.com’s most constant and supportive readers. We welcome them with open arms.

aHistory doesn’t bow to the demands of ideologues, nor does it reveal itself in a smooth unbroken narrative like the plot of a novel: those who are too impatient to await its verdict are bound to misinterpret current events, which refuse to fit into a predetermined pattern. Blinded by preconceptions that disallow fresh thinking, they are the equivalent of zombies who – not realizing that their time on earth is over – are determined to do as much damage to the living as possible. That is where we are at today: in a battle against our zombie-run foreign policy, which is mired in the outlived conundrums of the cold war. It’s a fight we anti-interventionist America Firsters can win – but only if we recognize that our victory will likely come in increments, and in a form not immediately recognizable.


As gentrification escalates in Calif., people wonder: Where can the homeless go?

May 6, 2018

by Scott Wilson

The Washington Post

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. — The search party pulled out of a McDonald’s parking lot, a collection of homeless men and women and their advocates squeezed into VW station wagons and old SUVs. They sought a patch of land or a spare building, a place — any place — where dozens of people might live for a while.

The cars passed neighborhoods of two-story homes along a ridgeline with views of the Pacific Ocean surf and then wound through a business park. They stopped next to a field of knee-high grass that the guide warned was off-limits because of rattlesnakes.

No bus line runs here, and the nearest grocery is a hilly two-mile walk. The only real virtue of the one-acre lot was that, while people work in the neighboring tech warehouses, no one actually lives anywhere near here.

“We need our own area without a lot of people around,” Jennifer Juarez, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been homeless for years, said as she surveyed the field. “But this? I don’t know.”

That this remote lot is even a temporary housing option for some of Orange County’s 5,000 homeless people speaks to the growing compassion fatigue that California is confronting. Frustrated with the slow pace of politics and demanding immediate, street-level action, residents in the wealthiest counties along California’s coast have been agitating for a solution — which increasingly involves pushing homeless people out of sight.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) recently called it “the greatest moral and humanitarian crisis of our time.”

In recent weeks, local governments from the northern city of San Francisco to here in Orange County have cleared out homeless camps, some of them years old and long considered public safety and health concerns. The regions have little in common politically but share a characteristic: extraordinarily expensive housing, which in March reached record highs in Orange County.

In the centers of many cities, tent encampments have become their own neighborhoods, often within areas that have been remade with public money and private investment.

Many of the state’s cities are thriving. But the gentrification that is taking place along the coast has made it far more difficult for

local governments to afford housing options for those without homes. Hundreds of homeless people, now marooned in wealthy urban neighborhoods, have tested the patience of new residents, who have spent small fortunes on the condos and townhouses in the city centers.

“People are tired of their politicians not wanting to step up to this problem,” said Dennis Ettlin, a retired economist, city planner and aerospace engineer who volunteers for the nonprofit group Interfaith Homeless Outreach Project for Empowerment. He is helping to scout sites for shelters in south Orange County, recommendations he will pass on to city officials.

“Everyone wants to feed the homeless,” he said. “But food is not the issue here. Housing is the issue.”

Nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeless population lives in California — about 134,000 people who often have carved out patches of curb, riverbed, public park or town square to live.

California has the highest percentage of homeless people living outside or in cars — advocates consider them the “unsheltered.” Eight in 10 homeless people here under the age of 21 live outdoors, nearly twice the rate in other states.

Though billions of dollars in public funds have been approved for homeless housing in recent years, the money has proved difficult to spend as quickly as needed. California’s auditor recommended in April that a single agency oversee the money and ideas to address the problem, which shifts daily across city limits and county lines.

“The growing resistance to the homeless is small but very loud,” said Tim Houchen, a formerly homeless man who now advocates on their behalf. “Their problem now is that there are many people who do not want any new homeless shelters, but they want the homeless to go somewhere else.”

Public fatigue

The public fatigue, manifested in hearing rooms, on the streets and in new policies, has been showing across the state for months.

In January, the city of El Cajon in San Diego County, where the worst outbreak of hepatitis A in the nation’s history emerged from homeless encampments last year, arrested a dozen people accused of breaking a new city law that makes it a crime to feed the homeless. The ordinance was rescinded a month later amid public protest.

That same month, it was revealed that a San Diego city work crew had nearly killed a homeless person a few weeks earlier. In clearing a downtown encampment, workers picked up a tent without looking inside and heaved it into a trash truck. The homeless person scrambled out before being crushed.

