TBR News November 22, 2018

Nov 22 2018

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

Washington, D.C. November 22, 2018:”There is an erroneous belief in the United States that their intelligence agencies: viz

are somehow sacred and untouchble. And further, that President Trump might have been turned by Russian intelligence to do their work. All of this is a subject loudely disputed by loyal Trimp supporters. There does exist a lengthy, and very detailed report on this entire subject of the capture of American domestic and foreign information by Russians, Chinese and even Romanian intelligence agencies operating in the United States. The report runs to over two hundred highly detailed pages and there is a growing rumor in certain circles that it is due for widespread circulation in the very near future. Names of agents, code words, reports and more are part of this report. ”


The Table of Contents 

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 88
  • Trump’s foreign policy is dominated by his childish desire to ‘win’
  • Trump grants troops guarding border authority to use ‘lethal force’ – report
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • The Human Brain Is a Time Traveler


Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 88

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • Jul 5, 2018

“Remember with Israel; remember when we had two votes on something having to do with Israel. I said we’re watching; with all the aid we give all these countries, we’re watching. We ended up getting 68 votes. We didn’t do anything.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Trump did not specify what votes he was talking about, but he has made this “68 votes” claim in the past when talking about the U.N. vote on his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The result of that vote was 128 countries against, nine in favour. To get to his total in the 60s, Trump, like Ambassador Nikki Haley, included abstentions (35) and countries that were not present to vote at all (21). But that (9 plus 35 plus 21) adds to 65, not 68. Haley accurately tweeted after the vote: “The vote is in–65 countries refused to condemn the United States and 128 voted against us.”

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“And at the same time, we are restoring our security. We have people flooding our borders like they haven’t flooded ever before. They’re doing an incredible job, but we’ve never had a rush like this. That’s because people want a piece of our action. They want to come into our economy. They want to come in.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: This is not even close to the peak for people trying to enter the U.S., even if you go back less than 20 years. In 2000, 1,643,679 people were apprehended at the southwest border. In 1999 it was 1,537,000, in 1998 it was 1,516,680. Through the first nine months of the 2018 fiscal year, as of June 2018, the total for the year was 382,526.

“…I respect China, and I respect President Xi, but they’ve been killing us — $507 billion dollars in trade deficits last year — 507. Who the hell can lose 500…”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: The U.S. has never once had a $500 billion trade deficit with China, according to U.S. government data. The deficit was $337 billion in 2017.

Trump has repeated this claim 51 times

“We love our miners. And we put our miners back to work, clean coal.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: There has been a small increase in the number of people employed in coal mining since Trump’s election. As of June 2018, 53,200 people were employeed in coal mining, up from 50,700 in January 2017, the month Trump took office. But the phrase “clean coal” is itself false; it is simply a creation of industry spin, without a scientific basis.

Trump has repeated this claim 7 times

“We are allowing businesses to join forces to buy better health care for less money through association health plans. They just came out two weeks ago…Millions of people are already signing up.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Nobody is signing up for Trump’s new association health plans yet: they are not being offered until September.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“Apple computer is spending $350 billion on new campuses, on new facilities. They’re bringing back $350 billion. They’re going to actually have — probably, subject to the tax code, about $230 billion come back.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Apple is not spending $350 billion on campuses and facilities. In January, it announced a $30 billion capital investment over five years, and it specifically mentioned a new campus and new data centres. While its press release did use a “$350 billion” figure, the company explained that this was not the amount of money it was bringing back into the country from abroad — Trump clarified in the next sentence that it was bringing back less than $250 billion — nor its capital investment. Rather, the company said this $350 billion, to be spent over five years, was a combination of the $30 billion in new capital investments and other regular spending it had previously planned — and it specified that it had previously planned $55 billion in spending for 2018 at “domestic suppliers and manufacturers.” In other words, Apple was previously on pace to spend, on operations, approximately $275 billion of the $350 billion it described in the announcement.

Trump has repeated this claim 20 times

“Wages, for the first time in 18 years are rising again. People can go out, they can actually choose a job and they have wages that are rising.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Wages have been rising since 2014. In June, the month before Trump spoke, average hourly earnings rose by 2.7 per cent, the same as in Obama’s last month in office, December 2016.

Trump has repeated this claim 25 times

“Every day, we are keeping our promises. We’ve created 3.4 million jobs since Election Day, which nobody can even believe. Nobody believes it. I always say if I would have said that on the campaign trail when I was here or anyplace else it would have been brutal. They would have said, ‘How can you possibly say a thing like that, 3.4 million new jobs?'”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

     in fact: It is not true that the media would have accused him of exaggerating if he said 3.4 million jobs would be created in the 19 months after the election. The number of jobs created over the previous 19 months, under Obama, was 4.1 million.

Trump has repeated this claim 16 times

“And, yes, we are already building the wall. It started in California, in San Diego; $1.6 billion…”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Construction on Trump’s border wall has not started. When he has made this claim in the past, Trump has appeared to be referring to a project in which a 2.25-mile stretch of existing wall in California is being replaced by a taller wall. That project was proposed in 2009, and the Los Angeles Times reported that Border Patrol spokesperson Jonathan Pacheco told reporters in March: “First and foremost, this isn’t Trump’s wall. This isn’t the infrastructure that Trump is trying to bring in. … This new wall replacement has absolutely nothing to do with the prototypes that were shown over in the San Diego area.” The $1.6 billion Congress allocated to border projects in 2018 is not for the type of giant concrete wall Trump has proposed: spending on that kind of wall is expressly prohibited in the legislation, and much of the congressional allocation is for replacement and reinforcement projects rather than new construction.

Trump has repeated this claim 20 times

“…Getting military funding — we’ve got $700 billion, the biggest ever…”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Trump’s $700 billion defence budget is not the biggest ever. As the New York Times noted, Obama signed a $725 billion version of the same bill in 2011.

Trump has repeated this claim 11 times

“When you have these MS-13 thugs come in, ICE goes in and wipes them out like nothing because they’re much tougher…So we’re taking them out by the thousands.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: “By the thousands” is an exaggeration; it is more like “by the hundreds,” or “by the dozens.” The acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, said in December that “a renewed focus on ID’ing & dismantling the ultra-violent MS-13 gang led to nearly 800 arrests in (fiscal year) 2017, for an 83 per cent increase over last year.” That figure is disputed, as some of the people arrested may not be actual members of the gang. Even if they are, though, that is far from “thousands.” In November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions claimed the U.S. had “worked with our partners in Central America to arrest and charge some 4,000 MS-13 members.” But those additional arrests were made abroad, so the people arrested were not “removed.”

