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TBR News November 8, 2019

Nov 08 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. November 8, 2019:

“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

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

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

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

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

It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.

Commentary for November 8: “I was walking back to my work area after lunch today when I encountered a woman of interest wandering in the hall. She had long hair, no makeup, wore a huge crucifix around her neck and carried a purse that looked capable of carrying car bombs. She stopped me and asked me:’Have you found Jesus?’ I looked concerned and replied, ‘I didn’t know he was lost. Is there a reward?’ She glared at me.

‘Are you a Satanist? I’ll tell President Trump about you!’ she screamed.

I am surprised she didn’t wet herself.

There are plenty of these loonies around here these days but there are more retread fascists slinking up and down the halls. I keep looking for the swastika armbands but so far have not had any luck.”


The Table of Contents

  • How big tech is dragging us towards the next financial crash
  • Secret chats involving Republican lawmaker reveal fresh evidence of plots and paranoia
  • Trump is accelerating right wing plots
  • How to Find Spy Devices in Your Home, Car, Cell Phone, or Computer
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons


How big tech is dragging us towards the next financial crash

Like the big banks, big tech uses its lobbying muscle to avoid regulation, and thinks it should play by different rules. And like the banks, it could be about to wreak financial havoc on us all

November 8, 2019

by Rana Foroohar

The Guardian

In every major economic downturn in US history, the ‘villains’ have been the ‘heroes’ during the preceding boom,” said the late, great management guru Peter Drucker. I cannot help but wonder if that might be the case over the next few years, as the United States (and possibly the world) heads toward its next big slowdown. Downturns historically come about once every decade, and it has been more than that since the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, banks were the “too-big-to-fail” institutions responsible for our falling stock portfolios, home prices and salaries. Technology companies, by contrast, have led the market upswing over the past decade. But this time around, it is the big tech firms that could play the spoiler role.

You wouldn’t think it could be so when you look at the biggest and richest tech firms today. Take Apple. Warren Buffett says he wished he owned even more Apple stock. (His Berkshire Hathaway has a 5% stake in the company.) Goldman Sachs is launching a new credit card with the tech titan, which became the world’s first $1tn market-cap company in 2018. But hidden within these bullish headlines are a number of disturbing economic trends, of which Apple is already an exemplar. Study this one company and you begin to understand how big tech companies – the new too-big-to-fail institutions – could indeed sow the seeds of the next crisis.

No matter what the Silicon Valley giants might argue, ultimately, size is a problem, just as it was for the banks. This is not because bigger is inherently bad, but because the complexity of these organisations makes them so difficult to police. Like the big banks, big tech uses its lobbying muscle to try to avoid regulation. And like the banks, it tries to sell us on the idea that it deserves to play by different rules.

Consider the financial engineering done by such firms. Like most of the largest and most profitable multinational companies, Apple has loads of cash – around $210bn at last count – as well as plenty of debt (close to $110bn). That is because – like nearly every other large, rich company – it has parked most of its spare cash in offshore bond portfolios over the past 10 years. This is part of a Kafkaesque financial shell game that has played out since the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, interest rates were lowered and central bankers flooded the economy with easy money to try to engineer a recovery. But the main beneficiaries were large companies, which issued lots of cheap debt, and used it to buy back their own shares and pay out dividends, which bolstered corporate share prices and investors, but not the real economy. The Trump corporate tax cuts added fuel to this fire. Apple, for example, was responsible for about a quarter of the $407bn in buy-backs announced in the six months or so after Trump’s tax law was passed in December 2017 – the biggest corporate tax cut in US history.

Because of this, the wealth divide has been increased, which many economists believe is not only the biggest factor in slower-than-historic trend growth, but is also driving the political populism that threatens the market system itself.

That phenomenon has been put on steroids by yet another trend epitomised by Apple: the rise of intangibles such as intellectual property and brands (both of which the company has in spades) relative to tangible goods as a share of the global economy. As Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake show in their book Capitalism Without Capital, this shift became noticeable around 2000, but really took off after the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. The digital economy has a tendency to create superstars, since software and internet services are so scalable and enjoy network effects (in essence, they allow a handful of companies to grow quickly and eat everyone else’s lunch). But according to Haskel and Westlake, it also seems to reduce investment across the economy as a whole. This is not only because banks are reluctant to lend to businesses whose intangible assets may simply disappear if they go belly-up, but also because of the winner-takes-all effect that a handful of companies, including Apple (and Amazon and Google), enjoy.

This is likely a key reason for the dearth of startups, declining job creation, falling demand and other disturbing trends in our bifurcated economy. Concentration of power of the sort that Apple and Amazon enjoy is a key reason for record levels of mergers and acquisitions. In telecoms and media especially, many companies have taken on significant amounts of debt in order to bulk up and compete in this new environment of streaming video and digital media.

Some of that debt is now looking shaky, which underscores that the next big crisis probably won’t emanate from banks, but from the corporate sector. Rapid growth in debt levels is historically the best predictor of a crisis. And for the past several years, the corporate bond market has been on a tear, with companies in advanced economies issuing a record amount of debt; the market grew 70% over the past decade, to reach $10.17tn in 2018. Even mediocre companies have benefited from easy money.

But as the interest rate environment changes, perhaps more quickly than was anticipated, many could be vulnerable. The Bank for International Settlements – the international body that monitors the global financial system – has warned that the long period of low rates has cooked up a larger than usual number of “zombie” companies, which will not have enough profits to make their debt payments if interest rates rise. When rates eventually do rise, warns the BIS, losses and ripple effects may be more severe than usual.

Of course, if and when the next crisis is upon us, the deflationary power of technology (meaning the way in which it drives down prices), exemplified by companies like Apple, could make it more difficult to manage. That is the final trend worth considering. Technology firms drive down the prices of lots of things, and tech-related deflation is a big part of what has kept interest rates so low for so long; it has not only constrained prices, but wages, too. The fact that interest rates are so low, in part thanks to that tech-driven deflation, means that central bankers will have much less room to navigate through any upcoming crisis. Apple and the other purveyors of intangibles have benefited more than other companies from this environment of low rates, cheap debt, and high stock prices over the past 10 years. But their power has also sowed the seeds of what could be the next big swing in the markets.

A few years ago, I had a fascinating conversation with an economist at the US Treasury’s Office of Financial Research, a small but important body that was created following the 2008 financial crisis to study market trouble, and which has since seen its funding slashed by Trump. I was trawling for information about financial risk and where it might be held, and the economist told me to look at the debt offerings and corporate bond purchases being made by the largest, richest corporations in the world, such as Apple or Google, whose market value now dwarfed that of the biggest banks and investment firms.

In a low interest rate environment, with billions of dollars in yearly earnings, these high-grade firms were issuing their own cheap debt and using it to buy up the higher-yielding corporate debt of other firms. In the search for both higher returns and for something to do with all their money, they were, in a way, acting like banks, taking large anchor positions in new corporate debt offerings and essentially underwriting them the way that JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs might. But, it is worth noting, since such companies are not regulated like banks, it is difficult to track exactly what they are buying, how much they are buying and what the market implications might be. There simply is not a paper trail the way there is in finance. Still, the idea that cash-rich tech companies might be the new systemically important institutions was compelling.

I began digging for more on the topic, and about two years later, in 2018, I came across a stunning Credit Suisse report that both confirmed and quantified the idea. The economist who wrote it, Zoltan Pozsar, forensically analysed the $1tn in corporate savings parked in offshore accounts, mostly by big tech firms. The largest and most intellectual-property-rich 10% of companies – Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) among them – controlled 80% of this hoard.

According to Pozsar’s calculations, most of that money was held not in cash but in bonds – half of it in corporate bonds. The much-lauded overseas “cash” pile held by the richest American companies, a treasure that Republicans under Trump had cited as the key reason they passed their ill-advised tax “reform” plan, was actually a giant bond portfolio. And it was owned not by banks or mutual funds, which typically have such large financial holdings, but by the world’s biggest technology firms. In addition to being the most profitable and least regulated industry on the planet, the Silicon Valley giants had also become systemically crucial within the marketplace, holding assets that – if sold or downgraded – could topple the markets themselves. Hiding in plain sight was an amazing new discovery: big tech, not big banks, was the new too-big-to-fail industry.

As I began to think about the comparison, I found more and more parallels. Some of them were attitudinal. It was fascinating, for example, to see how much the technology industry’s response to the 2016 election crisis mirrored the banking industry’s behaviour in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. Just as Wall Street had obfuscated as much as possible about what it was doing before and after the crisis, every bit of useful information about election meddling had to be clawed away from the titans of big tech.

First, they insisted that they had done nothing wrong, and that anyone who thought they had simply did not understand the technology industry. It was under extreme pressure from both press and regulators that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg finally turned over 3,000 Russia-linked adverts to Congress. Google and others were only marginally less evasive. Similar to Wall Street financiers at the time of the US sub-prime crisis, the tech titans have remained, years after the 2016 election, in a largely reactive posture, parting with as few details as possible, attempting to keep the asymmetric information advantages of their business model that, as in the banking industry, help generate outsized profit margins. It is a “deny and deflect” attitude similar to what we saw from financiers in 2008, and has resulted in deservedly terrible PR.