In Malibu, a city west of Los Angeles that includes a neighborhood nicknamed “Billionaire’s Beach,” residents have urged a church to stop the weekly dinners it holds for the homeless. Residents argued that offering charity just attracts more homeless people. The same thing happened in the less luxe city of Riverside, to the east of Los Angeles.

The community concern has been borne out by some recent events.

A fire last fall that threatened the Getty Museum and Bel-Air started in a hillside homeless encampment, drawing calls from some of the richest Los Angeles neighborhoods for the government to do more to address the issue. Downtown businesses also burned as a result of cooking fires that got out of control in homeless enclaves.

A 51-year-old homeless man was arrested in April and charged with trespassing after breaking into the governor’s mansion in Sacramento through a side window. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) was not at home, but his wife, Anne Gust Brown, was.

Days later, a homeless man walked into a steakhouse in Ventura, north of Los Angeles, and fatally stabbed a 35-year-old man as he ate dinner, his 5-year-old daughter sitting on his lap.

“Enough is enough. We are taking back our streets,” read a sign carried by one of dozens of marchers who made their way to Ventura City Hall a few days later.

San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell (D) began doing that during the last week in April. He ordered tents in the Mission District — ground zero for the city’s tech-money-driven gentrification, cleared of scores of homeless people. The city also has doubled the size of a cleanup crew dedicated to disposing of hypodermic needles discarded on the streets.

An Orange County split

In Orange County, the process has turned particularly bitter and has ended up in court. It has split the county’s crowded urban north, where the homeless population has been concentrated for years, and the richer suburban south, which has been ordered to bear more of the burden.

For a decade, as many as 1,400 people lived in tents along a mile-and-a-half stretch of the Santa Ana River, mostly a dry cement-lined channel running between highways within sight of Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

The camp scared off joggers, walkers and bikers, many of whom resented that a slice of sprawl set aside for them had been grabbed by others. More than 11,000 people signed a petition this year urging officials to clear it.

In January, local officials began accelerating plans to clear the camp. But a homeless advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit against Orange County and several cities to block the move, which officials defended by citing anti-camping laws that they said prohibited the tent cities.

U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter, a retired Marine who served in Vietnam, said he understood the public safety risk the camp posed. But he took the unusual step of visiting the riverbed, seeing for himself the squalor and challenge. He declared that any eviction would have to be done “humanely and with dignity.”

The county agreed to pay for extra beds in several shelters and to fund 30-day motel vouchers for hundreds of homeless people. The Board of Supervisors plans to spend nearly $100 million to accommodate and treat those displaced by the clearing along the riverbed and at the Plaza of the Flags, a camp in the heart of the county seat.

“The system here just didn’t have the capacity,” said Supervisor Andrew Do, who is the board chairman and worked in the 1980s as a homeless advocate while he attended law school in San Francisco. “The truth is, the capacity was reached even before we began.”

The clearing process started in February with little resistance on the ground. But police did find hundreds of stolen bicycles, ammunition and other evidence of what Do called “a criminal ­element.”

As part of the lawsuit, local officials were ordered to find new locations for the homeless people once the camps were cleared. The most logical places were in the less-crowded south of the county, but the resistance was swift and strong from communities there.

After supervisors approved a plan to set up temporary housing — either in city-funded tents or hard-plastic Tuff Sheds — elected officials in several cities responded with legal threats to block the move.

Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who has referred to the homeless as “sex offenders and drug addicts,” strayed outside his district to fan the resistance.

The homeless, he told a local radio station, should not be located “where good, hard-working citizens of California are trying to raise their families and pay their taxes and just enjoy a quality of life.” He said his county’s homeless population should be sent to the San Bernardino County desert “and provided services.”

“We’re stuck again with this situation where just two of our cities take on the bulk of the problem,” said Do, whose office overlooks a bus station that has been turned into a shelter for hundreds of homeless people. “The rhetoric and the image that has been created intentionally has caused the communities to react the way they have.”

Juarez, who volunteered for the site-location tour, lived along the Santa Ana River for years. Since it was cleared, she has spent nights in an extended-stay motel with help from a county voucher that has now expired.