Trump has repeated this claim 15 times

“The new platform of the Democrat Party is to abolish ICE. In other words, they want to abolish immigration enforcement entirely. That’s what they want to do. They want — they want everybody coming in.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: This is an exaggeration. There is new Democratic momentum behind the movement to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but it far too strong to say this is the Democratic Party’s “new platform.” While a smattering of Democratic House members and two prominent senators, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren, had joined the call for abolition at the time Trump spoke, the party’s leadership was opposed to the proposal. Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters: “Look, ICE does some functions that are very much needed. “Reform ICE? Yes. That’s what I think we should do. It needs reform.” Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, through a spokesperson, has called for a “drastic overhaul of its immigration functions,” but has not endorsed abolition. Further, even the officials who have endorsed abolishing ICE have not called for ending immigration enforcement entirely.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“But they — do you ever notice — do you ever hear something, they say — you know we had a case last week we were in a great place in Wisconsin. And we had a tremendous crowd and we have like the choice of a 22,000-seat arena and in retrospect, we would have packed it and they would have sent away thousands of people. But the people said to me, very innocent people, they were great. But I hadn’t met them. I said why didn’t you — they — they filled up a 7,000-seat arena, walked away thousands of people, like over 20. And we would have filled — and I said why didn’t you use the bigger arena?”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Trump appeared to confuse two events. He did not speak at any arena at all in Wisconsin the week prior, let alone a 7,000-seat arena; he spoke at the site of the new Foxconn factory. He appeared to be trying to refer to his rally at a 6,000-seat arena in Fargo, North Dakota the same week as his Wisconsin visit; he had complained about the arena choice during that Fargo speech. Also, nowhere close to 20,000 people were turned away from the Fargo arena. While no precise numbers are available, photos from the scene suggest the number of people turned away was, at most, in the low thousands. (Trump complained during his Fargo speech that it was “15,000 or 18,000 people.”)

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“You know, the New York Times was ready to fold. It was going to close. And then I came along, unfortunately, and they — they sell.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: The Times was not in danger of shutting down before Trump began his campaign in 2015.

“Winning the Electoral College is very tough for a Republican, much tougher than the so-called ‘popular vote,’ where people vote four times.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: There is no evidence that even one person voted four times in the 2016 election, let alone that voter fraud is a widespread problem. And while Trump did not make his claim about supposed Electoral College bias as explicitly as he usually does, we’ll repeat that it is false that the presidential election system is set up in a way that favours Democrats. Six of the last nine presidents, all of whom except for Gerald Ford had to win an Electoral College election, have been Republicans.

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

“I won Wisconsin. First time — first time since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952… We had a great — we had a great victory. But think of it. Not since Dwight Eisenhower, 1952.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: The last Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin was Ronald Reagan in 1984, not Eisenhower in 1952. Republicans also won Wisconsin in 1956 (Eisenhower), 1960, 1968 and 1972 (Richard Nixon), and 1980 (Reagan).

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“But think of Wisconsin. Reagan had his big win. He won every state except for one, the great state of Wisconsin.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Reagan won Wisconsin in his 1984 landslide. The only state he didn’t win was Minnesota.

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

“And the House just left and they said, ‘There’s no collusion.’ Can you imagine this? It’s all a ruse. This was an excuse for the Democrats who lost an election, who actually got their ass kicked, 306 — 306 to 223, that’s a pretty good shellacking.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Hillary Clinton earned 232 electoral votes, not 223. This was not a one-time minor error: it was the 10th time Trump said she got “223.” (Also, Democrats did not invent the accusation of Trump campaign collusion with Russia as a post-election excuse; the FBI opened its investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia during the campaign.)

Trump has repeated this claim 12 times

“I said it the other day, yes, she is a low IQ individual, Maxine Waters. I said it the other day. High — I mean, honestly, she’s somewhere in the mid-60s, I believe that.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: We don’t know Waters’s actual IQ, but it is obvious that Trump’s insult is incorrect. People with IQs of below 70 are usually people who have been diagnosed with an intellectual disability. According to a 2001 report by Human Rights Watch, “an I.Q. in the 60 to 70 range is approximately the scholastic equivalent to the third grade.” Waters has a degree in sociology and has served in Congress for 27 years.

“They’re fake. They’re fake. They quote sources — ‘A source within the Trump organization said’ — a source. They don’t have a source. They never use names anymore. You know, in the old days, you have to use names. ‘Jim Smith said that Donald Trump is a bad guy.’ They don’t do that anymore. They say, ‘A source within the administration.’ They make the sources up. They don’t exist in many cases. Any time you say — you know, I saw one of them said ’15 anonymous sources’ — I don’t have 15 people in the White — I mean, forget it.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: There is no evidence that media outlets have made up sources for their articles about the workings of the Trump administration. Obviously, far more than 15 people work in the White House.

Trump has repeated this claim 12 times

“We (Trump and Kim Jong Un) had a meeting. ‘By agreeing to meet’ — you know, they can’t come up with anything else, like — I didn’t give, like Clinton and like Obama would have — you know, Obama couldn’t meet. Now they say, ‘Well Obama’ — Obama couldn’t meet. They wouldn’t see him. So I didn’t have — like Clinton, where they gave him billions and billions of dollars and got nothing. OK? So they couldn’t find anything, so what did they do? They say, ‘He met.’ I met. That’s what we lost, folks. He met. Now by the way, Obama would have loved to have met. They wouldn’t see him. They wouldn’t see him. One of the first question I asked when I was over there, they wouldn’t see him.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: There is no evidence that Obama ever desired a meeting with North Korean dictators Kim Jong Il or successor Kim Jong Un, much less that the North Koreans rejected such a meeting. Ned Price, a former special assistant to Obama and National Security Council spokesperson, said the claim is false. He wrote in an email: “President Trump lives in a fantasy world in which only he can do certain things –it goes back to his campaign phrase: ‘Only I can fix it.’ But the truth is that there are certain things that only President Trump would do. And rushing to meet with his North Korean counterpart counts among them. To be clear: the previous administration never sought a meeting between Obama and Kim Jong-un or his father. It’s not that such a meeting would have been off the table; had the North Koreans demonstrated a genuine willingness to denuclearize, backed up by concrete moves, such a meeting could have materialized over time. But the North Koreans didn’t demonstrate that then, nor have they demonstrated that now. This claim is nothing more than Trump’s deep inferiority complex once again rearing its head.”

“I mean, these guys, like — Obama was very close to going to war (with North Korea). You have 30 million people in Seoul.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: There was no indication that the U.S. was close to going to war with North Korea in the Obama era. Ned Price, a former special assistant to Obama and National Security Council spokesperson, said in an email that Obama’s strategy of “containment and deterrence” was “predicated in part on the understanding that a military conflict on the Peninsula would be nothing short of catastrophic — both in terms of lives and the global economic toll.”

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“We’ve become a nation that is exporting energy for the first time. We’re exporting energy.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: The U.S. has exported energy for decades — the U.S. government’s website includes oil-export data dating back to 1920 — so, taking Trump’s claim in the most literal way possible, it is false that the U.S. has just now started exporting energy. What he was clearly suggesting, though, is that the U.S. has now become a net exporter of energy — exporting more than it imports. But that is also false; the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration estimated in early 2018 that it could happen around 2022.

Trump has repeated this claim 9 times

“They make it impossible to do business in Europe, and yet they come in and they sell their Mercedes and their BMWs to us. So we have $151 billion in trade deficits with the E.U.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Of course, it is not “impossible” for most American companies to do business in Europe. And the $151 billion figure counts only trade in goods and ignores trade in services, in which the U.S. has a significant surplus. Including all kinds of trade, the overall U.S. trade balance with the European Union in 2017 was a deficit of $102 billion, according to U.S. government statistics.