But there are more substantive similarities as well. At a meta level, I see four major likenesses in big finance and big tech: corporate mythology, opacity, complexity and size. In terms of mythology, Wall Street before 2008 sold the idea that what was good for the financial sector was good for the economy. Until quite recently, big tech tried to convince us of the same. But there are two sides to the story, and neither industry is quick to acknowledge or take responsibility for the downsides of “innovation”.

A raft of research shows us that trust in liberal democracy, government, media and nongovernmental organisations declines as social media usage rises. In Myanmar, Facebook has been leveraged to support genocide. In China, Apple and Google have bowed to government demands for censorship. In the US, of course, personal data is being collected, monetised and weaponised in ways that we are only just beginning to understand, and monopolies are squashing job creation and innovation. At this point, it is harder and harder to argue that the benefits of platform technology vastly outweigh the costs.

Big tech and big banks are also similar in the opacity and complexity of their operations. The algorithmic use of data is like the complex securitisation done by the world’s too-big-to-fail banks in the sub-prime era. Both are understood largely by industry experts who can use information asymmetry to hide risks and the nefarious things that companies profit from, such as dubious political ads.

Yet that complexity can backfire. Just as many big-bank risk managers had no idea what was going in to and coming out of the black box before 2008, big tech executives themselves can be thrown off balance by the ways in which their technology can be misused. Consider, for example, the New York Times investigation in 2018 that revealed that Facebook had allowed a number of other big tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, to tap sensitive user data even as it was promising to protect privacy.

acebook entered into the data-sharing deals – which are a win-win for the big tech firms in general, to the extent that they increase traffic between the various platforms and bring more and more users to them – between 2010 and 2017 to grow its social network as fast as possible. But neither Facebook nor the other companies involved could keep track of all the implications of the arrangements for user privacy. Apple claimed to not even know it was in such a deal with Facebook, a rather stunning admission given the way in which Apple has marketed itself as a protector of user privacy. At Facebook, “some engineers and executives … considered the privacy reviews an impediment to quick innovation and growth”, read a telling line in the Times piece. And grow it has: Facebook took in more than $40bn in revenue in 2017, more than double the $17.9bn it reported for 2015.

Facebook’s prioritisation of growth over governance is egregious but not unique. The tendency to look myopically at share price as the one and only indicator of value is something fostered by Wall Street, but by no means limited to it. The obliviousness of the tech executives who cut these deals reminds me of bank executives who had no understanding of the risks built into their balance sheets until markets started to blow up during the 2008 financial crisis.

Companies tend to prioritise what can be quantified, such as earnings per share and the ratio of the stock price to earnings, and ignore (until it is too late) the harder-to-measure business risks.

It is no accident that most of the wealth in our world is being held by a smaller and smaller number of rich individuals and corporations who use financial wizardry such as tax offshoring and buy-backs to ensure that they keep it out of the hands of national governments. It is what we have been taught to think of as normal, thanks to the ideological triumph of the Chicago School of economic thought, which has, for the past five decades or so, preached, among other things, that the only purpose of corporations should be to maximise profits.

The notion of “shareholder value” is shorthand for this idea. The maximisation of shareholder value is part of the larger process of “financialisation”. It is a process that has risen, in tandem with the Chicago School of thinking, since the 1980s, and has created a situation in which markets have become not a conduit for supporting the real economy, as Adam Smith would have said they should be, but rather, the tail that wags the dog.

“Consumer welfare,” rather than citizen welfare, is our primary concern. We assume that rising share prices signify something good for the economy as a whole, as opposed to merely increasing wealth for those who own them. In this process, we have moved from being a market economy to being what Harvard law professor Michael Sandel would call a “market society”, obsessed with profit maximisation in every aspect of our lives. Our access to the basics – healthcare, education, justice – is determined by wealth. Our experiences of ourselves and those around us are thought of in transactional terms, something that is reflected in the language of the day (we “maximise” time and “monetise” relationships).

Now, with the rise of the surveillance capitalism practised by big tech, we ourselves are maximised for profit. Remember that our personal data is, for these companies and the others that harvest it, the main business input. As Larry Page himself once said when asked “What is Google?”: “If we did have a category, it would be personal information … the places you’ve seen. Communications … Sensors are really cheap … Storage is cheap. Cameras are cheap. People will generate enormous amounts of data … Everything you’ve ever heard or seen or experienced will become searchable. Your whole life will be searchable.”

Think about that. You are the raw material used to make the product that sells you to advertisers.

Financial markets have facilitated the shift toward this invasive, short-term, selfish capitalism, which has run in tandem with both globalisation and technological advancement, creating a loop in which we are constantly competing with greater numbers of people, in shorter amounts of time, for more and more consumer goods that may be cheaper thanks in part to the deflationary effects of both outsourcing and tech-based disruption, but that cannot compensate for our stagnant incomes and stressed-out lives.

But you could argue that, in a deeper way, Silicon Valley – not the old Valley that was full of garage startups and true innovators, but the financially driven Silicon Valley of today – represents the apex of the shift toward financialisation. Today the large tech companies are run by a generation of business leaders who came of age and started their firms at a time when government was viewed as the enemy, and profit maximisation was universally seen as the best way to advance the economy, and indeed society. Regulation or limits on corporate behaviour have been viewed as tyrannical or even authoritarian. “Self-regulation” has become the norm. “Consumers” have replaced citizens. All of it is reflected in the Valley’s “move fast and break things” mentality, which the tech titans view as a fait accompli. As Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen wrote in an afterword to the paperback edition of their book: “Bemoaning the inevitable increase in the size and reach of the technology sector distracts us from the real question … Many of the changes that we discuss are inevitable. They’re coming.”

Perhaps. But the idea that this should preclude any discussion of the effects of the technology sector on the public at large is simply arrogant. There is a huge cost to this line of thinking. Consider the $1tn in wealth that has been parked offshore by the US’s largest, most IP-rich firms. A trillion is no small sum: that is an 18th of the US’s annual GDP, much of which was garnered from products and services made possible by core government-funded research and innovators. Yet US citizens have not got their fair share of that investment because of tax offshoring. It is worth noting that while the US corporate tax rate was recently lowered from 35% to 21%, most big companies have for years paid only about 20% of their income, thanks to various loopholes. The tech industry pays even less – roughly 11-15% – for this same reason: data and IP can be offshored while a factory or grocery store cannot. This points to yet another neoliberal myth – the idea that if we simply cut US tax rates, then these “American” companies will bring all their money home and invest it in job-creating goods and services in the US. But the nation’s biggest and richest companies have been at the forefront of globalisation since the 1980s. Despite small decreases in overseas revenues for the past couple of years, nearly half of all sales from S&P 500 companies come from abroad.

How, then, can such companies be perceived as being “totally committed” to the US, or, indeed, to any particular country? Their commitment, at least the way American capitalism is practised today, is to customers and investors, and when both of them are increasingly global, then it is hard to argue for any sort of special consideration for American workers or communities in the boardroom.

Tech firms are more able than any other type of company to move business abroad, because most of their wealth is not in “fixed assets” but in data, human capital, patents and software, which are not tied to physical locations (such as factories or retail stores) but can move anywhere. And as we have already learned, while those things do represent wealth, they do not create broad-based demand growth in the economy like the investments of a previous era.

“If Apple acquires a licence to a technology for a phone it manufactures in China, it does not create employment in the US, beyond the creator of the licensed technology if they are in the US,” says Daniel Alpert, a financier and a professor at Cornell University studying the effects of this shift in investment. “Apps, Netflix and Amazon movies don’t create jobs the way a new plant would.” Or, as my Financial Times colleague Martin Wolf has put it, “[Apple] is now an investment fund attached to an innovation machine and so a black hole for aggregate demand. The idea that a lower corporate tax rate would raise investment in such businesses is ludicrous.” In short, cash-rich corporations – especially tech firms – have become the financial engineers of our day.

There are the ways in which big tech is driving the mega-trends in global markets, as we have just explored. Then, there are the ways tech companies are playing in those markets that grant them an unfair advantage over consumers. For example, Google, Facebook and, increasingly, Amazon now own the digital advertising market, and can set whatever terms they like for customers. The opacity of their algorithms coupled with their dominance of their respective markets makes it impossible for customers to have an even playing field. This can lead to exploitative pricing and/or behaviours that put our privacy at risk. Consider also the way Uber uses “surge pricing” to set rates based on customers’ willingness to pay. Or the “shadow profiles” that Facebook compiles on users. Or the way in which Google and Mastercard teamed up to track whether online ads led to physical store sales, without letting Mastercard holders know they were being tracked.

Or the way Amazon secured an unusual procurement deal with local governments in the US. It was, as of 2018, allowed to purchase all the office and classroom supplies for 1,500 public agencies, including local governments and schools, around the country, without guaranteeing them fixed prices for the goods. The purchasing would be done through “dynamic pricing” – essentially another form of surge pricing, whereby the prices reflect whatever the market will withstand – with the final charges depending on bids put forward by suppliers on Amazon’s platform. It was a stunning corporate jiu-jitsu, given that the whole point of a bulk-purchasing contract is to guarantee the public sector competitive prices by bundling together demand. For all the hype about Amazon’s discounts, a study conducted by the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance concluded that one California school district would have paid 10-12% more if it had bought from Amazon. And cities that wanted to keep on using existing suppliers that did not do business on the retail giant’s platform would be forced to move that business (and those suppliers) to Amazon because of the way that deal was structured.