Now 51, Juarez is an Orange County native and characterizes the current resistance to hosting the homeless as “the same people who have always been against us and are still against us.” She also said she understands some of their concerns, saying that “the homeless do bring drugs and crime. I do get that.”

A self-described “clean freak,” Juarez would not get a dog while she lived along the river for fear it would get too dirty. (Now she has Joe, a mixed-breed rescue.) She lived in her own tent, and as she put it, “breathed my own air.” She wants to find something similar, a place to live outside on her own terms.

“But this is such as small piece of land, and by the time they set aside a place for all the dogs, it won’t be much at all,” Juarez said, looking over the high grass of the San Clemente lot. “It just seems so desolate.”


Poland’s Holocaust law triggers tide of abuse against Auschwitz museum

Staff say they have suffered a campaign of disinformation and hate from Polish nationalists

May 7, 2018

by Christian Davies in Oświęcim

The Guardian

Officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum have described how they were subjected to a wave of “hate, fake news and manipulations” as a result of the controversy surrounding a contentious Holocaust speech law passed by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party earlier this year.

The campaign of disinformation and abuse at the hands of Polish nationalists has raised concerns about pressure being exerted on official guides at the site in southern Poland, after the home of one foreign guide was attacked and supporters of a convicted antisemite filmed themselves repeatedly hectoring their guide during a visit to the camp in March.

Conceived in part as a means to prevent facilities established by Poland’s German occupiers from being described as “Polish death camps”, the legislation, which criminalises the false attribution to the Polish state or nation of complicity in the crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, prompted a furious reaction in Israel and elsewhere amid concerns it could be used to restrict open discussion of Poland’s wartime history.

This in turn provoked an angry backlash from nationalist and pro-government media in Poland, many of whom accused the museum – which administers the site, conducts historical research, and trains and licenses official guides – of deliberately downplaying the fate of the approximately 74,000 non-Jewish Polish prisoners who perished in the camp, by focusing exclusively on its Jewish victims.

The brother of the museum’s director published an emotional message on Facebook in March decrying the “50 days of incessant hatred” directed at his brother, Piotr Cywiński. “For 12 long years he’s worked in one of the most terrible places in the world, in an office with a view of gallows and a crematorium,” he wrote. “Dozens of articles on dodgy websites, hundreds of Twitter accounts, thousands of similar tweets, profanities, memes, threats, slanders, denunciations. It’s enough to make you sick.”

Paweł Sawicki, who runs the museum’s social media operation, said: “The collateral damage of the dispute is that Auschwitz became a target. We’ve had people saying they were not allowed to have a Polish flag here, or saying that the memory of Poles is not represented here, that the museum is anti-Polish – all of this is untrue, and we had to respond.”

The museum has become increasingly assertive in its rebuttals, regularly intervening in discussions on Twitter and publishing a long list of false claims that have been made about the museum, ranging from the issue of Polish flags to the accusation that former Polish prisoners were not invited to a ceremony in January to commemorate the camp’s liberation.

In February, an open letter to Poland’s minister of culture was published on a rightwing Polish news website in which the author alleged that the police were called after he challenged a guide who, he claimed, had refused to acknowledge that any of the SS guards at Auschwitz had been German. An internal investigation concluded that the entire incident had been fabricated.

“We are not getting involved in politics,” said Sawicki, “but out of respect to all of the victims we have an obligation to defend the memory and the history of this place, and to protect it from attempts to use or exploit it in any way.”

A key claim of the campaign against the museum is that it has been training the site’s official guides to promote “foreign narratives” that are considered by many nationalists and government supporters to be inherently hostile to the Polish point of view.

In February, the official responsible for schools in the region in which Auschwitz is located argued that only Poles should be allowed to work as guides at the site, and that they should be licensed by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, a state body widely seen as a tool used by the government to impose its preferred historical narratives.

“Foreign, and not Polish narratives reign at Auschwitz. Time for it to stop,” wrote Barbara Nowak, who until last year served as a local councillor for Law and Justice.

In March, the home of an Italian Auschwitz guide in the nearby city of Krakow was vandalised, with “Poland for the Poles” and graffiti equating the Star of David with a Nazi swastika scrawled on his door, and “Auswitz for Poland guide!!” (sic) daubed on an adjoining wall.