Trump has repeated this claim 29 times

“I’ll see NATO and I’m going to tell NATO — you got to start paying your bills. The United States is not going to take care of everything. We’re paying for anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent to protect Europe, and that’s fine.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: The U.S. is not paying up to 90 per cent of NATO costs, no matter how you slice them. According to NATO’s 2018 annual report, U.S. defence spending represented 72 per cent of the alliance’s total defence spending in 2017. With regard to direct contributions to NATO’s own common budget, the U.S. contributes a much smaller agreed-upon percentage: 22 per cent.

Trump has repeated this claim 14 times

“Unemployment among women is at the lowest level it’s been in 65 years.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: This was no longer true at the time Trump spoke. It was correct as of the previous month: the women’s unemployment rate for May, reported in June, was 3.6 per cent, the same as in 1953. But it rose to 4 per cent in June, which was merely the lowest since 2017 — or, if you’re only counting pre-Trump years, the lowest since 2000, 18 years ago.

Trump has repeated this claim 14 times

“I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot of records and we beat — and I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ and lots of other people help him. You know we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record because you know, look, I only need this space. They need much more room for basketball, for hockey, for all the sports. They need a lot of room.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: It was not clear what “Elton John records” Trump was talking about, but he has not drawn bigger crowds than Elton John’s biggest crowds — not even in Montana, the state where he was speaking. In 2007, when John made his first visit to Montana, he drew “nearly 8,000” people to a sold-out arena in Missoula and “more than 8,000” at a sold-out arena in Bozeman, according to local media reports at the time; local media said the capacity of the arena where Trump spoke, in Great Falls, was 6,600. And, of course, John has drawn bigger crowds than Trump elsewhere. As New York magazine noted, John played two sold-out shows at 56,000-seat Dodger Stadium on consecutive nights in 1975; Trump has never had a rally with 50,000 people; he was speaking at the third of three rallies held in venues smaller than 10,000.

“And yet, I see Jon Tester saying such nice things about me. I say, yes, but he never votes for me. He never votes.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: “Never” is an exaggeration. Tester, the Democratic Montana senator, votes against Trump’s expressed wishes most of the time, but he had voted with Trump 37 per cent of the time on the day Trump spoke, according to analysis by the website FiveThirtyEight. Among other things, Tester supported Trump’s push to loosen bank regulations.

“Jon Tester voted no on tax cuts for Montana families. He voted no on cutting the estate tax or the death tax for your farms, your farmers, and your small businesses. Think of that one. Think of that one. But you got it anyway because we got it passed. So, on your farms, for the most part, you will have no estate tax or death tax to pay. You can leave your farm, you can leave your small business to your children or whoever you want to leave them…” And: “We slashed taxes for working families and saved our family farms. We saved family farms.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

in fact: Contrary to Trump’s suggestion, very few farmers or small businesspeople were paying the estate tax even before Trump’s tax law was passed. According to the Tax Policy Center, a mere 80 farms and small businesses were among the 5,460 estates likely to pay the estate tax in 2017, before Trump’s tax law. The Center wrote on its website: “The Tax Policy Center estimates that small farms and businesses will pay $30 million in estate tax in 2017, fifteen hundredths of 1 percent of the total estate tax revenue.”

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“Jon Tester voted no on repealing Obamacare. And even though we got a little surprise vote that evening, you all remember that evening somebody came in with a thumbs down after campaigning for years that he was going to repeal and replace. But that’s OK because we, for the most part, have already done it.”

Source: Campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana

     in fact: Trump has not repealed and replaced Obamacare “for the most part.” Trump has weakened Obamacare in several ways, most notably by eliminating the “individual mandate” that required people to obtain health insurance, but the law is far from dead. Trump did not eliminate Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid insurance program for low-income people, the federal and state Obamacare marketplaces that allow other uninsured people to buy insurance, or the subsidies that help many of them make the purchases. Nor did he touch various Obamacare rules for the insurance market, like its prohibition on insurers.

Trump has repeated this claim 11 times

“When I took office, you can quote me on this, North Korea was doing tremendous testing, tremendous missile launches. And you can ask President Obama, he was very close to going to war and he would have lost 50 million people plus…”

Source: Exchange with reporters on Air Force One on trip to Montana

in fact: There was no indication that the U.S. was close to going to war with North Korea in the Obama era. We did ask Obama’s office about this; they declined to comment but suggested we speak to Ned Price, a former special assistant to Obama and National Security Council spokesperson, who said that the claim was false. Price said in an email that Obama’s strategy of “containment and deterrence” was “predicated in part on the understanding that a military conflict on the Peninsula would be nothing short of catastrophic — both in terms of lives and the global economic toll.”

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

Trump’s foreign policy is dominated by his childish desire to ‘win’

With his 2020 presidential campaign about to begin, his devastation of America is only expected to get more virulent

November 22, 2018

The Guardian

Days after his party was dealt a blow in the midterm elections in the US, Donald Trump flew to France for the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war and took out his anger on one of his favorite targets – America’s allies. Trump got into a war of words with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and when world leaders paid their respects at the cemeteries of the fallen soldiers, Trump preferred to sulk in his hotel room rather than honor the fallen.

With the 2020 presidential campaign about to begin, Trump’s childish and dangerous foreign policy is only going to get worse.

Trump’s foreign policy is dominated by his desire to “win”, defined narrowly as drawing plaudits for Trump personally, and often connected to campaign promises. Pull out of the Iran deal; check. Withdraw from the Paris climate agreement; check. Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal; check. Forget the fact that these moves have been harmful to US national security; Trump thinks they are victories in his mano-a-mano foreign policy in which he squares up against foreign countries in pursuit of the “better deal” and rips up any deal – no matter how advantageous to the United States – that he did not strike.

With Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, Trump can no longer easily advance domestic legislative priorities. Like his predecessors who faced opposition control in Congress, in the next two years Trump is likely to focus more on foreign policy. While foreign policy is dominated by unpredictable external events, and issues like North Korea and Iran will remain prominent, expect Trump to try to advance what he thinks are foreign policy “wins” in the context of his re-election campaign.

Breaking alliances. Trump has long railed against America’s allies, viewing alliances as protection rackets in which the United States protects countries in return for payments – which, of course, is not true. Returning from France this month, Trump again attacked US allies: “It is time that these very rich countries either pay the United States for its great military protection, or protect themselves”. The growing tensions with Europe are spiraling: both the French president and German foreign minister have called for Europe to develop strategies to deal with the threat posed by the United States, a development inconceivable just a couple of years ago. The transatlantic alliance could face a breaking point, and don’t be surprised if the president with a notoriously thin skin attempts to withdraw the United States from Nato. And as Trump continues to convince himself that diplomacy with North Korea is going well, Trump could agree to end America’s alliance with South Korea and remove US troops from the Korean peninsula – two top asks of Kim Jong-un that also happen to be Trump priorities – as part of some perceived grand deal with Kim Jong-un.