It is hard to ignore the parallels in Amazon’s behaviour to the lending practices of some financial groups before the 2008 crash. They, too, used dynamic pricing, in the form of variable rate sub-prime mortgage loans, and they, too, exploited huge information asymmetries in their sale of mortgage-backed securities and complex debt deals to unwary investors, not only to individuals, but also to cities such as Detroit. Amazon, for its part, has vastly more market data than the suppliers and public sector purchasers it plans to link.

As in any transaction, the party that knows the most can make the smartest deal. The bottom line is that both big-platform tech players and large financial institutions sit in the centre of an hourglass of information and commerce, taking a cut of whatever passes through. They are the house, and the house always wins.

As with the banks, systemic regulation may well be the only way to prevent big tech companies from unfairly capitalising on those advantages.

There are questions of whether Amazon or Facebook could leverage their existing positions in e-commerce or social media to unfair advantage in finance, using what they already know about our shopping and buying patterns to push us into buying the products they want us to in ways that are either a) anticompetitive, or b) predatory. There are also questions about whether they might cut and run at the first sign of market trouble, destabilising the credit markets in the process.

“Big-tech lending does not involve human intervention of a long-term relationship with the client,” said Agustín Carstens, the general manager of the Bank for International Settlements. “These loans are strictly transactional, typically short-term credit lines that can be automatically cut if a firm’s condition deteriorates. This means that, in a downturn, there could be a large drop in credit to [small and middle-sized companies] and large social costs.” If you think that sounds a lot like the situation that we were in back in 2008, you would be right.

Treating the industry like any other would undoubtedly require a significant shift in the big-tech business model, one with potential profit and share price implications. The extraordinary valuations of the big tech firms are due in part to the market’s expectations that they will remain lightly regulated, lightly taxed monopoly powers. But that is not guaranteed to be the case in the future. Antitrust and monopoly issues are fast gaining attention in Washington, where the titans of big tech may soon have a reckoning.


Secret chats involving Republican lawmaker reveal fresh evidence of plots and paranoia

Messages from network involving Matt Shea provide insight into ‘patriot movement’ – and the extent of their conspiracy thinking

November 8, 2019

by Jason Wilson

The Guardian

Leaked Signal messages from an online chat network around six-term Washington state Republican representative Matt Shea show new evidence of violent fantasies, surveillance of perceived adversaries, conspiracy thinking, Islamophobia, and support for white nationalists.

The messages from the chat group, exchanged between October 2017 and October 2018, show Shea’s network includes other serving, former and aspiring rightwing politicians from Idaho and Washington, alongside activists associated with militia groups, anti-environmental causes, and pro-gun activism.

They also show participants, including Shea, preparing for economic and societal collapse even as they campaign for the secession of eastern Washington from the remainder of the state.

The messages provide a rare insight into the inner workings – and paranoia – of the so-called patriot movement, whose members have participated in standoffs with the federal government in Nevada and Oregon, and whose far-right beliefs have been controversially promoted by Shea.

Lindsay Schubiner, a program director at the progressive Western States Center, said of the chats: “The chat messages reveal Shea acting more like a militia leader than an elected official. His conspiratorial and violent mindset are on full display. If it was not already clear, Shea has demonstrated that he is unfit for public office. Now it’s time for his colleagues in the Washington house of representatives to hold him accountable.”

Shea is currently under investigation by the Washington state house after reporting on his activities by the Guardian and local media outlets.

The network

The group chat the messages appeared in was repeatedly described by participants as an “intel” channel for sharing information among a large group of Shea’s associates, including:

  • Washington state representative Matt Shea, who posts in the chat under a frequently used online alias Verrumbellator.
  • Two-term Idaho state representative Heather Scott.
  • Former Spokane Valley councilman and Shea ally Mike Munch.
  • Former Spokane Valley councilman and podcaster Caleb Collier.
  • An account posting as “Marble”, attached to a phone number registered to Anne Byrd, who with husband Pastor Barry Byrd leads the secretive Marble Community Church, headquartered in a compound in remote north-east Washington.

Broadcaster and Shea lieutenant Jack Robertson, also known as John Jacob Schmidt.

Patriot movement activist and Malheur standoff participant Anthony Bosworth. Bosworth runs a patriot movement group called Liberty For All, once ran for Yakima county sheriff, and was charged with assaulting his daughter in downtown Yakima.

Also present in the chat were a number of rightwing activists, some from the region incorporating eastern Washington, north Idaho, and surrounding areas, which they have christened “the American Redoubt”. These activists included:

  • Former Spokane county employee and retired air force officer John Christina.
  • Former candidate for Washington commissioner of public lands Steve McLaughlin, who told the SPLC in 2016 that he was pulling back from involvement the patriot movement
  • Jay Pounder, a former Shea confidant who leaked the chats to the Guardian.

Shea and the other sitting legislator, Heather Scott, are members of the chat for its entire length, and both weigh in on a wide range of topics.

The Guardian confirmed participants by cross-checking phone numbers in the chat with public phone records.

Civil war

Participants frequently expressed a belief civil war was coming.

In particular, they were exercised by false rumors of an “antifa insurrection” on 4 November 2017, which circulated widely in far right and conservative media throughout the previous month.

During that month, the chat also circulated false news, unattributed memes and fabricated intelligence about the supposedly impending insurrection.

The Guardian previously reported on the messages of a smaller chat involving members of this larger group, which was also planning for the supposed antifa uprising. That chat saw Bosworth and Robertson fantasizing about sadistic violence, and promoting surveillance and opposition research about local activists.

At one point in late October 2017, the larger chat took an unattributed meme listing supposed “planned riots” in the region to be accurate.

This led to chat members ventilating fantasies of a violent response.

“Sometimes, ya just gotta go out and pick a fight with the philistines,” Robertson wrote on 29 October 2017. “Knock some heads. Bring back some foreskins. Lol!”

Later that day, Jack Robertson wrote: “We could have a contest … see how many communists we could knock out, before getting knocked out or arrested!”

Bosworth responded: “OK. Now this is starting to sound fun.”

But there were no protests in the region, and only small ones in other parts of the country: peaceful events which had been planned by a group associated with the Revolutionary Communist party.

Other events were taken as portents of civil war.

In July 2018, when the Trump-backed congressional challenger Katie Arrington was badly injured in a car crash after ousting Mark Sanford in a primary, the chat took it as a sign of impending civil collapse.

“Every day shows more and more we are sitting on the edge of civil war between two governmental factions. I don’t think we’re going to make six years before we see shots fired,” Bosworth remarked.

Christina replied: “Agreed. Banana republic sums it up quite well. Never thought I would see it come to my country in my lifetime.”

Islam and leftists

Islam – a frequent bugbear in Shea’s public speeches – is seen in dark hues by many members of the chat. Muslims and leftists are held to be working together to subvert the United States.

Violent, paranoid reveries were aired about both groups by members of the chat.

In December 2017, Robertson warned: “Expect acid throwing attacks. Low tech, low cost. Effective and brutal. Since the announcement of moving out embassy to Jerusalem, things are about to get sporty. Be vigilant when you travel to large metro areas.”

In February 2018, after accepting as true faked photographs of Parkland shooter Nicholas Cruz that depicted him as a leftist, the group ventilated more violent fantasies and conspiracy theories.

“The communist bastards need to be shot,” Bosworth wrote.

“Communist Islam,” Shea responded.

In May 2018, Shea wrote: “Please remember tomorrow is the first day of Ramadan begins Tuesday/Wednesday. Higher likelihood of terror attacks.”

Robertson days later wrote: “Wow. Ramadan began yesterday. Avoid crowds when possible, be vigilant, stay armed, and keep a combat rifle accessible when practical.”

Leftists are equally feared and despised in the chats. In June 2018, the chat responded to news of the occupation of an Ice facility in Portland with more fantasies of violence and vigilantism.

Bosworth said of potential police violence at the facility: “I don’t agree with federal agents clubbing them. I think they should let the people club the commies.”

Robertson responded: “Agreed! Commies should get the baby seal treatment from the citizens.”

Bosworth later added: “The American people need to stomp communism into the dust. They need to be hunted down and destroyed. It’s not the government’s job to do it. It is ours, the rightful heirs to liberty fought and won by our founders.”

Requests for surveillance on perceived political opponents also permeate the chat, many coming from Shea.

He asked whether a local conservative is a “friend or foe” and at one point Bosworth shared images of what appears to be the FBI file of a Shea critic.

Liberty state

A central topic in the chats is the campaign to carve out a 51st state from eastern Washington, to be named Liberty state.

The campaign for Liberty state has underpinned activism in the Shea network, but has also provoked fears among opponents who believe that proponents are seeking to implement a dominionist theocracy.

At one point Bosworth asked if they can shake off federal and state control: “People need to know what the new state is going to look like. Is it going to operate without federal control? If so our first step would be to show the people of the new state that we can operate without Olympia’s control.”

Later in the chat, McLaughlin offered a view of what a successful Liberty state movement would look like: “People standing up and applying the elements of power to undo lies, destroy the commie movement and taking political control. Elements of power are economic, diplomatic, information dominance and force.”

Elsewhere, speaking of Liberty state opponents, Jack Robertson opined that “skull-stomping godless communists does have a very strong appeal”.

Heather Scott replied: “Sounds like the name of a rock band.”

Bosworth replied: “I’m all for Christians doing some skull stomping in defense of their faith.”