That was followed by a visit to Auschwitz by Piotr Rybak, a nationalist politician convicted of burning an effigy of an Orthodox Jew in the south-western city of Wrocław in 2015. A video uploaded to YouTube shows Rybak and a group of supporters wrapped in Polish flags repeatedly surrounding and badgering their official guide and accusing him of lying about the fate of non-Jewish Poles in the camp.

Critics note that a tacit political alliance between radical rightwing circles and Poland’s nationalist-minded government has complicated matters for the museum, which is answerable to Poland’s ministry of culture.

A museum spokesman said Rybak’s visit was an isolated incident and that it was unaware of any other guides facing harassment from members of the public in recent months. However, that version of events was questioned by one guide, who expressed concerns that museum authorities were downplaying the pressure experienced by guides out of fear of generating further political controversy.

“The leadership are too scared of the government and the guides are too scared of losing their jobs to speak out against the provocations that have been going on here,” said the guide, who requested anonymity.

A number of museum directors in Poland have lost their jobs or been subjected to pressure from rightwing websites and ruling party politicians in recent years. Last year the director of a new second world war museum in the Baltic city of Gdansk was removed from his position after a lengthy and bitter legal battle, and Poland’s minister of culture recently publicly questioned the position of the director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, whose tenure is up for renewal next year.

But Władysław T Bartoszewski, a historian and expert in Polish-Jewish relations whose father was a prisoner in Auschwitz and later served as chairman of the International Auschwitz Council, said it was extremely unlikely that the government would countenance an attempt to remove Cywiński.

“I don’t doubt that there are some members of the government who would like to see Cywiński removed, and some who might even be reckless enough to try,” he said. “But he has too much support from all sides – he is close to being untouchable.”

  • This article was amended on 7 May 2018 to correct references to events taking place in April that actually took place in March. Also amended was sentence that originally spoke of Polish nationalists accusing Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial museum of deliberately downplaying the fate of “the approximately 74,000 Polish prisoners who perished in the camp, by focusing exclusively on its Jewish victims”.


Iran says could remain in nuclear deal if its interests guaranteed: TV

May 7, 2018

by Parisa Hafezi


ANKARA (Reuters) – President Hassan Rouhani hinted on Monday that Iran could remain in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers even if the United States dropped out but Tehran would fiercely resist U.S. pressure to limit its influence in the Middle East.

U.S. President Donald Trump, a long-time critic of the deal reached between Iran and six powers in 2015 before he took office, has threatened to pull out by not extending sanctions waivers when they expire on May 12, unless European signatories of the accord fix what he calls its “flaws”.

Under the agreement with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, Iran strictly limited uranium enrichment capacity to satisfy the powers that it could not be used to develop atomic bombs. In exchange, Iran received relief from sanctions, most of which were rescinded in January 2016.

Rouhani said the Islamic Republic had been preparing for every possible scenario, including a deal without Washington – which would still include the other signatories that remain committed to it – or no deal at all.

“We are not worried about America’s cruel decisions … We are prepared for all scenarios and no change will occur in our lives next week,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.

“If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. What Iran wants is our interests to be guaranteed by its non-American signatories … In that case, getting rid of America’s mischievous presence will be fine for Iran.”

“If they want to make sure that we are not after a nuclear bomb, we have said repeatedly that we are not and we will not be,” said Rouhani, who engineered the nuclear accord to ease Iran’s isolation.

“But if they want to weaken Iran and limit its influence whether in the region or globally, Iran will fiercely resist.”

Tehran has made repeated threats to walk away if Trump does, but several Iranian officials told Reuters last week that as long as Tehran was not excluded from the global financial and trading system, it could consider respecting the accord.

Diplomats say Tehran would rather the deal remain intact out of concern about a revival of domestic unrest over economic hardships that mounted over the years sanctions were in place.


Britain, France and Germany remain committed to the accord and, in an effort to address U.S. complaints, want to open talks on Iran’s ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 – when pivotal provisions of the deal expire – and its role in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

Whatever Trump decides, France, Britain and Germany will stick to the deal because it is the best way to stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb, French Foreign Minister Yean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday after meeting his German counterpart.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the deal, which is being policed by U.N. nuclear inspectors, “makes the world safer”, and would do everything possible to uphold it.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, now in Washington for talks, said the deal had weaknesses but these could be remedied. “…At this moment Britain is working alongside the Trump administration and our French and German allies to ensure that they are,” he said in a commentary in the New York Times.