Chinese “meddling” in US politics. Trump’s go-to strategy to deflect negative attention is gaslighting. So, as Robert Mueller’s investigation picks up the pace and accusations of Trump campaign collusion with Russia in the 2016 election grow louder, Trump will wield accusations of supposed Chinese interference in US politics as a cudgel on the campaign trail. As part of a more assertive China policy, Trump has taken to accusing China of supposedly interfering in US elections and politics to help Trump’s opponents by targeting tariffs against Trump political allies and deploying propaganda. As a response to the accusation that Trump got help from Russia in 2016, look for Trump to accuse Democrats of doing the same thing with China (which, of course, is beyond preposterous).

Trade wars. On trade, Trump has two modes: trade war and self-proclaimed (but fake) victory. On those trade disputes that Trump has renegotiated – the revised US-South Korea trade deal and the new US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) – Trump will claim victory in the run-up to 2020, even though the deals do little to nothing for America. But where Trump sees no deal, he is more likely to double down with tariffs, again regardless of the fact that they are doing little beyond benefiting certain favored corporate allies. Unless he can spin new deals in the coming months, as the campaign season gets going watch out for an even hotter US-China trade war, and perhaps a renewal of the transatlantic trade war. As the transatlantic relationship frays further, Trump may lean more on trade criticisms of Europe, as he did with a tweet taking aim at the lack of tariffs on French wine amid his recent dispute with Macron.

A white nationalist immigration policy. Sending the US military to the border with Mexico as a political stunt in the days before the midterm election to stop a non-existent threat reinforced just how far Trump will go to gain an electoral advantage – and just how central racism and xenophobia are to how he appeals to his political base. As 2020 approaches, Trump is likely to push even harder on his racist and un-American immigration policies. Watch out for the unveiling of more restrictive policies on refugees and legal immigrants, and potentially more outrageous, and dangerous, stunts like sending the military to the border.

Trump’s foreign policy has been devastating for US national security and the world. Trump has demolished America’s influence abroad, turned America’s closest friends away from us, and emboldened America’s adversaries. But in Trump’s eyes, this is victory. Expect the next two years to be filled with an even more virulent form of “America First”.


Trump grants troops guarding border authority to use ‘lethal force’ – report

White House ‘decision memorandum’ claims evidence indicates migrants ‘may prompt incidents of violence’

November 21, 2018

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

Donald Trump has authorized US troops guarding the border against migrant caravans to use deadly force if necessary, it was reported on Wednesday.

A White House “decision memorandum”, signed by the president and published by Newsweek, warns that “credible evidence and intelligence” indicates thousands of approaching Central American migrants “may prompt incidents of violence and disorder” that could threaten border patrol agents and other government personnel.

It expands the authority of US troops to include “a show or use of force (including lethal force, where necessary), crowd control, temporary detention and cursory search” to protect the border agents.

The memo comes amid ongoing controversy over the costly deployment of around 5,900 active-duty troops to the south-west border, announced by Trump eight days before the midterm elections during a period in which the president was seeking to inject fears over immigration into the campaign.

The Military Times first reported on Wednesday that John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, had signed an order that broadened the troops’ authority to include lethal force. Newsweek confirmed this and published it along with the memo from Trump himself.

Speaking to reporters, the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, acknowledged that the troops can use lethal force but said he would only exercise such authority after receiving a specific request from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“There has been no call for any lethal force from DHS,” Mattis insisted, according to the Task & Purpose website. “There is no armed element going in. I will determine it, based on what DHS asks for and a mission analysis.”

Asked how the military would avoid a repeat of a 1997 incident in which marines on the border mistakenly shot a teenager, the secretary replied: “I’m not going to dignify that. They’re not even carrying guns, for Christ’s sake.”

Earlier this week the New York Times reported that, according to an internal Homeland Security Department document, the probability that US border guards will face violence at the southwestern border is “minimal”.

Mattis also confirmed that the White House order gives the troops authority to temporarily detain immigrants in the event of disorder or violence against border agents. Such detention would be measured in “minutes, not even hours”, he said, and does not mean troops would be carrying out arrests or performing law enforcement, which would violate a law dating back to 1878.

The military deployment to the southwest border will cost an estimated $210m, according to a Pentagon report to Congress obtained by the Associated Press. This includes $72m for the 5,900 active-duty troops plus $13m so far for 2,100 national guard troops who have been performing a separate border mission since April.

Democrats including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Beto O’Rourke have written to Mattis requesting information about Trump’s decision to deploy the troops. They highlighted a New York Times report that indicated that Pentagon officials view the deployment as “an expensive waste of time and resources, and a morale killer to boot”.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

November 22, 2018

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 publications.


Conversation No. 14

Date:  Friday, May 10, 1996

Commenced:  10:03 AM CST

Concluded:    10:21 AM CST

GD: Good morning, Mrs. Crowley. Is Robert available?

EC: Oh good morning, Gregory. Yes, he’s right here.

GD: Thank you.

RTC: Hello, Gregory. I’ve dug out quite a bit of material on the Kennedy business for you and once I get it collated, I’ll send it on.

GD: Any surprises there?

RTC: Wait until you’ve read it and I would prefer not to discuss this on the telephone. There are aspects of this that should be kept very private and, let me add, I would request that you not address this in print until after I am gone.

GD: Understood but that could be ten years from now.

RTC: Oh, I doubt that. I’m getting older by the day. I might hold out for a few more years but not much longer. Emily has been at me to have more X-rays because the last ones showed some spots on my lungs but I think that if it was cancer, I would be dead by now. After all, we took those some years ago.

GD: You smoke?

RTC: A small sinful pleasure but not as much. That and coffee kept me going and these get to be ingrained habits. At any rate, eventually I ought to have more tests but I really don’t worry too much about this.

GD: Just one brief question about Kennedy if it’s all right.

RTC: Ask me and I’ll make a judgment call.

GD: Was it Oswald?

RTC: No, he was a patsy. Had nothing to do with it and that answers that question. Now, on to other things if you don’t mind.

GD: Thank you and go ahead.

RTC: I was thinking about the Pollard business we talked about a few days ago. Looking over some of my files, I am certain you were accurate about tipping them off. There was an unspecified confidential source and I suppose if I had someone dig into it further, it would cinch it all up. We thought it was someone from the Israeli side with a guilty conscience.

GD: No, just a peeved WASP.

RTC: Of course, what was the worst aspect of this Pollard business is that the little traitor passed an enormous amount of very, very sensitive information to Israel, among which were reams of top level coded material. We found out later that all of this was sent to Russia, to the KGB and the GRU within hours of it getting to Tel Aviv.

GD: Did they work with the Russians?

RTC: No, some of the refuseniks that went to Israel were Soviet plants and they took with them enough information to convince the Israelis that they would be good agents. That’s the terrible thing about the Pollard matter, Gregory. It cost us millions upon millions to rework our codes but that only covered on-going matters. My God, the Soviets were reading all our top level messages. The damage that little shit caused is not to believe. Weinberger wanted to shoot him out of hand but that never happened. Pollard will never get out of prison alive. Did you know that the Israelis made him an honorary member of their Knesset and deposited large sums of money into a bank account they opened for him there?