Apart from direct participants, the chat sees the repeated dissemination of intelligence from outside sources. One source, described in the chat only as “G2”, frequently provided alarming updates on geopolitical events.

His prognostications were of intense interest to the group, including Shea, and taken to indicate impending global catastrophe.

Christina was the contact with G2, and would relay messages to the group.

Members, including Shea, would solicit updates from G2 on international incidents. Solicitations of G2’s advice occur throughout the chats, and members treat him as an authoritative source.

On November 6 2017, Shea asked: “A lot coming out right now about DPRK [North Korea]. What is the status with G2?”

A chance remark about a family death has allowed the Guardian to identify G2 as Ronald Jessee, Christina’s nephew, who runs a popular “open source intelligence” Twitter account called Intellipus.

On Twitter, the Intellipus account has 48,000 followers. But according to his LinkedIn page, 42-year-old Jessee has never worked in any military or intelligence capacity, and his last listed employment was with an open-source intelligence startup which folded in 2018.

James Allsup

The group engages in extended, and ultimately supportive conversation about James Allsup, a white nationalist, Charlottesville marcher and far-right personality who was excluded from the Washington State University College Republicans, and eventually the Spokane county GOP, for neo-Nazi associations.

The group began discussing Allsup just days after the Daily Beast published a story about him being elected as a precinct committee officer for the local Republican party.

After prolonged conversation in which Robertson, in particular, defended Allsup after local Republicans “threw this guy under the bus”, Shea proposed they contact Allsup. “Here’s my two cents. Anthony I think you should reach out to him and if he is legit (not racist or a plant) make an ally.”

None of the named chat participants with the exception of Jay Pounder responded to the Guardian’s requests for comment. Sitting legislators Shea and Scott did not respond to detailed requests made by email.

Pounder himself was an active participant in the chats and in Shea’s movement until late last year. “I was on board. I was a believer until I had a moment of conscience,” he said in a telephone conversation.

Still a devout Christian, he said: “God got a hold of my heart and told me, no man, this isn’t the way it’s meant to be.”

Shea remains under investigation by the Rampart Group, which was hired by the clerk of the Washington state house to “assess the level of threat of political violence posed by these individuals and groups” associated with Shea, following reporting in the Guardian and local outlets about secret chats and documents produced by Shea’s network. They are due to present their report on 1 December.


Trump is accelerating right wing plots

November 8, 2019

by Christian Juers

The policy of the supporters of the far right groups is to exacerbate latent racism in the United States to the point where public violence erupts and the political polarization of the public becomes manifest. By encouraging and arming the far right and neo nazi groups, the Scavenius group is laying the groundwork for an acceptable and militant government reaction, the institution of draconian control over the entire population and the rationale for national and official government control, all in the name of law and order. It is planned that the far right and neo nazi groups be taken into the law enforcement structure and used to put down any public demonstrations that the government deems to be a potential threat to their policies.

Who are these groups? Here is a listing of only some of them:

  • ACT for America
  • Alliance Defending Freedom
  • America’s Promise Ministries
  • American Border Patrol/American Patrol
  • American Family Association
  • American Freedom Party
  • American Renaissance
  • Aryan Brotherhood
  • Aryan Brotherhood of Texas
  • Aryan Nations
  • Blood & Honor
  • Brotherhood of Klans
  • Center for Security Policy
  • Church of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
  • The Creativity Movement
  • The Sovereign Citizen Movement of the US and Canada
  • The Dominonist Movement of America
  • National Alliance
  • National Coalition for Immigration Reform
  • National Socialist Movement
  • National Vanguard
  • Oath Keepers
  • Stormfront
  • The Aryan Terror Brigade.
  • The neo-Confederate League of the South.
  • Traditionalist Worker Party
  • White Revolution

The basic plan of the planners is to supply activist neo-nazi groups in the United States with weapons smuggled into the US. These weapons originate with the Chinese firm, NORENCO, The China North Industries Corporation. This is a Chinese company, located in the Xicheng District, Beijing, China that manufactures civil and military firearms and ammunition.



How to Find Spy Devices in Your Home, Car, Cell Phone, or Computer

Reasons You Might Be a Target for Spying

Turbo Future

How do you know if you are being watched? How do you know if you aren’t? These days, private surveillance is becoming more and more common. Reasons that someone may be spying on you include:

  • You own a company.
  • You have an important, responsible, or secretive job.
  • You have attended confidential interviews or meetings.
  • You are a scientist, politician, journalist, witness, attorney, judge, police officer, or local government official.
  • Your partner or spouse believes you are having an affair.
  • You are getting divorced.
  • You are petitioning for sole custody of your children.
  • You are a suspected activist or terrorist.
  • You have logged in to certain websites.
  • You file for disability or workers compensation.
  • Your neighbor hates you.
  • Your friend, neighbor, or relative is under suspicion.
  • You have recently made a substantial insurance claim.
  • You are very wealthy or possess something valuable.
  • You are a celebrity.
  • You are the victim of a stalker.
  • Someone believes they can get ransom money out of you if they access or capture your personal information.
  • Someone wants to take and use photos of you or members of your family—perhaps for profit or revenge.

Of course, our personal data and behavior is constantly being tracked by the government, search engines, social media, websites we visit, and possibly by our employers, but this article is intended for individuals who suspect that they are being singled out and targeted for a specific reason in a personal privacy threat.

How to Detect Hidden Cameras in Your Home

These days, cameras are so small they might be hidden anywhere to spy on you. They can be as small as a fingertip and hidden in tissue boxes, books, bookshelves, clocks, stuffed animals, potted plants, or anywhere. Although the camera will likely be well-hidden, its lens has to be visible, even if it’s behind glass. A simple, cost-effective method to detect hidden spy cameras is to use a flashlight or the light on your phone to find them.

Most cameras have green or red lights. These might have been covered, but if there wasn’t time to install it properly, you might be able to find the camera by these lights.

How to Make a DIY Camera Detector

1.Wait until dark and turn off all the lights and block out any light from outside.

2.Grab a cardboard tube—a roll of paper towel is ideal. Hold the tube up to one eye and close the other.

3.Turn on your smart phone’s flashlight, or use a regular flashlight.

4.Now slowly scan every inch of the room. You are looking for a tiny light with a halo, which is the reflection of the camera lens.

If you don’t see any lights, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any cameras. Maybe the person who installed them hid them carefully.

How to Use Your Cell Phone to Find a Hidden Camera

  • Call a friend, put them on speakerphone, and ask them to hold the line open (stay on the phone).
  • Walk around the room and listen for electric interference (snaps, pops, cracks, or buzzing).
  • These noises may indicate hidden electronic devices.

Use an RF (Radio Frequency) Detector

These devices are readily available and range from $10 to $200. You can use one to scan for hidden wireless devices and signals in your home. Turn it on and follow the instructions, which include moving or sweeping slowly and listening for feedback. You may need to test each room on several of the device’s frequencies.

How to Find Hidden Mics, Bugs, or Listening Devices

Anyone can buy apps to eavesdrop on you. Many require access to your device to install. Sometimes they’re hidden on the SIM card rather than on the operating system. However, some might be installed OTA (over-the-air, remotely).

  • One thing to think about is the bug’s power supply. Some run on batteries, and as a result, they have a limited lifespan. If someone wants to listen to you constantly, they’ll need a device with a steady and dependable power source, so always pay attention to visible wires that may indicate a hidden bug.
  • A bug might steal power from other devices. For example, some can hide in a USB cable and draw power any time the cord is plugged in.
  • When the house is empty and traffic noise outside has subsided, walk around and switch off all electrical appliances, such as the refrigerator and computers. Be still and listen. Walk around the house quietly and listen out for any soft buzzing or bleeping. Track down the source.
  • Electric switch plates are a favorite place for bug installations. Check every switch plate and wall socket by first looking at it and then trying to move it. If it has been recently disturbed, may be visually out of alignment or loose. Turn off the power, unscrew the plate, and see if there’s anything behind it that shouldn’t be there.
  • Check your smoke detectors, wall and ceiling light fittings, ceiling tiles, clocks, and lamps. Warning: Don’t go poking screwdrivers anywhere near live electrical wiring.
  • Look out for paint discoloration on walls or ceilings. A small, circular mark may be an indication of a micro-camera or listening device. Check the baseboards for bumps or signs of disturbance.
  • Use your flashlight and hands to thoroughly examine every piece of furniture. Run your fingers along out-of-sight edges. Turn the furniture upside down. Look carefully for small holes in upholstery.
  • Take notice of tiny patches of white dust from dry walls on baseboards or on sills. See if you can determine where it came from. It could be debris from the installation of a tiny pinhole camera.
  • Examine every ornament and other innocuous objects in a room–pictures are good places to hide devices, and so are pillows.
  • Try all the door locks to make sure they feel and work the same as usual. A lock that has been tampered with may exhibit stiffness, sticking, or feel very loose.

Remember, installing an external device to listen to your private conversations isn’t necessary if the device already has a microphone (like your cell phone or computer, for example).

 How to Tell If Your Car Is Bugged or Tracked

Check your car for listening devices the same way you’d check your home or office: A hand-held RF device might help.