“I am sure of one thing: every available alternative is worse. The wisest course would be to improve the handcuffs rather than break them.”

Even if Trump rejects a possible remedy being worked out by U.S. and European officials and decides to bring back sanctions, the most drastic U.S. measures targeting Iran’s oil sales will not immediately resume.

There are at least two avenues potentially offering more time for talks after May 12.

The agreement has a dispute resolution clause that provides at least 35 days to consider a claim that any party has violated its terms. That can be extended if all parties agree.

And if Trump restores the core U.S. sanctions, under U.S. law he must wait at least 180 days before reimposing penalties on banks of nations that do not slash purchases of Iranian oil.

Iran’s clerical rulers have repeatedly ruled out reducing its sway across the region, as demanded by the United States and its European allies. Tehran says its missile capabilities are purely defensive and nuclear ambitions only civilian in nature.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog says it is maintaining the “world’s most robust verification regime” in Iran and has repeatedly said Tehran is complying with the deal terms.

Additional reporting by John Irish, Michelle Martin and Joseph Nasr in Berlin, Michael Holden in London; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich



How Customs and Border Protection Illegally Tried to Unmask a Rogue Twitter Account

May 7 2018

by Shawn Musgrave

The Intercept

When the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to unmask an irksome Twitter account imploded last year, few within the agency were surprised, according to newly released records. “Why would we do this?” one official asked in early April 2017 after Twitter filed a complaint in federal court, according to the heavily redacted emails.

The short-lived investigation into @ALT_USCIS, an anonymous account that claims it’s run by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employee, sparked an uproar over First Amendment encroachments and potential abuses of power last year, including from members of Congress.

The new documents, released last week by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press after it sued the DHS and Customs and Border Protection, reveal a partial timeline of the abortive investigation. But more importantly, the emails show how a seemingly unsupervised CBP agent improperly attempted to force Twitter to produce records on a particular user without a court order — completely disregarding whether the summons was legal.

“These documents make clear that the CBP needs to focus on real security issues, rather than abusing its authority to discover the identity of a whistleblower,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who demanded answers from CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan last year.

The investigation into @ALT_USCIS started in late February 2017, according to the emails. On February 22, McAleenan saw a tweet in which @ALT_USCIS encouraged anyone with “personal dirt” on dishonest CBP and ICE agents to get in touch. The tweet offered payment and anonymity for tipsters.

A senior CBP official named Patrick Flanagan asked the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility to look into this tweet and another in which @ALT_USCIS shared an “email dump” allegedly from five CBP officers celebrating Trump’s election. @ALT_USCIS quickly deleted the email tweet, saying the emails “could be bogus.”

A technical staffer searched agency accounts for emails to and from the tip account, as well as for messages containing keywords from the email dump, according to the released emails. The staffer was aware of the legal sensitivity of the search. Before reporting results, the staffer looped in another official, writing in one email, “I wanted to make you aware of this request for its legality.” It’s unclear if these searches turned up anything useful.

It’s also unclear when such concerns over legality faded away, as leadership pressed to find out the identity behind @ALT_USCIS.

“I wanted to confirm your staff is running this to ground,” Flanagan wrote to OPR in early March. The same day, he pressed the technical staff on whether they had any luck “identifying individuals” via the searched emails.

On March 14, 2017, CBP agent Adam Hoffman faxed a four-page summons to Twitter’s legal office in San Francisco. A supervising special agent, Stephen P. Caruso, signed the summons, which ordered Twitter to turn over a broad swath of information, including “all records regarding the twitter [sic] account @ALT_USCIS to include, User names, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses.”

The trouble was that the order lacked any grounding in law.

In phone calls and emails with Hoffman, Twitter’s attorneys pointed out that the underlying legal authority for this “1509 summons” — which is named for the authorizing law — pertains solely to records about imported merchandise.

Hoffman clearly had no justification for slapping a 1509 summons on Twitter to compel them to provide information about @ALT_USCIS.

“It looks like no one discussed the summons with OPR or legal, the dude just filled it out, got a supervisor to sign it and sent it out,” @ALT_USCIS told The Intercept over Twitter chat. “That is how casual they are about civil liberties.”

An OPR official said investigators should “actually research all the citations of law to ensure the document is applicable,” as word spread around the agency in April 2017. Another worried that the agency’s “admin legal request documents are lacking.”