GD: That’s a bit gross, isn’t it?

RTC: Figure it. And they have been bombarding Clinton to pardon him but that will never happen, even if his wife is Jewish. I don’t much care for Clinton but he is certainly a smart man. He moves with the tides, Gregory, and if he dared to pardon Pollard, there would be serious problems for him. It’s been said that if this looked like it might go through, the BoP people would have one of their convicts stick a knife into him while he was taking the air in the prison yard. I think he should be found hanging in his cell some morning and then we can pickle him, put him in a box and ship him off to Israel, collect.

GD: Frau Clinton is Jewish?

RTC: Family came from Lodz in Poland, went to Manchester in England, changed their names and some of them came over here. Her branch ended up in the cloth business in Chicago. They don’t talk about this but it’s something to consider. One thing I can say about the Clintons. They both are really too fond of women.

GD: When I lived in California, I had a friend in the state police in Sacramento and he was telling me that Hillary left law school at Yale and interned with Bob Treuhaft in Oakland. He’s a communist labor lawyer. His wife is Decca Mitford who wrote the book on funeral home ripoffs. Decca’s sister was Unity Mitford, who was one of Hitler’s lady friends. Anyway, he said that Hillary worked with the Black Panthers in Oakland and got involved with their descent on the legislators in Sacramento. They all had guns and everyone freaked out. Apparently, the police went around rounding them all up and they found Frau Clinton naked in bed with a black woman. It’s all in a report he copied. And he said that about a week after Clinton became President, the FBI swooped down and grabbed the original files on all of this.

RTC: Too bad there’s no copy.

GD: Oh, there is. I sent a copy of it around to the media but all I got was complete silence. But note that Herb Caen, a columnist for the Chronicle, wrote about this and I don’t think the FBI can do much about that. Of course, people forget very quickly, Robert. Cold beer in the fridge and a sports game on the tube and they’re contented. Consider the bulk of the public as if it were a hibernating bear in Alaska. Now if the far right and the far left stand in front of his den, screeching at each other and throwing dung and snowballs at each other, the bear is oblivious. But supposing they decide to move into the den and continue their petty squabbles. And if by accident, one of them managed to kick brother bear squarely in the balls, then we see something else. The bear awakes with a roar, promptly kills both of the invaders of his bedroom and goes back to sleep again. That, Robert, is what happens when the public is aroused and that is why politicians are careful to keep out of the bear’s den.

RTC: An interesting analogy.

GD: Revolutions don’t start overnight. The French Revolution had its roots in the determination of a burgeoning middle class to obtain equal rights along with the monarchy, the clergy and the nobility. Things got out of control and the mob woke up and wreaked bloody havoc on France for some time. Read Carlisle on this subject. Or read Eric Hoffer. I recommend The True Believer for a very penetrating analysis of mass movements and their fanatic adherents. We don’t have this problem here, at least now, but things change and if we don’t change with them, then there are problems.

RTC: I think the older we get, the less we welcome change.

GD: Routine can be comforting at that. But suppose some stuffy bureaucrat got up one morning, shoved the family cat into the microwave, turned it on, drove his van across the neighbor’s lawn and crushed the stone dwarves and then ran all the red lights on the way to the office? And when he got to his work pen, he set the contents of his desk on fire and ran around the office buck naked?

RTC: I have a feeling he would be locked up somewhere for some time. You have a very active imagination, Gregory, or did you do this?

GD: No but when I see the automatons on the road or marching in lockstep on the sidewalks of the financial district, such thoughts are not unnatural to me. I love to do the unexpected. I recall once when a friend’s father, who ran a local Penney store, gave me a half a dozen obsolete window dummies. My God, sir, did I have my fun. We took a little girl, cute thing with pigtails, cut a hole in her back and filled her insides with lots of raspberry Jello. Then we put a pinafore and a pair of nice shoes and socks on her, took her down to the SP tracks and set her up just this side of the railroad bridge. My Russian friend and I sat in the bushes and when the Del Monte Special, filled with the idle rich, came down the line doing 80, the headlights picked up the little darling on the tracks, illuminating her winsome form for the people stopped by the track gates. Horns blowing, howling drivers, panic and then when the train hit her squarely, a great fan of red Jello and papier-mâché body parts descended on the stopped cars. Now that was something to remember, Robert. Engineer slammed on the breaks, dropped sand, skidded with many sparks and blaring air horn into the local station and I will always remember the idle rich flying all over the interior of the illuminated club car. We got away with it but only barely. Booted police stamping all around our bushes, looking for the fiends. We didn’t do that one again but believe me, it was worth it.

RTC: (Laughter)

GD: I see you do have a sense of humor, Robert. There were other dummies to be put to good use. Sometime later I can give you more cheerful anecdotes to make your day.

RTC: I hope all of that is behind you, Gregory.

GD: Oh yes, long ago but not forgotten. By the way, speaking of things behind, can you give me one word that describes what happened when a very fat woman backed into a rotating airplane propeller?

RTC: Not offhand.

GD: Disaster.

RTC: Are you smoking something illegal?

GD: No, too much coffee and too many fond memories. Let me go back to the book and leave you thinking about the chaos inside the Embassy when you turn on your noise box.

RTC: That’s probably enough for now.

GD: ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,’ Robert, and I will talk to you later.

(Concluded at 10:21 AM CST)


The Human Brain Is a Time Traveler

Looking to the future has always defined humanity. Will A.I. become the best crystal ball of all?

by Steven Johnson

New York Times Magazine

Randy Buckner was a graduate student at Washington University in st. Louis in 1991 when he stumbled across one of the most important discoveries of modern brain science. For Buckner — as for many of his peers during the early ’90s — the discovery was so counterintuitive that it took years to recognize its significance.

Buckner’s lab, run by the neuroscientists Marcus Raichle and Steven Petersen, was exploring what the new technology of PET scanning could show about the connection between language and memory in the human brain. The promise of the PET machine lay in how it measured blood flow to different parts of the brain, allowing researchers for the first time to see detailed neural activity, not just anatomy. In Buckner’s study, the subjects were asked to recall words from a memorized list; by tracking where the brain was consuming the most energy during the task, Buckner and his colleagues hoped to understand which parts of the brain were engaged in that kind of memory.

But there was a catch. Different regions of the brain vary widely in how much energy they consume no matter what the brain is doing; if you ask someone to do mental math while scanning her brain in a PET machine, you won’t learn anything from that scan on its own, because the subtle changes that reflect the mental math task will be drowned out by the broader patterns of blood flow throughout the brain. To see the specific regions activated by a specific task, researchers needed a baseline comparison, a control.

At first, this seemed simple enough: Put the subjects in the PET scanner, ask them to sit there and do nothing — what the researchers sometimes called a resting state — and then ask them to perform the task under study. The assumption was that by comparing the two images, the resting brain and the active brain, the researchers could discern which regions were consuming more energy while performing the task.