While you’re at it, you’ll probably also want to check both the exterior and interior of your car for GPS trackers, which often look like small two or three inch boxes with magnetic strips to hold them to the body of the car. There are two types to look for:

  • Monitored. These send real-time information about where you are right now to a computer or a smartphone. These work like cell phones transmitting data either constantly, while the car is being used, or at pre-set intervals. Some are hardwired into your car’s power supply, but they might also be battery-operated. These are more likely to be found inside your car.
  • Unmonitored. These cheaper models collect and store data inside the device to be accessed later. When your car is moving, the tracker collects information about where you go to be downloaded manually later. These are more likely to be found on the exterior of your car.

How to Find a GPS Tracker on Your Car

1.Check the exterior. This is the most likely spot for a tracker, since it’s the easiest place for a person to place a device. Use a flashlight and a mirror on a pole to really observe every part of your car’s exterior: in wheel wells, under the chassis, behind the bumpers, behind the side mirrors, etc.

2.Check under the hood. It’s less likely a device will be there since it’s not as easily accessed and the device will be exposed to higher temperatures, but check everywhere: on the underside of the hood itself, behind the radiator, around the battery, air ducts, etc.

3.Search the interior. The first thing to notice is if there are any mysterious wires connected to your data port. Check the glove compartment and under your seats. Use the flashlight and the mirror to look inside vents.

4.Check the trunk. Look around the spare tire and elsewhere. Don’t forget to check for something attached to the underside of the door itself.

Use an Electronic RF Sweeper

You can use an electronic RF sweeper to find out if there is any inexplicable wireless or cellular activity that could lead you to a bug. Turn it it on and walk slowly around and inside your car, sweeping it in all the places listed above. The sweeper might emit a noise, a light, or a vibration if it detects any wireless transmissions

How to Find Out If Your Cell Phone Is Being Monitored or Bugged

  • Is your battery losing its charge? If you see sudden drops in your phone’s charge when you have not been using it, or if you find yourself suddenly needing to charge it more often, this may mean that the battery is being depleted by someone who’s remotely activating your microphone or accessing voice or text messages.
  • Does your phone seem to have a mind of its own? If it turns off and on by itself or won’t shut down (or hesitates before it will), makes noises (especially a pulsating, static noise that hints that the mic or speaker is active), randomly starts installing apps, or if the light is still lit after you shut it off, this may mean someone is controlling it remotely.
  • Do you hear a lot of interference on the line? This could be caused by a bad connection, but it’s also a sign someone is listening in, as some call recording software mimics a conference call.
  • Do you hear blips and pops from computers, phones, televisions, and radios? Since phone transmissions often interfere with other electronic devices, and many phone tapping devices use frequencies that might interfere with your electronics, if you hear electronic echo or static coming from devices when you’re not on your phone, it might indicate remote activity.
  • Is your phone warm, even when you haven’t been using it? This is a sign that the phone is working and depleting the battery.
  • Do you get SMS text messages that look like random, meaningless strings of numbers and symbols? This may indicate fumbled attempts at coded transmissions.
  • Have you seen an unexplained jump in the cost of your data? If your phone bills shoot up for no apparent reason, someone else may be running up your data bill.

What to Do If Your Cell Phone Has Been Hacked

Keep in mind that these signs might only mean that you need a new battery, regular transmission of data is being interrupted by a poor connection, you need to call your provider and argue about the cost of your plan, there was a glitch in the hardware or software, or your phone is on the fritz.

On the other hand, you might have a good reason to be suspicious. See the instructions below for finding and deleting spyware. There are many useful apps that help you monitor your battery use. For a quick fix, if you take the battery out of your phone when it’s not in use, this can deter unwanted activity.

How to Find Out If Your Cell Phone Is Being Tracked

  1. Check for Signs of Jailbreaking

“Jailbreaking” is when someone manages to install tracking or spyware apps on your iPhone by bypassing Apple’s strict built-in rules against using software from other sources. There’s no easy way to know if someone has jailbroken your phone, but if they were in a rush, they may have forgotten to cover their tracks and neglected to delete the software they used to do it.

1.Swipe right on your home screen (since the app probably won’t necessarily show with an icon).

2.Look for suspicious software or apps. Common jailbreaking tools to look for are Icy, Installer, Cydia, Installous, or SBSettings.

3.If you use a file explorer app like ES File Explorer, look in your message, email, and image folders.

4.Jailbreaking apps often use GPS to monitor your location and send reports via data roaming, so huge data bills are another thing to look for.

5.Before you delete anything suspicious, double-check to make sure what it is.

  1. Block Spy Apps With an Antivirus App

Even if you already have antivirus apps, it may be time to upgrade or find a better one.

  1. Do a Factory Reset

Resetting any phone to its original factory settings will get rid of any spy software there might be, you must make sure to back up your data first, or you’ll lose it all.

  1. Check Data Usage

Spyware apps take data from your phone and send it to someone else (the person who’s spying on you). One way to find out is by keeping track of data that’s being used by the apps installed on your phone. Go to Settings —> Data Usage, and look through the entries in App Usage to see if any unfamiliar or unknown apps have recently been using a lot of data. You might install a data monitor app to monitor usage, as well.

 How to Find Spy Software on Your iPhone or Android Cell Phone

Since smartphones are almost always connected to the internet, they can be remotely hacked. The hacking doesn’t have to be remote, either: Maybe someone physically got ahold of your device and installed a keystroke logger or some other kind of tracking app.

Spy apps and programs often disguise their file names so you won’t notice them, but sometimes they’re daringly honest and use terms like “spy,” “stealth,” “monitor,” etc. So if you see anything you don’t recognize and don’t remember downloading, you should investigate it.


It’s hard to hijack an iPhone, but it’s still possible. Someone might download your personal data via a shared network, for example.

Dig around in your iPhone directory. If you see any suspicious files, ask an Apple store consultant about them or simply upgrade to the latest iOS version. Make sure you back up all your data first.


To check your files to see if there’s anything suspicious…

1.Go to Settings –>

2.Applications –>

3.Manage Applications or Running Services

4.Investigate any files or apps you don’t recognize. Don’t delete or remove anything before you know what it is, though, and if you’re not sure, then get advice from an expert on proper deletion methods. It’s a simple matter to look up the purpose of any file/app on the web.

Signs Your Landline Is Bugged

  • Do you hear small noises on your phone during a conversation? Indications of a line tap are volume changes, minor drops (i.e. tiny gaps in the other person’s speech), static, popping noises, hissing, or any other unusual sounds. These occur when two connectors are hooked up, such as a wiretap to a phone line. Listen for anything unusual as you hang up the phone.
  • Is your telephone making odd sounds when it not in use? This would indicate that the phone itself is being used as a listening device. In other words, it is acting as a microphone and will pick up any conversation in the room.
  • If you can hear a dial tone even when your phone is on the hook, this is a sign that it may have been tapped.
  • Silent phone calls (when you pick up but it sounds like no one is there) may mean that the phone has been hooked up to a slave device. Listen out for electronic sounds like buzzing or high-pitched beeping. At the same time, silent calls are common these days and usually caused by computer error, so by themselves, they are not cause for concern.

What to do: Locate the B-Box or cross-connect box for your phone and check the two wires (“cable pair”) associated with your landline. Are there any extra cables or devices attached? A service technician can help you, or you can hire a company to do a wire tap connection sweep.

 Is Your Computer Being Monitored by Someone Else?

Five years ago, if you wondered if someone was watching you, people would think you were paranoid. But we should all know by now that we’re being watched online: by the government, by search engines like Google, by sites like Amazon and Facebook, and probably by the companies we work for. Today, any jealous boyfriend, concerned parent, or nosy neighbor can easily purchase commercial snooping software to spy on anyone they want.

If you have reasons to suspect that your connections or conversations are not private and that someone is watching your activity or your data is being sent to someone else (you might notice suspicious battery depletions or internet history, or mysterious lag times and other clues), then you’ll want to look for leaks.

Signs Your Computer Is Being Spied On

  • It suddenly starts working very slowly, and functions that once happened quickly are taking a lot more time. This in itself is not an indication of spying malware; most older computers slow down over time.
  • Your mouse moves with a mind of its own: opening, scrolling, and closing apps and docs.
  • Your online banking accounts show missing funds or charges you don’t recognize.
  • You get confirmation emails from stores about payments for things you did not order.
  • Apps open randomly or you find things open that you didn’t open yourself.

How to Find Spyware on Your Computer

1.Scan for malware. Scanning your computer with anti-virus, anti-malware, and anti-rootkit programs can help find data leaks. Really sneaky spyware might add itself to the exception list on your anti-virus program, so use more than one program.

2.Check your recent items/activity to see if any third-party software—also known as remote control software or virtual network computing software—is being used that you did not install yourself. These programs allow someone to view your activity on your computer, see your desktop, run applications, change your settings, and access your data. These were designed to allow IT administrators to manage and oversee a company’s computers, but anyone can use them. Look for anything with “VNC” in its name, LogMeIn, or GoToMyPC. If you find something you don’t recognize, do a search to find out what it is, and also search for proper methods for uninstalling them.

3.Check where your iCloud backups are being sent. If they’re being sent to a third party, you’ll want to know about it.

4.Check your History. On your search browsers, you can look at the History to see which sites have been visited. You can look at History to see if anyone else has been using your computer to look things up, and you should also know that anyone who has access to your computer can see where you’ve been on the internet. Saving this record of your viewing history allows web pages to load faster when you return, but deleting the History means no one can see where you’ve been. Google “how to view browsing history on [insert name of your device]” or “how to delete browsing history on [insert name of your device]” to learn more.