A subsequent review by the Homeland Security inspector general’s office found that OPR staff were generally confused about how to properly use the 1509 summons; they found that at least 1 in 5 such orders issued by Hoffman’s colleagues were in violation of either legal authority or DHS policy.

But the newly released emails show a CBP agent — presumably Hoffman, based on Twitter’s detailed summary of their correspondence in the federal complaint — doubled down when challenged. The agent asserted, despite clear statutory limitations, that the requested information was well “within the scope” of the summons.

“That is because if a person or group is using Twitter to release controlled information or message ways around laws that CBP is responsible to enforce it would fall under that summons,” the agent wrote to Twitter.

This creative reading was plainly incorrect, and Twitter’s lawyers let Hoffman know that they would challenge it in court if CBP didn’t withdraw the summons within 48 hours. When Twitter followed through on April 6, some of Hoffman’s fellow investigators were concerned — but not over the attempt at getting Twitter records.

They were galled that Hoffman had used the wrong form.

“Too bad the rest of our organization doesn’t have a better understanding of the Customs Summons,” one wrote. Another suggested that Hoffman should have partnered with a prosecutor to get a grand jury subpoena.

As agency attorneys briefed top leadership and managed press coverage around the lawsuit, others at CBP were confused by why Hoffman was in the wrong even on procedure.

One OPR agent wanted agency lawyers to press Twitter to comply, despite acknowledging that the summons had wobbly legal support.

“I never really thought they applied either, but in a round about way it can be articulated how these cases affect trade. … Something for the legal beagles,” wrote the assistant special-agent-in-charge in Miami.

“This push back is nothing new with these summonses,” wrote a colleague on the same email chain. “ICE tried it with several tech companies in 2016 and some complied, but Google pushed back with a similar argument.”

“Maybe they have been able to justify its use in the past,” another OPR official wrote. “Would be interested to know.”

Such discussions hint, of course, at potentially wider misuse of summonses, not only by CBP, but also by ICE and other agencies as well. And not only have these summonses been misused, but “several tech companies” haven’t bothered to oppose them as Twitter did here.

“They are used to abusing that subpoena power,” @ALT_USCIS said. “Most of the time it is sent to small businesses who do not seek legal advice. They just see DHS, they get scared and give them what they need.”

The day after Twitter filed its federal complaint, the government withdrew Hoffman’s summons and Twitter dropped its lawsuit.

The Homeland Security inspector general launched its investigation the same day and quickly determined no classified information was released via @ALT_USCIS. The inspector general’s November 2017 report found a widespread “lack of understanding” on the limitations on the 1509 summons, such that CBP agents have used them in “a wide range of cases having no nexus” to imported merchandise.

In one case, OPR investigators issued a 1509 summons to Craigslist for information about a Border Patrol agent selling government-issued night vision goggles. In other cases, investigators inappropriately used a summons to vet sick leave claims.

CBP told the inspector general it would revise policies about 1509 summonses and retrain staff on their proper usage. In May 2017, as CBP worked on a new policy, the agency chided OPR employees by email, reminding them that they must consult with an attorney before sending one.

The inspector general also recommended a review of how agents across CBP — and not just within the Office of Responsibility — have used the 1509 summons to obtain information and records. A CBP spokesperson, Daniel Hetlage, said the agency conducted “a comprehensive review of its use of the 1509 summons authority,” resulting in new policies “designed to strengthen existing internal controls and approval protocols.” Hetlage did not answer whether this agency-wide review uncovered additional summons abuses.


Face to Face: Saudi Arabia-Iran

An in-depth look at the military spending, the economy and the drivers of growth for the two regional rivals.

April 25, 2018

by Alia Chughtai

Al Jazeera

Regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran are currently directly or indirectly engaged in a number of Middle East conflicts, as well as opposing sides of the global oil trade.


In the past five years, most Middle Eastern countries have been directly or indirectly involved in armed conflicts. About 32 percent of documented weapon imports worldwide are to this region.

Saudi Arabia has a significant budget for military spending, and although Iran’s is harder to determine, according to Radio Farda, it is estimated at $7bn annually.

Saudi Arabia, in turn, spends about $56bn. This does not including recent deals with Spain and the United States worth an estimated $3bn.