But something went strangely wrong when Buckner scanned the resting states of their subjects. “What happened is that we began putting people in scanners that can measure their brain activity,” Buckner recalls now, “and Mother Nature shouted back at us.” When people were told to sit and do nothing, the PET scans showed a distinct surge of mental energy in some regions. The resting state turned out to be more active than the active state.

The odd blast of activity during the resting state would be observed in dozens of other studies using a similar control structure during this period. To this first generation of scientists using PET scans, the active rest state was viewed, in Buckner’s words, as “a confound, as troublesome.” A confound is an errant variable that prevents a scientist from doing a proper control study. It’s noise, mere interference getting in the way of the signal that science is looking for. Buckner and his colleagues noted the strange activity in a paper submitted in 1993, but almost as an afterthought, or an apology.

But that passing nod to the strangely active “resting state” turned out to be one of the first hints of what would become a revolution in our understanding of human intelligence. Not long after Buckner’s paper was published, a brain scientist at the University of Iowa named Nancy Andreasen decided to invert the task/control structure that had dominated the early neuroimaging studies. Instead of battling the “troublesome” resting state, Andreasen and her team would make it the focus of their study.

Andreasen’s background outside neuroscience might have helped her perceive the value lurking in the rest state, where her peers saw only trouble. As a professor of Renaissance literature, she published a scholarly appraisal of John Donne’s “conservative revolutionary” poetics. After switching fields in her 30s, she eventually began exploring the mystery of creativity through the lens of brain imaging. “Although neither a Freudian nor a psychoanalyst, I knew enough about human mental activity to quickly perceive what a foolish ‘control task’ rest was,” she would later write. “Most investigators made the convenient assumption that the brain would be blank or neutral during ‘rest.’ From introspection I knew that my own brain is often at its most active when I stretch out on a bed or sofa and close my eyes.”

Andreasen’s study, the results of which were eventually published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 1995, included a subtle dig at the way the existing community had demoted this state to a baseline control: She called this mode the REST state, for Random Episodic Silent Thought. The surge of activity that the PET scans revealed was not a confound, Andreasen argued. It was a clue. In our resting states, we do not rest. Left to its own devices, the human brain resorts to one of its most emblematic tricks, maybe one that helped make us human in the first place.

It time-travels.

Imagine it’s late evening on a workday and you’re taking your dog for a walk before bedtime. A few dozen paces from your front door, as you settle into your usual route through the neighborhood, your mind wanders to an important meeting scheduled for next week. You picture it going well — there’s a subtle rush of anticipatory pleasure as you imagine the scene — and you allow yourself to hope that this might set the stage for you to ask your boss for a raise. Not right away, mind you, but maybe in a few months. You imagine her saying yes, and what that salary bump would mean: Next year, you and your spouse might finally be able to get out of the rental market and buy a house in a nicer neighborhood nearby, the one with the better school district. But then your mind shifts to a problem you’ve been wrestling with lately: A member of your team is brilliant but temperamental. His emotional swings can be explosive; just today, perceiving a slight from a colleague, he started berating her in the middle of a meeting. He seems to have no sense of decorum, no ability to rein in his emotions.

As you walk, you remember the physical sense of unease in the room as your colleague ranted over the most meaningless offense. You imagine a meeting six months from now with a comparable eruption — only this time it’s happening in front of your boss. A small wave of stress washes over you. Perhaps he’s just not the right fit for the job, you think — which reminds you of the one time you fired an employee, five years ago. Your mind conjures the awkward intensity of that conversation, and then imagines how much more explosive a comparable conversation would be with your current employee. You feel a sensation close to physical fear as your mind runs through the scenario.

In just a few minutes of mental wandering, you have made several distinct round trips from past to future: forward a week to the important meeting, forward a year or more to the house in the new neighborhood, backward five hours to today’s meeting, forward six months, backward five years, forward a few weeks. You’ve built chains of cause and effect connecting those different moments; you’ve moved seamlessly from actual events to imagined ones. And as you’ve navigated through time, your brain and body’s emotional system has generated distinct responses to each situation, real and imagined. The whole sequence is a master class in temporal gymnastics. In these moments of unstructured thinking, our minds dart back and forth between past and future, like a film editor scrubbing through the frames of a movie.

The sequence of thoughts does not feel, subjectively, like hard work. It does not seem to require mental effort; the scenarios just flow out of your mind. Because these imagined futures come so easily to us, we have long underestimated the significance of the skill. The PET scanner allowed us to appreciate, for the first time, just how complex this kind of cognitive time travel actually is.

In her 1995 paper, Nancy Andreasen included two key observations that would grow in significance over the subsequent decades. When she interviewed the subjects afterward, they described their mental activity during the REST state as a kind of effortless shifting back and forth in time. “They think freely about a variety of things,” Andreasen wrote, “especially events of the past few days or future activities of the current or next several days.” Perhaps most intriguing, Andreasen noted that most of the REST activity took place in what are called the association cortices of the brain, the regions of the brain that are most pronounced in Homo sapiens compared with other primates and that are often the last to become fully operational as the human brain develops through adolescence and early adulthood. “Apparently, when the brain/mind thinks in a free and unencumbered fashion,” she wrote, “it uses its most human and complex parts.”

In the years that followed Andreasen’s pioneering work, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a series of studies and papers mapped out the network of brain activity that she first identified. In 2001, Randy Buckner’s adviser at Washington University, Marcus Raichle, coined a new term for the phenomenon: the “default-mode network,” or just “the default network.” The phrase stuck. Today, Google Scholar lists thousands of academic studies that have investigated the default network. “It looks to me like this is the most important discovery of cognitive neuroscience,” says the University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman. The seemingly trivial activity of mind-wandering is now believed to play a central role in the brain’s “deep learning,” the mind’s sifting through past experiences, imagining future prospects and assessing them with emotional judgments: that flash of shame or pride or anxiety that each scenario elicits.

A growing number of scholars, drawn from a wide swath of disciplines — neuroscience, philosophy, computer science — now argue that this aptitude for cognitive time travel, revealed by the discovery of the default network, may be the defining property of human intelligence. “What best distinguishes our species,” Seligman wrote in a Times Op-Ed with John Tierney, “is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future.” He went on: “A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise.”

It is unclear whether nonhuman animals have any real concept of the future at all. Some organisms display behavior that has long-term consequences, like a squirrel’s burying a nut for winter, but those behaviors are all instinctive. The latest studies of animal cognition suggest that some primates and birds may carry out deliberate preparations for events that will occur in the near future. But making decisions based on future prospects on the scale of months or years — even something as simple as planning a gathering of the tribe a week from now — would be unimaginable even to our closest primate relatives. If the Homo prospectus theory is correct, those limited time-traveling skills explain an important piece of the technological gap that separates humans from all other species on the planet. It’s a lot easier to invent a new tool if you can imagine a future where that tool might be useful. What gave flight to the human mind and all its inventiveness may not have been the usual culprits of our opposable thumbs or our gift for language. It may, instead, have been freeing our minds from the tyranny of the present.