5.Open your Task Manager. If you’re on Windows, you can open your task manager by keying Ctrl+Alt+Delete, then clicking “open task manager” and scrolling down the list of applications and processes that are running. If you see something that looks unfamiliar, Google it to find out what it is. For example, Lanschool (which is listed as Student.exe) uses a Chrome extension to collect and store your browsing history, and Eaglesvr takes and stores screenshots of your screen every three seconds. To stop it temporarily, you might be able to right click to end the process, but usually it needs to be uninstalled properly in a multi-step process.

6.Look for keyloggers. Keyloggers record everything you type, including passwords. Check your Task Manager or Activity Monitor.

7.Check your ports. Ports are virtual data connection points through which computers share information. If someone is monitoring you remotely, there will be an open port enabling the data transfer.

8.Identify the TCP connections. Identify outbound connections by using a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) which shows all the connections from your computer to others. You can download a TCPView program to make the process easier.

Computer Counter-Surveillance Techniques

1.Reset your wireless router. Anyone who can access your wireless router can also monitor your activity. It’s one of the easiest ways to hack your computer.

2.Use a different network. Sometimes, a person hopes you’ll do the same things you always do. They might be using a keylogger program that can only upload data to someone else on the same network.

3.Use end-to-end encryption. With E2EE, only the communicating parties can read the messages. No third parties can decode the data.

4.Install your own email-tracking software. Use counter-spy tactics by installing programs like ReadNotify or GetNotify to see when and where each of your emails was opened and for how long, or if it was forwarded without your knowledge.

5.Use encrypted email. Switch to an encrypted email client so that only the people you send email to will be able to decode it.

6.Put a sticker over your camera and keep a cordless jack inserted into your mic port.

7.Change your password

Warning Signs That You’re Being Watched

If you believe you may be a target for a covert operation, the first thing to do is look for evidence that someone is watching or listening to your private conversations. Here are the warning signs to look out for:

  • Someone you know (your partner, a colleague, or neighbor) may inadvertently let slip something that you said in privacy, that they could only have overheard. If you question them, they will glibly deflect you by saying they guessed, that someone else told them, or that they made an assumption. Don’t argue or pursue the point.
  • If information appears in the press that no one except you and your trusted friends/personnel have access to, that’s a major sign that you are under surveillance.
  • A stalker likes his victim to be aware that he has access to private conversations—it adds to the fear-factor—and he will often find ways to let you know you are being watched, followed, or listened to.
  • If your home was broken into or burgled, even if nothing significant was taken. You may not even notice if a door was left open or a window forced and you won’t ever notice that someone has been inside your home. Make sure your children tell you if they discover an unlocked door that isn’t usually left unlocked, or an open window downstairs.

Use Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures (TSCM)

TSCM (technical surveillance counter-measures) is the list of things you can do to search for and prevent bugs, cameras, GPS, and other devices from spying on you. The lists included in this article are TSCM.

You can look for surveillance devices yourself or hire an expert to help you. The device used most often for TSCM is a radio frequency (RF) detector which are cheap and easy to buy online. Any spy device that uses electricity or a battery might be detected with a RF detector, including hidden cameras, bugs, or GPS devices.

In order for it to work, you must first turn off all the electronic and wireless devices you know about. This will help the scanner locate the ones you don’t know about.

If You Believe Someone is Entering Your Property

Some commenters have mentioned that they believe someone is entering their property when they are not at home, or at night. If you think this may be the case, you need to collect proof. The easiest way of doing this is by installing one or two small surveillance cameras on your property.

These easy-to-set-up cameras can be remotely monitored by a smart phone app. They also have SD cards to record activity. Choose a motion detector camera like a Kamtron security camera. While I have never suspected anyone of entering our home, these little devices are also excellent for monitoring our dogs’ behavior when we are out.

The Kamtron can also pick up activity in the dark up to 20 feet in distance, so most rooms are covered.

Other reasons for installing a security camera are monitoring the activity of people you do allow into your home: carers, dog walkers, baby-sitters, etc.

If you are concerned about unauthorized people, such as an ex partner or stalking landlord coming into your home, install at least one surveillance camera for proof and protection.

Bug, Camera, or GPS Detector Devices

Any spy device that transmits wirelessly might be detected with a RF detector, including hidden cameras, bugs, or GPS devices. You carry it around your home, office, or car and it gives an audible warning when it is within 10 meters of any source of transmission. Ensure you turn off all ‘innocent’ devices and remove cellphones, laptops, etc. prior to scanning a room or else you’ll get a false signal.

Bug detectors can usually find audio or video transmitters as they operate on simple RF (radio frequencies). This is why your FM radio is capable of detecting such devices. However, these bug detectors are much more sensitive so it may well be worthwhile investing in one for your peace of mind.

How to Check for Spy Devices With an FM Radio

Even without buying a fancy device, you might use your radio to find electronic surveillance devices. The radio will emit feedback if there’s any electronic transmissions. You may be familiar with this feedback phenomenon when it happens with speakers. Well, when it occurs with an FM radio, it’s because of the same thing–the radio is picking up transmissions from the bug and can often lead you right to it.

  • Tune your radio in to a silent spot at the high end of the FM band.
  • Carry the radio around the room. If it begins to make odd sounds such as a high-pitched squeal, move it until the sound reaches its loudest pitch. That should be the source of the transmission.

You can also do a similar sweep with a small hand-held TV. Check channels 2, 7, 13, 14, 50-60, and 66-68 for marked interference. It works with analog or digital.

Is It Against the Law to Spy on Someone?

In most countries and jurisdictions (but laws and policies vary from place to place)…

  • You don’t have any right to privacy in a public space. However, a private citizen is usually not allowed to record another person without their knowledge or consent. It is illegal for a private citizen spy on someone via a hidden camera in a private space.
  • A person is allowed to hide cameras in their own home or property, even if they don’t warn you about their presence. If they have a valid reason for installing a camera, it will likely be deemed legal.
  • In many states, it’s legal to record a conversation in which you are involved without the consent of all the others involved in the conversation. However, in many states it is illegal to record private conversations unless everyone involved gives consent.
  • It’s legal for someone to place a GPS device on a vehicle they own or on their own property.
  • It is illegal to install spyware on someone’s phone or computer, but there are exceptions to this rule. If it’s a work computer, your employer might be allowed to install certain types of IT software, for example. If you ever gave that person permission to use your phone, computer, or car, and you discover later that they installed spyware after you gave them access to your device, it may not be deemed illegal.
  • If you ever give someone your password, then you basically lose the right to claim they behaved illegally by using it.
  • It’s legal for someone to hire a private eye to watch, follow, or listen to you, as long as the spying is done without breaking any laws.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

November 8, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conversation No. 41

Date:  Sunday, October 6, 1996

Commenced:  8:45 AM CST

Concluded:    9:38 AM CST


GD: Hello to you this morning, Robert. Up and around?

RTC: Well, the sun did come up and animal instincts get us going. And then there is coffee. Are you a coffee drinker, Gregory?

GD: I never used to be, but I am now. I hate the taste of the stuff which is funny because my grandfather was a big-time coffee broker. We had coffee all over the kitchen in little bags. My uncle was an expert and when my father got out of the business, he continued long after my grandfather died. Coffee gets you going but if I drink too much of it, my wiring gets fried.

RTC: The world runs on coffee.

GD: They buy a lot of it. My grandfather wasn’t exactly poor. That’s how I know about your people and the Guatemala business. My uncle was involved in it and it was well-known around the house. Grandfather was tied up with Levi and Zentner…the United Fruit people…. and the Grace Steamship company. Uncle was born in Petropolis in Brazil and was fluent in a number of languages, including Portuguese. Yes, there seemed to have been quite a connection between American business and the CIA. And of course, the White House and Congress.

RTC: Well, you’ve seen the tip of the big iceberg, haven’t you, Gregory?

GD: How big is it?

RTC: It’s not so much the size but the power of it. This country isn’t run by little local political action groups or small town newspapers. Democracy is only a word that sounds good. The public hates to vote although I understand that in Switzerland it is mandatory. They don’t care as long as they make money. Do you know how much money it costs to run for Congress? Many millions. And where does the money come from? Aunt Anna’s cookie and mad money jar? No, it comes from corporate interests who want to keep things balanced on their side of the books.

GD: That’s not a great revelation, Robert. No one really cares, as you say, as long as they have television and a car. Back in the Depression days when people didn’t have television sets and no cars, a lot of the underpaid and overworked workers were Communists. Once Roosevelt got the war started for us, business boomed and the workers ceased to be Communists.

RTC: Oh, that’s absolutely true, Gregory, but don’t underestimate the power of the Communist bugaboo to terrify the public into letting us do what we wanted.

GD: Gehlen told me that in ’48 when he was asked by the Army brass to prepare an intelligence paper proving the Russians were about to launch a huge attack on the West, there were two forces behind all of this bullshit. The first was the Army who didn’t like to be reduced in size. Generals had to retire you know and they didn’t like that. And, business had been booming during the war and they, like the generals, didn’t much like shutting down plants and making less money. This from the horse’s mouth so to speak. Oh, and it worked. Leaked to Congress and Harry Truman, it started the Cold War.