Based on SIPRI’s 2017 report, Iran imported four air defence systems from Russia that are excluded from the arms embargo imposed on the country.

The United States remains the Gulf region’s main supplier. Nearly 50 percent of the UK’s arms exports go to Saudi Arabia, according to SIPRI. Most of these imports are used by Saudi Arabia in its ongoing war in Yemen.

The overwhelming majority of Saudi arms imports are from the US and European countries.



Iran’s economy grew by 7.4 percent from 2016-17, a rise from the previous year. The International Monetary Fund assessed in February 2017 that this boost was a result of the expansion of oil production.

Navid Kolhar, a financial analyst in Tehran, agrees, adding that the economy’s upward movement was attributed to increasing trade in hydrocarbons.

The non-oil sector was barely one percent of total growth, and economic growth was mainly driven by Iran’s exports, especially to the Asian market.

In spite of the recorded growth, economic difficulty persisted because of structural weakness in the financial system. Inflation, meanwhile, was brought down to 9.5 percent in 2016.

Given the nature of natural resource-dependent economies, however, the boost has not necessarily translated into greater job opportunities for ordinary Iranians. The unemployment rate continues to hover around 11.4 percent for the second year running.

Saudi Arabia:

From January 2017 to January 2018, Saudi Arabia recorded negative growth despite efforts by authorities to diversify the economy and lessen its dependence on oil.

The country, which possesses 22 percent of the world’s oil reserves, has pressed other OPEC members to cut oil production to boost global prices. But Saudi’s non-oil sectors continue to struggle, recording a mere 0.6 percent growth, according to Bloomberg.

Saudi Arabia continues to work out how to sell five percent of its state-run oil producer Aramco – a deal that could raise more than $100bn.

The plan is at the heart of an ambitious economic reform programme to wean the country off oil, which includes a new $500bn megacity near the Red Sea. It is hoped the extra money from the sale will make Saudi Arabia less reliant on its black gold in the long run.


Saudi Arabia:

Based on OPEC’s data, the oil-rich kingdom is the largest exporter of petroleum, with its oil and gas sector contributing about half of its GDP.

In addition to petroleum, Saudi also exports natural gas, iron ore, gold and copper.

The kingdom produces more than 10 million barrels of oil per day while consuming three million domestically.

Despite being the largest oil exporter in the world, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC member states were forced to slash production in an effort to restore plummeting oil prices.

The price crash was the result of surplus US oil production, which currently stands at about nine million barrels per day. This spurred Riyadh into action as it attempted to expand and diversify the Saudi economy.


Decades of economic sanctions on Iran have forced it to adopt a multi-faceted approach. Nevertheless, oil continues to account for almost 80 percent of all exports.

According to Global Firepower, Iran currently produces more than four million barrels a day, 1.8 million of which are for domestic consumption.

Foreign investors resumed trading with Iran in 2015 when sanctions were lifted under the nuclear deal with world powers, in return for which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear programme.

Between December 2015 and January 2016, as the nuclear restrictions on Iran were being finalised, oil exports witnessed a two-fold increase to reach almost two million barrels a day.

The numbers remained consistent throughout 2017, except for April that year.

Iran and Qatar co-own the world’s largest natural gas field, the offshore South Pars/North Dome. Iran’s territory covers 3,700 square kilometres in the Gulf.

France’s Total has invested in the natural gas market via the National Iranian Oil Company and is helping develop South Pars.

Iran produces about 880 million cubic metres of gas a day, and it is forecast to increase production to 1.2 billion cubic metres by 2021, Iranian financial publication Finance Tribune reports.


Conversations with the Crow

by Gregory Douglas

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.

Unfortunately for Mr. Trento’s, and the CIA’s, hopes, major sections of Crowley’s files were missing.

Crowley had sent them, via his son, to me several years before.

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.

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 , 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 publications.



Conversation No. 119

Date: Saturday, December 20, 1997

Commenced: 10:29 AM CST

Concluded: 10:50 AM CST


GD: Good morning, Robert.

RTC: And to you.  Getting ready for Christmas?

GD: Just another day, Robert. Christmas used to be something I looked forward to and enjoyed but like childhood, those days have long passed. Another day. My one son is not interested in giving  but he loves to get. The true Christmas season. By the way, did you know what the Jewish Santa said to the children at the local mall?

RTC: A Jewish Santa?