The capacity for prospection has been reflected in, and amplified by, many of the social and scientific revolutions that shaped human history. Agriculture itself would have been unimaginable without a working model of the future: predicting seasonal changes, visualizing the long-term improvements possible from domesticating crops. Banking and credit systems require minds capable of sacrificing present-tense value for the possibility of greater gains in the future. For vaccines to work, we needed patients willing to introduce a potential pathogen into their bodies for a lifetime of protection against disease. We are born with a singular gift for imagining the future, but we have been enhancing those gifts since the dawn of civilization. Today, new enhancements are on the horizon, in the form of machine-learning algorithms that already outperform humans at certain kinds of forecasts. As A.I. stands poised to augment our most essential human talent, we are faced with a curious question: How will the future be different if we get much better at predicting it?

“Time travel feels like an ancient tradition, rooted in old mythologies, old as gods and dragons,” James Gleick observes in his 2017 book, “Time Travel: A History.” “It isn’t. Though the ancients imagined immortality and rebirth and lands of the dead, time machines were beyond their ken. Time travel is a fantasy of the modern era.” The idea of using technology to move through time as effortlessly as we move through space appears to have been first conceived by H.G. Wells at the end of the 19th century, eventually showcased in his pioneering work of science fiction, “The Time Machine.”

But machines have been soothsayers from the beginning. In 1900, sponge divers stranded after a storm in the Mediterranean discovered an underwater statuary on the shoals of the Greek island Antikythera. It turned out to be the wreck of a ship more than 2,000 years old. During the subsequent salvage operation, divers recovered the remnants of a puzzling clocklike contraption with precision-cut gears, annotated with cryptic symbols that were corroded beyond recognition. For years, the device lay unnoticed in a museum drawer, until a British historian named Derek de Solla Price rediscovered it in the early 1950s and began the laborious process of reconstructing it — an effort that scholars have continued into the 21st century. We now know that the device was capable of predicting the behavior of the sun, the moon and five of the planets. The device was so advanced that it could even predict, with meaningful accuracy, solar or lunar eclipses that wouldn’t occur for decades.

The Antikythera mechanism, as it has come to be known, is sometimes referred to as an ancient computer. The analogy is misleading: The underlying technology behind the device was much closer to a clock than a programmable computer. But at its essence, it was a prediction machine. A clock is there to tell you about the present. The mechanism was there to tell you about the future. That its creators went to such great lengths to predict eclipses seems telling: While some ancient societies did believe that eclipses harmed crops, knowing about them in advance wouldn’t have been of much use. What seems far more useful is the sense of magic and wonder that such a prediction could provide, and the power that could be acquired as a result. Imagine standing in front of the masses and announcing that tomorrow the sun will transform for more than a minute into a fire-tinged black orb. Then imagine the awe when the prophecy comes true.

Prediction machines have only multiplied since the days of the ancient Greeks. Where those original clockwork devices dealt with deterministic futures, like the motions of solar bodies, increasingly our time-traveling tools forecast probabilities and likelihoods, allowing us to imagine possible futures for more complex systems. In the late 1600s, thanks to improvements in public-health records and mathematical advances in statistics, the British astronomer Edmund Halley and the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens separately made the first rigorous estimates of average life expectancy. Around the same time, there was an explosion of insurance companies, their business made possible by this newfound ability to predict future risk. Initially, they focused on the commercial risk of new shipping ventures, but eventually insurance would come to offer protection against just about every future threat imaginable: fire, floods, disease. In the 20th century, randomized, controlled trials allowed us to predict the future effects of medical interventions, finally separating out the genuine cures from the snake oil. In the digital age, spreadsheet software took accounting tools that were originally designed to record the past activity of a business and transformed them into tools for projecting out forecasts, letting us click through alternate financial scenarios in much the way our minds wander through various possible futures.

But cognitive time travel has been enhanced by more than just science and technology. The invention of storytelling itself can be seen as a kind of augmentation of the default network’s gift for time travel. Stories do not just allow us to conjure imaginary worlds; they also free us from being mired in linear time. Analepsis and prolepsis — flashbacks and flash-forwards — constitute some of the oldest literary devices in the canon, deployed in ancient narratives like the “Odyssey” and the “Arabian Nights.” Time machines have obviously proliferated in the content of sci-fi narratives since “The Time Machine” was published, but time travel has also infiltrated the form of modern storytelling. A defining trick of recent popular narrative is the contorted timeline, with movies and TV shows embracing temporal schemes that would have baffled mainstream audiences just a few decades ago. The epic, often inscrutable plot of the TV show “Lost” veered among past, present and future with a reckless glee. The blockbuster 2016 movie “Arrival” featured a bewildering time scheme that skipped forward more than 50 times to future events, while intimating throughout that they were actually occurring in the past. The current hit series “This Is Us” reinvented the family-soap-opera genre by structuring each episode as a series of time-jumps, sometimes spanning more than 50 years. The final five minutes of the Season 3 opener, which aired earlier this fall, jump back and forth seven times among 1974, 2018 and some unspecified future that looks to be about 2028.

These narrative developments suggest an intriguing possibility: that popular entertainment is training our minds to get better at cognitive time travel. If you borrowed Wells’s time machine and jumped back to 1955, then asked typical viewers of “Gunsmoke” and “I Love Lucy” to watch “Arrival” or “Lost,” they would have found the temporal high jinks deeply disorienting. Back then, even a single flashback required extra hand-holding — remember the rippling screen? — to signify the temporal leap. Only experimental narratives dared challenge the audience with more complex time schemes. Today’s popular narratives zip around their fictional timelines with the speed of the default network itself.

The elaborate timelines of popular narrative may be training our minds to contemplate more complex temporal schemes, but could new technology augment our skills more directly? We have long heard promises of “smart drugs” on the horizon that will enhance our memory, but if the Homo prospectus argument is correct, we should probably be looking for breakthroughs that will enhance our predictive powers as well.

In a way, those advances are already around us, but in the form of software, not pharmaceuticals. If you have ever found yourself mentally running through alternate possibilities for a coming outing — what happens if it rains? — based on a 10-day weather forecast, your prospective powers have been enhanced by the time-traveling skills of climate supercomputers that churn through billions of alternative atmospheric scenarios, drawn from the past and projecting out into the future. These visualizations are giving you, for the first time in human history, better-than-random predictions about what the weather will be like in a week’s time. Or say that dream neighborhood you’re thinking about moving to — the one you can finally afford if you manage to get that raise — happens to sit in a flood zone, and you think about what it might be like to live through a significant flood event 10 years from now, as the climate becomes increasingly unpredictable. That you’re even contemplating that possibility is almost entirely thanks to the long-term simulations of climate supercomputers, metabolizing the planet’s deep past into its distant future.

Accurate weather forecasting is merely one early triumph of software-based time travel: algorithms that allow us to peer into the future in ways that were impossible just a few decades ago, what a new book by a trio of University of Toronto economists calls “prediction machines.” In machine-learning systems, algorithms can be trained to generate remarkably accurate predictions of future events by combing through vast repositories of data from past events. An algorithm might be trained to predict future mortgage defaults by analyzing thousands of home purchases and the financial profiles of the buyers, testing its hypotheses by tracking which of those buyers ultimately defaulted. A result of that training would not be an infallible prediction, of course, but something similar to the predictions we rely on with weather forecasts: a range of probabilities. That time-traveling exercise, in which you imagine buying a house in the neighborhood with the great schools, could be augmented by a software prediction as well: The algorithm might warn you that there was a 20 percent chance that your home purchase would end catastrophically, because of a market crash or a hurricane. Or another algorithm, trained on a different data set, might suggest other neighborhoods where home values are also likely to increase.