RTC: Nicely put and remember this for Critchfield. Yes, that’s basically the long and short of it. At this moment, the United States is run by four major power sources. They are all interconnected and they have the common goal of protecting their asses and increasing their profits. We have what they call big business which consists of international companies, mostly the huge New York banking giants but some manufacturing companies as well. This country got great by being a manufacturing country but that’s slipping a bit. At the turn of the century it was railroads and steel, but that has faded a little…

GD: A little? A lot.

RTC: Yes, a question of degree, I suppose. Anyway, we have really big business as one entity. The other is the political part of our society. Most Congressmen are put into office to take care of business.

GD: And then we have Huey Long, who was not interested in business.

RTC: Yes, and Roosevelt had him shot very dead, didn’t he?

GD: Yes.

RTC: But Congress passes the laws and since most of them are on the take, they are careful not to pass too many laws to injure their business paymasters.

GD: But under Roosevelt they went the other way.

RTC: But Roosevelt is dead and when he died, we had a new dawn of commerce. And Congress knows where the money comes from and acts accordingly. Eventually we will see someone in the Oval Office who is also Chairman of the Board of Chase Bank. Just joking, but there are those who would love the concept. We have business and political and then we have the Mafia. Yes, it is a huge industry, spawning billions of dollars in revenue. Joe Kennedy turned to them to get Jack elected and then turned on them and began to persecute them using the other brother. Look at all the damage that short-sighted behavior did to the family. And that leads us into our very own CIA. We are at the top of the pyramid, Gregory, for a number of reasons. As you know, we started out as a small advisory group whose job it was to supply Harry Truman accurate international intelligence. Harry never trusted the Army and he found out about the humped Gehlen Report and wanted more facts to work with. Now we got Allen Dulles whose brother, John Foster, was a lawyer with Sullivan and Cromwell in New York. Sullivan and Cromwell was, in essence, a Nazi establishment. They were firm supporters of Hitler and worked with the Schroeder bank in Cologne. And you ought to know that when he was Ambassador to England, Joe Kennedy did business with Hitler and got huge blocks of I.G. Farben stock. It got taken away at the end of the war, seized by the Justice Department and one of the first things Joe did when Jack became President was to have him put Bobby in as AG so he could get his stock back. Oh yes, those people were for Hitler right up to the last week of the war. And even afterwards as well. Of course now that Jews are getting more power here and especially in the CIA, we do not mention any of this. Same thing with your Mueller friend. Of course we used him because he was the top Nazi expert on Communists. Why not? But, of course, if the Jews ever had to face that fact, they would come unglued. Can you imagine the huge headlines in The New York Times?

GD: Yes, I can. We called that Second Coming Type.

RTC: Wrong. The New York Times is run by Jews and sucks at Israel’s tit but they would never discuss this, let alone put it on the front page. Why? Because we have control over what they print. You see, we help our friends in business with delicate political nuisance problems. Like the nice Belgians in the Congo who had all that uranium. Kill off the left wing politicos who tried to grab it all. They really weren’t Communists planning to give uranium to Russia but that’s what we told the President and that’s what our friends who publish The New York Times heard. And that’s what they published and that’s what they condoned. Naturally, with such a dangerous menace, the CIA rushed up to save us all and kill off old Patrice. Same in Guatemala and the same in Iran with Mossadegh. The enemy is identified as dangerous to our business friends. We do studies to prove it to the rabble such as …fake documents and all that…that these enemies are vile Communists, working for the Soviet Union, and a real danger to all of America. On the one hand, get permission to destroy these enemies and on the other, launch a publicity campaign through our many friends in the media to make it just another heroic crusade.

GD: Oh, say it isn’t so, Robert.

RTC: I see you are a baseball fan, Gregory.

GD: No, that’s where it came from, but I am not a baseball fan. I was feigning shock and horror at your dastardly revelations. Do go on, though.

RTC: So we have business, the press, the mob on one side thanks to Jim Angleton’s organization, the legislative branch and that’s it. We don’t control, Gregory, we influence. A press campaign, planned in our offices here, and an assassination or bomb blast there. We have it down to an exact science. A nice balance at that.

GD: And the Mueller business?

RTC: A mere bump in the road. If you had brought this up twenty years before, they would have killed you but by now, it’s unpleasantly cold coffee. They’ll just ruin your reputation by using paid hacks. The media would never discuss this, believe me. You could have Heinrich Mueller’s body in a glass case and the press would be as silent as the grave. We would ask them nicely to drop it and guess what? They would.

GD: The machine seems to run well enough.

RTC: We’ve had time to perfect it. There are always glitches but so far, we have been able to repair them. But it isn’t like it used to be, Gregory. Then it was a band of brothers and now the whole agency has gotten too big, too compartmentalized and too stiff. The power is there but it is an old power, not a dynamic one. One of these days, parts will start falling off and then it will be replaced with another group that will march to a different drummer.

GD: Things always change, Robert, mark that.

RTC: I’m afraid I’m stuck in the old days, thinking the old thoughts and doing what I got used to doing. I told you not to get old, Gregory. I’ve seen it before. Sweet children grow up to be anarchists, faggots, drug addicts, bank robbers, drunks and so on. Wives leave you for someone else, your business changes way past recognition and you become redundant and out you go. You don’t recognize the cars in the street, the music is terrible and the trouble is you remember too much.

GD: And tend to romanticize the past instead of learning from it.

RTC: We write books, but in my case, I can’t. In the first place, I am forbidden to by contract with the Agency and in the second, I can write reports but not books. You write books, though. Of course, so do Joe and Susan. I don’t think very much of Joe, Gregory but I think you might do well to write things up. Joe can see for about two inches in front of his nose, but I find you can see for miles.

GD: It’s a blessing and a curse. I have a secret for you, Robert. You won’t believe me, of course, but here it is, For reasons I don’t even begin to understand, I can meet a new person and almost at once see right into them and know just who and what they are. They may be a professional football player, but if I talk with them for three minutes, I can see that they are gay. Or a religious leader and see he is a drunk. But only face to face. Can’t do it on the phone on by mail. And I think sometimes these people sense I am poking around inside their psyche. I never say a thing to them but some people can sense my invasion of their often rotten soul. And for no reason apparent to a, say, neutral observer, they suddenly hate me.

RTC: They’re afraid of you, Gregory. People fear the predator.

GD: Yes, I’m sure they do, but I am not predatory. I am very understanding of other people.

RTC: Trust me, Gregory, you’re a born predator. That’s one of the reasons I trust you. I prefer to know a wolf as a wolf than a yapping little dog that sneaks around and bites you in the lower leg. You would go for the throat and the kill. No, seeing into people is a gift. I ran enough agents in my time and I know. Always go for the throat.

GD: Yes. I was once confronted with six armed men who were trying to kill some people I happened to be with. I had a gun, a Belgian Browning 9mm. The High Power model with a 13 shot box mag. These fellows were shooting at my friends and at me. I had nothing to do with the business but I had the gun. I got it out and I nailed all six. Five through the head and one in the neck. Before I left the scene with my wounded friend, I went over and shot that one through the head. I didn’t want any witnesses. And I got my brass.

RTC: I never knew that one, Gregory. How old were you at the time?

GD: Seventeen and a couple of months.

RTC: You were in the service?

GD: No. A tourist.

RTC: Six at one throw?

GD: Five on the spot and one a few moments later.

RTC: A dumb question here, but did it bother you?

GD: Yes, terribly. My friend bled all over my shoes before I got him to a safe place. It took a lot of work to get the blood off. And I ruined a very good tie. He got it in the upper leg so I used the tie to keep him from bleeding out. Fortunately, the artery was spared and he survived.

RTC: And it never bothered you?

GD: Why should it? These jerks were shooting at me and in time, they might have killed me, too. Fuck them, Robert. Now they’re turning green in a box somewhere, waiting for the Last Trumpet. Yet in my flesh shall I see God? Oh, I think not. Heaven’s doormat will be a horrible, oozing mess come trumpet day.

RTC: Predatory, Gregory, in word and deed. No wonder the club does not like you.

GD: Club?

RTC: Bill, Tom, Trento and a few others. They warn me about you. I can see why. Their old warning system, the cave man one, is still fitfully working and they can sense you are a danger. Seventeen? Was that the first time?

GD: No, when I was in Germany just before that, I got jumped by a DP. He had an iron bar and I emptied a clip from a .380 into his pump. They had quite a bit of trouble from these DPs from Poland. They were all Polish Jews from the liberated camps and until the Army rounded them all up and shipped them, under guard, to Israel, they cut quite a path. And I got another one over by a putting green. He pulled a knife and his buddy had a wooden pistol. My friend got him and broke his neck and I got the one with the knife using a nine iron. I ruined the club but you should have seen his head. It looked like a cherry pie dropped on the sidewalk. Dragged both of them into the hedges and off we went. The club went into the river. I guess they found them later by the stench and all the flies.

RTC: Very predatory, Gregory.

GD: Self-defense, Robert, self-defense. What else would you call it?

RTC: Good reflexes among other things.

GD: God must hate me for making his doormat so filthy,


(Concluded at 9:38 AM CST)


Encyclopedia of American Loons

Brad Smith et al.

In 2013 a group of pagans planned and arranged a festival to celebrate the summer solstice in Pahokee, Florida. It is probably little surprise that the event was not exactly welcomed by the area’s resident Talibanists, who packed a city commission meeting and demanded that the city prevent the festival from taking place because pagans, devil worshippers. We suspect many of them would be firm defenders of religious freedom but also be baffled if told that religious freedom means that people who hold religious views different from yours also have the right to have and express them.