GD: Anything for money, Robert, anything. He said, ‘Ho, ho, ho children. Want to buy some toys?’

RTC: (Laughter) Not tolerant. A pedophilic Santa would say, ‘Come and sit on Santa’s lap.’

GD: (Laughter) Kill them all, Robert and let God punish the bad ones by making them listen to Wayne Newton records for all eternity. I wonder when we will have a new war? These seem to come in cycles, don’t they? If the politicians had to put on oversized uniforma and get shot at, we would have eternal peace, wouldn’t we?

RTC: No doubt about that. The Vietnam war was a disaster.

GD: Oh yes, a real disaster. The public was getting worked up and we started on the first steps of revolution here. You know that.

RTC: Probably so. Johnson was lousy.

GD: So was MacNamera and all the rest of them.

RTC: We were only there to appease the French.

GD: Yes, and your people killed Diem and made things worse. But I did my bit.

RTC: You were in then?

GD: You might say so, Robert. I did my bit. No I was not in military service but I did terrible damage to it.

RTC: How so?

GD: I ran a group that smuggled young Americans into Canada and security from the draft.

RTC: How many?

GD: Me personally? A little over three thousand.

RTC: My God, how ever did you do it?

GD: I organized some of the more competent ones into small cells and used the services of a commercial truck company to smuggle them into Canada, mostly  Vancouver. And to make a bit of money for the cause, we smuggled immigrant Chinese workers back into the States from Canada to labor in the sweatshops of Chinatown in Frisco. Fifteen hundred a head coming back balanced nothing charged for going up.

RTC: Surely the Bureau must have gotten wind of all this movement.

GD: Of course they did. You see, I worked for a fancy hotel in Santa Monica and always dressed very well. One day, an FBI team hidden in the usual television repair truck, saw me chatting with a know trouble-maker down on the beach and the next day, two of them came into the hotel to visit me. Polite enough. Showed me a picture of this fellow with a ratty beard and I at once said I had met him in Venice. That’s how it got started. I looked respectable and even acted respectable so they asked me to spy for them. They were more than considerate and the money was good. They were looking for someone known as ‘The Doctor’ who was smuggling live bait out of the country. I  could have made their day by telling them that I was the Doctor but why upset people unnecessarily? In essence, they were paying me to find myself. Because I am not schizophrenic, I never met myself but I was well-paid for my efforts. Actually this was a wonderful  cover for my activities because now I could mingle with civil resistance people without fear of detection. They were so happy with my reports, Robert. Clandestine meetings in distant parking lots and envelopes stuffed full of money vanishing into my pocket. And I got rid of rivals and if I spotted a stool pigeon, I got them onto the official shit list. Actually, it was an interesting and rewarding time in my life.

RTC: It was in Vancouver where you did the funny money caper, wasn’t it?

GD: Of course it was. They evicted me when I went there after the Vietham war was over and they threw me out of the country and stole my money. I only went to get it back.

RTC”: Kimmel was telling me about this in horror. You cost them millions, didn’t you?

GD: Yes, but I got my money back, every cent of it.

RTC: How much?

GD: Four dollars and ten cents, Robert. Yes, I have two Canadian two dollar bills and a dime in a shadow box over my desk even as I am speaking to you. I told Tom about this and he had a fit.

RTC: I would imagine. He did not think that was amusing.

GD: No, but I did and after all, that’s what really matters, isn’t it?

RTC: In the end, I suppose so. I read a report on your activities once. Corson gave it to me. Actually we both thought it was highly entertaining. Are you really a doctor of something?

GD: No, I lie sometimes. But they lie all the time.

RTC: I won’t ask you who you are talking about.

GD: I could go on for hours.

RTC: Jesus, over three thousand? I heard about this doctor person once as I recall but I have forgotten most of it. Well, now I can say I know a famous outlaw.

GD: I’ll accept that, Robert, in the Christmas spirit of kind giving. Oh and taking as well. You can’t do one without the other. After all, our loss was Canada’s gain. When Carter pardoned all of the escapees, most of them stayed in Canada. Doesn’t speak well of the atmosphere here, does it?

RTC: I suppose not. Having a tree this year?

GD: No, I am not. And I am not buying any toys from the Jewish Santa either. I don’t fancy reindeer shit on my roof.


(Concluded at 10:50 AM CST)



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