These algorithms can help correct a critical flaw in the default network: Human beings are famously bad at thinking probabilistically. The pioneering cognitive psychologist Amos Tversky once joked that where probability is concerned, humans have three default settings: “gonna happen,” “not gonna happen” and “maybe.” We are brilliant at floating imagined scenarios and evaluating how they might make us feel, were they to happen. But distinguishing between a 20 percent chance of something happening and a 40 percent chance doesn’t come naturally to us. Algorithms can help us compensate for that cognitive blind spot.

Machine-learning systems will also be immensely helpful when mulling decisions that potentially involve a large number of distinct options. Humans are remarkably adept at building imagined futures for a few competing timelines simultaneously: the one in which you take the new job, the one in which you turn it down. But our minds run up against a computational ceiling when they need to track dozens or hundreds of future trajectories. The prediction machines of A.I. do not have that limitation, which will make them tantalizingly adept at assisting with some meaningful subset of important life decisions in which there is rich training data and a high number of alternate futures to analyze.

Choosing where to go to college — a decision almost no human being had to make 200 years ago that more than a third of the planet now does — happens to be a decision that resides squarely in the machine-learning sweet spot. There are more than 5,000 colleges and universities in the United States. A great majority of them are obviously inappropriate for any individual candidate. But no matter where you are on the ladder of academic achievement — and economic privilege — there are undoubtedly more than a few dozen candidate colleges that might well lead to interesting outcomes for you. You can visit a handful of them, and listen to the wisdom of your advisers, and consult the college experts online or in their handbooks. But the algorithm would be scanning a much larger set of options: looking at data from millions of applications, college transcripts, dropout rates, all the information that can be gleaned from the social-media presence of college students (which is, today, just about everything). It would also scan a parallel data set that the typical college adviser rarely emphasizes: successful career paths that bypassed college. From that training set it could generate dozens of separate predictions for promising colleges, optimized to whatever rough goals the applicant defined: self-reported long-term happiness, financial security, social-justice impact, fame, health. To be clear, that data will be abused, sold off to advertisers or stolen by cyberthieves; it will generate a thousand appropriately angry op-eds. But it will also most likely work on some basic level, to the best that we’ll be able to measure. Some people will swear by it; others will renounce it. Either way, it’s coming.

In late 2017, the Crime Lab at the University of Chicago announced a new collaboration with the Chicago Police Department to build a machine-learning-based “officer support system,” designed specifically to predict which officers are likely to have an “adverse incident” on the job. The algorithm sifts through the prodigious repository of data generated by every cop on the beat in Chicago: arrest reports, gun confiscations, public complaints, supervisor reprimands and more. The algorithm uses archived data — coupled with actual cases of adverse incidents, like the shooting of an unarmed citizen or other excessive uses of force — as a training set, enabling it to detect patterns of information that can predict future problems.

This sort of predictive technology immediately conjures images of a “Minority Report”-style dystopia, in which the machines convict you of a precrime that by definition hasn’t happened yet. But the project lead, Jens Ludwig, points out that with a predictive system like the one currently in the works in Chicago, the immediate consequence would simply be an officer’s getting some additional support or counseling, to help avert a larger crisis. “People get understandably nervous about A.I. making the final decision,” Ludwig says. “But we don’t envision that A.I. would be making the decision.” Instead, he imagines it as a “decision-making aid” — an algorithm that “can help sergeants prioritize their attention.”

No matter how careful the Chicago P.D. is in deploying this particular technology, we shouldn’t sugarcoat the broader implications here: It seems inevitable that people will be fired thanks to the predictive insights of machine-learning algorithms, and something about that prospect is intuitively disturbing to many of us. Yet we’re already making consequential decisions about people — whom to hire, whom to fire, whom to listen to, whom to ignore — based on human biases that we know to be at best unreliable, at worst prejudiced. If it seems creepy to imagine that we would make them based on data-analyzing algorithms, the decision-making status quo, relying on our meanest instincts, may well be far creepier.

Whether you find the idea of augmenting the default network thrilling or terrifying, one thing should be clear: These tools are headed our way. In the coming decade, many of us will draw on the forecasts of machine learning to help us muddle through all kinds of life decisions: career changes, financial planning, hiring choices. These enhancements could well turn out to be the next leap forward in the evolution of Homo prospectus, allowing us to see into the future with more acuity — and with a more nuanced sense of probability — than we can do on our own. But even in that optimistic situation, the power embedded in these new algorithms will be extraordinary, which is why Ludwig and many other members of the A.I. community have begun arguing for the creation of open-source algorithms, not unlike the open protocols of the original internet and World Wide Web. Drawing on predictive algorithms to shape important personal or civic decisions will be challenging enough without the process’s potentially being compromised or subtly redirected by the dictates of advertisers. If you thought Russian troll farms were dangerous in our social-media feeds, imagine what will happen when they infiltrate our daydreams.

Today, it seems, mind-wandering is under attack from all sides. It’s a common complaint that our compulsive use of smartphones is destroying our ability to focus. But seen through the lens of Homo prospectus, ubiquitous computing poses a different kind of threat: Having a network-connected supercomputer in your pocket at all times gives you too much to focus on. It cuts into your mind-wandering time. The downtime between cognitively active tasks that once led to REST states can now be filled with Instagram, or Nasdaq updates, or podcasts. We have Twitter timelines instead of time travel. At the same time, a society-wide vogue for “mindfulness” encourages us to be in the moment, to think of nothing at all instead of letting our thoughts wander. Search YouTube, and there are hundreds of meditation videos teaching you how to stop your mind from doing what it does naturally. The Homo prospectus theory suggests that, if anything, we need to carve out time in our schedule — and perhaps even in our schools — to let minds drift.

According to Marcus Raichle at Washington University, it may not be too late to repair whatever damage we may have done to our prospective powers. A few early studies suggest that the neurons implicated in the default network have genetic profiles that are often associated with long-term brain plasticity, that most treasured of neural attributes. “The brain’s default-mode network appears to preserve the capacity for plasticity into adulthood,” he told me. Plasticity, of course, is just another way of saying that the network can learn new tricks. If these new studies pan out, our mind-wandering skills will not have been locked into place in our childhood. We can get better at daydreaming, if we give ourselves the time to do it.

What will happen to our own time-traveling powers as we come to rely more on the prediction machines of A.I.? The outcome may be terrifying, or liberating, or some strange hybrid of the two. Right now it seems inevitable that A.I. will transform our prospective powers in meaningful new ways, for better or for worse. But it would be nice to think that all the technology that helped us understand the default network in the first place also ended up pushing us back to our roots: giving our minds more time to wander, to slip the surly bonds of now, to be out of the moment.

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