Among the protestors were Brad Smith, a funeral director and apparently the Florida Director of Kids for Christ, who called the event “an abomination”; “I just found out about this today. I am disappointed in the city of Pahokee for allowing this group to come,” he said, under the delusion that the city has the power to deny groups that Smith doesn’t like the ability to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights. Evangelist Lillian Brown, of Saints on the Move, pointed out that “God cannot heal our land if we have witches and warlocks violating our community,” which is a fine example of fractal wrongness. At least if you ever wondered how witch burnings could go on for centuries back in the days despite the patent ridiculousness of the charges, people like Lillian Brown should give you some indication. Rev. Raul Rodriguez, of Church of God Door of Jesus Christ, just pointed out that “we don’t need this in our town. Not now. Not ever”, even though whether Raul Rodriguez needs the event or not seems to be strikingly irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Daniel Mondragon, however, warned that by hosting the event “we are opening ourselves up to things we should not, like belly dancing and magic spells;” belly dancing and magic spells are almost equally bad, and the former could potentially even take place: “We do not welcome these things. This is the first annual event, and it should be the last.” Dire warnings also from Bishop Jared Hines of New Destiny Community Church: “This event is not only detrimental to our city but to our county. What goes on at that lake will affect us all; it will move from the dike and into our homes.” Pastor Eugene Babb of Harlem Church of God, meanwhile, in an apparent attempt to top the others, asserted that “we cannot expect our city to survive and prosper if we allow these things.”

When their attempts to prevent the event from taking place by legal means failed, they resorted to their most powerful weapon: prayer. Pastor Jorge Chivara of the Hispanic Nazarene Church led the effort: “We want to begin praying about what’s taking place before the event, during the event, and after the event,” Chivara said.

Diagnosis: Yes, they are theocrats, plain and simple. It is a very telling illustration of what many fundies think religious freedom amounts to, at least. Though the delusional nitwits described here – they really give Sir Bedivere’s audience a run for their money – are local nitwits with negligible influence on civilization considered individually, their actions and responses also seem to be pretty standard fare many places in the US.


 Jordan Maxwell

A.k.a. Russell Pine (real name)

Jordan Maxwell is a grand old man of American conspiracy theory, crackpottery and nonsense. His work is largely responsible for the nonsense peddled in the incoherent, made-for-the-Internet “documentary” Zeitgeist, and he has apparently been an important influence on David Icke: Maxwell has long claimed that the world is secretly run by lizards from another dimension. He was also, for a while, editor of the Truth Seeker Magazine, has produced “documentaries” for CBS, and – of course – hosted his own radio show. Maxwell considers himself the world’s leading expert in the occult, based on his powers of imagination and inability to comprehend the significance of aligning one’s belief with reality. He is accordingly notable for having pushed more or less any conspiracy theory or branch of pseudoscientific nonsense you could think of, from ancient aliens and the claim that there is a star-gate in Iraq that teleports people to a military base on Mars, to 9/11 conspiracies.

A main strain of Maxwell’s, uh, thought is astro-theology, an astrological reinterpretation of theology according to which religious doctrines are based on astronomical events. He is also notable for pushing the (rather popular) idea that Christianity is really a variant of the cult of Horus, a conclusion reached by focusing on some similarities and disregarding the vast number of dissimilarities. Maxwell is known to rant for hours about these issues, backed up with a couple of Bible quotes and perceived connections between various events and his presuppositions. Maxwell, however, has little actual knowledge of ancient cultures and belief systems, which is an advantage since it means that there will be fewer facts available to him that would constrain his interpretations.

Much of his work is (in the grand tradition of the insane rantings unfettered by reality or accountability starting with Isidore of Seville) based on drawing ridiculous conclusions about the world based on often imagined etymological connections and similarities in names and expressions. Of course, Maxwell arguably knows even less, if possible, about linguistics than about history, and the technique he applies is the one commonly known as paleo-babble. Some examples of Maxwell’s paleobabble are discussed here. One example: According to Maxwell, “[m]agic wands were always made out of the wood of a Holly tree. It’s made out of Holly wood. Hollywood is a Druidic establishment and the symbols, the words, the terms, the stories, are designed. Think about it. Think about how Hollywood does what they do. I’m not saying they’re evil, I’m just explaining how Hollywood works.” Calling for readers to think for themselves is an effective trick given the critical reasoning abilities required to listen to Maxwell in the first place. Of course, druidic cultures using magic sticks didn’t in fact make these sticks of holly. Bah. Details.

From his website you can currently purchase a set of 28 DVDs containing “the entire works of Jordan Maxwell” for the neat price of $ 570.

Of course, like so many conspiracy theorists of his ilk, Maxwell is himself the target of numerous deranged conspiracy theories (an example), and is often accused of being a tool for the New World Order.

Diagnosis: Utterly ridiculous, of course, yet Maxwell’s influence on contemporary conspiracy theories is significant – he’s been through them all, using techniques and assertions unconstrained by truth, evidence or rules for rational inference.

 Anthony R. Mawson

Some pseudoscientists have actual education and backgrounds in research, lending them a sheen of credibility in their pseudoscientific research endeavors. A striking thing about pseudoscientists’ attempts to do research, however, is how they systematically and deliberately avoid taking simple measures to validate their findings – they deliberately select biased samples, avoid blinding, neglect asking whether something works in favor of just looking at how it works (and consequently end up churning out garbage through strategies like p-hacking). It really is striking, insofar as it would often have been relatively easy to do it right – it’s almost as if they tacitly know that doing it right significantly lowers the chance of obtaining the results they want.

The research of Anthony R. Mawson is a striking example. Now, Mawson has a real education. He is also an anti-vaxxer and a fan of Andrew Wakefield who really, really want to deploy his skills in the service of anti-vaccine propaganda. Mawson is most famous for his “research” putatively showing differences in general health outcomes between vaccinated and unvaccinated kids, and that the unvaccinated ones are healthier (of course, even if it were true, which it isn’t, it would have been largely because those unvaccinated kids would not have died due to vaccine-preventable diseases because of herd immunity; Mawson’s fans are not able to comprehend this otherwise obvious point, however). To establish the results he wanted, Mawson conducted an internet survey among home-schooling parents, where the opportunity to participate was spread by word of mouth in anti-vaccine groups, and where the largely anti-vaccine parents would report their opinion and assessment of the general health of their children without consulting medical records. It doesn’t take much knowledge of scientific methodology to realize that such a survey is less than worthless (some further details here), and the really striking thing is: why would Mawson, for a study that apparently required substantial funding (seemingly from various anti-vaccine fundraising efforts) deliberately choose a sample like this, one that any elementary school kid would be able to tell you would make the results worthless, and – in addition – deliberately avoid taking into account measures (like medical records) that would provide any kind of control? How would you explain his choice of methodology if not by i) trying to make sure the data would end up “showing” what he wanted them to show and fearing that using a proper methodology apt to track reality would not yield the results he wanted; and/or ii) it matters less to pseudoscientists and denialists that the study is properly done and reflects reality, than that it exists and can be brought up in online debates and used to scare those who don’t know enough about the methodology (or don’t have time to look at it) to realize that it is complete shit? More details about why it is shit, in case you ever wondered, are here.

As an aside, one has to wonder about the competence of the people at the Institutional Review Board at Jackson State University who approved said study. And it’s not like the anti-vaccine crowd hasn’t tried to obtain the results they want by (deliberately) incompetently done phone surveys and Internet surveys before.

Well, the fruit of Mawson’s efforts, “Vaccination and Health Outcomes: A Survey of 6- to 12-year-old Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Children based on Mothers’ Reports,” was provisionally accepted by the bottom-feeding journal Frontiers in Public Health (which had previously published – before retracting – a study on chemtrails). Frontiers went on to pull it and eventually formally retract it, something that didn’t prevent antivaxxers from touting it. The peer-reviewers included Linda Mullin Elkins, a chiropractor at Life University – a “Holistic Health University” offering studies “within the fields of Chiropractic, Functional Kinesiology, Vitalistic Nutrition, Positive Psychology, Functional Neurology and Positive Business” – which suggests that Frontier uses a too-literal interpretation of “peer-review” for their reviews of garbage pseudoscience.

The study was then, without even attempting to correct for the glaring methodological shortcomings, published in Journal of Translational Science, a predatory pseudojournal published by Open Access Text, as “Pilot comparative study on the health of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12-year old U.S. children”. Details (including further details about the utter worthlessness and painfully obvious biases of the study) here. They even published a second study, as bankrupt as the first, using the same data set, in the same predatory journal; that one, too, was eaten up and promoted with gusto by antivaccine conspiracy groups and antivaccine advocates like Bob Sears – InfoWars was all over it, for instance, with delusional comments by one Celeste McGovern, described as  a “vaccine expert”, of Claire Dwoskin’s Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute, one of the antivaccine groups that funded Mawson’s “study”.

In 2011, Mawson filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi State Department of Health, alleging that the state health officer interfered with his position at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (his contract wsa not renewed) after promoting antivaccine talking points. The suit was dismissed in 2012.

Diagnosis: Pseudoscientist and conspiracy theorist. Yes, Mawson has a real education, but what he dabbles in is not science. Dangerous.

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